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Making a mark – Women in Technology
29 May 2019 | Posted by Rachel McGrath

It’s not a secret. We have some amazing women on our team. From Project Managers, to Sales Leaders, to Software Engineers and many more.

Only 7% of students taking computer science A-level courses are female. Just half of the girls that study IT & Tech subjects at school go into a job in the same field. However, the industry is changing, and we’re celebrating that!

We’re taking steps to do our part to level the playing field. We’re supporting women to return to the workplace, supporting diversity initiatives to ensure everyone has equal opportunities and inspiring the next generation of female coders. And we’ll be telling our story at Women of Silicon Roundabout this June.

To celebrate our first year being involved with this event, we interviewed some of the amazing women in tech from around the business and asked them the burning question… what’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given, and what do you want to pay forward?

Read part one today and part two next week and share your thoughts on #WITSeries!

Laura McKeague, Amazon Web Services Partner Manager

What takes up your time outside work?

I’m a bit of a fitness fanatic and a keen golfer which may come as a surprise to most, alongside an avid traveller and indeed shopping expert!

What got you into tech, what has your career path been to date?

A career in technology wasn’t the aim I had in my head when choosing a university course or indeed a career. I never saw myself sitting behind a computer screen all day. With a mindset to go into the legal profession, but an aptitude to fix any technical problem my mum quickly helped steer me in the right direction and sent me off to a course in computing. I ended up graduating with first class honours in computer science and have a career at Kainos.

Can you share a proud professional moment?

I think for me it was moving into sales at such an early stage. I graduated as a software engineer and decided pretty soon after that that I wanted to move into sales, I had proved my ability, my passion and the company took the risk on me. I think it’s paid off for us both!

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

I’d be a bit of a perfectionist in my work and failure was never an option for me until the inevitable happened… At that point one of my colleagues gave me some that’s stuck with me which was – ‘when you fail, fail hard. Learn from experience then move on and succeed at it’.

In turn what would you say to aspiring women in tech?

Take the risk, choose a career in technology, there are so many options and routes that you will always have a chance to change and grow. Say yes to all opportunities – even those you feel you are not ready for yet, someone believes in you enough to offer you the opportunity, so it’s likely you’re ready for a growth opportunity. Believe in yourself, take the risk and go for it!

Kainos’ UX team at their team away day, 2019

Bronagh Smyth – User Research Consultant – Land Registry Project Team

What takes up your time outside work?

I have a pet hedgehog, Sharon Needles, who recently had a leg amputated – so currently a lot of my time is spent entertaining her and trying to turn her into a social media influencer. (You can find her on Instagram, @shazza_needles_)

What got you into tech, what has your career path been to date?

I probably had quite a different journey into tech, coming from a research background. I studied psychology and business at University, and then joined a multinational as an intern on the Product Research team. I was exploring new ways to figure out what consumers want, and then using that understanding to help design better products. After this, I moved into the advertising industry, figuring out how to influence positive behaviour change through advertising. I was working on campaigns such as DOE road safety, trying to understand how we could reduce drink driving, speeding etc through effective messaging.

While in that role, I became really interested in digital and experiential marketing, so that was when I started looking more into tech and user experience. I came across user research and realised it was very similar to what I had been doing in advertising and product research. It felt like the perfect fit for a move into the industry. I love it and I’m really excited about the opportunities ahead. Our XD capability is growing fast so it is a great time to be involved in shaping how we make sure that the services that we build have a real positive impact on the people using them.

Can you share a proud professional moment?

I was interviewed for an article in The Guardian a couple of years ago, talking about how measuring emotional responses can provide insight into behaviour change. Reading the article, I loved seeing “According to Smyth, the physiological data…” – it felt like I had become someone who knows what they are talking about! I think most of us suffer from a bit of imposter syndrome so it is good sometimes to sit back and realise how much you have learned and give yourself a bit of credit.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

It’s very cheesy, but probably “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway”. My parents always brought me up to go for things that felt right for me, even if it was a bit risky, and to not be afraid to change course or direction. I’d never really been one for having a carefully mapped career plan, I just trusted my gut and threw myself into opportunities when they felt right. There have been times when I could have played things a bit safer and stuck with what I knew, but I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing now, or enjoying it as much, without taking a few curveballs. You learn from everything, especially the bits that go wrong. So yeah, from quitting a job to go travelling to putting myself forward to present at conferences – I generally try to live life by that rule.    

In turn what would you say to aspiring women in tech?

I’d almost say this to women before they even aspire to be in tech…and it would be to keep an open mind about what is out there for you. If someone had said to me even a few years ago that I would be a woman in tech I’d have responded with something along the lines of ‘but I don’t know how to code’. There are such a massive range of roles and opportunities within tech and lots of different skillsets can be used. In fact, tech is so ever changing that you even have the chance to shape and carve out your role. So just be open to having a look into it and see where you could fit! 

Faye Koukia-Koutelaki, User Researcher, Digital Services

What takes up your time outside work?

My work defines how each user interacts with the products and services we build. I deliver actionable user insights to help define and focus the service experience on user needs. Outside of work, I geek out on reading maps.

What got you into tech, what has your career path been to date?

I have always enjoyed new challenges and I was ready to try something new. Technology is now everywhere and I wanted my next move to be something relevant to most people. This aligns with my previous career – I used to work in counselling, as a psychologist before making the switch to User Research.

Can you share a proud professional moment?

My employers and my colleagues usually get emotional when I leave an organisation or a project. That makes me feel like I’m having an impact. My latest proudest moment was when Brendan said that my presentation at the company Kick-Off event provided him with the quote of the year!

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

People love to talk. So listen.

In turn what would you say to aspiring women in tech?

Care. It makes a difference. Don’t believe those who tell you that you can’t do it. And be loyal those who believed in you from the beginning.

Alison and team at the Evolve Customer conference, 2018

Alison Connor, Account Director, Kainos Healthcare

What takes up your time outside work?

When I’m not managing the Evolve and Healthcare sector account base for Kainos, I really enjoy coastal rowing. 

What got you into tech, what has your career path been to date?

I did an Economics degree that led me into Financial Services in my first Graduate job.  I became a Business Analyst due to the increasing dependency between the business and tech.  I then moved into various PM roles working in the public sector for the Scottish Public Sector, then joined the private sector for a large Managed Services provider.  Following this I moved into a Client Services role and finally onto my current role, working with customers, project teams and overseeing key accounts.

Can you share a proud professional moment?

In my first Project Manager job I managed the build, delivery and live implementation of the first release of a new national product for the Scottish Police, which is still in use today.  I had oversight of the go live of this into the first region in Scotland – this was a really exciting moment for me! 

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

The mattress you sleep on and your job are where the majority of your time will be divided. Invest wisely in both!

In turn what would you say to aspiring women in tech?

There are no blue jobs or pink jobs in tech.  Just the right job, for the right person at the right time.

Lauren Rousseau, Product Consultant, DVSA Project Team

What takes up your time outside work?

Most of my time outside of work is spent with family and friends or catching up on the latest Netflix show. I have also recently joined a gym for the first time in my life as I decided it was time I started to look after my health a bit better. And to my surprise I actually don’t hate it! I may actually even enjoy it. I’m crafty and enjoy baking too but I am a bit of a serial hobbyist and get excited and move on to the next thing before mastering it. This year I have decided to use my Skills for Me allowance that Kainos provide to learn to sew. I have always wanted to be able to make my own clothes and tailor them specifically to me, so this is a great opportunity to learn.

What got you into tech, what has your career path been to date?

Growing up I was always interested in technology but my limited knowledge made me approach computers with a wary caution, afraid that hitting the wrong button would break the computer. At school everyone had to take a computer literacy class and it was during this time that I started to learn and understand how the computer operates and that it’s not so scary! After learning some basic html I was hooked. I loved the way you could create something out of a few lines of code (and for someone with no artistic skill it enabled me to be creative in a different way).

I studied Business Information Technology at University, and as part of the course I undertook a year’s placement working in industry which I completed working as a software engineer at Kainos. I continued working there part time during my final year and then returned as a graduate. After being promoted to senior software engineer, I had to decide wether I wanted to continue on down the technical path or move into consulting. I finally made the decision to become a product consultant as I wanted to work with the customer to understand their problems and work with them in deciding how it could be solved.

Can you share a proud professional moment?

One of my proudest professional moments has been the success of the MOT reminder service. It was my first project working with UX and UR and I learnt a lot from them about why it was important to start with understanding the user needs. From understanding why citizens were late at getting their MOT, through to working with the development team to create the service and then passing the GDS assessment so we could launch the service. The MOT reminder service has now over 1 million citizens subscribed and is proving to help citizens remember to get their MOT on time.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

At the Kainos Kick-Off a few years ago, one of the talks a colleague was giving was about how not to let the fear of not having done something before stop you from saying yes when the opportunity presents. This piece of advice came at a time in my career where I was wanting to do new things, but I always convinced myself that I didn’t know enough or there was someone who would do it better than me. But sometimes all that is needed is someone who is willing to say yes, and then you can learn how to do it after.

In turn what would you say to aspiring women in tech?

Learn from everyone around you. It doesn’t matter what role people have or how junior or senior they are, everyone has some knowledge or perspective that you don’t.

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