Dr Shruti Kohli I am Dr Shruti Kohli, currently working as a Lead Data Scientist in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

I am standing on a strong foundation of my education credentials which include PhD in Computer Science, with over a decade of professional experience in both the private and public sectors encompassing a variety of roles.  My work experience spans across academia and industry, leading digital transformation, data innovation, leadership and culture change projects.    Being from a research background it’s in my DNA to be more curious and understand things from a 360-degree view. Since transitioning from academia to industry,  I’ve been looking for ways to implement my learning to create a tangible difference. My current Civil Service job provides an opportunity to use my data learning for social good.  And that’s the purpose that keeps me motivated to serve the department and people across the UK.

I also lead DWP’s Innovation Lab. This includes horizon scanning, and identifying the data and technology in the external ecosystem that can help the department to innovate and improve their services. As we speak I am working on a couple of interesting data-driven projects in the lab, one of these is a programme to understand use the of synthetic data as a data-sharing tool.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I have always taken a proactive approach towards my learning and development which I’ve brought into every workplace.  I create new opportunities for myself and accept every opportunity that comes my way.   Being an academic in the past has given me a good appetite to learn quickly and share. I have always taken the initiative to enrich myself by using Civil Service learning, attending professional training such as the Oxford Leadership Executive program, and doing technical certifications to be a step ahead.   My career developments have come a long way through receiving and giving mentoring, leading data and tech-driven projects, and building relationships.

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

In one of roles during my early days of my career, at a certain time I was making multiple errors in my deliverables, and it took me a while to understand what was going wrong. I consulted my mentor, who helped me to develop practice to say ’no’ more often.  I was in a hurry to take on more projects to grow quickly, but at the same it was hampering my creativity. I had an open discussion with my manager, looked at my bucket list and agreed on priority projects which created a win-win environment for everyone.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

If I had to single out one, it would be my PhD degree.

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

Learn to unlearn.

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

Dream big, grow your network, have a mentor at every step of your career. Humility and strong will is a solid combination. Don’t forget to pull up others to grow.

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

The number of women reaching the boardroom has risen significantly in the last few years. Organisations have also begun to realise the benefit of inclusive growth.  Yes, I agree, there is gender gap in the technology sector, and there’s a big role to play for schools to promote STEM careers more to women. But there’s also the opportunity to use industry touch points to create interest in students at the early stages.

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

Coaching and mentoring sessions always play an important role.

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?

School have the magic wand, where they can promote STEM subjects to girls at early stages of their career.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Start something even if it’s small, that’s the first step to success. Pick two technologies, and if they complement each other, that’s the cherry on the cake. Listen to webinars, do projects, engage in short courses to open up your horizons. Networking is the key, so join in with meetups and hackathons.

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