Alice Melling | BT

I graduated from the University of Bath in 2018 with a degree in Chemistry and in 2019 joined BT on their Graduate Scheme.

Since September 2021 I have been working in the Service Platforms team within BT which is an incredibly exciting area to work in. Service Platforms encompasses the teams responsible for designing, delivering, and maintaining services such as 999, BT Sport, BT TV, BT Broadband, and our Mobile Network.

I work in a great team who come from a range of different backgrounds to transform the way we do things in BT. In my role as a Transformation Professional, I get to work with teams across the organisation to help them achieve their strategic and operational goals.

Earlier this summer I was selected to take part in the Aleto Leadership Programme where I met amazing young people from a range of different industries. We took part in a team challenge which my team won with our idea to tackle digital exclusion. The concept was to launch ‘Connection Hubs’ in local food banks where BT volunteers would set up old, decommissioned laptops and support people with their digital skills, for example, setting up an email account, online shopping and helping write a CV. We presented our idea to a panel of judges and as the winning team, our presentation will now be shared with the BT Executive Committee with the potential for the idea to be adopted by the business.

I’m still very early on in my career and I’m looking forward to exploring different areas and seeing what the future holds for my journey in the technology industry.

Stephanie Bally featured

Inspirational Woman: Stephanie Bally | Applied Research Degree Apprentice, BT & STEM ambassador, STEMPOINT East

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?

Jo Higgens

Jo Higgens | BT

Jo Higgens

I started thinking about what I wanted to be/do when I was as young as 12.

I had a vision of going to sea as an Engineer or a Radio Operator as my Grandad was in the Merchant Navy and told me I could achieve anything, I loved the sea and I thought why not! I applied at a Marine College in Liverpool where I was accepted as one of the only two women to apply. Three years later I emerged with my qualifications, which by todays standards are old fashioned, but have stood me in good stead all my career. I also won the coveted prize of the Best Morse Code Operator in the North West of England of which I am still very proud as no other woman had ever won it and no other woman has won it since(although Morse Code is now not used)

I then started to apply for jobs and was excepted for 4 different positions. One of which was with Government Communications Headquarters in Cheltenham, this is where my career in Engineering really started in 1983 at the age of 19. The position with GCHQ was for an Engineer/Radio Operator role. I was the only woman in my class in Bletchley, this threw up extra challenges for me which I had to work through and emerge successful. I did 9 months of concentrated training as a civilian alongside ex Army/Navy and RAF, to get me ready for my future with GCHQ. The following 19 years saw me through 2 tours abroad, 2 UK postings, where my primary job was to keep the UK troops safe during the cold war and then through the war on terrorism. I am proud to say I have a personal letter from our Prime Minister at the time 'John Major' to thank me for saving many lives through the work I did.

I left GCHQ in 2001 to join Orange as a Signalling Engineer, and worked my way up over the years to become a Principal Network Architect, I am now working for BT, who bought EE a few years back. In total I have now done 20 years this month in the Mobile Network Technology space, again a space with only a few women, of which I am actively trying to change from within. I am part of the Diversity and Inclusiveness team in BT where I represent the 'Gender Equality' area. Compared to 30 years ago it is a lot better and we are moving in the right direction, but there is still a lot of work to be done, I am passionate about bringing more women into Engineering as it has been the best career I could have ever hoped for and I would like to see other women benefit like I have.

I have to say, my career has been rich and fulfilling. I have been given the space to thrive and evolve, and I have been given the free rein and trust from my Leadership Teams through the years, to work, lead and see through to delivery cutting edge technologies, and set the architectural strategy for each for Orange/EE and BT, i.e. 3G, 4G and 5G. I work with Products/Consumer/Enterprise and Global to inform them of what the technology will look like and how it will benefit them and their customers. I also Mentor young Engineers and try and pass my knowledge and love of my career to them, this is also fulfilling especially when they themselves move through the company to be successful.

To wrap up I am still enjoying my life in Engineering even 35 years later. I have watched Technology and Communications evolve from Landline Phones to Mobile Phones, from no computers to computers and onwards into Artificial Intelligence and Machine to Machine Internet of Things, and still it will keep evolving which is very exciting, my next stop, well it could be 6G or who knows 7G , the world is my oyster :-)

Sowmya Shetty

Sowmya Shetty | BT

Sowmya Shetty

I have a bachelor’s degree in telecommunication and have worked extensively in the telecom sector across in companies like Infosys and British telecommunications.

I have over 16 years of experience in IT telecom industry with solution design experience in the fulfillment and assurance telecom domain. I objectively pursue Business Analyst roles in Network Assurance domain to help achieve Digital transformation. I started my career as a developer in Infosys working on several tools like Java, J2EE, Unix and worked on several COTS products like Oracle ASAP, IBM Netcool/Proviso, EMC SMARTS. I then gradually moved into the designer role. From here I moved into BT as a solution designer and worked on several transformation projects to move away from legacy COTS tool-based solution into strategic Open source-based frameworks thus providing efficiency both in terms on money and time.

I slowly progressed my career from a solution designer into an Enterprise level specialist working on niche technologies like software defined WAN, providing AI/ML solutions to solve network capacity management and Network Operation center operation issues. I am currently working as business analyst role to help our customers (primarily the Network Operations and Capacity Planners) help achieve Digital transformation. In this process I get to work with teams and be involved in Big Data, AI/ML solutions, Cloud based reporting, work on Agile methodologies and latest network transformation ideas. I am extremely proud of how my work is contributing towards my company overall Digital transformation approach.

Kalpana Chavda

Kalpana Chavda | BT

Kalpana Chavda

I graduated from Aston University with a Batchelor of Science degree in Business Computing and IT in 2006 which included a one year placement with Microsoft as a Change Manager for the EMEA customer services team supporting the introduction of new tools and new product briefings.

I joined BT on the graduate programme in September 2006 and in the last 15 years have developed my skills through a variety of roles combining both my passions; programme management and technology and bringing together business drivers and the technology to support them. As a graduate in the technology space, I was involved in a systems rationalisation invitation to tender which included conducting industry research and SWOT analysis on each of the vendors and rating their responses

Since then my key roles have included; leading a strategic review of key UK datacentres to improve energy efficiency across sites, accountability for the in-life management of BT Parental Controls and BT Cloud ensuring both services offered an exceptional customer experience and continually looking for opportunities to optimise the features based on customer feedback whilst remaining commercially viable. I have also delivered multiple cost transformational projects to improve efficiency within operational units including vendor contract reviews, reducing contact to the service desks in preparation for the self-help online portal including development of revised Interactive Voice Recognition.

In my current role, I am responsible for the replacement of legacy routers in the BT Network with the latest generation of routers driving significant power savings, improved service availability and providing higher capacity to meet the ever growing demand across the UK for broadband customer traffic.

BT & Code First Girls partnership

BT launches partnership with Code First Girls to close the UK gender skills gap in tech

BT & Code First Girls partnership

BT has announced a new strategic partnership with Code First Girls, to work to close the gender skills gap in the UK technology sector.

The partnership, which includes funding from BT, helps enable Code First Girls, to provide £10,000 worth of free education to every woman undertaking a course with them and to upskill upwards of 900 women. Participating women will also benefit from the expertise of BT’s world class technologists who have helped to shape the Code First Girls courses, ensuring the next generation of women in technology are equipped with the skills they need to succeed.

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic risks having regressive consequences on gender equality due to the economic impact on employment and retention. To tackle this, and to boost the representation of women in technology roles, BT is committing to provide the tools, support and skills women need to excel in the fields of technology and IT. Within BT, TechWomen, an award-winning 12-month development programme, encourages and equips more women to move into senior technology jobs across the business. Meanwhile, BT’s new strategic partnership with Code First Girls will address the need for an increased pipeline of female talent with the technical skills required for tech-focused roles.

BT’s new strategic partnership includes financial support for Code First Girls to provide their services for free, along with offering support for the design and delivery of Code First Girls courses, which are available free to women in full-time education and recent graduates. These courses include nanodegrees, classes and open online courses in a range of skills from Python and SQL coding to website development.

Code First Girls’ nanodegree offering was influenced by their furtHER programme, a 4-month intensive full-time coding course for women, designed and delivered with the help of BT technologists. The aim of these courses is to boost recruitment of women from non-STEM backgrounds into technology jobs and to equip participants with the technical skills they need to begin an entry-level or graduate technology role.

Speaking about the partnership, Cathryn Ross, Group Regulatory Affairs Director at BT Group, and sponsor of BT’s TechWomen programme, said, “It is critically important that our tech sector reflects the diversity of the society it serves."

"At BT, as a leading UK technology company, we are playing our part to help close the gender skills gap in tech."

"Our TechWomen programme helps pave the way for women in technology to progress into senior roles at BT, but our work can’t stop there; we must support the next generation of women outside our organisation and before they enter the workforce too."

"We’ve had a long-standing relationship with Code First Girls and our new partnership signifies an important milestone in our shared ambition to support and encourage women into technology roles.”

Anna Brailsford, CEO at Code First Girls, added, “At a time when women have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, our priority is to help women achieve fair employment in the tech industry."

"We have seen a vast increase in interest for our courses, since the first lockdown, with over 800 percent growth in registrations for classes."

"Through our new partnership with BT and expanded corporate partnerships, we’re able to provide more women than ever with the opportunities to learn coding, build confidence through mentorship and gain access to a wide range of careers in technology.”

WeAreTechWomen covers the latest female centric news stories from around the world, focusing on women in technology, careers and current affairs. You can find all the latest gender news here.

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Emma Martin

Emma Martin | BT

Emma Martin

I am a Software Engineer working in BT based in Belfast, a coding instructor at Coursera and a graduate with an MSc in Software Development from Queen’s University Belfast.

Before I discovered coding I worked in Marketing and gained a First Class Honours from Ulster University. During my time at university I worked at a local tech start-up the summer before I started my placement year I got my first insight into the world of technology and this kicked started my passion for wanting to learn how to code. I am an advocate for driving change within technology and have been involved a number of committees and boards including the Project Management Institute Northern Ireland Chapter, Women in Tech Belfast Committee and IET Young Professionals Committee Belfast. Additionally, I am an advocate for tech diversity and I am part of the Diversity and Inclusion team within BT which involves helping to drive change around our processes and culture.

I am passionate about giving back to the tech community as throughout my journey into technology I was fortunate to be mentored by some incredible females and I now dedicate a lot of my time paying that forward. I have recently completed the CodeFirst Girls Fellowship and over two months I taught 40 girls coding skills in SQL and within a team completed research into leadership and education. I have taught a number of CodeFirst Girls courses and I also develop my own coding courses for Coursera aiding more people in their coding journeys. I am also the Founder of FirbroME a management application for those suffering with chronic illness and was inspired with my experience of living with a chronic illness.

I also lead on BT Belfast Outreach activities which included the mTech Academy project which is a programme where 15 schools across Northern Ireland are linked with employers to deliver an experiential learning project over the course of six months. As part of the programme there was a workshop with careers teaching to up-skill them around the future careers in technology and empower them with the information needed to encourage students to pursue a career in technology. The programme was praised by senior leadership across BT and has been described by students as "the most worthwhile project they have done in school." My work within the Belfast community around inspiring others from all backgrounds into technology has been recognised in a number of ways as I was named one of the Sync NI 'Tech Trailblazer' as part of the STEM role models in Northern Ireland, I was also highly commended for the Diversity Advocate Award at this year's Women Who Code She Rocks Awards and nominated for the Rising Star Awards. Finally, I am a public speaker, mentor and creator to share my story and encourage others to consider a career in technology.

Katherine Scott

Katherine Scott | BT

Katherine Scott

I previously studied English Literature and Drama at university.

Once I had graduated I had decided to train to be a teacher. Part of me knew this wasn’t for me as I had always wanted to be passionate about my career, I just didn’t know what other options were out there with the limitations of my degree subject. I was in this career for around a year when I knew I wanted the chance to reinvent myself. I hadn’t heard of higher or degree apprenticeships before coming across BT’s scheme. Entering the technology world was going to be new for me, yet exciting.

Since joining BT TV, I have rotated within various roles within the business. I have picked up the video on demand service quickly. I have been able to process and encode premium content for BT’s customers, alongside contributing to BT’s access services (subtitles and audio description.) I also monitored the servers behind this platform, ensuring that they were running efficiently. In my current role, I work directly on the BT Sport app. I am involved with the regression testing on the app on various devices, monitoring DAI (Dynamic ad insertion) within our streams, using our test environment. This ensures that the stream our customer receives is running smoothly with no issues.

Being STEM ambassador, I also have the opportunity to volunteer at schools, as well as hosting a range of charity events throughout my apprenticeship.

Anasol Pena-Rios

Anasol Pena-Rios | BT

Anasol Pena-Rios

I am a Research Specialist at BT Research Labs in Adastral Park, Ipswich, where I specialise on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Immersive Technologies (VR/AR/MR).

I have been personally driving the agenda on exploring the use of AI, digital twins and immersive technologies in the context of BT's field force operations. My work contributed to BT's portfolio who was presented with a Global Telecoms Business Innovation Award (2017), and an IEEE Outstanding Organisation Award (2017). In addition, I was awarded the 2016 Best KTP Associate by the University of Essex’s Research & Enterprise Office, and I was shortlisted for Computing’s Women in IT Excellence Awards 2018.

In addition, I am a Visiting Fellow at the University of Essex (UK), from where I hold a PhD in Computer Science. I am a Senior Member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), and I serve as Board Member of two non-profits: The Immersive Learning Research Network (iLRN), and the Creative Science Foundation (CSf). My other professional contributions in AI and Immersive Technologies include more than 50 publications (peer-reviewed publications, patents and editorial work), in addition, I regularly serve as chair and co-organiser of numerous academic conferences. I have more than 15 years’ professional experience in the industry, working in close collaboration with international multidisciplinary teams.

Tech4Good Awards

Nominations are now open for the 2019 Tech4Good Awards

Tech4Good Awards

Now in their ninth year, the Tech4Good Awards celebrate the amazing people using technology to make the world a better place.

Organised by AbilityNet and BT, the awards recognise organisations and individuals who use digital technology to improve the lives of others and make the world a better place.

The Tech4Good Awards are the only awards that highlight the wealth of charities, businesses and volunteers across the UK that harness the power of technology to benefit the community.

This year there are nine categories to submit your nominations into:

  • Accessibility Award – sponsored by AbilityNet
  • Ageing Society Award – sponsored by UnLtd
  • BT Young Pioneer Award
  • Comic Relief Tech4Good for Africa Award
  • Community Impact Award – sponsored Lloyd’s Banking Group
  • Connected Society Award – sponsored by Samsung
  • Digital Volunteer of the Year Award – sponsored by Do it Life
  • Diversity Award
  • Inclusive Design Award – sponsored by Scope

You've got until 6pm on the 10th of May to nominate yourself or someone else - but you may be wondering what makes a winning entry:

Join the free webinar and discover what the judges are looking for in a winning entry. Hear from past winners and the Tech4Good judges, plus get the chance to ask questions.