Sophia-Cooper-featured

#lifegoals | Meet Sophia Chambers, a software engineer & young mum proving you can have it all

 

Sophia Cooper

Sophia Chambers, 28, is a Software Engineer at Sky Betting and Gaming.

At 24, Chambers started her degree in Software Engineeirng BENG at Sheffield Hallam University.

Here she describes how she juggles motherhood with work, how she began her career in technology and what keeps her motivated.

Tell me about your young family, how was the change becoming a mum?

What isn’t challenging about becoming a mum? Lol! I have three children in total – five, nine and ten years old.

What challenges did you face practically?

The lack of sleep was probably the hardest thing to deal with! With that, the time management – making sure everyone’s where they need to be with everything they need. Whether that’s making sure each child has their PE kit on their PE day, homework or even extra curriculum activities. Between three, this can become quite a challenge, I believe I’ve truly ‘mastered’ the art of multi-tasking, ha ha, well at least I like to think so!

What challenges did you face emotionally?

Sometimes, I think working parents all get the “guilt” feeling. Putting your children into after school, breakfast or even holiday clubs – sometimes can be quite difficult. I think most parents experience the ongoing circle – you want to work to provide your children with great experiences, but you also want to stay at home and spend more time with them – it’s an ongoing circle of events – the realistic key to this is balancing the two worlds – between work and family.

What challenges did you face inspirationally?

You have to learn to balance the work – family lifestyle. Sometimes, this really can be such a challenge. Ambition to do well in your career, can sometimes make you push back on family time and vice versa. I’ve always had high ambition and a want to progress well in my career, to achieve highly, but sometimes you need to be realistic.

How did you come to decide tech was for you?

From the age of 12, I began teaching myself how to code simple websites using HTML and CSS – even at this stage, it became addictive! I had a keen interest in graphic design and created a small site that provided things like wallpapers, profile layouts etc for users to download. I then went more into the programming world, experimenting with PHP and Javascript – producing small websites for local business’ and family members.

How do you make time to study and balance the needs of the young ‘uns?

My interest in tech, developed into a degree and a career. I’m very fortunate to work for a company that allows me to work from home. I don’t actually know how I would function without the flexible work opportunity that Sky Bet provides. As a Software Engineer and a mum, if one of my children is sick or if there’s a school play etc, I don’t need to worry about not being present or being there – because I can. I can work my hours from home and be there for my children when they need me, it really is invaluable.

What did other people say? Were they supportive?  

It was very “50/50” – some were supportive, some not. I found it most difficult within my first year at university, there was around 4 girls in total, the rest male. Which made it slightly harder to enjoy the degree at first, on top of which, it was even more difficult being a parent. I couldn’t really socialise like others within my year and I wasn’t highly interested in games etc, which made bonding difficult. Thankfully, I had a few people including my Dad, Husband and Grandma that were super supportive throughout which pushed me into continuing with a subject that I loved.

Did you ever have self-doubts?

All the time. Literally, ALL THE TIME. It’s a case of “you are your worst enemy”.  I think one of my worst traits is the lack of confidence.

What kept you motivated?

I genuinely LOVE to achieve – in fact it’s probably an addiction! I enjoy hard work and I enjoy the sense of achieving a goal – completing an ambition. I suppose, I’m a bit of a “weirdo” – I have to be doing something all the time – even on holiday. But through it all the main motivation is the ability to provide my family with opportunities and a good life. On a selfish level, it’s to turn back the years in 40 years’ time (hopefully lol) and be proud of the career I achieved, with the steps it took to get there. Ultimately however, I am very fortunate as I genuinely LOVE the job that I do, being a Software Engineer within a company with such great culture and co-workers barely makes it feel like work at all!

What drove you to take the first step into tech?

Pure interest. Genuinely pure interest. I began curious with how websites and the internet worked (I know, sad right?), which was quite difficult growing up as my interests never seemed to align with those my friends had and I began to feel as though I was different.

Now though I love that I am able to support and inspire those who felt the same as me and support them with their journeys into tech related careers.

Were you ever worried it wasn’t the right decision?

Risking my previous career in Dental, to go back to university to finally start my Software engineering career always had its risks. “Was I going to be good enough?”, “What if I fail? “, “What if I don’t gain employment through the degree?” – I think all these thoughts are pretty standard.

What would you say to other women about managing their life choices?

You have to be in a career that makes you happy, if you’re in a career that you enjoy it makes life so much easier to balance. It doesn’t matter what the sector or job role is, as long as you’re happy you will always achieve – if you’re in a career that you enjoy, you’ll never have to work again. The opinions of our social peers does not matter so much when we get older, so take that risk, go back and do what you enjoy! YOLO!


Tanja-Lichtensteiger-featured

Inspirational Woman: Tanja Lichtensteiger | Engineering Manager, Sky Betting & Gaming

 

Tanja Lichtensteiger

I'm Tanja Lichtensteiger and I'm an Engineering Manager at Sky Betting and Gaming based at its offices in Wellington Place, Leeds.

I manage six software engineering Squads and we are all responsible for making our Sky Bet product the best in the industry. I have been working professionally in technology for 18 years since starting as an apprentice software engineer at 16 years old.  I discovered my enjoyment for software engineering when I started coding at eight years old and haven't stopped since.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not at all, which would surprise many friends as they have me down as a planner. I stumbled into tech after learning how to code at eight years old and that led me to where I am now. I knew Technology was an industry I wanted to get into as I grew older but I struggled to find the right path. A lot of doors closed on me, including University, so I can't say things ever went to plan. I feel lucky that I was able to land a very good apprenticeship in Switzerland which set the foundation of my career. Since then I've just focused on working hard, learning as much as I can and consistently building great tech products. I never sought the next step, somehow the right opportunities just naturally came my way and I grabbed them.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

 As a mixed-race woman in Tech I can say from my experience that sexism and racism existed in technology when I started 18 years ago and are present even now. Phrases as "Women aren’t as technical as men",  "Women don't belong in tech" or "why are you here? Aren't you the cleaner?" bring up memories of past challenges. Thankfully the environment has much improved with a lot more support and people willing to stand up to do what's right. More of us willing to use our voice.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

After a long career it's pretty hard to decide on one. Personally I feel it's the individual achievements I gained through working with technologists more than technical achievements that mean more to me now. Whether if it's helping coach a budding software engineer into an extremely capable technical lead over the span of a few years or helping a squad upskill on new technology that they're excited about. Don't get me wrong, I love building and successfully delivering amazing technical solutions, but the tech we build will eventually go out of date. Those individual moments of growth are with these people for the rest of their lives.

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

Resilience. I'm passionate about technology, but I believe that passion would've died a certain death if I listened to the feedback that I "did not belong here" or took every stumble as the end. That bouncebackability needs to be practiced and nurtured, embrace the struggle and come out stronger for it. Because if you can stand up after every fall, you can achieve anything.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

I believe mentoring is a very valuable opportunity for both mentor and mentee to grow. I mentee a couple of women in technology and I find the process not only benefits them, but msyelf as well. It gives me a lot of food for thought. Either different perspectives on tackling a problem or new challenges I would not have come across. It's satisfying to see my mentees successfully take the steps forward that they want in their career. By being a mentor I am paying forward what others have done for me. I have a couple of informal mentors both in Tech and outside, who I came across naturally and now consider good friends. I believe in having a growth mindset and allow myself to constantly learn from people around me.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Parity, what would it be?

Employers need to realise that hiring those only from traditional paths (University degrees) isn't wise as it excludes amazing talent who come with transferrable skills from other walks of life.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

Some people will find fault in you no matter what, do it anyway!

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

I'm looking forward to watching my squads grow not just as excellent technologists but as great human beings while we, together, go solve some extremely complex technical challenges that face Sky Betting and Gaming. It's exciting and something I can't wait to get my teeth into. I know that after it, myself and my squads would have gained so much in knowledge and levelled up significantly.