Isha Nawaz

In Her Shoes: Isha Nawaz | Vice President, Business Information Security Officer, Bank of America

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

I currently work for Bank of America and have been at the bank for just over 7 years now. My role here is really to help mitigate risk associated with cyber and the ever-changing threat landscape. Prior to that I have worked in several client facing role across Retail, Corporate and Investment Banking.

On a typical workday, how do you start your day and how does it end?

I try to wake up early to get a head start on the day, the morning consists of a frantic rush to organise myself and my two girls for the day so making lunches, drop offs and then head into the office. On the way in I will listen to a podcast or some music and drink an herbal tea – my idea of bliss.

The days ends in a similar vein to the start, getting prepared for following day, cooking tea (yes, I’m Northern so we call the evening meal tea in my house). I then spend time with my girls hearing about their day and finding something to laugh about, followed by another herbal tea a bath and then bed.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not really, I did Dance and Drama at college and worked in a bank in the evening supporting the overflow of the day team in processing loans and credit cards. I always saw myself in a more creative role and never envisaged I would work in an office, certainly not a bank office. I have started to plan short term in recent years but that tends to be very much like putting one foot in front of the other.

What do you love about working for Bank of America?

I joined the bank at a very difficult point in my life, but I was so fortunate to meet kind and caring people who have supported me along the way. I have genuinely made friends for life working at the bank.

Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you overcome these challenges?

Life is full of challenges both in our personal and professional lives, so yes of course I have. In my earlier days at Bank of America I recall someone saying just keep being true to yourself and that has really stuck with me.

Have you benefited from coaching, mentoring or the sponsorship of others?

I have had mentors and sponsors pretty much for most of my career and there are massive benefits, one of my mentors, Michelle Garrigan (who will share her personal story on how sponsoring, mentoring and coaching accelerated her career at the Level Up Summit in December), has been able to connect me on many of occasion with industry partners and peers; which proved invaluable to the success of one of the projects I was working on at the time. Aside of that I know Michelle is always at the end of the phone when I need her and have been able to talk through some of those more challenging moments. Right now, I am really enjoying being able to pay it forward.

Have you benefited from coaching, mentoring or the sponsorship of others?

I have begun mentoring others in last two years properly and initially I was expecting I wouldn’t necessarily benefit from doing so, but that quickly changed. Its so eye opening to hear the journey of others and the challenges they face. In addition, the whole reverse mentoring concept is one that I really enjoy as quite often I learn most from the Graduates, Apprentices and Interns I mentor as they often have such a different perspective but also have a mindset that can automate everything and just really utilise tech and tools to our advantage.

Do you believe in the power of networking? If so, where do you network?

100%... I think networking is underutilised and we can massively miss out by not networking. I truly believe in the power of networking and absolutely I do network. It tends to take place through my day-to-day role but also through my Diversity & Inclusion efforts.

What advice would you give to those who aspire to a career in tech?

Identify your strengths and play to them but also find your passion in whatever you decide to do; lastly technical teams need diversity, so don’t assume you have to be deeply technical to work in tech.

What does the future hold for you?

Who knows what the future holds for any of us, I think must trust the process but what I do know is I will continue to work hard and support others. I believe everyone can win!

 


Charisma Buxton

In Her Shoes: Charisma Buxton | Big Data Developer, Morgan Stanley

Charisma Buxton

Charisma Buxton joined Morgan Stanley in 2017 via the Technology Analyst Program in Glasgow, following completion of her Masters’ degree in Data Science from the University of Dundee.

In 2020, Charisma joined the Cybersecurity team as a Data Scientist. Charisma recently moved over to Legal, Compliance and Governance and is currently working as a Big Data developer in Legal and Compliances’ Resilience Team in London.

On a typical workday, how do you start your day and how does it end?

My typical workday starts with a mug of hot chocolate and reviewing emails. I check my Jira board to prioritise tasks for the day, then check my to-do list to see items from the previous day that need to be completed. From there it’s mostly meetings or working on my ongoing projects. The day ends with me updating my Jira boards and updating my to-do list.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Sort of; I knew I wanted to be in technology and a career that involves me working with computers. I also knew I wanted to build and innovate. What I didn’t know was where I would be working and which companies would allow me the space to build, innovate and grow my career, and that’s what I’ve been doing since joining Morgan Stanley.

What do you love about working for Morgan Stanley?

As a black woman, choosing a company to work for has to be a very careful process because an inclusive and diverse workplace is very important. Also, being able to give back and volunteer to my community is very important to me. These are part of the firm’s core values; it’s important to the Firm , which makes Morgan Stanley a good fit for me. The culture and working with smart, friendly and welcoming people has been vital to me and these are just some of the reasons why I love working here.

Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you overcome these challenges?

Naturally, I have faced some challenges in my career. One of them being not having a lot of women working alongside me in technology and often being the only woman on the team. I decided to help combat this disparity by mentoring young women who want to get into technology and by helping with campus recruitment. Sometimes all it takes is for someone to see you and then realise they can also be standing there in the next two to three years. Like they say, representation matters.

Have you benefited from coaching, mentoring or the sponsorship of others?

I am really grateful for all the formal and informal coaching, mentoring and sponsorship I have received so far from senior figures at Morgan Stanley. It has been an important part of my career and these colleagues have been helping me improve my skills, develop my career, advocate for me and help demonstrate my skills.

Do you believe in the power of networking? If so, where do you network?

Networking is important when it comes to sharing ideas and finding out what others are working on that might interest you. Internally, I am a part of Women In Tech (WIT) and a number of other organisations. Externally, I attend WIT events and hackathons which are great spaces to meet people with shared interests.

What advice would you give to those who aspire to a career in tech?

You should definitely do it; even if you find that the area you start in doesn’t work for you, technology is huge, there are so many other exciting areas you can transition into. You just need the passion and the drive, and you’re set to go.

What does the future hold for you?

My teacher in primary school wrote in one of my reports that the sky is the limit and I’ve been living with that phrase when it comes to my career since then. I aim to keep developing my technical skills, growing my network and to keep building and innovating. Also, to keep giving back through mentoring and sharing my experiences and making sure other young women in Tech also know that sky is the limit.


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Sophie Rugg

In Her Shoes: Sophie Rugg | Senior User Researcher, DWP Digital

Meet Sophie Rugg, Senior User Researcher, DWP Digital

Sophie Rugg

Sophie Rugg is a senior user researcher working on Universal Credit for DWP Digital. She is the voice of the user within a user-centred design team working on a live service.

Here, she shares what it’s like working for DWP Digital.

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

I’m a senior user researcher working on Universal Credit for DWP Digital. I joined the department last year having worked in a more traditional research background for many years previously.

In my role, I am the voice of the user within a user-centred design team working on a live service. My role involves testing individual points of the Universal Credit journey and the whole journey end-to-end from the users’ perspective.  I then collaborate with the team on key recommendations to improve the service for our users based on our insights.

I live in Leeds with my husband and two sons.

On a typical workday, how do you start your day and how does it end?

Most days start the same way, whether a workday or not, as I have two early-rising primary school age children who are usually up and raring to go by 6am!  Once I have sorted out their breakfast, if I am working at home, I usually log on, clear any emails, check my calendar and prioritise my to-do list. I then walk the children to school which is a very welcome start before sitting at my desk.

There is no typical day for a user researcher. If I’m running user research sessions, I’ll revisit my discussion guide and any materials I need for sessions and make sure any observers are happy with what we’re going to cover. Since the pandemic, much of the user research I carry out has been online, but now restrictions have lifted we’re able to go out and about a bit more again which is great because there’s really no substitute for face-to-face.

At the end of the working day, I try to practise Pilates or go for a walk to help my head transition from work to home.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not really! I did a history degree, followed by a Master’s degree in Arts and Heritage Management, and after that I knew I wanted to work in marketing and research and I did just that! I spent the first couple of years of my career working in marketing research for the arts which I loved, as I got to visit lots of art galleries and theatres.  This was followed by a 10-year stint in market research agencies where my clients were primarily in the public sector. I then worked client-side in social housing before moving to work for DWP Digital. I’m not a massive fan of planning, but I have recently started doing a vision board for the year and am starting to tick goals off that I have achieved which has been really satisfying!

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What do you love about working for DWP Digital?

There are so many brilliant people here, I learn something new every day! We also have loads of opportunities to share work and learn from each other both within the Universal Credit department, the user research community and cross government.

Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you overcome these challenges?

I’ve worked part-time since I went back to work after my eldest son was born and navigating part-time work, while a great opportunity, can be a challenge. The juggle of working with two young children is very real and sometimes it was easy to feel like I was not doing anything well! It’s become easier over time though – it requires good organisation and managing people’s expectations particularly around timescales. I’m very grateful though to have worked for employers who provide flexibility in working patterns to accommodate other responsibilities.

Making the shift to work in a different sector this last year has been another real challenge, but one I’ve really relished. There have been many days when I’ve wondered whether I’ll ever fully understand some of the language used but it’s got much easier over time. Focusing on my transferable research skills has really helped here, along with some great colleagues!

Have you benefited from coaching, mentoring or the sponsorship of others?

Absolutely.  A turning point in my career came after having one-to-one coaching with the amazing Gemma Stow, who specialises in developing and empowering women. I think at the time I felt a bit stuck career-wise, and my confidence was low. Working with Gemma, I also had access to a group of like-minded women and the peer support, along with the coaching, helped me to identify my strengths, build my confidence and realise that there are so many opportunities out there once you decide to look.

Do you believe in the power of networking? If so, where do you network?

Yes, though admittedly, it’s been restricted during the last couple of years due to the pandemic. During my time at DWP Digital, I have attended the Service Design in Government Conference and have also completed usability and user experience qualifications, both of which were great opportunities to meet people in similar roles working in different organisations. DWP Digital also have numerous opportunities to get involved with events such as Digital Live! where you can find out what is happening elsewhere in the department and meet colleagues from other areas.

What advice would you give to those who aspire to a career in tech?

I have never considered myself to be a ‘tech’ person, but I have learnt loads just working in the tech environment at DWP Digital. My advice would be to think about the skills you have which are transferable and then just go for it!

What does the future hold for you?

I’ll keep doing what I’m doing for the foreseeable future. I have learned so much in such a short space of time and I have so much to learn still! Maybe one day soon, I’ll book that coding course….


In Her Shoes: Victoria Conry | Director, Senior Technology Manager, Bank of America

Meet Victoria Conry, Director, Senior Technology Manager at Bank of America

Victoria is a Director, Senior Technology Manager at Bank of America. She has worked for Bank of America in Chester for 9 years having moved from a stockbrokers in Dublin where she qualified as a Chartered Accountant.

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

I have worked for Bank of America in Chester for 9 years having moved from a stockbrokers in Dublin where I qualified as a Chartered Accountant. My main focus in the bank has been around Risk (either financial or operational), Process Excellence and People Management. My current role is leading the Chester Technology Command Center Incident Management team – all significant technology incidents are escalated to the Command Center for engagement, escalation and ultimately to facilitate resolution.

On a typical workday, how do you start your day and how does it end?

I usually wake at 6 with a strong cup of coffee – my team are on shift from 7am so I check my emails to see what the morning may bring / if we need to be prepared from the handover from APAC. This will usually shape my day – there is a possibility that I need to log in from home if there is a significant incident. This coincides with getting my children ready and fed for school, along with cat and dog duties.

My day ends dependent on energy levels – a run or swim, some music, a book or simply mindless internet surfing.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Since my dreams of being a vet were dashed – absolutely not. I studied Genetics in Cardiff University, followed by temping and working in multiple different jobs for a few years. I had no idea what I wanted to do long term until I was 26 and had perform some bookkeeping – I absolutely adored the structure and purity of accounting and so pursued that path within Financial Institutions.

What do you love about working for Bank of America?

The expanse of knowledge that is stored in peoples heads / in procedure documents / in process flows – it really is a whole world of knowledge to be gained and also the potential to harness the knowledge through both people and technology.

Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you overcome these challenges?

I would say my biggest challenge was to navigate the “Networking” aspect of my role. Being a natural introvert, my initial thoughts about “Networking” was to shrink away from it – the thought of  walking into a room full of unknown people that I had to socialise with alone drained and scared me. I overcame it by reformulating what I thought “Networking” meant – Networking to me now is a natural, organic interaction, the taking of opportunities to meet people with a common topic.

Once you have a common topic – it could be a question, a proposal or gaining feedback then the conversation flows.

Once I reframed my definition of Networking, it is now a natural part of my day.

Have you benefited from coaching, mentoring or the sponsorship of others?

I have been a mentor for most of my career at the Bank. The benefit of mentoring is that you can gain a lot of perspective by understanding what challenges individuals face and how certain situations are interpreted by others. By sharing thoughts in a safe environment, topics can be discussed with no fear of reprisal and getting that alternative view is extremely useful in then seeing things from others view point that may be different from your own.

Do you believe in the power of networking? If so, where do you network?

See previous question – absolutely I do. My networking happens through my day to day work mainly eg. Reaching out to subject matter experts that may help to explain in further detail about an item. Also one of my most useful networking experiences was as Co-Chair of Women in Technology and Operations in Chester – I quickly got involved in organising events / inviting speakers to talk – this gave me a purpose and a great platform to talk to Senior Leaders that I otherwise would have no “common topic” with.

What advice would you give to those who aspire to a career in tech?

Try to understand “How” you like to work rather than a particular job title or division. What do you like doing – what are your skill sets and how are they best suited. Is it operational process related and therefore organisational skills / executive skills are well suited – is it as a technology specialist or with a specific skill set such as coding. My advice would be to search for roles based on the skills required rather than the job title. Technology provides so much opportunity for people with all skillsets that you should not feel limited whether you are a “technical” person or not.

What does the future hold for you?

Definitely to remain in the Bank. There are so many opportunities, so much interesting work being done and so many interesting people to talk to and connect with from across the globe. Working for a global organisation is absolutely fascinating – both from a People, Process and Technology point of view.


Catherine Mobray

In Her Shoes: Catherine Mowbray | Data Engineer, DWP Digital

Meet Catherine Mowbray, Data Engineer at DWP Digital

Catherine Mowbray

I joined the Data & Analytics team in DWP Digital in January this year as a data engineer. I work on the IRIS (Integrated Risk and Intelligence Service) team and I’ve really enjoyed my time working on this team. I’m excited to have the chance to share my experience so far!

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

At school, I was always interested in maths and science and had a great biology teacher at A-level. That convinced me to study Human Genetics at Newcastle University as an undergraduate. Part of that course involved a lab-based project in the third year which I thoroughly enjoyed, pointing me towards a career in science.

Through networking and word of mouth, I managed to secure a job as a research technician in the Mitochondrial Research Group at Newcastle University, where I stayed for about 18 months. During my time there I had extremely supportive colleagues who recommended I study for a PhD. I applied and started my PhD developing liver models for drug testing in 2007, graduating in 2011. From there I completed a series of Research Associate posts, for the last five years conducting research and testing in clinical trials looking into causes and treatments for recurrent urinary tract infections and alternatives to treatment with antibiotics.

However, during the start of the pandemic in 2020 the lab suddenly closed, and I was unable to conduct my usual work. As a result, I taught myself Bash/Shell scripting to analyse a large batch of bacterial sequencing data that we had collected but never started doing anything with. This allowed me to develop coding skills that were relevant to my current role, so when I was made redundant in August 2021 I began applying for more coding-based jobs. I spotted the vacancy for a Data Engineer role on Civil Service Jobs and decided to apply due to Bash/Shell scripting being listed as one of the criteria. I must admit, I was more than surprised when I was invited to interview!

I was ecstatic when I was informed that I had passed the interview and was offered the Data Engineer role. When I started in the department in January 2022, I knew I had a lot to learn and began training in Python and SQL with the support of team members. Now I’m working independently using my new skills, contributing to maintaining and building required features for ETL and database-querying services and delivering good-quality data to customers.

On a typical workday, how do you start your day and how does it end?

I typically get out of bed at the last possible moment and have a strong coffee to kick-start my brain – I am not a natural morning person! I double check my emails and calendar to mentally order my day, then look at my notes to pick up where I left off the day before. At the end of each day, I like to reach a natural finishing point in my code so I can pick it up easily – I think of it as reaching the end of a paragraph. I will then jot down where I am on my whiteboard and my thoughts on where to go next, followed by checking my calendar for the next day to make sure I know when meetings are. After signing out it’s time to walk my dog, then put my feet up and play a computer game or continue with my cross stitch for the evening.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I was always aware that this was something you definitely should do, but I can’t honestly say I did. I have tended to follow what I’ve enjoyed doing and have been lucky enough to enjoy most of my jobs. When I was made redundant from my scientific role, I did have a decision to make – do I continue with where I am or try something different? Due to the short-term, stressful nature of my previous roles, I decided to try and switch my focus to coding, which I found a refreshing change of direction during lockdown and aimed to have a career with more stability and new learning opportunities. Fortunately, I feel like this worked out well!

What do you love about working for Data and Analytics within DWP Digital?

There are two major things I enjoy about my job – the people and the work. Everyone I have met so far in DWP Digital has been so kind, supportive and generous with their time, it has made a rather daunting career change into a pleasant experience. I was involved in meetings and discussions from day one and was always encouraged to ask questions and offer opinions. Even though it’s a totally new area for me I have never felt silly, which I put down to the fantastic team I’ve joined. I also find the day-to-day work really rewarding. I’ve always enjoyed a good puzzle and identifying code that can be improved to match requirements, and then working out how to implement those changes is very motivating for me.

Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you overcome these challenges?

I think my biggest challenge has always been having a lack of confidence in myself. It has improved as I’ve got older, but even when applying for this role I was pleasantly surprised at getting an interview, and even more so at being offered a post! Looking back, I don’t know why I doubted myself so much – I knew I could do this job (and others I’ve applied for in the past), but communicating my abilities to others in a confident manner has been something I’ve struggled with. I think this is partially an anxiety of mine about being seen as over-confident or boastful. When interviewing or taking part in meetings, I do have to periodically remind myself that being open and honest with my knowledge or opinions to help the team is what matters, not whether someone will see that as a knowledge gap or overstepping the mark.

Have you benefited from coaching, mentoring or the sponsorship of others?

I have never had formal mentoring, but over the years I have been supported in different aspects of my career by colleagues. My former boss was instrumental in teaching me how important “telling the story” is when communicating technical concepts to non-technical stakeholders or customers. Another of my former colleagues supported me in deciding to apply for coding roles, giving me the confidence to believe that I could be successful in changing my career path.

Do you believe in the power of networking? If so, where do you network?

In my previous role, networking was very much seen as attending big conferences or meetings and introducing yourself to people in order to increase visibility. I must admit, I was terrible at this – the thought of doing that was terrifying! I have since realised that networking doesn’t have to be such a big deal – just chatting with people you meet around the office or in a couple of minutes before a Teams meeting starts and there’s just the two of you in the call is also networking. Getting to know people and having a chat can open doors and make collaborations a lot easier than it would be if you remain more isolated.

What advice would you give to those who aspire to a career in tech?

It’s never too late to start! For the last few years it was always on my mind that if I’d gone to university now, I would have chosen something like a computer science degree. As the years went on a career in tech seemed further and further away. However, upon learning to code, build a pipeline and use data for analysis, I realised that it’s never too late. If you have a desire to change, make the time to learn some concepts, learn a bit of code and build something with it. Employers are keen to hear how you can use your learned concepts and coding skills, not just whether you have a certificate saying you can do it.

What does the future hold for you?

I am thoroughly enjoying my role and can’t see any reason for a change of scenery in the near future! Over the next few months I aim to build on the knowledge I have gained in this role and learn different parts of the job to be a complete team member. In the longer term, I aim to develop the skills to become a Senior Data Engineer and continue to learn about and implement new technologies within my role. The future is exciting!


Isabelle Freeman, Huawei

In Her Shoes: Isabelle Freeman | Cyber Security Executive, Huawei UK

Meet Isabelle Freeman, Cyber Security Executive at Huawei UK

Isabelle Freeman, Huawei

Isabelle is a Cyber Security Executive at Huawei UK. In this piece, we talk about a typical working day, her advice for those aspiring to a career in tech and what she loves about working at Huawei.

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

My journey with cyber security began when I began a Master’s in International Security and Risk after having studied Politics and IR as an undergraduate. I was drawn to the interdisciplinary approach between global politics, risk management and cyber security, and after starting quickly realised I wanted my future career to have a similarly dynamic remit.

In September 2020 I began working as a Cyber Security Executive at Huawei UK, a role that combined the two areas of most interest to me: politics and cyber security governance. Over the last two years, my responsibilities have expanded beyond just cyber security, but to also incorporate privacy and data protection.

On a typical workday, how do you start your day and how does it end?

There are three things I make sure I do every morning to get into the right frame of mind for the day ahead. First, I check emails in case there’s anything I need to attend to urgently. Second, I check the news in case there are any stories I’ll need to keep track of throughout the day. And third, is my planning ritual. For me, it’s essential to start my day by scheduling my main priorities and meetings, and making a note of all the tasks, big or small, that I need to get done. Anyone who sees me in the office will know that I have my planner on me at all times – it’s like a bible to me! At the end of the day, once I’ve ticked everything off on my list, I’ll then shut my laptop, go home, and head out for a run.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I had long considered the different types of careers that interested me, but truth be told I would have never expected to end up working in tech. It took some time to decide whether to take the plunge dive into this unfamiliar sector but once I did, it was definitely worth it.

What do you love about working for Huawei UK?

Every day’s a school day when you work at Huawei. On the one hand, the sheer scale of the company means there’s so much going on, but the fact it pioneers so much research means you feel really close to the technology that is transforming the way we live. There’s always something interesting to talk about, whether it’s hearing about the newest products being developed in R&D, the most recent regional strategy, or the latest negotiations with important stakeholders.

Within Huawei, cyber security is treated with the utmost importance, so being on the team has led me to work on a huge array of projects across the business. All these experiences have given me great insights into the industry and Huawei’s place within it, which I’ve found immensely gratifying.

Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you overcome these challenges?

Beginning my career in the midst of a global pandemic brought a set of challenges I could never have imagined.  The virtual induction process was particularly challenging, and it was harder than usual to get a real sense of the company and its inner workings. Fortunately, all of my colleagues were super supportive, understanding and willing to answer any of my questions. I strongly believe in the importance of asking questions, especially when you are just starting out in your career when you can easily feel overwhelmed. But rest assured, asking for help and guidance whenever you need to will quickly make you far more confident in your role, whatever your company or industry.

Have you benefited from coaching, mentoring or the sponsorship of others?

Immensely! I am extremely grateful to work in a team where I have received invaluable mentoring and coaching. Especially as I am just starting out in my career, learning from colleagues with decades of experience has helped me develop a far more nuanced understanding of the tech landscape than I would otherwise have had access to. I am lucky enough to have great mentors, both technical and non-technical, who I work with on a daily basis.

What advice would you give to those who aspire to a career in tech?

I’d start off by emphasising that with such a rapidly-evolving industry, there is a vast array of careers out there. Don’t get bogged down by the technical knowledge, and instead remember the bigger picture: there will definitely be a place for you to shine. In terms of success, this is always going to look different from person to person, so focus on looking for fulfillment rather than a fancy title or loads of accolades. The best thing you can do in this industry is to have an open and inquisitive mindset, which will be sure to lead you down the right tech avenue.

What does the future hold for you?

Whilst I am only just beginning my career, I hope that my future roles are as interesting and challenging as my current one. With the tech sector moving at such a rapid pace, I particularly look forward to playing a part in developing key technologies that will shape the world for future generations.


In Her Shoes: Steph Woodings | Technology Associate, Morgan Stanley

Steph Woodings

Steph joined Morgan Stanley in 2017 as a consultant kdb+ Developer after getting her MSc in Astrophysics from the University of Glasgow.

In 2019, she converted to become a permanent employee of Morgan Stanley and remained in the same team within Institutional Securities Technology until 2021, when Steph took the opportunity to move to a new system within the same division. She now works on an application for trading and analytics for Fixed Income and Commodities products.

Alongside her functional role Steph is also co-chair of the Glasgow Technology Associate Assembly, a shadow board to connect non-officer population and the management team. The goal is to leverage ideas and suggestions from the firm’s Associate population to develop a best in class work place experience for everyone in (and out of) the office.

On a typical workday, how do you start your day and how does it end?

My days begin with an early morning PT session. Then I come home, feed the cats, have a coffee, and get ready for work. Luckily, I don’t live very far away from the office, so I hop on the train to Glasgow city centre.

I always try to start the day by organising my to-do list so I can prioritise my time. Alongside my day-to-day role I usually take some time out of my day for my non-functional responsibilities. I am able dedicate around 10% of my time to my extra-curricular activities, it’s great to have some variety in my day.

After work I meet my partner at the station, and we get the train home together. I love to cook, so I will usually make dinner, then it is time to relax.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

As you can probably guess from my academic background, a career in Financial Technology wasn’t what I originally imagined myself doing. I always assumed I would get a PhD and have a career in academic research (I did complete one day of a PhD). Sometimes you immediately know when something doesn’t feel right, and I’m glad I was brave enough to listen to my gut and act upon it.

You could say I accidentally became a Software Developer; because of this, I am very open-minded about my career. I love working in Tech, and I have personal goals to achieve, but I don’t look too far ahead because you never know what opportunities may come along in the future.

What do you love about working for Morgan Stanley?

The main thing that comes to mind is the culture. There is a real community atmosphere. Joining five years ago as a Junior Developer I was welcomed by my colleagues who have continued to support me through both personal and professional development. I feel comfortable knocking on the door of our senior officers for a cup of coffee and a chat, something that you don’t get everywhere.

Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you overcome these challenges?

The biggest challenge I have faced was really my lack of relevant experience, coming from an astrophysics background. Since joining Morgan Stanley, I have taken on tasks covering the entire tech stack of my projects to continuously develop my knowledge, understanding and experience of computer science and different programming languages. On-the-job learning has been a key part of my development, and the firm has provided me with all the required training and support to gain the knowledge needed to do the job.

Have you benefited from coaching, mentoring or the sponsorship of others?

Absolutely. I am surrounded by brilliant people every day. I learn so much from my colleagues, both junior and senior, and hope that they can also learn from me. I have taken part in development programmes for diverse individuals in the workplace which facilitated finding a mentor. My mentor is separate from my operational line so she can be impartial, it is so helpful to be able to lean on someone whose only intention is to help me develop my career.

Do you believe in the power of networking? If so, where do you network?

Having a diverse network can offer opportunities you might not come across in your day-to-day role. There is huge benefit of putting yourself in front of the right people and demonstrating your passion and skills so that your name pops into their head when these opportunities arise.

I network through the many committees we have in the Glasgow office and beyond into other locations. The Associate Assembly, which I mentioned earlier, purposefully consists of colleagues across Technology and requires me to reach out to senior leaders I wouldn’t usually get the chance to interact with. I have also met many people through the Women in Tech network within the office, leading talks on kdb+ and unusual routes into a career in Tech.

What advice would you give to those who aspire to a career in tech?

We live in a very technology dependent world, which continues to expand into every industry and environment you could think of. Working in tech is exciting, varied, fast paced and skilled problem solvers are in very high demand. The growth of Morgan Stanley Glasgow over the past two years has been immense, and positions continue to open up; my team is currently hiring for multiple junior positions. I am proof that you don’t need a degree in computer science to have a fulfilling career in Tech at a firm such as this. Many different backgrounds offer transferrable skills which can be applied to technology in some form, you might be surprised.

What does the future hold for you?

Technology within a global organisation like Morgan Stanley can offer many opportunities, and I hope to experience working in different environments and cultures. Finally, I am striving to develop my skills into other areas, other languages and aspects of technology. Continuous learning will make sure I’m ready for whatever comes my way next.


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Diane Redall featured

In Her Shoes: Diane Redall | Associate QA Tester, DWP Digital

Diane Redall

I am an associate QA tester and a disabled person working within DWP Digital. I have a master level qualification in Sociology and have Advanced ISTQB in Software testing qualifications too.

I secured my first digital role as a system tester through a university placement, testing changes to the old payroll system at DWP.  My experience of working in a digital role hasn’t been a linear path, due to working in the temporary sector for a few years but it did give me a lot of sector knowledge in both the public and private sectors.

I’ve had several roles within DWP Digital such as software developer, live support, end-to-end delivery, project support and interim team leader of the Atos Origin Test Factory.  Some of the projects I’ve worked on for DWP Digital include Winter Fuel Tools and Debt Manager 11.  In 2018, I was awarded a place on the Northern Power Women Future Leader List for gender and disability inclusion activities, and I am a disability advocate outside of work. I also write blog posts on disability access of the events and venues I have attended.

On a typical workday, how do you start your day and how does it end?

My typical workday starts and ends with doing household tasks and managing carers as I am an unpaid carer for two disabled adults.  Once that has been arranged, I check my Outlook calendar for meetings I have that day and catch up with any unread emails. I carry out my testing activities and learning development around these agile team meetings. In the evening after work and all the household tasks have finished, to chill out I go onto Twitch, YouTube, Spotify or BBC Sounds to listen to music and to do chair exercises.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I am always looking to develop myself and add value to DWP Digital. I have one-to-one reviews with my manager and my mentor to help me prepare for new opportunities and I’m a member of several diversity groups which help develop my leadership and soft skills.

What do you love about working for DWP Digital?

What I love about working for DWP Digital is helping to put in place IT systems that can really help make a difference to the department’s customers.  I also like that there’s a wide range of job opportunities and available training to help me develop and that there are always people who are kind and helpful to assist me to go forward with my career development.

Another big plus is flexitime which helps me balance work, my disability, and my caring responsibilities.

Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you overcome these challenges?

Being a mild mannered disabled shy person, I was subjected to workplace bullying on several occasions. I had to learn how to stand up for myself in an assertive way and define my boundaries. I applied for development opportunities and new roles to get out of the toxic environments.

Have you benefited from coaching, mentoring or the sponsorship of others?

In terms of coaching, mentoring or sponsorship by others, I have benefitted in two ways. As a mentee, I’ve had a mentor to help me develop my soft skills and my technical expertise.  I have also been a mentor, advising mentees on how to get into a digital career.

Do you believe in the power of networking? If so, where do you network?

Yes, I believe in the power of networking, I am an ambivert and networking at times can take me out of my comfort zone. I am ok talking in groups or in 1-2-1 settings, but I find it difficult to approach strangers. I often network at conferences and diversity events.

What advice would you give to those who aspire to a career in tech?

My advice to anyone wanting to pursue a digital role would be to research the roles to find a role that interests you and will challenge you in equal measures, find out what learning you need and apply for training opportunities. Be brave and be confident in your abilities to learn. Everybody is always learning.

What does the future hold for you?

I would love to complete a PhD and hopefully secure a senior leader role within the Civil Service. I would like to assist the Civil Service in exceeding customer expectations and to help normalise access for disabled people to physical and virtual venues.


In Her Shoes: Shivangi Das | Software Developer, DWP Digital

Shivangi DasI am a software developer at DWP Digital. I have a bachelor’s in computer science and achieved a masters in Machine Learning last year.

I started coding for a living in 2014 and have loved it since. Before DWP Digital, I have worked on a Wealth management app (where I developed an interest in investing) and video analytics using artificial intelligence. At my current position, I work on building and supporting applications used in DWP and by millions of people that need them.

On a typical workday, how do you start your day and how does it end?

My workday begins with checking my to-do list while eating breakfast and checking up on messages and mail before the stand-up meeting. I make to-dos at the end of the day to allow me to completely switch off thinking about work when I close my laptop. There’s lots of stretching and moving around involved before and during work, combined with snacks. I usually go for a walk or run right after work.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Yes! I do it quite often, always at the end of a project, towards the end of a year or half-year. I also find it helpful to discuss my development with managers and mentors. As an example, I have recently started thinking about whether I want to stay in a more developer-oriented position or look at managerial roles. When talking about it with my manager, they shared a lot of their personal experience and also directed me to useful resources.

What do you love about working for DWP Digital?

I joined DWP Digital recently and was impressed by the anonymous hiring process. This is evidenced by the diversity of my colleagues I get the opportunity to work with. DWP Digital is also doing a wonderful job of involving everyone in the conversation. I love getting to use the latest technologies, working with amazing and helpful colleagues and of course, the scale of impact is very humbling.

Plus, I get great appreciation for every piece of work.

Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you overcome these challenges?

Being an introvert and sometimes being the only woman at the table has been a challenge in previous jobs. I had to learn to speak louder, learn to say, “I was speaking”, stop apologising for everything and put forth my ideas with conviction. I also had some amazing mentors that were very supportive.

Have you benefited from coaching, mentoring or the sponsorship of others?

Yes! I have so many mentors to thank for encouraging me to try new technologies, take up new opportunities and open gates for more. My masters last year was sponsored by the British Council India. I started my journey into AI because one of my mentors appreciated my side projects in AI. One of my coaches from my time in a month-long Developer Academy encouraged me to become more confident when speaking publicly.

Do you believe in the power of networking? If so, where do you network?

I do believe in the power of networking however as an introvert, casual networking does not work for me. I forge relationships with people I meet and like at tech events like women in tech, women developers academy, tech communities like TechLadies, Women in Digital (DWP) or am introduced to through other people.

What advice would you give to those who aspire to a career in tech?

Start before you think you’re ready because you’ll never be ready, and you don’t have to be. Learning on the job is a skill we already have and is all that is required in the beginning.

What does the future hold for you?

Currently, I’m enjoying my work a lot and working towards financial freedom in the next ten years. This means being very involved with my money- having a budget, investing, saving for emergencies, making clear goals for every half year. It is a little scary but also extremely satisfying.


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Sahydi Garcia

In Her Shoes: Sahydi Garcia | Vice President, Morgan Stanley

Sahydi GarciaSahydi Garcia is a Vice President of Morgan Stanley in Enterprise Technology and Services based in London.

Sahydi is responsible for driving the adoption and implementation of Agile & DevOps practices and principles for the Corporate Workplace Technology department. She also performs project management/business analyst roles to deliver business outcomes for stakeholders in Corporate Information Management. In January 2016, Sahydi was named Vice President and later that year she accepted a mobility opportunity to move from New York to Glasgow. In October 2018, she accepted a mobility opportunity to London.

Sahydi started her career in Technology at the Firm in 2011 as an IT Service Delivery Manager in End User Technology, supporting the delivery of technology services to end users in Wealth Management branches during the Morgan Stanley-Smith Barney joint venture. She joined Morgan Stanley in 2004 as an Associate in Reengineering and Expense Management based in New York, serving as a Sourcing Manager in Corporate Services.

On a typical workday, how do you start your day and how does it end?

My typical day starts before 6am, which is always followed by a bowl of porridge and cup of coffee. With lockdown easing and outdoor gyms opened, I have been getting in a workout before the workday starts. These days that means a spin or HIIT class. Then, I log on to quickly review emails from the prior evening and shift focus to the biggest priorities I have for the day. My typical workday ends in Zoom meetings with New York colleagues.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I never sat down and strategically planned my career. However, I do periodically stop to think about the next step. Early on, I assumed that I needed to have a grand vision for my life and have it all figured out at once. In actuality, life and careers are rarely linear. My journey has been guided by thinking one step ahead, and my willingness to be uncomfortable and enthusiastically accept new opportunities when presented.

What do you love about working for Morgan Stanley?

I most admire the professional integrity of the people I work with at Morgan Stanley. Our corporate culture is guided by the Firm’s five core values of Do the Right Thing, Put Clients First, Lead with Exceptional Ideas, Commit to Diversity and Inclusion, and Give Back. The work environment reflects those ideals and challenges us to strive for our personal best, regardless of role or position. This enables us to attract incredible people, and I am regularly impressed with the combination of talent and drive my colleagues possess. They make me want to show up and be better.

Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you overcome these challenges?

Naturally, I have faced challenges in my career. I am surrounded by brilliant people, often with way more experience and knowledge than I have. That is not a comfortable position to be in, but I eventually came to realize that I had two choices. I can feel threatened by this, allow my imposter syndrome to emerge, and have it prevent me from asking questions and getting engaged. Or, I could be vulnerable and embrace that I will not know everything and ask for help. I now approach these situations as a learning opportunity rather than a judgement of my ability.

Have you benefited from coaching, mentoring or the sponsorship of others?

It’s impossible to have a meaningful career on your merit alone. I would not be where I am today without the generosity and support of coaches, mentors, and sponsors. A piece of advice I would give to my younger self is to invest in these types of relationships early on because they truly allow you to ascend. Coaches will help you to improve your skills, while mentors will help you to develop your career, and sponsors will advocate on your behalf when you are not in the room. You need them all, go find them, and don’t just take it from me, take it from Carla Harris!

Do you believe in the power of networking? If so, where do you network?

All my career opportunities have stemmed from the relationships I have built over time, so I firmly believe in the power of networking. Whether you are searching for a new home or shifting careers, your network can bring new opportunities and ideas to light. Personally, I lean heavily on the various professional networks we have at Morgan Stanley, like Women in Technology. We host various networking and knowledge sharing events intended to establish community and new connections across the Technology organization. Still, I look forward to the days where we can mix more casually in person, and we can make new connections casually chatting to the person standing next to you.

What advice would you give to those who aspire to a career in tech?

If you are passionate about problem solving, think creatively, have varied interests, and enjoy learning new things, you can have a fulfilling career in Technology. This does not mean you need to have a CS degree, be a coder, or engineer. Throughout the course of your career in tech, you can pick up different skills and hold different roles. My advice is to pursue what interests you, work hard at it, find ways to make your skills useful, and remain open to change.

What does the future hold for you?

The experience of the pandemic has made me re-evaluate a number of things including planning too far ahead or setting expectations around what the future holds. As a result, this is a difficult question for me to answer. The things I am striving towards this year include being more mindful of where I spend my time (goodbye Instagram, you are missed), questioning whether the time I invest adds value (to others and myself), and no longer postponing experiences, even if they are uncomfortable. Professionally, this has led me to slowly and reluctantly face my fear of presenting to large groups and like most things, it will require a tremendous amount of effort and energy to develop this skill. To answer the question boldly, which is not my natural inclination, in the future you will see me presenting at a TED Talk.

To learn more about Technology careers at Morgan Stanley, please click here

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In Her Shoes: Emily Beeney | Vice President, Morgan Stanley

Emily Beeney is a Vice President at Morgan Stanley, leading the Information Security Incident Management and Investigations analytics mission to detect potentially malicious Insiders within Morgan Stanley’s network. ​

As Co-Chair of Morgan Stanley Glasgow’s Women in Technology Network, Emily defines and delivers the Firm’s diversity strategy at a local level. ​

Read Emily's interview here
Emily Beeney
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