Young asian female chemists with senior caucasian chemist working together in lab, looking into microscope, Women in STEM

Success in STEM and overcoming hurdles – from one woman to another

Article provided by Amy Nelson, Chair of the TCG PC Client Work Group

It is no great secret that women are disproportionately underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

In fact, according to the World Economic Forum, under one third of the world’s researchers are female, and even women that do work in STEM careers are published less frequently and receive less pay than their male counterparts.

But it is vital that we have women working in these fields. The United Nations recognise that science and gender equality are of the utmost importance for the achievement of internationally agreed development goals, yet girls are continuously excluded from participating. What’s more, a study by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) showed that companies that make an effort to diversify their management teams see more innovative products and services, and higher revenue as a result.

The large number of males in STEM careers is something I have witnessed first-hand throughout my career in cybersecurity. This being said, my experiences at Dell and Trusted Computing Group (TCG) have revealed that women are consistently breaking barriers in the technology industry, and gaining well-deserved recognition for doing so! But obviously, there are still hurdles for us to overcome.

The importance of diversity in cybersecurity

 If the last year has shown us anything, it is the importance of the internet for staying connected and allowing us to function through the strangest of times. However, the more we rely on technology, the greater the threat is for interference and attacks, and the more devastating their potential. That is why the importance of cybersecurity is more prevalent than ever, and why diversity lead innovation is vital to the industry right now.

With over 25 years of experience in the field, I have come to understand the layout of the technology landscape well. After undertaking a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from Texas Tech University, I landed a job as a Component Engineer at Dell, where I have worked my way up through the company ever since. I am also the inventor or co-inventor of eight patents. I represent Dell within TCG, where I hold several positions including Chair of the TCG’s Technical Committee, and participate in a number of work groups, driving forward cybersecurity within the PC industry.

Alongside my technical contributions across the cybersecurity landscape, I am passionate about promoting technical careers as viable paths for young women. Alongside mentoring women in STEM programmes and technical roles within Dell, I have participated in Dell recruiting events at the Grace Hopper Women in Computing conference, making invaluable connections with the next generation of empowering females in our industry.

How I overcame the hurdles

One of the first questions I was asked by a new mentee related to the corporate culture - what the environment is like, whether people are collaborative or confrontational, whether there will be diversity of opinions? In short, the corporate culture is a difficult place to navigate as a woman.

Women who end up in engineering are talented and can do the work, but sometimes the biggest hurdle is how they progress and influence their career while remaining true to their core personality. There is a certain set of behaviours that are encouraged that women don't typically find a natural fit for, which means we have to work a little harder to earn our space in an arena dominated by men.

I had to find the space to be heard using my soft skills as well as technical knowledge to find that space. In a corporate environment, attributes like creative thinking, resolving conflicts and communication are fundamental, and arguably equal in importance to your specialised skills. Advancement gets progressively more difficult as candidates for promotion are identified by the outcome of self-promotion and open conversations about career goals. In my personal experience and from insights gained from mentoring other women seeking to advance, women engineers have the skills, experience and talent needed but feel uncomfortable with self-promotion and career advancement networking.

TCG provided me with an avenue to learn and develop. To be successful in TCG requires communication skills, being able to verbalize an idea succinctly and coherently is important. I have found other useful skills to be negotiation, networking skills and being able to advocate and sell your proposals. It offered me the ability to observe various communication styles, assess what was effective and what was not, and the opportunity to develop leadership skills by volunteering to co-chair work groups or edit specifications.  Participating in a standards organization has served me well in my career because this type of participation is prized by managers when looking at candidates for advancement.

My advice for women in STEM

 Some of my biggest struggles and experiences have helped me mentor and support other

women in STEM careers. Figuring it out as I went along has allowed me to recognise specific pieces of advice that I can give to young women starting out in this tough industry.

My main piece of advice would be to rely on those women around you; it is important to support each other and find allies when we’re the minority gender in the field. Seek out diverse mentors; there is a lot to learn from others’ experiences, struggles and victories, whether they’re similar or starkly different from your own.

Be confident in your career aspirations, and don’t be afraid to vocalise these. Talking to others about where you hope to be, and what you hope to achieve will open doors for you, as they will make you aware of opportunities to get there and achieve those goals. After all, those in STEM careers are working towards new ways to innovate and advance, every day.

Focus on the skills that each job will offer you to advance in your career. Don’t just consider whether you will like the position but view it in terms of where it will take you. The perfect position doesn’t exist, but each job will provide you with a specific skill set that will aid you in advancing your career.

Lastly, make yourself known to management and others in the organisation. Of course face-to-face meetings have proved difficult over the course of the last year, and while technology has offered us so much, connecting in person will always remain unparalleled. Help quieter voices be heard and get things on the table in a way that people are comfortable with, rather than allowing dominating voices to flood discussions. That’s how diversity, not just in terms of gender, race and age, but in terms of opinions, will lead to meaningful advances and innovation.

Amy NelsonAbout the author

Over the last 25 years, Amy Nelson has built up an extensive repertoire within the IT and cybersecurity space. She represents Dell within the Trusted Computing Group, where Amy holds several positions, including chair of the PC Client Work Group and TCG’s Technical Committee. Alongside her technical experience and contributions, Amy is keen to promote technology as a career for women and has served as a mentor to young women in STEM.


If you are a job seeker or someone looking to boost their career, then WeAreTechWomen has thousands of free career-related articles. From interview tips, CV advice to training and working from home, you can find all our career advice articles here.


Engineering students

What does the perfect engineering graduate look like?

Engineering students

Article provided by Sarah Acton, a metalworking fluids sales engineer, who writes for Akramatic Engineering

For some time now, there has been a bit of a disconnect between how universities and engineering companies — and even the world at large — view the ideal engineering graduate.

According to a survey by the Institution of Engineering and Technology, nearly 3 out of 4 businesses are worried about the practical, work-related skills of graduated students — and if they are able enough to enter into the work. The concern here being, that engineering graduates have plenty of academic knowledge, but in a way that doesn’t really translate well outside of educational institutions.

For engineers, this is yet another concern to be added to the pile. There is already a massive recruitment shortage in engineering. The last thing the sector needs is a skills shortage in the few who do apply.

Inexperienced graduates and the productivity gap

It is not uncommon to hear about industry professionals struggling with graduates who appear to lack the skills. I personally know an acquaintance who worked in the motorsport industry, developing engines for racing cars. His stories often involved new recruits fresh from university, who didn’t have a clue about many practical methods and protocols.

This meant that it took a while to gradually introduce students to the process, meaning up to six months of productivity was stalled by the inexperience.

If there is just one industry where you can’t fake it until you make it, it’s engineering. After all the well-put-together presentations, and all the talk of theory and analysis, inevitably an engineer will actually have to sit down and make something, using practical skills that work.

Another manifestation of this “fake it” attitude resides in graduates who think degrees from prestigious universities will automatically give them a head up when it comes to seeking employment. It won’t. And as we have been seeing, some of the top-university students are losing out to job applicants from less attractive (on paper) universities because of a lack of practical experience.

Practicality and ‘side projects’

But even if a university course itself is mostly theoretical, there’s still lots to do voluntarily within the university to strengthen a CV application.

One such thing is the Formula Student competition. It challenges students to build racing cars, and to them race them all over the world. And despite a perception that such voluntary acts are ‘side projects’ most employers will see them as integral parts to learning and development.

For example with Formula Student, what the job applicant can essentially say is that they have worked within a team of 40 or more students, with a modest project budget (or perhaps £100,000), to build an incredibly complicated, functioning vehicle.

Practical experience has been linked with better overall academic performances and, with all that learning and achievement to talk about, it’s hardly surprising that students with side projects also perform much better in interviews.

In short, the perfect engineering graduate isn’t necessarily prestigious university alumni. In fact, if anything, the opposite is true. Practical experience is king, above all, background or education.

Minorities in engineering 

What then, can we say for minorities in engineering? Both BME and women are underrepresented (with women being ‘severely’ underrepresented according to Engineering UK’s State of the Nation report). If there’s anything we can do culturally to boost their numbers — which is important given the recruitment shortfalls we are currently facing — it’s that we make sure engineering is open to everyone.

To do this we don’t even have to make changes that are terribly ambitious. We only have to speak to minorities about possibilities in the world of engineering. From personal experience, I’ve spoken to many women — engineers and non-engineers — who’ve said that engineering was never advertised to them as a possible career growing up. Engineering needs to be advertised as suitable and welcoming no matter what you look like.

It’s also true that underrepresented groups are having success in building networks to help open up the field. Networking is a great place for women and BME candidates to build up contacts, find out about opportunities, and to reframe the sector.

To summarise 

In short: the perfect engineer is one who has good practical skills. It does not matter if you attend the most expensive, most privileged, or a lesser known education centre.

In terms of physicality, how the perfect engineer “looks” shouldn’t matter. But unfortunately, it almost certainly still does in some job roles, and parts of the industry. But that is starting to change. With more inclusive outreach campaigns to younger women in education, more visible representation in the sector, and with networking for underrepresented minorities, hopefully the only thing future engineers will have to worry about is their practical experience.


If you are a job seeker or someone looking to boost their career, then WeAreTechWomen has thousands of free career-related articles. From interview tips, CV advice to training and working from home, you can find all our career advice articles here.


She Talks Tech podcast on 'Start-Ups, Scale-Ups' with Sherry Coutu CBE

Listen to our latest She Talks Tech podcast on 'Start-Ups, Scale-Ups - A Macro View' with Sherry Coutu CBE

She Talks Tech podcast on 'Start-Ups, Scale-Ups' with Sherry Coutu CBE

Today we hear from from Sherry Coutu CBE. 

She is a serial entrepreneur and angel investor who serves on the boards of companies, charities and universities.

Sherry will be discussing why start-ups are less important than scale ups in terms of economic growth and how to turn your start-up into a scale up- gracefully.

If you want to find out more about Sherry– you can connect with her on LinkedIn or on Twitter.

LISTEN HERE


‘She Talks Tech’ brings you stories, lessons and tips from some of the most inspirational women (and men!) in tech.

From robotics and drones, to fintech, neurodiversity and coronavirus apps; these incredible speakers are opening up to give us the latest information on tech in 2020.

Vanessa Valleley OBE, founder of WeAreTheCity and WeAreTechWomen brings you this latest resource to help you rise to the top of the tech industry. Women in tech make up just 17 per cent of the industry in the UK and we want to inspire that to change.

WeAreTechWomen are delighted to bring this very inspiring first series to wherever you normally listen to podcasts – and the first three episodes are now live!

So subscribe, rate the podcast and give it a 5-star review – and keep listening every Wednesday morning for a new episode of ‘She Talks Tech’.

Produced by Pineapple Audio Production.


Digilearning GirlRise mentoring programme

Help a young person by becoming a mentor with Digilearning's GirlRise

Digilearning GirlRise mentoring programme

Can you commit 1 hour to a young person to change their lives?

The Digilearning Foundation needs mentors for young people aged 16-24 from marginalised and underrepresented groups from all over the world.

Digilearning mentors will help and guide mentees through the course and support them if or when they begin looking for work. Mentors will ideally support them for the first few months in their new roles of if they are setting up their businesses.

Why get involved?

We all have a superpower and we want our young people to understand theirs, Digilearning's programmes do just that. The journey begins in helping our youth to believe in themselves and providing them with relevant career insight and skills over 12 weeks as well as matching them with a mentor for 6 months.

Head Of BBC Diversity, author and TV Presenter June Sarpong OBE; Business Entrepreneur and Author Shaa Wasmund MBE; BBC TV Presenter Brenda Emmanus OBE; Founder of MOBO Awards Kanya King CBE and many others are volunteering their time and expertise to support the campaign.

About Digilearning

For underserved and marginalised groups in particular, technology can be a great equalizer. Digital can help bridge the economic divide, diversify and connect people and communities to greater opportunities. At Digilearning, they want to do just that! They have reached thousands of young people with digital skills in the UK and Commonwealth.

SIGN UP NOW

Have a question? Email [email protected]


WeAreTechWomen covers the latest female centric news stories from around the world, focusing on women in technology, careers and current affairs. You can find all the latest gender news here.

Don’t forget, you can also follow us via our social media channels for the latest up-to-date gender news. Click to follow us on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.


Happy Holidays from all of us at WeAreTechWomen

happy holidays, WATC (1)

2020 is nearly over and here at WeAreTechWomen, we would like to wish you a fabulous festive season.

Like most, we have had to adapt and innovate this year due to the Coronavirus pandemic. This meant pivoting everything we do, including hosting our events, awards and conferences in a new virtual world. As much as this was a steep learning curve, there was an upside. Going virtual presented the opportunity for us to widen our reach to women all over the world.

While 2020 was not quite the year we imagined, we were determined not to let this be a lost year for women and their career progression. In March, just as the first lockdown began, we launched our WeAreVirtual webinar series to keep you all engaged and motivated during such challenging times. Over the course of the last six months, we have delivered 80 WeAreVirtual webinars as part of the series. All of these sessions are available for you to listen to on playback, see link here. We would not have been able to provide this fantastic resource if it wasn’t for the generosity of so many incredible speakers. A huge thank you to all of them for giving their time and experience to help others. Due to the success of the campaign, we are proud to announce that we will be continuing the series in 2021, see here for some of January topics and dates.

During June, we delivered our first virtual conference for WeAreTechWomen, which attracted over 1200 global attendees! Look out for our 2021 conference in November, it will be bigger than ever! In July we hosted our Rising Stars awards evening virtually, you can watch that video here and see all of our incredible winners here. WeAreTechWomen also launched their She Talks Tech podcast - bringing you stories, lessons and tips from some of the most inspirational women (and men!) in tech. To date we have released 20 episodes - tune in and listen from wherever you source your podcasts.

In November, we were also proud to announce this year’s TechWomen100 award winners and celebrate their achievements at yet another incredible virtual award's ceremony. You can see our fantastic winners here and watch our award's ceremony via Facebook here.

You can view all of our 2020 achievements in the below infographic:

WeAreTheCity & WeAreTechWomen - Looking back at 2020

We wouldn’t have been able to achieve any of the above without an army of supporters, we feel incredibly blessed.

We would like to extend our sincere thanks to everyone who has supported our work this year. Thank you to our clients, sponsors, speakers, writers, judges, partners, champions, advocates and above all, YOU, our fantastic community of incredible women.  We wouldn’t be here without you.

We look forward to supporting you and your progression in 2021.

Be safe and well and enjoy the break ahead.

The WeAreTechWomen Team

WeAreTechWomen Logo - small


Arundhoti Banerjee

Inspirational Woman: Arundhoti Banerjee, Head of Global Strategy and Digital Business, Xpress Money

 

Arundhoti
Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I’ve been at Xpress Money for five years and am the head of Strategy & Digital at Xpress Money, executing the company’s digital strategy and planning for growth. Part of this is through creating partnerships for the company that enable strategic benefits and exponential growth.

Whilst I’ve been in the financial services for around 12 years, working across a variety of different products for both fast paced start-ups and large organisations, my background is in engineering and have an MBA degree from IIM Ahmedabad, India.

Outside of work I’m a keen traveller – This year I visited the really vibrant Cape Town & Prague, the city of cobbled stones & castles. I am a voracious reader, currently reading "The Ministry of Utmost Happiness" a work of fiction by Arundhati Roy. I also love a good TV series & binge watch most of them; while "Game of Thrones" & "Breaking Bad" are all-time favorites, I am currently engrossed in watching "Line of Duty".

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

 No! However, it’s always been about pursuing opportunities that I have been excited about and making the most of the same. Early on in my career I jumped in as a founding member of a tech start-up in financial services. The experience transformed the way I looked at roles and how to shape them. Apart from the thrill of building an organisation, the experience inculcated in me a deep respect for all functions that go into the process. I have carried this aspect of collaboration through mutual respect across my entire work life so far, that has helped me tremendously to succeed.

I’ve always been interested in technology led businesses and I’ve steered my career in that direction through grabbing interesting opportunities. Right out of engineering college, I built softwares as a developer in a large technology firm.

Post my MBA, I got interested in financial services as a domain & the role of technology therein. Hence I pursued opportunities that enabled me to learn payments products & platforms. Currently, I am having a lot of fun shaping and participating in the $600 billion remittance industry, while making convenience the cornerstone for our customers.

 Have you faced any challenges along the way? How did you deal with them?

I’ve faced many challenges and the best way to deal with them has been patience and ultimately, persistence. Self-belief is what keeps me going in the face of challenges. I’ve also been lucky to have built very strong relationships during my entire work life – people who have demonstrated faith in me and stood by me; that made dealing with any challenges a lot easier.

Do you have a typical workday? How does you start your day and how does it end?

My workday always starts with a dedicated 20 minutes to plan the day and feed my priorities into the calendar. This helps to unclutter my mind and also prevents me from getting distracted by the many unforeseen emergencies during the day. The day typically ends with making sure that all emails that require my attention have been catered to.

Have you ever faced sexism in the workplace? How did you respond/deal with this?

Early on in my career I had the experience of being “manterrupted” in meetings. Fortunately, my ability to speak fast and over every other voice in the room is a saviour. On a serious note, an emphatic “let me finish my point” helps the case and sometimes even a separate chat with a repeated interrupter post the meeting have helped ease things out. Being confident, certain & assertive in approach and tone, have helped me deal with this.

How would encourage more women and young girls into a male-dominated career?

I would ask them not to worry about gender too much and be confident, speak-up and have complete belief in their capabilities. Women play a huge role in encouraging other women in the workplace – towards that, having a mentor and sponsor with a genuine interest in your career also helps.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you ever had a mentor or do you mentor anyone?

 I’ve had some very helpful mentors throughout my career. They’ve helped me find my strengths and pushed me to focus on them. Having someone when you need advice or when you need vetting an idea is a blessing. I completely endorse the idea of mentoring. While I haven’t formally mentored anyone, there are many young hires who turn to me for advice and I participate actively in their professional coaching.

 If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?

 When women speak up and look out for themselves, they don’t get branded as “too aggressive”. While it’s perfectly expected of men to be aggressive and this is even a celebrated behaviour at times, the same behaviour from women gets them branded as “too pushy”. When women look out for themselves, they get labelled as “too self-absorbed”. I hope this changes.

Also, research says that women are underrepresented at every corporate level and they continue to lose ground incrementally the more senior they become. This is a fact that needs to change.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

My biggest achievement would have to be building my team up from scratch here. I started on my own, tasked with developing and driving the company’s strategy forward. A year after I started to expand my team and three years later, we now stand at 30. It’s really fulfilling to see the team working at their potential and it gives me the chance to work with and help young starters develop in their careers.

What are you hoping to achieve in the future?

I hope to contribute to the world of financial technology through continuous innovation while keeping a consumer-centric approach.


Marie Curie featured

The Curie-ous Case of the STEM Diversity Gap

 

On 7 November 1867 Marie Curie was born. She is widely considered to be one of the most outstanding women in the history of science.
Marie Curie
Marie Curie provided by Shutterstock.com

She was the first person, and a woman for that matter, to win two Nobel Prizes. Marie’s work broke barriers not only in physics and chemistry but also for her gender, cementing the idea that women should very much have their equal place in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Why then, a century after her accolades, is the gender gap in STEM still so prevalent?

In the UK, Tech Nation found that men outnumber women by a ratio of three to one within the technology sector.In the US, women make up 48 per cent of the workface – and yet, within STEM, only 24 per cent of employees are female. Despite progression in gender quality, women are still grossly underrepresented in STEM. These low levels of participation can be traced back all the way to the school years, where a number of influences from society and culture, education and the labour market are all at play.

Science and prejudice

Women have long faced trials when entering jobs that are seen as ‘for men’ – from directors all the way to the Supreme Court. Let’s face it, STEM compromises mainly of white males. People tend to hire people they feel they relate to and identify with. This unconscious bias can foster negative attitudes and lead to damaging stereotypical behaviours. These behaviours can negatively affect the education, hiring, promotion, and retention of women in STEM.

It doesn’t help that there are those who believe that women are not well matched to STEM in general.  Just look at James Damore’s Google manifesto. He still has the old fashioned attitude that women are better suited to social and artistic careers; that they would struggle with making controversial leadership decisions and that they are neurotic and can’t handle stress. Without realising, many men carry these views subconsciously, and – with most STEM decision makers being white, middle aged men – this can influence whom they hire or promote. It is the same reason why holding blind auditions for orchestras increases women’s chances of advancing to the final round by 30 per cent.

However, it’s not only men that believe this. Some women, too, feel that men suit STEM more than they do.  This is why there are so many programmes aimed at getting girls interested in these areas. These on-going drives are trying to eradicate and challenge old fashioned view points held by parents and teachers alike, that girls are less likely to want be involved in STEM career paths – or that they will find it too tough.

Men have a very important role to play in narrowing the gender gap. Invariably they are in the seat of the interviewer, and they need to be encouraged, trained and in some cases forced to create diverse teams. They need training in conscious and unconscious bias, and need to be educated about the benefits of diversity.

Equality within the sector

If there was ever a reason to assemble a diverse team, surely it is because your business will do better as a result? Companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 per cent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians, Forbes found. Additionally, a 2015 study from Bersin by Deloitte showed that diverse companies had 2.3 times higher cash flow per employee over a three-year period than non-diverse companies did.

Aside from this, the bottom line is that women are just as capable as men. People often ask, “Why should more women get into STEM?” It’s like asking why women should be doctors. These on-going drives to get women into science and technology will continue to happen until the question no longer needs to be asked.

Some women need to be persuaded to consider a career STEM. The opportunities for them in this industry are rife; it’s a growing trade with growing opportunities. But STEM companies need to make sure that they are promoting and paying women fairly. The stats would indicate that this might not be the case. For example, women comprise 20 per cent of engineering school graduates, but only 11 per cent of practicing engineers are women. There is a major drop off in the first ten years – women leave STEM jobs at a rate 45 per cent higher than men. It’s likely that gender bias plays a part here.

The UK has almost two million digital tech jobs, and between 2011 and 2015, the growth rate of digital jobs was more than double that of non-digital jobs. A lot of STEM jobs don’t exist yet.  In fact, Martin Boehm of IE University in Spain believes around 80 per cent per cent of jobs that will exist in 2025 don’t exist today.

Back to school

Encouraging women to get into STEM ultimately starts with education – from school to the boardroom. In school, coding should be mandatory for everyone; complex problem solving and critical thinking should be part of everyday life. When I was a child, we had computers around the house because my Dad was working with Digital in Ireland. I also remember all the Edward de Bono lateral thinking books we had. You will absorb what you are exposed to. As well as that, my Mum was an ardent feminist; she told her daughters they could do and be anything (and her son!). It was only when I started school that I realised people thought and told girls they couldn’t do things. Education and encouragement, fundamentally, is key to overhauling out-dated thinking.

In the workplace, training programmes can help people understand conscious and unconscious bias; both helping people to change the way they think, and call out unfair behaviour. Getting female talent into the industry is only half the story, however. Making sure they rise up the ranks is also key – with the support of women in leadership training programmes.

Overall, an attitude overhaul – for both women and men – is needed if we are to close the STEM gender gap. Through better education and encouragement of both genders, we can chip away at antiquated attitudes and create a more equal workplace.

About the author

This article was provided by Tara O’Sullivan, Chief Creative Officer at Skillsoft


Tas Hind featured

Inspirational Woman: Tas Hind | Technology Director at Essentia Trading Ltd

 

Tas Hind, Technology Director at Essentia Trading Ltd, a consultancy helping healthcare, science, public and private organisations transform their estates and infrastructure.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Tas

I didn’t, but I have grabbed opportunities that have been presented to me.

I often imagine myself being in a particular situation or doing something interesting and challenging and I have always achieved that. A year out of University, I joined the IT department at Lucas Industries, a motor and aerospace manufacturer in Birmingham. There, I was given a huge amount of responsibility and flexibility to shape my role and I loved every minute of it.

I soon realised that there was an internal consultancy within Lucas Industries that had some very high calibre individuals doing some incredibly interesting projects. I imagined what it would be like working in that type of organisation and, lo and behold, I got a breakthrough and was appointed as a Consultant in the Manufacturing sector.

A few years down the line, I was proud to lead an award-winning project on EXOSTAR (a workspace for secure information sharing and collaboration) for Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC) and BAE Systems. By that time, I was also wondering how great it would be to work as a consultant to the NHS. I was very pleased to be part of CSC’s successful bid for the NHS’ National Programme for IT which led to me being on the programme for 13 years.

When I left CSC in November 2016, I had another big moment being offered the role as Essentia’s first Technology Director.

In summary, a lot of my career has been based on luck, being in the right place at the right time, grabbing the opportunities and making them a success and enjoying the work and the people around me.

Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?

Yes, I have faced many challenges. I have addressed them through self-belief, holding my ground and relying on people to have the same belief and confidence in me. It did not always mean that I won however. I always knew that we gave it our best shot and for me that is the most important thing.

What advice would you give someone who wishes to move in to a leadership position for the first time?

Be brave. Don’t worry about ticking all the boxes. Believe and have confidence in yourself. Seek validation from others whom you trust and will give you constructive advice rather than say things to please you. Surround yourself with great people who are prepared to work hard and enjoy their jobs.

On a typical workday, how do you start your day and how does it end?

I start my day with yoga and a very healthy all-organic breakfast – a glass of warm water with a slice of lemon, spirulina with berries and yoghurt and a very big bowl of porridge with quinoa, chia and sesame seeds, raisins and cinnamon. That is very important to me, as I know that I need to stay fit and well to do my job. I then do a 20-minute brisk walk to the station to catch my 6:24 train to London. I end my day with another healthy meal full of freshly cooked organic vegetables, chamomile tea and walk with my husband to our town centre reflecting on the day that we have had and just generally catching up. Fridays are different as I end my day with a very long swim which helps me to unwind and get ready to enjoy my weekend.

What advice can you give to our members about raising their profiles within their own organisations?

Always aim to do the best that you can, no matter what it is. Make sure that you, your team and the client get credit for it. Do not be afraid to publicise great work. Use your marketing department to promote you and your work inside and outside your organisation. Develop a brand for yourself. Make sure people know who you are, what you stand for and your passions. Be kind to everyone you meet and work with. Always be professional. Thank people for their help and always make sure they are recognised for their achievements.

How have you benefited from coaching or mentoring?

Yes, I have been led and managed by some incredible people throughout my career. Many have given me formal and informal advice and support which I have taken on board. I have also been on many leadership training courses where I was given independent advice on my strengths and things that I could improve. Finally, I have observed some great people in action and have learned a great deal from them.

Do you think networking is important and if so, what three tips would you give to a newbee networker?

Definitely. I will always remember my first day at CSC where I was told that the only way to get on in this large organisation was to network. So I picked up the phone and started to introduce myself and explain to everyone and anyone what I could do and what I wanted to do. It is a skill I have learned and developed over many years and it has put me in a great position to find work that I not only enjoyed but challenged me and helped to develop my career. My top three tips are: don’t be shy about talking to people as you will always find that they are happy to do that; maintain your network and grow it inside and outside the organisation and use social media such as LinkedIn to maintain your network and to connect to people.

What does the future hold for you?

I am thrilled about my new role as the Technology Director at Essentia, which is doing ground-breaking work to help transform the NHS and make it fit for the future. I truly believe that technology has a huge part to play in the future of healthcare and there are so many opportunities to help change the way that patient care is delivered. My focus will be to enjoy it and make a real success of it.


Where are the role models? Why more women in tech is essential to the younger generation

 

Tech event
There’s a multitude of valuable careers for women in technology. Unfortunately, not enough women are embarking on them yet.

The UK Commission for Employment and Skills revealed that just 26 per cent of those working in the digital sector are women. And although there are government initiatives in the works to introduce greater gender diversity into tech roles, the industry must play a part for these initiatives to be a success.

In short, we need more female role models. And we need them now.

Here’s why. There’s currently a drive within schools to shake up the way children are taught about computing. The long-in-the-tooth ICT courses are being replaced by computer science GCSEs. This is great news, reflecting the changing way that we interact with computers, as well as the new skill sets needed to thrive in the digital economy. The only problem is that the uptake of the new qualification simply isn’t high enough.

As reported by the BBC in June, the British Computing Society revealed that the number studying for a computing qualification could halve by 2020. A major contributor to that decline is a lack of interest from girls. In fact, only 20 per cent of those who took the computer science exam last year were female. And that’s the battle we’re facing here. Girls don’t always see careers in technology as something suited to them. There is and will increasingly be such a huge reliance on tech across more sectors than ever seen before so we need to find a way to change that – and quickly.

As an industry, we want and need a talent pipeline filled with young women who are excited by the prospect of working with technology. To do this, we need to recognise and act upon the fact that there is something of an image problem we need to address. An important part of that is to move beyond the stereotypical image of the IT, engineering and technology worker being male. Another issue is to communicate the incredibly diverse range of roles which use technology.

Yes, there are female coders, and yes, we do want more, but just as important are the other jobs in technology and using technology that aren’t communicated or showcased as often; frequently because they are brand new roles.

Everything from marketing to consultancy and leadership to sales, from social innovation, to data science and creative roles, can all be found across the employment landscape.

Female voice

The onus is on businesses to create and highlight the female role models that will inspire the next generation of STEM workers. We need to increase the number of women in the industry but, at the same time, we also need to celebrate those who are already working in the sector. We must illustrate the variety of their roles and what their jobs actually entail, how they operate, and how tech roles have evolved across multiple sectors.

Businesses need to be doing more to find and showcase female spokespeople from within their companies. Crucially, it’s not just about broadcasting the views of women at the top (which we’re already so good at doing). These roles may not appeal or be realistic to every potential applicant.

We also need to start looking at how to showcase female spokespeople from every level within the business to demonstrate the wide variety of opportunities available in the industry.

Establishing female role models in this way will serve two purposes. Firstly, it will speak to those who already have the skills and are looking for opportunities. Sometimes, the issue can also be one of retention: ensuring that those with the talent come to our industry and stay there to develop themselves and their careers. When they see the possibilities of those who have already been successful within the industry, it could give them the extra motivation they need to seek wider, higher or different opportunities using their skills, knowledge and expertise – often across different vertical sectors.

Secondly, it will be helpful to those who are currently at school and considering what kind of career choices they could be making. Female role models, or females using STEM skills and showcasing how they could be applied in a variety of roles, help challenge the concepts of jobs for boys and jobs for girls, demonstrating how tech is a sector for all comers, with roles that are rewarding and attractive.

Diversity breeds success

Businesses that do this will help themselves both now and in the long term. There are many benefits to having a diverse workforce. Gender diversity guarantees a workforce with a varied skillset. It’s a workforce that is both productive and able to successfully engage with its diverse customer community. Statistics show that companies who encourage gender diversity within their management teams enjoy more than average growth and an increased return on equity.

Indeed, businesses should be at the heart of creating a more diverse technology sector. Not only does it help safeguard their individual companies for the future, it also helps nurture talent across the board. This means communicating with women who may want to join a fascinating industry. And who better to tell those stories than the women themselves?

About the author

This article was provided by Lynn Collier, COO UK&I, Hitachi Data Systems.


Kat Arney

Inspirational Woman: Dr Kat Arney | Science Writer and Broadcaster

 

Dr Kat Arney is a science writer and broadcaster whose work has featured on BBC Radio 4, the Naked Scientists, BBC Focus, the Times Educational Supplement, the Daily Mail and more.

She has written two books about genetics, 'Herding Hemingway's Cats - Understanding how our genes work' (Bloomsbury Sigma, 2016) and ‘How to Code a Human’ (Andre Deutsch, 2017), and presents the monthly Naked Genetics podcast.

 Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

[ Laughs ] no. When I look back I can see the path that got me from there to here, but there was never a real plan.

I just kept saying ‘yes’ to interesting opportunities, and working on doing the things I love (and paying the rent).

Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?

When I was young I wanted to be an inventor or a mad professor. I loved science so I did science A levels, went to university to study natural sciences, and did a PhD in genetics. I even went on to do two short postdoctoral research jobs. But it turns out that I’m really bad at lab research. I have a very short attention span, I’m clumsy, and I never felt happy as a researcher.

 By my mid-20s I was working in a lab in London and seriously depressed, feeling like a failure. Then I realised that I did have other passions and transferable skills, and started applying for jobs that were related to science but not research itself – medical writing, journal editing and so on. None of these seemed right until I got a job at Cancer Research UK – the world’s biggest independent cancer research charity. I spent 12 years there, working up to becoming science communications manager and one of the charity’s main media spokespeople.

It was really hard pulling myself out of the research world and working out that I could use my skills and passion elsewhere, but it was my dream job.

I’m now in the next phase of my career as a freelance writer and broadcaster. Again, making the move over to being a freelance 18 months ago was very challenging, as I was terrified that I’d have no work. I ramped up my freelance work in my spare time and holidays, and went down to four days a week at Cancer Research UK and it has worked out so far. I also took a chunk of unpaid leave to write my first book, Herding Hemingway’s Cats, which I believed would be a stepping stone into a successful freelance life. It was a gamble as I didn’t receive an advance from my publisher and I had to rely on odd bits of freelancing and savings, but it was definitely worth it.

 What advice would you give someone who wishes to move in to a leadership position for the first time?

I don’t have much advice about leadership, as I deliberately turned down the opportunity to become a team leader at Cancer Research UK. At that point I knew I wanted to focus on writing my first book and eventually using that to take the plunge into a freelance career, so it didn’t seem fair on me or my colleagues to take on leadership responsibilities. For me, it was about realising that an opportunity to become a leader in one part of my life (along with a nice pay rise) might actually not be a great idea if I wanted to focus on becoming my own boss in the longer term.

 When faced with two equally-qualified candidates, how would you decide who should have the role?

I’d go with the one that can make me laugh, or who laughs with me. My personal rule in any interview – whether that’s a job interview, or an interview that I’m doing with a guest for a radio show – is to always try and get a laugh out of them. Working relationships should be professional, but shared laughter is a useful glue.

How do you manage your own boss?

I’m my own boss, and I’m still figuring out how to work with her! I work from home and only have to answer to myself, so discipline and time management are an issue. I’m a ruthless user of to-do lists and calendars, and I love Trello for managing the many projects I’m working on at any time. I also use a website blocker called Stayfocusd to keep me off social media when I have looming deadlines.

More importantly, I’m learning how to view myself as a professional business, and make sure I account properly for my time.

Saying ‘yes!’ to almost anything (paid or not) has got me a long way, but I’ve hit the point where I simply can’t do that anymore.

On a typical workday, how do you start your day and how does it end?

I’m a bit of a night owl, and tend to do my best writing in the evenings unless I have a talk or event to go to. As a result, I’ll usually go to bed at about 1am so I get up quite late. My brain doesn’t really work in the mornings so I tend to do admin, chores and other mindless stuff before going to the gym at lunchtime. Once I’m back and have stuffed my face with lunch, I can get down to some proper work, such as writing, editing audio, researching.

Alternatively, I might be out and about giving talks or interviewing researchers about their work. No two days are the same, and I’m entirely in charge of my time. It’s incredibly liberating and also terrifying. I could spend the whole day on the sofa eating popcorn and reading Facebook if I wanted to (and believe me, I often want to), but the sensible bit of my brain knows it wouldn’t be a good idea.

 What advice can you give to our members about raising their profiles within their own organisations?

Don’t be afraid to challenge, raise suggestions or ask questions when you see the opportunity. Good leaders recognise the benefits of having staff who can clearly articulate ideas, ask questions and voice concerns. Obviously, it’s a bad idea to be contrary or obnoxious just for the sake of it, or to ask a question you haven’t properly thought about, but strong organisations need people who are prepared to think, stand up and speak out. All too often this kind of thing falls to men, who stereotypically tend to be more confident with their opinions in the workplace, but it’s vital that women step up too.

How have you benefited from coaching or mentoring?

I’ve had a couple of mentors in my life, which were useful at the key transitions between leaving research, and then again more recently going freelance.

The first one was little more than a chat in the pub with an established science journalist, who talked me through my fears about leaving the lab. He doesn’t know how important that chat was, but it helped to set me on the path towards science communication.

My second mentor was Vivienne Parry, a fantastic science communicator and TV presenter, who has given me a lot of good advice about the media world. I should also mention Professor Dame Amanda Fisher, who led the last research lab I worked in. She was so patient with me as I wrestled with my feelings of unhappiness and tried to figure out what to do with my life, and still sends interesting science communication projects my way.

Do you think networking is important and if so, what three tips would you give to a newbee networker?

Yes, incredibly important. I don’t think I’d be where I am today without networking and (more importantly) following up those interesting leads and opportunities. People now tend to connect on social media, but I would always come home from events with a bra full of business cards, and then the next morning I would make sure to send follow-up emails where appropriate.

 My top tips would be:

1) Always follow up quickly if someone offers you an opportunity. If you can’t take it up right now, get in touch to say “not now but I’d love to later.”

2) Be brave and get in there quickly if there’s someone you really want to meet. There’s nothing worse than plucking up the courage all night to approach someone, only to discover that they left an hour ago.

3) Don’t feel you have to stay stuck in conversations that you aren’t enjoying at networking events, especially if it means you’re missing out on making new contacts. You’re expected to circulate, so make a polite excuse (popping to the loo is a good one) and get out of there.

 Also it’s tempting to stick with friends at events if you’re feeling shy, but it can hold you and them back from meeting great people. Make sure you and your buddies know it’s OK to break off quickly and grab a chat with an interesting person if they’re nearby. It’s also handy to share ‘hit lists’ of people you each want to talk to, so you can all keep an eye out for each other in case opportunities arise.

What does the future hold for you?

Right now my agent is about to start pitching my third book, so hopefully writing another book will be in my future. Apart from that, I’m just taking opportunities as they come. I’m writing for a range of outlets, making my monthly Naked Genetics podcast, taking up invitations to speak at events, festivals and conferences, and pursuing TV and radio opportunities. I’m always hustling, baby.

About the author

Dr Kat Arney, Science Writer and Broadcaster/Musician and Harpist

Website

Twitter

Book: Herding Hemingway's Cats- Understanding How Our Genes Work