Tag Archives: female computing student

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…

Phoenix

Rise Like a Phoenix

Okay, so I’m not as gorgeous or fabulous as Conchita Wurst, but the past few months have been pretty uplifting so sorry not sorry.  A lot has happened since I last blogged back, dear reader – so much so that I regret not finding the time to blog about everything. However, there’s plenty more to come!

Hello world…

After my last post swithering whether to stick my Honours year out or not, the decision was made when my tentative investigation of the job market resulted in me landing a very nice role as a trainee cloud engineer for an Edinburgh based bank.  Sometimes I still can’t believe how lucky I’ve been – I have a great job with plenty of opportunities to progress and develop my skillset through training and certification, my boss and the team I work with are fantastic people and there’s a Costa Coffee on site.  Not many people can say they are looking forward to getting to work when the alarm goes off in the morning, so I consider myself very lucky.

I honestly thought I’d never end up in fintech, thinking it would be a bit stale and boring, but from the start I’ve been very pleasantly surprised by the huge amount of thought and creativity that goes into building solid, responsive and secure banking systems with the customer very much in mind using AWS and associated automation tools.  There’s never a dull moment, that’s for sure.

Ah yes, AWS.  After a year of Azure and the Microsoft stack, flipping over to Amazon’s offering has been two months of retraining the old noggin and revising my Linux knowhow.  Most of what we do is Linux based, but strangely enough I’ve already gotten a reputation as being the Microsoft person and am currently working on a Windows project.  It was inevitable, I suppose!

…cheerio academia

Someone asked me recently if I regret leaving university at all.

My answer?  No.

I’m still confident I made the right choice and am very happy with my BEng with distinction.  I was genuinely looking forward to my Honours project, however, which was going to be a wireless mesh network built with Raspberry Pi Zeros, but enthusiasm for my other fourth year modules was pretty much non-existent.  Most of my fellow students who also went out on placement told me they were struggling with their enthusiasm too and many of them have also found jobs and left uni.

I suspect that having to do four and a half years for an Honours degree instead of the usual four is too much for many – I also admit that I struggled with the thought of having to wait until December to finish.  We all knew that going on placement would extend our degrees, but I guess the reality and implications didn’t really hit us until we’d returned to uni.  Still, when I announced that I was withdrawing my lecturers were very supportive.

The future is bright

So, there you have it.  I’ve emerged blinking into the world of work after three and a bit years of study, clutching a degree in one hand and a mug of coffee in the other.  Mission accomplished, I reckon.  Whatever the future holds, I’m ready – my job is great, I enjoy what I do and like that phoenix I’m ready to keep rising.

I’m not dead!

So yeah, it’s been a while.  Did you miss me?

This is the end, beautiful friend…

I did intend to blog about my placement at Microsoft, however I lead too busy a life and with the extra work I had to put in for university in addition to working full time five days a week and trying to find time for my family, I made the decision to take a break.  I really need to learn how to say no!

After an intense but very fun year working for Microsoft, I handed in my security pass at the end of July and tried not to get too emotional at my leaving do.  I ended being more emotional when given my leaving presents but shhh, don’t tell anyone…

…they know me so well!

I already miss everyone as I can genuinely say that Microsoft is the best company I’ve worked for (so far).  The work culture is fantastic, the opportunities are plentiful and the office is a five minute walk from the bus stop and train station – handy for lazy gits like me!  However, I knew it would end at some point as my return to university loomed so I made the most of my time there.  I even managed to get some certification under my belt and am the proud owner of a bit of paper saying I’ve passed the Security Fundamentals exam, hurray!

Going on placement was worth it on so many levels.  In addition to the tremendous amount of experience and kudos I gathered while working there, it was actually a good feeling just to be back into the world of work.  I probably should expand on my experiences a little more, but having just written a massive end of year report for university my brain still hurts too much.  I’m sure you can imagine though, dear reader, how ecstatic I was when I got the call last May asking if I’d like to go work for one of the biggest and oldest tech companies on the planet and how fortunate I feel after 13 months of industry insight and the opportunity to make some wonderful friends and professional contacts.  I intend to put everything I’ve learned to good use when I’m back in the world of academia and ultimately post graduation, which fortunately is an awful lot.

Although my placement was an absolute blast, I was more than ready for my holiday to France.  Sitting in a gite in the middle of rural Brittany drinking the local cidre really helped me to put my thoughts in order, plus I had ample opportunity to put my shiny new Band through its paces as we holidayed.  Being so busy and then suddenly not having anything to worry about always gives me a strange anti-climactic feeling as I don’t always enjoy having nothing to do, but the holiday was a welcome tonic and I returned to dear old Ecosse refreshed and ready for the next set of challenges with a full set of batteries.

Back to the world of academia

Since returning from France I’ve been working on trying to get back into the swing of being a good-for-nothing student again.  Admittedly I am looking forward to going back to uni, despite the last minute pressures of getting the big report done and feeling I have no brain cells left.  The end of my degree is starting to creep up over the horizon and I’m ready for the final stretch.

I’m pleased to be returning to the role of Interconnect Student Champion for the 2015/16 academic year at Napier and thoroughly enjoyed meeting my fellow champions from across Scotland today at the Equate Scotland office.  I was also recently successful in my application to be a Microsoft Student Partner.  Not sure exactly what the role will entail in the coming year but I’m looking forward to it all the same.  I’m definitely going to have to put my time management skills to very good use this year – I told you have I have trouble saying no, didn’t I?

To be continued…

Ding ding, Year 2!

Ah, it’s really good to be back at uni and so lovely to catch up with friends.  It’s funny though how the summer months seem to drag, but once you get the first week of classes out of the way it feels like you never left.  For those of us working at the uni over the summer though, we’ve all commented on how weird it is that the corridors are full of fellow students again and appreciate how the permanent members of staff feel when we all start piling into the campus in September.

It still feels a bit weird to be a second year student, but I’m getting used to it.  Already I’m feeling the weights and responsibilities starting to dangle from above, so I’m determined to keep on top of things this year and keep the extra curricular stuff to a minimum – I have a real problem with saying “No” sometimes!  Saying that, there’s already so much going on I’ve decided to make a bullet list, at the very least to remind me of what I’m meant to be doing:

In addition to all this, I’ve also got to find time for my family and studies – who’d be a mature student!

Connect

Last week was Freshers week, which was busy but really enjoyable.  Maria (the engineering student champion) and I worked the Connect Stand at the Freshers Fair and were really pleased with the amount of women stopping by for a chat and some freebies.  We also heavily promoted the group’s Welcome Event on the 13th of September, which seemed to have worked quite well judging by the amount of women who came along.  It was so heartening to see lots of existing students mingling with the newcomers, proving that our wee network is definitely growing.  I’m really looking forward to the next event, which should be even more fun with our new members.

2013-09-12 13.42.29

I also helped out at Aberdeen College‘s Freshers Fair on the 4th of September, which was really fun.  We got talking to lots of lovely people and gathered some new members for the group, plus the sun actually came out!  In Aberdeen!  This is the stuff of legend, folks.

Once more into the breach

It’s just occurred to me as I get to this point in my post that I really am good at keeping myself busy!  I don’t care though; I enjoy being involved in so many things and if it complements my studies then that’s even better.

Time to dig out the old textbooks and do some work, now that Visual Studio has finally stopped updating; Microsoft has a lot to answer for sometimes!  I’m so glad we had that mini break in Blackpool at the weekend, I’m going to need all the energy I can muster…

2013-09-14 11.50.31

What I did on my holidays

I wish my holidays could have been as full of adventure as Twoflower‘s, but I reckon there’s still time!  I’ve been doing an awful lot to keep myself occupied over the academic break though, but with a lot less dragons and swords and sorcery to keep me occupied. Oh no, wait, that’s a lie because I finally finished reading the A Song of Ice and Fire series (Game of Thrones to the reprobates), but I digress…

So we’re now into August and my summer holiday is almost over.  At the end of the academic year in May I decided to keep myself busy as I didn’t want to spend the summer lazing around eating crisps and watching telly.  Alright, so a large part of my evenings have involved corn based snacks and attempting to make space on the Sky+ box (so much to watch, so little time and HDD space), but I’ve done other things too!

The first thing I wanted to do is keep my brain turning by teaching myself some scripting, C# and SQL in preparation for second year and I’ve spent a lot of enjoyable afternoons working on these via Code Academy, ProgZoo and SQLZoo.  Although I’m not a software engineer at heart, I do think that it’s important to have at least a basic grounding in this area and as a networker I’m going to have to learn scripting at some point.  I know a few people on my course who would disagree with me here, but sys admin isn’t all about typing sudo yum into a terminal and eating pizza, guys.  If only it was though *sighs*.  I’ve also been messing around with the likes of AWS to learn more about cloud services, which has also been a really useful exercise.

I’ve also been doing a lot of work – yes, actual paid work, who’d have thunk it?  Half of my work schedule has seen me working with my husband, who set up a web consultancy business after he graduated last year (he does more than websites, so if you’re looking for a talented developer he’s your man *nudge nudge*).  I’ve also been working with the Scottish Resource Centre on a part time basis, which has been really educational and thoroughly enjoyable.  Having a small child to entertain through the summer months means I can’t really work on a full time basis, so the flexibility of both jobs has been perfect – keeping just one child entertained for seven weeks is hard work!  If she had her way she would spend her entire summer holidays glued to Minecraft; I play too, but when you find yourself demolishing a mountain for the giggles it’s time to put the Xbox controller down…

MATT DAMON!

Speaking of gaming, I found my old PS2 and a box of games while clearing out a wardrobe, hurray!  Luckily the main television has an analogue tuner in it so it was a simple case of plugging in the RF cable, tuning the telly to channel 36 and going on a FFX binge.  Good times.

2013-06-16 21.54.32

The best bit about the holidays though has been the time to work on the home projects.  We turned our Raspberry Pi into a media server using XBMC, making streaming from the network drive a doddle.  However, there comes a time when a household like ours needs better connectivity and so I’ve planned out a proper home network for us, using the old PC as a server.  We desperately need a decent wifi network upstairs too (concrete floors and a bejesusload of cavity wall insulation does not make for a strong wifi signal from the router downstairs), so I’ve made a wishlist of hardware to buy in September (UK based students will know).  Sadly the spare router fell over and died while being used to broadcast a secondary WAP, but I guess you can’t expect a cheap router from your previous ISP to last any longer than three years, never mind six…

XBMC on our telly

So there you have it.  The weather’s been great, work is fun and I’ve been spending lots of time with the wee one.  In preparation for the madness of September I’m going to sit back, enjoy some relaxation time and Film4’s Studio Ghibli season.

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!

 

End of Part One

That’s my first year of university over and done with!  I can’t believe it’s all over, time really has gone by so fast.

When I walked out of that last exam I had mixed feelings; a lovely sense of achievement at achieving so much over the past seven months, but a teeny wee feeling of sadness as I now have to find something to keep me occupied until September.  It sounds pathetic, but I’m actually going to miss university over the summer.

However, I do have a few bits and bobs to keep me going.  My SQL skills haven’t been touched since 2003 so I’m going to have a SQL for Dummies session in order to hit the ground running in second year.  My husband recently started his own web consultancy business (SHAMELESS PLUG) so I’ll be working with him to build the business up and get his admin sorted, courtesy of my awesome organisational skills.  I’m also going to hit t’interwebs and the university’s resources to gen up on C# and scripting – coding isn’t my strong point but I’m determined to get better at it!

We’ve also decided to finally get round to building that media server and have been inspired by one of our friends to build one with a Raspberry Pi running Ubuntu.  As a huge music fan this is the project I’m most looking forward to and am going to thoroughly enjoy tinkering.  Our daughter has shown an interest in coding so we can use the Pi as a resource for her too – everyone’s a winner.  We do have some work to do though as the pinnacle of her coding career thus far is below, but it’s a start:

10 PRINT "Daddy smells"

20 GOTO 10

Finally, now that I have around four months to myself I can finally get round to watching the hundreds of hours of telly still sitting on the Sky+ box.  Damn you Film4 and your Studio Ghibli season…!

BCSWomen Lovelace Colloquium, 4 April 2013

bcsw_col_logo

Thursday saw fellow student Aga Banach and myself representing Edinburgh Napier University at this year’s Colloquium at Nottingham University.  I’ve spoken a lot about this event recently so I’ll keep the descriptions to a minimum, but the Aberystwyth University run event is a great opportunity for female computing students from across the UK to get together and meet industry professionals, academics and employers whilst mingling with their peers.  There is also a poster competition, with very generous prizes provided by the sponsors.

Aga and I were selected as finalists in the poster competition so the main sponsor, Google, very kindly paid for our travel expenses and accommodation.  Aga’s poster covered the digital matte painting process while I went for a poster detailing my journey through university:

aga_postertracey

We arrived in Nottingham the day before and spent an enjoyable evening wandering around and taking in the sights.  Of course, it wouldn’t be a proper trip to Nottingham if this guy isn’t mentioned at some point:

2013-04-03 19.39.06

Aga and I then retired to our accommodation, which was surprisingly nice for student digs!  I spent the evening working on my pitch for my poster while drinking tea and watching Netflix, my new favourite thing ever.

The event kicked off at 10 am, before which those of us who stayed overnight got to know each other over breakfeast.  After the welcome speech and inital tech talks we broke for lunch, where afterwards we set up our stands and spoke about our posters to the judges and other attendees.  There was a prize for each year plus a People’s Choice award, so Aga and I got an opportunity to take a look at the competition and vote for our favourite.  The range of subjects covered was huge, with a lot of brilliant projects and ideas on show.

I got a lot of positive responses from my poster and spent the afternoon chatting about what it’s like to be the only female networking student in my year and the support I get from the groups I’m involved with.  I had an especially lovely chat with one of the Google student recruiters about the cloud and big data, discussing our love for Dropbox (who very generously gave me 50GB of space when I bought my Galaxy S3) and how to manage listening to Google Music with mobile data allowances.  I’m with 3 so no data caps for me, huzzah!

I was also approached by Ann Danylkiw, who was there to make a documentary about the Colloquium and the experiences of women in tech.  I agreed to take part and had a lovely time chatting with another student on camera about our experiences, which were surprisingly very different but made for good subject matter.

Afterwards we had some more technical talks and the prizegiving.  Unfortunately Aga and I didn’t win anything, although we were very pleased for those who did as several were from Scottish universities – well done, Scottish winners!  Aga and I did spot a couple of factual inaccuracies in one of the winning posters (not sour grapes, just good old pedantry – honest!), however the standards were generally excellent and I have some ideas to think about for next year’s poster.

I enjoyed myself thoroughly at the Lovelace Colloquium and will definitely be attending again next year.  I would like to once again thank the organisers, in particular the lovely Hannah Dee, who worked so hard to put on a great event.

Here’s to next year!

Happy Easter!

 

Yummy Easter cake

 

So it’s finally Easter and the sun has even decided to come out, huzzah!  Our Easter weekend has been great, full of sunshine, homemade Easter cake, chocolate and a hormonal pet rabbit (a real one, not the decoration).

It’s also great to get a breather from uni, although I’ve set myself the task of getting some coursework done and handed in a couple of weeks before the deadline.  I’m using this time to gather my thoughts for the final push towards the end of the semester and my first year so I can go out on a high.  I really can’t believe how fast this year has gone in!

My first year has been fantastic and I’ve learned an awful lot.  The main challenge has been getting used to full time study again whilst learning how to juggle study time with family time, which is pretty difficult but doable once I set myself some rules and boundaries.  It’s been a while since I was first at university (doing journalism – what was I thinking?!) so although I knew what to expect, it still takes some time to get back into the swing of student life.  Luckily I’ve had lots of support from my wonderful family and the teaching and faculty staff, plus all the various groups and events I’ve become involved with to support the 20-odd women in first year.

Although this year wasn’t plain sailing all the way through, I feel really good about my experiences from first year – good and bad – and am all set for second year.  I’m not resting on my laurels yet though as I still have two class tests and my coursework to go, but the way the first year has been planned has been a great way to ease back into full time study.  From the support of the staff to practical tutorials such as report writing, I’ve built a really great foundation in my first year on which to continue forward.

Finally, please wish me luck in the poster competition at the Lovelace Colloquium tomorrow!

 

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.

2013-03-23 11.21.21

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:

2013-03-23 11.21.26

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?