Bridie Gaynor

Bridie Gaynor is the Competition Support Manager in the UK for VEX Robotics.

She is responsible for supporting VEX events and teams across Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.

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

My name is Bridie Gaynor, I’m 29 and I work for VEX Robotics as the Competition Support Manager in the UK. My role involves working closely with schools and students, running robotics competitions up and down the UK with the help of Event Partners. The aim of my work is to inspire and engage young students into STEM education pathways and STEM careers in the future. Our VEX IQ & VEX EDR platforms are designed to help students explore the possibilities of STEM through design, building and coding robots! Whether it’s in the curriculum or through our extracurricular VEX IQ Challenge and VEX Robotics Competition, it’s motivating to see students react so positively to VEX.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I wanted to be a teacher once I’d finished college but became more interested in having a hands-on educational role upon completing my course. VEX has provided such a wonderful opportunity to couple both my passion for helping and educating students, as well as involving a practical approach through travelling Europe, Asia and the US to support resellers and schools run their competitions.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

The biggest challenge for me when I started my journey with VEX was most definitely overcoming the programming aspect of the job. As the role required me to understand different elements of coding, I realised that with most things, the best way to learn is to throw yourself in at the deep end and be prepared to make mistakes – everyone does! Now I have a complete understanding of a multitude of programming software and I put this down to perseverance and commitment.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

My biggest achievement to date has been to successfully run the first stand alone VEX UK National Finals event in 2018. This was made even more remarkable by the fact that more than half of the VEX IQ teams in attendance had more female robotics students than male students – smashing the current statistics surrounding women in STEM. The event was attended by over 1000 students and 120 teams from the around the UK, marking it as a huge success.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support of my team and their belief in me to succeed in this role. I have overcome confidence and self-esteem issues, and this is down to their continued encouragement and support in me. Now I have full confidence in my abilities and leadership.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

It’s so important to have the right attitude and not be afraid to explore new ways of doing things. We are now living in such exciting and interesting times to be involved in tech! Hard work, creativity and an open mind in this industry can take you a lot further than grades alone can. It’s also essential that you stay ahead of the curve by researching the latest tech trends and keeping on top of current affairs in the STEM industry.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

I do believe there are still barriers, we need to change our perceptions of technology and STEM altogether to see real change in the industry. Initiatives like Girl Powered, which focuses on gender equality in robotics and STEM for students can change this. It’s about adopting the view that tech is for everyone, male or female, it doesn’t matter. Once we achieve this, barriers will be significantly reduced and we will begin to achieve our full potential as a society.

What do you think companies can do to support to progress the careers of women working in technology?

Tech organisations need to be more inclusive overall and provide equal opportunities to everyone. The most important thing that can be done is to ensure that no matter what gender, age etc., is that people are hired and promoted through businesses based purely on merit. This approach will change the landscape of the tech industry for the better.

There is currently only 17 per cent of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

It’s important that we educate young people on the achievements and success women can have in the industry. I believe that by educating young females that STEM is for everyone, we can change the way the world views technology, engineering and science. It would be great to offer day trips or placement to female students at large tech organisations so they can see for themselves that the tech and wider STEM industry has so many different avenues to offer.

 What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I usually read up on the latest publications and online sites such as Wired, TechRadar and TechCrunch. The Register also has a lot of information on the newest emerging tech. Podcasts like This Week in Tech are also very enjoyable.