Inspirational Woman: Claire Mitchell | Software developer and computer programmer

 

Claire Mitchell is a software developer and computer programmer for a range of clients.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your company
Software

I’m a developer creating software for a range of clients in a fun, central London office environment. Since I started coding two years ago I’ve become very involved in startups, which has fueled my passion for the industry. I love putting new products together and have found that working in technology has brought out my creativity. It’s great to be part of a community of people who love doing the same thing.

Outside of my day job, I am also involved in several initiatives including Node Girls, a series of workshops which teach women how to do back-end coding, with events taking place regularly across London. I’m also working on a fashion start-up project called Mode For Me which is a crowdfunding platform for emerging fashion designers.

We realised that people graduate from fashion courses all the time and don’t have the money to produce full collections, so the idea is that they can post products on the website and then third parties can offer funding against collections they like. It’s a great way to offer opportunities to new designers.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I’ve had an interest in computers for as long as I can remember, but it wasn’t really something I thought I would do for a living until about two years ago.

I had originally planned to be a civil engineer following university, but after moving to London I found the startup community full of people who loved their jobs, with many of them working as developers.

I knew I wanted to work in startups so it sounded really appealing to me, but the only jobs going were for developers or people in marketing. I started learning to code on my own using various online resources, and was accepted onto Founders & Coders, a free coding boot-camp in London, and that launched me into my career..

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

I loved studying science and maths when I was at school, but they were definitely male dominated subjects. There were maybe 30 girls on my degree course in a year of around 170 students. But I never let that put me off. I’ve been lucky enough to combine that passion with the science skills I learnt through my degree in engineering. It’s led me to where I am now, working with really exciting startups to bring new digital products to life and I find myself being inspired every single day by what I’m creating.

The challenges I faced have also meant I’m now committed to encouraging girls to continue studying STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects at school, and not be discouraged by thinking science isn’t for girls. There are so many interesting and fulfilling careers they can pursue with a STEM background, including software development like me, which will be the most in-demand in 2023. That’s why I am a role model for EDF Energy’s Pretty Curious programme, to show girls in an engaging way what a career in STEM could be like for them.

I would love for the tech industry to be as diverse as the UK population and for it to become more accessible for minority groups.

Free coding education is something very close to my heart, so it would be great to see more teaching initiatives and tech meetups being organised across the UK.

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

I always start the day with a coffee at my desk and I have a ‘stand up’ with the rest of my team at about 10am, where we discuss what we achieved the previous day and what we’re planning to tackle over the course of the day. I work for most of the day at my computer, coding. My job mostly involves breaking down big problems into smaller, easy to solve issues and then solving them with code. In web development, there’s a good mix of different skills required, from design and styling, through to creating and applying logical solutions to problems, so there’s always something varied to do.

How have you benefited from coaching or mentoring?

Some advice that was given to me was ‘always continue learning.’ As a developer, it’s a particularly relevant piece of advice because everything moves at such a fast pace. If you’re not learning, you’ll be left behind. I use this as a measure for myself – if I’m still learning then I know I’m making progress.

What would be your top tips for women looking to pursue a career in tech?
  • Find a community that will help you. I would not be in this position if I was always trying to do things on my own. I made friends and found other like-minded people and we have since worked through problems together and encouraged each other along the way.
  • Keep learning. Set yourself a list of things that you want to know. It doesn’t matter how fast you tick the boxes, just take the steps (however big or small) to crossing them off your list.
  • Look online. There are ways of learning how to code without having to pay a fortune. There are many paid courses that are beneficial but if you are strapped for cash, there are plenty of free options too.
  • Give it a try! I have friends who studied languages at school and gave up maths as soon as they could, but now they’re excellent developers.
For girls who feel STEM subjects aren’t for them, what would your advice be?
  • Stick with them. Having STEM qualifications can help open doors to interesting and stimulating career opportunities in future and you can learn lots of transferrable skills, too.
  • Learn to code at school. Coding is a powerful skill in this increasingly digital world and will only become more important as we come to use more and more technology in our working and personal lives.
  • STEM is creative. You don’t need to work in the arts to enhance your artistic sensibilities – coding can be really creative too, and the same can be said for many STEM careers.
  • Think about the bigger picture. Look beyond the language and the syntax and think about the overall picture of what you can achieve with coding. The possibilities are almost endless.

 


Marieke Flament: Managing Director of Circle shares her experiences

Marieke Flament is a respected technology leader and is currently heading up the European expansion of unique social payments app Circle. 
marieke

In February 2016 Marieke joined Circle as Managing Director of Europe, bringing with her over a decade’s experience in leading consumer and internet brands. Since her appointment Marieke has launched Circle in the UK, Ireland and Spain, is building a strong European team to spearhead the roll out across Europe. Her work has been recognised after she was shortlisted for the prestigious Women in IT award and most recently the Women in Finance Awards.

Here she shares her experiences of working as the Managing Director of a global technology company, the challenges she has faced and why she wants to see more women working in the sector.

I've been fortunate to have worked in technology for my entire career and have enjoyed both the highs and the lows. My technology journey actually started when I went to university and I was lucky enough to secure a place at Télécom ParisTech - the top French school for computer science. Since then I’ve never looked back and today I am the Managing Director of Europe for Circle, a company which is breaking boundaries in the finance sector by exploring the ways in which technology can be used to change the way we view, and use money. Leading a team at a company like Circle, which is at the forefront of new technologies and which is using blockchain technology to simplify our lives, is what motivates me every day.

It’s undoubtedly been a fantastic experience for me but it’s also been a steep learning curve as when I joined Circle, FinTech was an emerging industry. The most challenging thing so far remains building teams - in a start-up like Circle you don't have the luxury of several hundreds of employees - every hire is key and will make a tremendous impact. When recruiting, we look for passion and for people who share our values and ambitions. Although it may sound cliché, we also look for team players who value a collaborative approach. It’s about working together and finding solutions to problems.

I believe passionately that we need to have more women working in the technology industry, after all the world is made up of 50 per cent women!

At the end of the day the challenges solved by technology and the products created are for everyone. The only way to shape products and technologies for all is to have a gender mix. Disappointingly according to figures in 2015, just 16 per cent of Facebook’s tech staff and 18 per cent of Google’s were female. This needs to change.

This is one of the reasons why last year Circle became a proud signatory of The Women in Finance Charter, led by HM Treasury. As a young fast-growing FinTech company, innovation is vital but so too is our passion for people. We want the right people for the job, whatever their gender.

A big challenge for women is standing up against the stereotype of the types of careers women should and should not be working in. Stereoptypes and biases are often the root cause of the issue and can cause a lot of self-doubt for women working or wanting to work in the tech sector. For a wannabe female techology entrepreneur any doubt will simply hold you back. You need to have an unswerving confidence in your own abilities and need a positive outlook especially during the more challenging times. My favourite saying is “optimism is a force multiplier”, remember that even if at first you don’t succeed then try again. Numerous famous start-ups tasted failure, but kept going, maybe pivoted, tweaked their business models until they reached the right formula for success.

Passion, resilience, and optimism are key attributes and as long as you have these then that’s half the battle.


Yasmeen Ahmad featured

Inspirational Woman: Yasmeen Ahmad, Lead Data Scientist | Teradata

 

Yasmeen Ahmad holds a PhD in Data Management, Mining and Visualisation, has published several papers internationally and has experience of speaking at International conferences.

She has recently been recognised as a top100 data and analytics leader by DataIQ.

1. Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Had I planned a career, I would most likely be in another location today, possibly interacting with people from a field unknown to me and carrying out a list of tasks using knowledge and experience gained through a different career progression.

Planning my career is not a task I have knowingly ignored, it is a task I have always found challenging. With the exciting marketplace, disruptive trends and rapid progression in science and technology, there is an abundance of opportunity that I could not have dreamed of even a year ago. When I studied at University, the data science field did not exist. It was not yet a concept, let alone a set of courses that could be studied.

I am fortunate to say that the roles I have undertaken in with my career have been positions that were new by design and in multiple cases, roles that have were created to fulfill a new requirement that never existed before. The unknown has made my career exciting.

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

Challenges are a part of everyday life. When working in a rapidly changing and advancing field, it is inevitable that there will be challenges to overcome. I have had to overcome obstacles throughout my career, from becoming the first Data Scientist recruited into Teradata, to building a team from scratch, to more recently defining a strategic vision, developing new go-to-market strategies and implementing new operational models. Every step of the way, I feel fortunate to have had new challenges that I observe as an opportunity to grow and learn.

Vital to overcoming these challenges has been strong leadership and mentoring. It has been key to seek out individuals who could support me through the ups and downs, providing their external perspective and experience.

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

Be brave. You will never be ready for your first leadership position, you will be challenged by new and complex situations you have not dealt with before. In many cases there will be no right answer, you will be required to make difficult choices but the key is remaining authentic and true to your values.

Avoid the trap of becoming just a manager, organising and co-ordinating teams. Go beyond management to leading with a vision. To be a success, you must complete tactical tasks and activities everyday, but to become a strong leader you must set yourself additional goals that help you be strategic for long-term impact.

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

The candidate with most passion, motivation and drive. This candidate will go above and beyond what they have been asked to do and bring their own drive to the role.

Passionate candidates are always challenging themselves to continuously learn and grow. They do not work the conventional week. They spend time thinking beyond the tasks they are assigned to and find novel ways to add value. These are the people who not only have a positive impact on the business but they also have a strong influence on the team, lifting and inspiring others and setting a high standard of execution.

5. How do you manage your own boss?

Interaction with my manager is key to my success. During my career I have chosen to work for people who inspire me. These are the people I know will push me to better myself and I will learn a great deal from.

I am very open and honest with my manager, ensuring I discuss the key challenges I am facing, what I am trying to develop in my team and practice area, as well as discussing the upcoming risks. By ensuring that I share these details with my manager, I am able to leverage their experience and advice.

In most cases, my manager has had years more experience, understands the politics of the organisation and is adept at people management. I can leverage this insight to perform better.

My manager can not help me, if I do not ask. Furthermore, a constant and consistent dialogue means my manager can help guide and course correct, ensuring the activities I do align with the global aims of the organisation.

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

I like to get up early – I can get more work done with an early start than I can often complete all day once the calls and meetings start. The morning gives me time to gather my thoughts and do my most creative work.

My days are not usual, my career has involved a lot of travel. On average I am on the road five days a week: flights and train journeys, a team across different timezones, a multitude of global customers to work in partnership with.

This means there is no typical end of the day. However, I do like to make sure I get some me-time to take a walk in a new city, go to the gym, wind down from a hectic day.

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

If you are working towards the strategic goals of your organisation, pushing the boundaries beyond what the business is doing today, then you are guaranteed to raise your profile.

Working with my team, I like to highlight the successes we are creating and where we are being innovative to do so. I highlight people who should be a role model to others. Hence, strive to be that role model.

8. How have you benefited from coaching or mentoring?

Coaching and mentoring comes in many different shapes and forms, both formally and informally. I have benefitted from both.

Do not simply look for mentors in your field of work, look beyond to people who can inspire, help advise you through the difficult challenges and have a genuine interest in helping you do well.

My mentors have helped guided me, often giving their unbiased, external perspective on situations that provides clarity in complex situations.

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

There is something to be learned from every new person you meet and networking provides you the opportunity to meet people from a diverse range of backgrounds with a wealth of experience.

It can be daunting to introduce yourself to new people, hence prepare upfront for networking events. Understand the audience you will be meeting and think about a few conversation starters and questions you can you use to initiate conversation.

Listen to what others have to say and do not dominate the conversation. Listening is a key skill to understand what people are passionate about. If you can engage people on their passions, you will connect and create a memorable conversation.

Remember to follow up. A successful networking event will include meeting many individuals who may be able to help you in the future, but networking is just the start. Follow up with people, reminding them of who you are and letting them know you are available and keen to engage further.

10. What does the future hold for you?

It is one of the most exciting times to be involved in data and analytics. There is a huge amount of potential and untapped opportunity. I am looking forward to an exciting future. I do not know where I will be or what I might be doing in the coming years, but I know that if I follow my passion and continue to be creative and innovative I will be somewhere unexpected beyond what I can imagine today.