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!
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…