Stephanie Bally

Stephanie is an applied research degree apprentice at BT and is undertaking a degree in Digital and Technology Solutions at Exeter University, funded through BT.

Stephanie is in year three of her four-year degree course, studying a combination of computer science, business and maths whilst working within BT’s various applied research teams.

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

In high school I was asked to find work experience in a field I had an interest in. At the time I had no idea what I wanted to do. I loved and still love music and play many different instruments so at the time I looked for music based work experience placements. When I couldn’t find work experience in music production, I had to explore other options and, ultimately, took up an opportunity at BT.

I spent my time in the research department working on future security, using some of the early virtual reality (VR) headsets before they were widely released. Today I use VR regularly as part of my job but when I was 14, seeing this for the first time blew my mind.  I couldn’t imagine how this type of technology would be used for playing games and watching TV.

My work experience completely changed my career plans, and this is one of the key reasons I volunteer as a STEMPOINT East ambassador, providing invaluable insights into careers in STEM to inspire and encourage future technologists!

I joined BT on the Applied Research Apprenticeship Scheme in 2018. Through the programme, I am undertaking a degree in Digital and Technology Solutions at Exeter University, funded by BT. I am in year three of my four-year degree course, studying a combination of computer science, business and maths whilst working within BT’s various applied research teams on 6 month rotations.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I never planned my specific career path, as like a lot of other people, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. One thing I have learnt since joining BT is that it’s okay not to know exactly what you want to do, as long as you find something you’re passionate and enthusiastic about and most importantly enjoy.

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

It’s completely natural to face challenges when in a new role, and I have faced many, but I think the biggest challenge I have faced is one that I share with many others. The COVID-19 pandemic. Having been in a lab based role, the move to working from home was difficult. Being proactive in re-framing my work to something achievable at home and putting careful consideration towards my time management, health and wellbeing allowed me to transition smoothly and continue my work successfully.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I have done many things during my time at BT that I am incredibly proud of. One of my most recent achievements revolves around future interactive and immersive content technology. I designed a future content use case based off of my research on Volumetric Video. After successful presentations to various members of the senior leadership team, I was given the chance to develop the proof of concept, on cutting-edge technology. This technology was not publicly available and I was developing on the only pre-production device in the UK.

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

Being passionate and enthusiastic about the work I do allows me to have the motivation to push my work further and want to constantly be at my best. Many people measure success by pay check or job title, but for me if I am enjoying my work and can see the benefit and impact my work will have then I am succeeding.

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

I think the best advice I can give to anyone is that you have to build your confidence in both your ability and skills, after all you haven’t got to where you are today without hard work. We must all learn that it’s always okay to shout about and celebrate our own successes no matter how big!

I would also encourage everyone to join a women in tech network, whether it’s internal or external, surrounding yourself with likeminded women who may have been through similar experiences creates a supportive environment that can help boost your confidence and career.

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

I would be lying if I said there aren’t still barriers for women in technology, but I do believe these barriers are being knocked down! These barriers and issues are not something that will disappear overnight, but by identifying them and educating the rest of the industry about neurodiversity, diversity, inclusion, subconscious bias etc. we can start to eliminate them, and will see the change the industry truly needs.

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

So much work linked to fixing the gender gap focuses on senior roles, and having a visibly diverse leadership team, but if this does not reflect the whole workforce then in 10 years or so time the same issues will still be there. I think one of the best things a company can do to help support women in tech is put more support into retention and early careers. Recruiting and meeting a diversity target isn’t achievable without a diverse application pool, and being able to retain the diverse talent employed shows that the company has an inclusive and supportive culture.

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?

I feel one of the huge contributors to the gender imbalance in the work place is the idea that you are meant to be doing what ‘people like you’ are ‘meant to be doing’. I certainly felt like I was constantly warned about the male dominated world I was heading into as a female and that I would ‘be on my own’… If I could do one thing to change this, I would irradiate the negative stigma around being unique and not fitting in. If you are good at something and enjoy doing it, you should pursue it!

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?