Tag Archives: Edinburgh Napier University

Edinburgh Napier Applicants Day 2013

Connect

Saturday saw me spending a very enjoyable – if freezing cold – morning helping to man (woman?) the Scottish Resource Centre for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology (SRC) stand at Edinburgh Napier University’s Applicants Day.

For the uninitiated, the SRC runs Connect, the Napier branch of Interconnect, a national networking group for female STEM students.  We set up our stand with the aim to speak with as many potential female students as possible and tell them all about our experiences with the group.

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In addition to applicants getting the opportunity to speak with us fabulous reps about how much fun we have being members of Connect, we laid on lots of information and freebies (the mind maps were designed by schoolkids for a sister project).  These babies went down rather well too:

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Engineering sweeties!  Oh yeah!

All in all it was a pretty successful day, with lots of applicants and staff alike stopping by for a chat and a lemon flavoured spanner.  The women we spoke with were mainly engineers so I didn’t get much of a chance to sell the School of Computing, however we all had a great time discussing why groups like Connect are so beneficial for female STEM students.  The main thing that came out of the discussions we had with applicants is that we all enjoy being part of such a lovely, friendly and resourceful network of women from lots of different disciplines.  After all, who can argue with cake, coffee and a good old moan about coding?

Interconnect field trip

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending my first Interconnect outing, where we spent the day at the offices of Selex ES.

 

Selex

 

Around a dozen STEM students from various universities across Scotland spent a very enjoyable day hearing from several female engineers, who talked about their backgrounds and work with the company.  Selex is still very male dominated, but they are very focused on getting more women to work for the company and there are so many great opportunities for engineering and computing graduates.  It’s so heartening to hear the stories of women overcoming the prejudices and discrimination, even in university, and their subsequent success stories of sticking in, working hard and being recognised for their talents rather than their gender.

We also got a tour of the facilities, taking in areas such as the climate lab and manufacturing section.  My personal favourite was the section containing the near field and far field rooms, where they conduct various radar and antennae tests.  The staff who showed us round were clearly very enthusiastic about their work, showing us the equipment they work with and the various pieces of radar equipment they make.  A good amount of manufacturing is also done on site, although sadly we had to settle for looking through the windows when it came to the plant tour.  Everyone was very happy to answer our questions, of which we had plenty!

The only downside of the day came from one of the ladies looking after us.  After asking me what I’m studying (Computer Systems and Networks), she then assumed that I would be looking for an IT support job for a financial services firm after graduation.  Cue the Jackie Chan meme:

Jackie Chan

Alright, so maybe they want software engineers and mathematicians more, but to categorise me like that without even bothering to ask anything specific about my degree is downright insulting.  I mumbled something along the lines of “there’s more to my degree than that”, as I was so taken aback by her assumption, but by then she’d moved on.  Obviously the fact I study networking and found the antennae work really interesting means nothing to some people!

Other than that, I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to Selex and loved the tour of the facilities in particular.  Their graduate scheme does look pretty good (the benefits are fantastic) and I would recommend you take a look.

Trip to China

Last week I was for picked for the university‘s trip to Zhengzhou University of Light Industry.  China, baby! *jumps up and down excitedly*

The trip consists of a mixed group of lecturers and Napier students, spending three weeks with the students in Zhengzhou to teach them the basics of SQL and web design.  In addition to gaining lots of teaching experience and working on our Mandarin, we will also have the opportunity to explore the city and surrounding province.  A trip to the Great Wall is planned for when we arrive in Beijing and we’ll also have the opportunity to visit the Terracotta Army.  We plan to document our trip and create a lasting legacy by combining our super awesome computing talents and putting together a kickass blog.  The group (three girls, three guys) already seems to have a nice dynamic and we’ve been bouncing ideas off each other like crazy in our Facebook group.

On a more personal note, I’m looking forward to learning more about one of the oldest civilisations in the world and immersing myself in Chinese culture.  I hear from friends that China is like nothing I have ever experienced before, so I’m already thinking about the difficulties I will face as an obvious foreigner in a country where English isn’t spoken widely and the written language is based on an entirely different alphabet from the one I know.  But hey, I love a challenge!

However, the trip isn’t free and so we are now in the process of fundraising.  It’s been suggested that I take orders for cheap goods and bring lots of fake handbags etc in a spare suitcase, but I’d much rather take a more traditional (and less dodgy) route to fund the trip.  My daughter has made me promise to bring her back lots of Hello Kitty stuff so there won’t be any room to bring stuff back for the Del Boys.  Sorry folks, you’ll have to find another supplier!

On a more serious note though, I am open to funding suggestions should the initial application fail. If you have any suggestions for me, please let me know!

Class tests and exams

Because I’m so rock and roll I’m spending my Saturday night revising for Monday’s networking class test.  I’ve successfully navigated three weeks of lecture notes and lab exercises so I think a cup of tea is in order before I tackle the rest of my notes.  Tea makes everything better and is good for you, hurray!

I must make a confession though; I don’t like class tests or exams.  I managed to get through my school exams and am proud of my Standard Grade and Higher results, but if there’s one method of assessment I don’t perform well in it’s the old closed book test.  When I am faced with one I tend to suffer from brain freeze; I know the material, I’m confident I’ll answer the questions well, but as soon as I sit down all my knowledge seems to run off and hide as I sit there desperately trying to remember what 2+2 makes or how many bits there are in a byte (the answers are four and eight respectively, ha!) while the clock ticks on.   I had a class test last week and didn’t do as well as I’d hoped (I still passed though, I’m not a total failure), but mind you, popping two co-codamol to soothe my poor back before the test probably wasn’t the brightest idea I’ve ever had…

I wish I knew why my brain does this to me though as I like to think I’m a good student.  I don’t spend my entire student loan on beer and Xbox games, I participate in lectures and lab discussions and revise like a madwoman before tests, but as soon as I sit down and turn that first page over everything I’ve worked hard to memorise and understand just…goes.  Sometimes I wonder if it’s because rote learning doesn’t work for every subject and some modules work better for students when they are asked to submit practical coursework, but then I wonder if it’s just me that suffers from memory wipe.  Is it just me, or does anyone else find themselves in the same predicament?

Ah well, wish me luck for Monday!

Preparing for the professional world

I might only be in my first year, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned from people at the various events I’ve attended in the past few months alone it’s this:  don’t be shy to sing your own praises and promote yourself.  I’ve admittedly neglected this area as I’m actually kinda shy when it comes to this sort of thing – hard to believe, I know…

However, I’m determined to go places after graduation and I think it makes total sense to plan my route right at the very beginning of my journey.  Today I’d like to share with you some excellent tips that I’ve picked up so far:

1. Web Presence

The vast amount of social media sites that people recommend can be overwhelming, but once they’re set up they’re easy to maintain.  I recently set up an About.me page, which acts as a handy starting point for all the social media sites I’m signed up to and includes a link to direct folk to my biography.  If you’re on Twitter, it’s very easy to create and manage a separate, professional account if you want to keep your personal life away from your professional presence.

However, maintaining so many profiles can get messy so I decided to buy myself a domain and set up a website to showcase everything I’m involved in.  I like the idea of having a central point of contact and I can also have a section on my radio experience.  Luckily I’m married to a web developer so I can sit back and eat cake while he’s making the magic happen, but for those who aren’t so lucky, trust me when I say putting a website together is easier than you think (EDIT:  my husband says that he didn’t work like a dog for his degree in Web Technologies for me to say that web design is easy.  I’m now contractually obliged to tell you that web design is up there with rocket science).  WordPress itself has a lot of handy tools to help novices build a decent looking site and its modular design means you can cobble something decent together in minutes with a little bit of drag and drop.

2.  Business Cards

The first time I was asked for my business card (by the wonderful Dr Sue Black, no less) I was really flattered that someone would actually ask me for one!  When I mentioned that I didn’t have any, Dr Black strongly advised me to order some cards as they come in very useful at networking events and will help the people you meet to remember who you are.  I took her up on her advice and am now awaiting my first batch of 50 cards.

In addition to sticking a mugshot on the card to help with the whole names-to-faces thing, I’ve added my course and university details, my new website, email address, Twitter name, phone number and About.me page.  I’ve picked up a few business cards from people already and I’m find them very handy, usually when I’m talking to a friend about who I’ve met and I need to remind myself who it was I met!

3.  Events

My first big event was Target Jobs’s IT’s Not Just For The Boys! in London last November.  The event was primarily a careers event made up of around 120 STEM students and representatives from many different companies.  I was lucky enough to be offered a place for the event and thoroughly enjoyed myself, taking advantage of the opportunity to network like mad and make some good contacts.  I’m also off to the BCS Women Scotland Kickoff event next week and am looking forward to tomorrow’s Tech Talk, hosted by the university’s Institute for Informatics & Digital Innovation (IIDI).  I also attended the Connect Networking Lunch last Friday and had a great time mingling with STEM students and staff.

Before you nod off, my intention isn’t to bore you silly with the above, it’s to demonstrate the sheer amount of events and networking opportunities there are out there for female STEM students.  There are literally dozens of events every month where students are welcome and I would actively encourage you to attend as many as possible.

Don’t be scared if you’ve just started your degree – I’m only in first year myself, but I’ve never found that to be an issue.  From what I’ve experienced, people tend to be impressed with students taking the opportunity to attend events and network from the off and I truly believe that keeping up the momentum is beneficial to your future career.  The more you’re seen at events, the more likely people are to remember you and it’s a fantastic – and cheap! – way to build up a professional network.  Keep an eye out for any events your university is running, but don’t be shy to go along to any events held in your area.  I like to keep an eye on Eventbrite to see what’s coming up and they also offer a good smartphone app.

I hope you find the above advice as useful as I have and I hope you have as much fun as I do as you schmooze your way around the lectures and events.

First week back

Ah, it’s good to be back at uni after four weeks off!

A lot of my free time has been taken up by sorting out my timetable and reading up on resources and study materials.  I’ve also been busy with my student rep duties and preparing for the Lovelace Colloquium (you don’t want to know how many times I typed that word until I was happy with the spelling) with the lovely Hazel Hall.

This semester sees us moving away from doing the same modules to starting on the core modules for our individual courses.  I miss many of my friends already, but I’m also enjoying getting properly stuck into the (metaphorical) meat of my course (I’m a vegetarian).  Today was spent quite productively mucking around with the likes of ipconfig and tracert and wondering if the website we were all pinging thought it was under a DDoS attack.

On a more personal note, this week also saw us welcoming a new addition to the family:

Betty

Betty is a Lab X Collie from the Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home and is absolutely mental, but is also very loving and has settled in really well.  Her owners sadly had to give her up when they moved house so we are fortunate that she came to us with basic training and house manners.  However, Betty does tend to pull on the lead as she’s always desperate to have a good run across the fields, but I daren’t let her loose just yet as I’m not sure she’d come back!  I blame the rabbit warrens dotted all over the place…

Joining the BCS

As of today I’m a proud member of the British Computer Society, hurray!  As I’m a student it only costs £50 for four years of membership and after browsing the benefits of joining I think that it’s definitely money well spent.  It’s made me feel really grown up, joining a chartered institution…

I’m particularly looking forward to my first BCS Women Scotland event in February.  I’m a member of the Connect group at uni and thoroughly enjoy our meetings, so I’m really looking forward to joining a similar group with wider connections.  It also gives me a chance to tell everyone what a lovely university Napier is!

New year, new beginnings

Happy 2013!  Now then, that’s the formalities over and done with so I’ll get cracking with introducing myself 😉

I’m a female computing student (yes, we do exist lads) at Edinburgh Napier University, currently in my first year of a BEng (Hons) Computer Systems and Networks degree.  I’m what is known as a mature student and have a wonderful husband and daughter, so although I don’t spend as much of my student loan on booze as my younger counterparts, I have still fully embraced university life and am thoroughly enjoying myself as an undergrad.

The idea of keeping a blog to accompany my studies was first suggested by a tutor, so in addition to creating a LinkedIn profile I decided that my blog will focus on my personal take of being one of the few female students in the School of Computing, especially those of us not studying design or business related subjects.  However, we are fortunate in that there is actually quite a strong female presence in our school, which is headed by the lovely Sally Smith, and we have the Connect group which invites the female students to regular meetings for coffee, guest speakers and general discussions.

It is strange to be a member of two minority groups.  By being both female and a mature student, I was very curious as to how I would be received by the more ‘traditional’ computing student; I’m sure I don’t need to paint a picture and so I don’t offend anyone, I won’t!  However, I’ve met some lovely folks and although the younger students generally have no idea what the oldies are talking about when we start to wax lyrical about BBC Micros and Spectrums, I like to think I get on well with most in my year.

Although I’m currently on holiday and the new semester doesn’t start for another week or so, I’m really looking forward to getting stuck in again.  The first semester saw most of the year taking the same modules, whereas this semester sees us starting on the more specialised modules relating to our degrees.  Sadly this means I won’t see as much of some of my friends as before, however it does mean that I will be spending more time with those on the same degree as myself.  It means I’ll be in an even smaller minority as I’m the only female on my degree course and that will be strange, but that’s the world of computing for you!