Kopiga Dwp data engineer

By Kopiga Kugananthavel, Data Engineer, DWP Digital

I’m a Data Engineer in DWP Digital and recently took part in the Women In Tech ‘Level Up’ summit. It was an excellent opportunity to hear from inspiring women, with informative keynotes, panel sessions and personal stories.

I found it beneficial to network and hear experiences from a range of tech organisations during breakout sessions, with over 400 attendees. Having so many people in one room sharing their opinions on how we can make improvements for women in tech was really powerful. I took part in open discussions on what action we need to take to drive systemic change across the entire industry.

From the WeAreTechWomen survey, I learnt 75% of women knew males in their organisation who were not allies, an alarming statistic. The summit placed importance on inviting male allies to the event, which encouraged me to reflect on the support I’ve had on my journey so far.

One of our senior leaders, Jacqui Leggetter, joined a panel session which discussed the importance of role models. This helped reaffirm that what I’ve seen at DWP Digital is present even at the top of the organisation, allyship and support is a core value and not just my isolated experience.

We all had time to reflect on ourselves and our actions.  It made me rethink about others with diverse backgrounds and how we could improve conditions in the tech industry for everyone.

Kopiga Dwp data engineerA strong network of women

At DWP Digital, we have a Women in Digital network. We have monthly meetings and discuss new opportunities and ways to keep bettering ourselves and the organisation. It was instrumental in making me feel included from the get-go. I was particularly impressed by the inclusivity the network demonstrates by making sure we’re open to everyone who identifies as a woman and joining up with allies.

Following the summit, I had a really insightful conversation with the network about what I’d learned, we discussed their experiences and what barriers still exist.

Thankfully in DWP Digital, there are many supportive networks where we can look out for each other including the new Women in Data network for women in data roles like me.

My role as a Data Engineer at DWP Digital

I work on creating the data pipelines and quality datasets from DWP systems, ensure they’re available to colleagues who will use them for various reasons.

I work within pensions, we’re building a dataset of information generated by the new Get Your State Pension service, this will be used to report on national statistics among other uses. I’d never thought much about pensions before joining this team. It’s also not something you’d traditionally think of when you consider complex and evolving data landscapes but it’s an interesting area where every day is different.

Why DWP Digital?

I applied for DWP Digital during the COVID lockdown as I saw how a good well-functioning Civil Service could still protect people from national issues and what could happen if it didn’t. DWP Digital’s priorities and funding, like any department, is determined by the current government’s goals but regardless of who’s in power, society needs people to keep it running.

It stood out to me, as we are modernising and improving services so the public can be better provided for. The Digital function helps the wider DWP provide a good safety net to extremely vulnerable people.

A data engineer role combined my passion of coding solutions to complex problems with my love of data analysis. It’s gratifying to know we do our best to produce the highest quality and accurate datasets. When my work is used to improve the existing service, and when it’s published as national statistics for researchers to examine, I know my work is helping to keep the country informed. It’s good to know I’m making a difference.

Supportive culture and allies

I liked what I read about the culture which was one of my reasons for applying to DWP Digital and it was true, the people here are friendly, helpful, and encouraging. The senior members in my team and the wider area have respected my opinions and taken onboard what I’ve said from the start.

Even during times when I doubt myself, I have a squad of cheerleaders. Despite working in tech, which is traditionally a heavily male dominated space, I haven’t felt demeaned for my personalities or who I am – a young Tamil women.

I’ve always felt welcomed and that I have allies around me. An ally is someone who supports others. Everyone needs allies but this is especially important for marginalised groups. Life shows us how different types of people are treated and traditionally marginalised groups do not hold the same power as others. This is of course intersectional as your ethnicity, sexual identity, gender, class, and wealth can give you more or less power in a space.

Allies help bridge the gaps between these spaces and can help other voices be heard in areas that are not well represented. Allyship is important, especially male allies in tech, as in a lot of circumstances it’s men who have the power to help break down the barriers in our field.

Most importantly, an ally needs to listen to what people are saying and pass it along in spaces where they hold power to champion people and their voices. Allies need to question existing systems and those who do not consider others.

I’m very fortunate at DWP Digital in that I’ve a great support system of allies around me, I’ve been encouraged to speak up and grow in my role and there is always a space for me. I’ve grown used to this level of allyship and expected to see it everywhere, but I understand there is still a lot of work to be done industry wide.

How we can make a difference

Overall, I think it’s a societal issue that there is a lack of women in the tech sector. Where tech is seen as a man’s job, you see a majority of men. In places like India, it’s become socially acceptable for women to study and work in tech, so you see more women- this is caveated by other societal issues.

Tech has the ability to empower women, around the world women can earn well with a career in tech and use their creativity to build products and services that cater to more of the population.

I believe we can make a difference by showcasing women and their achievements. By doing this we show others what is possible. Especially by making these women and their achievements the norm, not the unattainable exception.

My main outcome from this learning experience was to continue to strive to be an ally for all, to listen, speak up and share my story.

I’m glad that DWP Digital actively fosters a healthy, inclusive, and diverse culture. I’m grateful to everyone who has made it this way but there is always more to learn and there is always more that can be done for the tech industry.

For more information visit DWP Digital