Maya Welford

After graduating from King’s College London in 2018 with a First Class BSc Psychology degree, where she received the Desmond Tutu Award for her commitment towards serving society, Maya joined Barclays on their Human Resources Graduate programme.

Maya has made a positive impact both through her day role at Barclays as well as through extra-curricular endeavours. Within her first 6 months at Barclays, Maya received a Barclays Values Recognition Award in recognition of her commitment to the Barclays values. Beyond her day role and as part of her engagement with Win, Barclays’ Gender Network, Maya founded and launched the Charity Mentoring Programme, which connects Win members with staff at charities aligned to driving gender equality. In addition, Maya is committed to the cause of social mobility and mentors young people from less privileged backgrounds to raise their aspirations. Alongside employment and given her hunger for continuous self-development, Maya is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability at Birkbeck, University of London.

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

I grew up in East London and never imagined working in the Corporate world, nor winning any awards! I have been fortunate enough to have had some positive role models and mentors during my later school years, which definitely helped in setting me on the path that I’m on now. I’m currently on the HR Graduate programme at Barclays, in my fourth and final rotation – within People Analytics. My undergraduate degree was in Psychology, and since October 2018 I’ve been undertaking a part time Master’s in Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability. At the moment, I’m researching for and writing my dissertation, which is focused on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its opportunities and threats, in relation to the gender and ethnicity pay gap space – very on topic areas I think!

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Before my A-Levels, I knew that I wanted to study Psychology at university. I was motivated to do this because I am very interested in people and thinking about why people behave in the ways that they do. I am also a big advocate for mental wellbeing, so studying Psychology felt like the perfect degree. Before starting university, I was adamant that I would become a Clinical Psychologist or a Neuropsychologist someday (who knows, maybe one day I will!). However, I quickly learned that Psychology is an incredibly broad field and gravitated towards Organisational and Work Psychology. There are links between Organisational Psychology and some areas within Human Resources (HR), which led me to apply for and undertake HR internships at both Silicon Valley Bank and Barclays during my second year at university. I was offered a place on the HR Graduate scheme at Barclays at the end of my internship there, and joined the following year. While the steps that I have taken so far in my career have been considered and thought-through, I am a firm believer in remaining open minded. There have been times when I have been absolutely adamant that there is something I want to do, or a role I want to be in, however when things haven’t worked out I am always thankful in retrospect. So, in summary – I have planned parts of my career but always tried to be flexible and open minded. I’m also a big believer in shaping your own opportunities and situations. For example, I am interested in Data and Tech, as well as bringing scientific rigour into work. Although this may not feature in all work I do, I try to find ways to blend my passions and interests together, and consider how I can incorporate this into projects I undertake.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

My biggest career achievement to date has been the Rising Star Award – I believe that I was awarded with this not only due to my achievements in my ‘day role’, but even more so because of the extra-curricular activities that I’m involved in. In 2019, I founded a charity mentoring programme through my engagement with Barclays’ Gender Network. The programme links Barclays colleagues with employees at different charities, aligned to gender equality. This year, I am co-leading a team of 5 Barclays colleagues who are also volunteering their time and effort to achieve our ambitions for the programme. This year so far, we have partnered with 13 charities (and counting!), and I am so excited to be launching the 2020 cohort in September. This year we have scaled-up to collaborate with other Diversity and Inclusion Networks, as well as a wider range of different charities. I am incredibly proud of the charity mentoring programme, and although it’s not part of my core role, it’s definitely a big achievement.

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

Mentors! I had a brilliant mentor during sixth-form, Edwin. He worked at an investment management firm in the City and we met regularly for mentoring sessions, which were focused on preparing for university. I had never really visited a corporate office before. Edwin immediately became a role model and opened my eyes to what I could achieve in terms of a career. Since this incredibly positive mentoring experience, I have been a massive advocate of mentoring. I am grateful that I can also be a mentor to others now, and love paying it forward.

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

As mentioned earlier, I am passionate about data and while I may not be a data scientist, I still try and find ways to involve data and analytics into my work. I think tech and data are such exciting areas to be a part of right now. My advice would be to seek out mentors within areas you’re keen to learn more about, attend events, engage in online courses, and use LinkedIn to connect with people who you find interesting, or who you share similar interests with.

I recently joined a course to learn the fundamentals of Python – while it’s a busy time both at work and in life, I think it’s really important to make time to learn more about things you have an interest in.

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

I think that there’s such a focus on getting women into tech currently which means that there are many more opportunities than there used to be. This can be used to break down barriers that may get in the way for women. I think a key barrier to overcome is understanding that you don’t necessarily have to be ‘techy’ to work in tech. Another way to overcome barriers is taking advantage of the plethora of free and/or accessible resources on the internet. I really believe in the power of role models and education. We need to focus on the younger generations, and by that I mean children! Let’s open the eyes of those children who are not ‘stereotypically’ suited to work in tech, and show them that they can achieve and pursue whatever they’d like to.

There is currently on 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?

I believe that responsibility falls with everyone. This view goes beyond just getting women into tech. Diverse organisations are incredibly important. A lot of institutions are entrenched with policies, procedures, practices which were either designed based on, or designed for, a particular demographic group. As a result, a lack of diversity has prevailed and things aren’t moving fast enough. Action needs to happen consistently at various levels of society. Companies need to do better, governments need to do better.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech, eg Podcasts, networking events, books, conferences, websites etc?

I highly suggest following and keeping up to date with WeAreTechWomen. In addition, I am a big LinkedIn advocate – I’m always connecting with people who I find interesting. I have a particular interest in Artificial Intelligence (AI), and particularly bias within AI. There are so many interesting people out there, and LinkedIn makes it so easy to connect and have a conversation with them.

I love Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez. I wouldn’t only suggest this to women working in tech, but to EVERYONE. It’s an eye-opening read which really gets you thinking.

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