“Identify your skills early and build them up, use them to support the skills you have that need more work.”
How did you find your way into tech?
I took my first computing course in high school and enjoyed every moment of it. We unfortunately didn’t have a teacher to take the course further, so it was set aside. After leaving high school I tried joining the RAF to become a pilot, but my spatial awareness was nowhere near good enough to fly. I was also only 18 at the time and definitely notready for that sort of life.
At this point I was at a bit of a loss with what to do with myself and a local college sent out prospectuses to encourage people to attend. I flipped through and saw they offered computing, so I applied. It was a subject I had previously enjoyed and felt I could do well in. I remembered it being challenging, interesting and a subject I could take in my stride. I got the grades I needed from college and made it into university. Since then, my interest and passion has grown, and I know for sure this is exactly what I’m meant to be doing.
Tell us a little about your course
My degree is Computing Science. It is very varied which means there is always engaging material. I’ve covered a range of topics from games development, mobile app development, databases, networks, and programming. We’ve had the opportunity to try different languages such as Java, Python, Kotlin, and C. In the early years you also get the chance to do modules not related to your degree, so I chose criminal law and accounting. It’s great to be able to develop yourself in your own unique way and build skills you wouldn’t necessarily think you would.
The material is a good mix of code-based assessment and written assessment, giving practice for the dissertation year. The written ones are usually quite open –ended, giving a chance to do additional research and apply it to the context of the code project.
There are lots of opportunities for women on the degree, such as encouragement to participate in the Lovelace Colloquium, seminars and other events designed specifically for women. It’s been so encouraging finding and getting to know other women in STEM through these events and not feeling like you’re one of very few!
What advice would you offer?
My advice is to use your strengths to your advantage. Personally, I’m not the best at maths but I have plenty of patience to do loads of examples to gain the understanding I require. The skills you currently have are always transferable, even if it’s not obvious at first. Identify your skills early and build them up, use them to support the skills you have that need more work. Don’t let anything or anyone tell you that you can’t do it and you don’t belong in tech. I’ve struggled the last couple years with self-doubt from Imposter Syndrome and only recently have I got it under control. I think it affects all of us in tech to a certain degree, but you cannot let it affect what you’re doing. Take it in your stride and use it to motivate and encourage you, don’t let it take control and sink your passion.
What interests you about tech?
My dissertation project has been based on the Travelling Salesperson Problem and the Knapsack Problem, which I’ve developed a real interest in. I’ve been developing the project with a haulage company, so it’s been exciting to develop a real, tangible project for an actual client. It’s been very interesting researching the problems and exploring how these problems don’t just apply to routing and loading in a haulage sense, but the TSP applied to things like DNA mapping, aiming telescopes at the stars and scheduling jobs. I’ve enjoyed the challenge of using everything I’ve learned the last 3 and a half years and combining it into a project that is my own. It’s been important to manage my own time and balance the rest of the modules that need to be completed too, while maintaining my own high standards of work.