Tag Archives: female STEM 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.

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.