Priti Parikh featured

Inspirational Woman: Priti Parikh | Chartered Civil Engineer & Associate Professor, Engineering and International Development, UCL

Priti Parikh

Priti Parikh is a chartered civil engineer and Associate Professor in Engineering and International Development at University College London.

She has over 15 years of engineering industry experience in South Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa and the UK with consultancies to include hands-on experience of designing infrastructure for slums in partnership with local communities. She created and now leads the interdisciplinary EFID Research Centre, which focuses on research in relation to water, sanitation and energy infrastructure in low-middle income countries. She was awarded the prestigious BBOXX/Royal Academy of Engineering Senior Research fellowship that focuses on energy access in sub-Sahara Africa through smart solar solutions. Dr. Parikh and her team of doctoral and post-doctoral researchers using mixed-method approaches for research focusing on the provision of sustainable and resilient infrastructure, environmental improvements and business models for resource constrained settings (slums and rural communities). Dr. Parikh has expertise in infrastructure (water, sanitation and energy) for resource constrained settings such as slums and rural communities in Africa and Asia. She is also leading research on developing evidence base to link SDG’s and infrastructure.

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

After working in engineering industry for 15 years I became an academic. As an Associate Professor at University College London I head the Engineering for International Development Centre where we research infrastructure solutions for resource challenged communities. Our research footprint includes Asia, Africa and Latin America. We evidence links between infrastructure and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to foster action and investment in infrastructure.

Here is a link to our centre: (https://www.ucl.ac.uk/bartlett/construction/research/engineering-international-development-centre)

Two years ago, I was awarded a prestigious Royal Academy of Engineering fellowship focussing on off-grid solar energy solutions for Sub-Saharan Africa. I am addressing energy access in Kenya, Rwanda, Togo and the DRC through developing an improved understand of energy consumption trends combined with behaviour change interventions for remote communities.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

In me early days yes I did plan out my career and then realised that life does not always go to plan. But what is more important is to keep sight of the vision and big goals and curate a journey which works for you as an individual. For example, my mission is to improve infrastructure for those living in resource challenged settings. This took me down an interesting journey spanning academia and industry – something that I did not anticipate in my 20’s.

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

Yes a few. The first one is ‘Imposter syndrome’ where I constantly feel and question whether I am suitable for a task or role. I often ask myself how a male colleague would react if offered the same role to get rid of my anxiety. Additionally as an Asian women in engineering there has been instances where I felt it is difficult to be heard or taken seriously especially in early stages of my career. Things are improving now but still more needs to be done to support career progression pathways for BAME women engineers.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Firstly, providing leadership to create a vibrant interdisciplinary research centre at University College London is exciting as it gives engineer’s and non-engineer’s space to work together on jointly solving global challenges.

I recently got elected to the Institution of Civil Engineer’s Council (ICE) . The Council drives the agenda by being the key decision-making body for ICE’s learned society activity. This gives me the opportunity to influence engineering thinking and action externally.

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

Being persistent in a quiet, calm and confident manner. I believe in doing good work and letting the work speak for itself in due course.

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

Doing good work of high quality, having mentors and a support structure to talk through difficult situations and staying confident. Learning to balance time spent on networking and doing the work is key. Both activities are required but just networking without the doing the work does not build up your reputation and likewise just doing the work without dissemination is not helpful as well.

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

Yes, retention and progression to leadership can be a barrier for women working in tech. Whilst most organisations have diversity and inclusion policies and strategies it is time for action to change day-to-day lived experiences.

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

Companies will need to build on policies to make tangible changes to working lives of women, open up progression opportunities in a clear and transparent way and review metrics for progression to make sure they build on strengths that women bring to the table. Quite often the metrics for progression reflect quantitative metrics and exclude a lot of enabling activities that women in tech  often get involved in.

There are 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?

It is time for tangible action to attract women into tech, retain and support them to achieve fulfilling careers.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Who Moved My Cheese?  Authored by Spencer Johnson, Kenneth H. Blanchard

This book reminds to that sometimes we need to find new pathways to achieve our ambition.


Priti is part of This is Engineering Day on 3 November 2021, a day created by the Royal Academy of Engineering to celebrate the role of engineers and engineering in improving sustainability. The Day is delivered in partnership with EngineeringUK who lead on Tomorrow’s Engineers Week (8-12 November), which will highlight to young people that engineering is an exciting career that improves the world and is contributing to net zero.  For further information visit www.thisisengineering.org.uk#EngineerTheFuture


Anna Donovan

Anna Donovan | UCL

Anna Donovan

Dr Anna Donovan is an award-winning lecturer at the Faculty of Laws, University College London where she was the inaugural Vice Dean (Innovation).

A former corporate lawyer, Anna has a passion for the transformative impact of technology and how this can be utilised by the legal sector in a fair, sustainable and equitable way. In particular, she is committed to supporting lawtech education as a critical foundation of achieving this goal. From 2018-2021, Anna was the chair of the education taskforce of LawtechUK, an industry led and government backed initiative to support the transformation of the legal sector through technology. She is the UCL Director of LawWithoutWalls a global education initiative exploring the impact of technology on the legal sector and founder of UCL Art Futures, a collaboration between the Slade School of Fine Art, UCL Laws and UCL Innovation and Enterprise designed to support the next generation of creative practice. She is also a member of the BSI Steering Group developing a specification for smart legal contracts and is a Research Associate at the UCL Centre for Blockchain Technologies. Dr Donovan is a qualified solicitor in England and Wales and admitted as an attorney in New York (both currently non-practising).


Inspirational Woman: Dr. Kiki Leutner | Business Psychologist & Data Scientist, UCL

Kiki LeutnerDr. Kiki Leutner is a business psychologist and Data Scientist at University College London (UCL).

She is Director of Assessments and Innovation at HireVue, where she develops innovative, data driven assessments that are fair and psychometrically valid. Her academic work is published in peer reviewed journals, including work on the intersection of machine learning and psychometrics. She is an expert in innovative psychometric assessment, personality theory, and behavioral analytics.

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

I currently work as Director of Assessments Innovation at HireVue and also as a lecturer in the psychology faculty at UCL. HireVue provides video interviewing and talent assessment solutions used by over 700 organisations globally to transform the way companies discover, hire and develop the best talent. My role at HireVue is to ensure that we build the fairest and most predictive pre-hire assessments possible, using the wealth of technology and science available to us. I believe that the key is bringing together business psychology and data science and machine learning.

I came to the UK for university, studying a combination of Philosophy, Psychology and Computer Science. I undertook a PhD at UCL, sponsored by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), which allowed me to learn about machine learning and data science, and bring this to my Psychology research. I started focusing on developing new methods of personality profiling. For example, I used free text data to develop personality profiles, and also developed an image-based personality test.

There’s so much discussion around ethics in Computer Science. It’s important to appreciate the context of human behavioural data and the specific implications it has. There is a longstanding tradition in Psychology to carefully evaluate datasets. And specifically, in Business Psychology, to check and evaluate how algorithms affect different groups of people, and to make sure they are fair. By working at the intersection of data science and psychology, I try to bring the two together. It is also the focal point of a class I teach at UCL. I lecture both Computer Science and Psychology students, bridging the gap between methodology and specific concerns in handling human behavioural data, whilst bringing a psychology ethics perspective to both.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I never planned my career, but I am always thinking about what I will do next. I am the kind of person who can never do just one thing at a time – I always have several projects on the go.

I feel as though I have been very fortunate in the opportunities that I have come across, and the mentors I’ve met along the way. I try to only pick opportunities that are truly of interest to me, and where I feel good about the people I’m working with. For example, I started working for MindX (later acquired by HireVue) when it was a young start-up because I was very impressed with the fast progress that they were making, and because my work was central to their mission and product.

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

There are challenges in every career, as well as in life in general – it’s important to find a situation in which you are comfortable, working with people who care and are passionate.

In terms of how I overcame these challenges, I strongly believe the answer lies in the people you work with. Having a good team really accelerates your output and shows the value of working with a diverse group of people – everyone brings something different to the table.

Working in technology and academia, a constant challenge will always be the lack of gender parity – you are almost always the only woman, or one of few women. This has meant throughout my career, I’ve had to ensure I’m strategic in how I navigate certain situations. I always wanted to stay true to myself and speak up if I felt something wasn’t right. I believe that being true to my values has worked in my favour.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Learning to trust my own judgement and ability! Especially as a young woman, you probably have more of a clue than people might make you feel. Most people don’t know what they’re doing either!  It’s so easy to become preoccupied by how other people may see you, so empowering myself to trust my own judgement is really important. It’s uncomfortable but it’s totally worth to keep insisting and making sure that people are aware of your background, title, or the work that you do, and to push your own agenda. Do the hard work, but don’t forget to claim your reward for it!

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

Balance! It’s key to have good friends, family and partners in your life, to create a really strong support network. You need to set up a good life for yourself, otherwise you can easily burn out.

I think that this is particularly relevant in the start-up world. You always have to give your most and there are high stakes and high emotions. Having stable relationships and supportive people help to balance this out.

Another key factor is having great mentors – for women especially. Without mentors, I wouldn’t have been able to negotiate things like salary and I probably would’ve said yes to opportunities that weren’t right for me! Knowing that you have someone to turn to when it comes to big decisions helps to build your confidence.

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

Surround yourself with good, supportive people and find mentors you trust and that inspire you. Education, whether formal or not, is so important – I never stop learning and would advise anyone trying to excel in their career to do the same. Trust your instincts with which jobs are right for you and don’t compromise.

One of my mentors always says, “do the job that you want to do – don’t wait for someone to give you permission, just do it.”

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

Of course, there are barriers – not just for women in tech, but for all women. Until women can benefit from the same support from the law, the government, the people around them, they will always be at a disadvantage. Technology is a very competitive industry, so I suppose that often results in people trying to drive out women more – it’s high stakes, both in terms of money and prestige.

I try to lead by example and show that it can be done – it’s important to individually empower women in tech, rather than only speaking about the topic as a whole. One of the best ways to overcome these barriers is to find other women in tech and talk to them! It’s really important to have open conversations – things that we experience in the industry are being experienced by many other women. Shared experiences are valuable and give credence to how you are feeling.

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

I think having structure within the company is key – formal pay structures, for example, have shown to reduce the gender pay gap. Another really important aspect is parental leave – I believe there should be parental leave for both men and women that is normalised and won’t disadvantage any particular individual.

Businesses should see increasing diversity as a great opportunity, as it truly is beneficial – it has been shown by studies time and time again that a diverse workforce makes for a more productive and profitable business. Most of all, businesses need to empower and support the minorities in their company – give them true opportunity and create and inclusive culture that values competence.

I find it really encouraging to work for a company that doesn’t just talk the talk, but also walks the walk! Over 50% of our executive team at HireVue are women, which is quite rare in the tech industry. We were also named on the 2019 Shatter List, which recognises technology companies that are actively shattering the glass ceiling for women in technology, through its programs and culture.

There is currently only 17% 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’d give companies the strength to be bold! We know what tools promote competence and diversity- it’s time to implement! Trust the evidence- this will increase profitability. Formal selection, promotion, and pay processes. Flexible working hours and mentor networks. Parental leave provisions that are equal for both genders, and support with childcare.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

There are loads of great women that you can follow on Twitter, as a start! A couple of my recommendations would be @cindygallop and @NathalieNahai.

Another area of focus for me is competence – this is a great article on why so many incompetent men become leaders: https://hbr.org/2013/08/why-do-so-many-incompetent-men

Events are an important and easy way to meet likeminded individuals and discuss shared experiences – some of the best are run by Future Females.

Education is important to me – and that doesn’t just mean textbooks! It’s key to educate yourself on the history and actuality of feminism and equality. My starting suggestions would be:

Lastly, it’s important to keep a sense of humour… Laugh about it at @manwhohasitall.