Tag Archives: ENU Connect

the-graduate

On Becoming a Bachelor

September 2012.

I’d been made redundant several months previously and was at a bit of a crossroads as to what I wanted to do with myself.  Him Indoors had recently graduated with a BEng with a view to starting a second career as a web developer and Mini Binnie was doing well as an infant at primary school.  My husband suggested I get myself back to university after dropping out of my journalism course several years previously, but this time I should choose a subject for myself, something I knew I would enjoy as opposed to being ‘encouraged’ into journalism previously.  So I took at look at a prospectus, chose a course and applied.

October 2016 and I’m standing outside the Usher Hall in Edinburgh, having graduated with a BEng (Distinction) in Computer Systems and Networks from Edinburgh Napier University.  Hurray!

graduation

Silly hood wouldn’t stay down, but I don’t care; lookit the shiny!

I’m still on a high from the graduation ceremony.  What a wonderful feeling it was to be the centre of attention (well, myself and several hundred other graduates) and I couldn’t help but beam as I walked across the stage to shake the Chancellor’s hand and collect my certificate.  Regular readers will know that I faced a huge dilemma upon returning to university after my year at Microsoft and eventually decided to leave university after obtaining my Bachelors instead of progressing to Honours.  Sometimes I still wonder if I did the right thing, but know that ultimately it was a good decision – my heart just wasn’t in it and I wasn’t enjoying my fourth year after having such a great time during my internship.  I now have a good job with prospects and work with great people, but know that I can always return to my studies on a part time basis (an MEng does sound rather tempting).

My journey has been a little more difficult compared to the average student.  Having a young family meant I had to manage my time better than my younger, more carefree peers and didn’t socialise as often as I would have liked to, however I felt that as a mature student I had a better attitude towards my studies and was able to organise myself a lot better than I did first time round.  I did sometimes feel like a bit of a mother figure, especially in first year, however I soon found that I wasn’t the only mature student and meeting people in a similar situation made things far less daunting.

Being one of a handful of women in the School of Computing could have been a daunting prospect, but again I think being that little bit older helped.  It did get a little lonely at times, however I immersed myself in all things Connect and it was so wonderful to have a network just for women STEM students.  The various events that were held really opened my eyes to the opportunities available and how being a woman in tech doesn’t have to be a lonely journey.  I met some wonderful, inspiring women through my involvement with Connect (and Interconnect) and have made some fantastic friends.  I’m still very much in the minority at work, however the guys in my team are great and although I’m kinda loath to say this I do feel like ‘one of the lads’ (if there’s a better phrase, do let me know).

So here I am, the first person in my family to obtain a degree.  I’m at the end of a major academic journey and am very proud of what I’ve achieved.  However, I’m still mulling over the idea of doing a Masters as I don’t think I’ll ever stop learning and hope that I’ve managed to inspire some women along the way.

What does the future hold for this humble lass from a typical working class family? Watch this space.  Onwards and upwards…

Interconnect Student Champion

 

Interconnect

 

Recently I applied for the position of 2013-14 Interconnect Student Champion for Edinburgh Napier University.  I got the job; huzzah!

The job involves promoting and developing Interconnect activities and events working with staff and liaising with my fellow students.  On a more local level I’ll also be working on promoting Connect within the university with the lovely Maria, who will be representing the engineers.  As there are a few champions dotted around the country, we will be meeting several times throughout the year to discuss our collective experiences and our thoughts on how the network is developing both local and nationally.

I’m slightly nervous as the role is brand new and I want to set a good precedent for the future, however I’m also very excited as if my ideas work they might be used for years to come!  I really am looking forward to getting stuck in though and coercing encouraging more female students to get involved with the network.  My involvement with Interconnect last year was a huge confidence booster (being a female student in the School of Computing can get lonely at times) and it’s great to have such a wonderful support network to turn to, so if I can get the word out there to new and existing students Interconnect will hopefully be as beneficial to them as it is to those of us who are currently involved.  We might even be able to convince more women in study computing or engineering, which would really be fantastic.

Here’s to a successful 2013-14!

 

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.