Category: Best tech talent

You should never be the one to tell yourself no!

Women in tech: A digital career for all

As part of Women at Imperial Week, ICT hosted a webinar to spotlight a variety of digital careers, focussing on women in technology.

Our ICT EDI Lead, Robert Sprigens, introduced the panel of guest speakers who spoke about their career journeys and aspirations for their futures in tech:

  • Tanya Powell – Co-CTO at Coding Black Females
  • Gemma Seabrook – Information Insight Analyst, ICT
  • Caroline Carter – Audio Visual (AV) Installations Manager, ICT
  • Joyce Kadibu – Software Developer Apprentice, ICT

Watch the webinar recording

This session was a great way of busting the myth that a career in tech is just about fixing laptops or coding. The panel showcased the variety of roles available when starting out in tech as an apprentice all the way through to becoming a tech leader at the top of a division or organisation.

Caroline Carter
Caroline Carter, AV Installations Manager

Caroline’s AV role is particularly varied and not one you would think of as a traditional career in technology, but the Installation Manager is instrumental to understanding how students engage with technology and Caroline leads a team with a modest budget to ensure the whole AV ecosystem at Imperial works together for the best experience.

Caroline told us that technology can also have its glamourous side. Caroline has met the late Queen when the Business School opened new lecture theatres and even supported the filming of The Kingsman in one of our Royal School of Mines rooms. But there is the more unglamourous side too, including once when Caroline had to deal with burst pipes and raw sewage spoiling equipment!

Getting into tech careers

Our audience was very interested in the career pathways to get into tech roles, and the kind of skills needed to get into a digital career.

Gemma, Information Insight Analyst, let us know that she had no educational background in analytics at all! Gemma studied American Studies at Uni and her tech journey started with a summer job space planning in Tesco’s head office. This was her first taster of analytics and using data to make decisions. Gemma did a role in the NHS doing clinical audits and then went onto some higher education roles where, due to her love of spreadsheets, she was given more and more analytical responsibilities.

Joyce Kadibu
Joyce Kadibu, Software Developer Apprentice

Joyce, who is at the very start of her career journey shared her pathway to a Software Developer Apprenticeship.

“At 17, I was finishing my A-Levels and I was quite burnt out doing it through Covid and I was trying to figure out what I wanted to pursue. I applied to do a Law degree at Warwick University, but with no real passion for the subject. I wasn’t sure what to do, so I took a gap year instead to think about my passions. I wanted to see in what industry my interests lay; I started to lean into media, but kept going back to coding, developing and building platforms. Although coding is not in the creative arts, which I love, it allowed me to let out my creative urges.

Last year I decided to go into tech – I landed on software engineering after much research and speaking to people for advice. I came across Imperial’s ICT Software Developer Apprenticeship programme and initially I didn’t think I was smart enough, so I sat on my application for 3 weeks, only to apply to the day of deadline. I always told myself…

“You should never be the one to tell yourself no!.” Joyce Kadibu

 I hated that I was going back on my word, so I applied and now I am really grateful that Imperial has given me the building blocks for a big career ahread!”

A special set of skills

Gemma Seabrook
Gemma Seabrook, Information Insights Analyst

Gemma describes herself as having a ‘Trifecta of skills’ which are:

  1. Data skills – Spreadsheets, PowerBi and Insights (data driven decisions, identifying trends)
  2. Business analysis – understanding customer needs and model design
  3. Management and Strategy – Prince2, Agile SCRUM Product Owner, Product Management

Gemma also has an A-Level in maths that gave her an understanding of statistical analysis. Her work in clinical auditing did require stats analysis courses to be completed. However, Gemma suggests that many of the skills required for analytical jobs can be learnt online and are easily accessed.

Tanya, who has worked in tech for 10 years and is a career changer – moving from creative media production to software engineering – has an MSc in Software Engineering, and experience in games development, backend engineering, fronted engineering and fullstack engineering.

Tanya suggests upskilling yourself in a variety of ways andnot just through traditional education routes. Tanya runs voluntary workshops including games development and building apps for non-profit organisations. These kinds of activities can help with your own development, but also supports others in their learning – so can be very rewarding.

Soft skills are just as important

Tanya Powell
Tanya Powell Co-CTO Coding Black Females

Tanya suggests Software Engineering skills can be taught but employers are looking for other soft skills.

“I got my first software engineering role not because I had the education or could code – it was because of my soft skills. I had previously run a team, I was considered a team player, I had project management experience – the employer said they can teach me software engineering skills.”

Gemma suggested gathering examples of anything you have done outside of work. Get good examples of non-work-related projects that you have done. You may find courses and apprenticeships can be done as personal development through your employer.

“ Enthusiasm for what you want to do is the driving force that will get you to where you want to go”. Gemma Seabrook

Supporting a digital career for all

Caroline is doing a lot to support women into AV roles. She is one of WAVE’s first cohort of mentors. WAVE is a six-month UK based programme where experienced leaders guide and mentor women with expertise, knowledge, and support. She also sits on the AVIXA Women’s Council Forum to encourage women into AV tech equipment roles and judges the AV awards (The Sport Personality of the Year for AV).

Tanya is now co-Chief Technical Officer of Coding Black Females which started out as a meet up in a pub for black female developers and has grown to over 12,000 members worldwide. This network offers support for women to get into tech roles at all levels with mentorship and networking events.

Tanya says the best thing to do is go out and meet people and find out wat they like and don’t like about their job; this will help you decide what is right for you.

 “Take a gamble on yourself, once your foot is in the door you don’t know where that will take you!” Tanya Powell

Find out what jobs are available in ICT and why not ‘take a gamble on yourself’ and apply today.

A guide to how things get done in ‘real life’

Two work experience students, Sarah and Matt, were immersed in the word of IT as they spent 3 days working in all areas from Data Analytics, Product Development and Communications, where they gained an insight into the inner workings of ICT…

ICTs way of doing things is called an ‘Agile model’

“During my work experience in ICT, I spent my time helping to develop an app using the new software called Microsoft PowerApps, which will enable students to upload photos for their College ID card – and I even trained an Artificial Intelligence (AI) bot to help with approval of the photos!

Every day I was included in the Product Development Team stand up meetings where they would group discuss what each person had done during the previous day and briefly outline what needed to occur today- they would then move on to discuss the main planning for the new system.

This was a very informative experience as it really gave the feel of a friendly workspace, whilst also being a guide to how things get done in ‘real life’. It also displayed to me what specific requirements need to be established in order to effectively work as a team, which in turn helps the programming people know exactly what to do in order to get everything running smoothly in the software.

Watching this all play out and being able to participate, as well as sharing my own work with the team has helped me to be able to apply it to my school subjects. Merely knowing that ICTs way of doing things is called an ‘Agile model’ and being able to see for myself how interaction with the ‘customer’ who will be using the new system enables for a greater understanding of people’s requirements and thus a smoother process overall has been of great help to me.

In conclusion, I have loved every minute of having my work experience here at Imperial College’s ICT department and I greatly recommend it.”

Author: Sarah Sowole, work experience student from Oaks Park High School, Redbridge 

Moving forward. Progression.

“Coming into a workplace with no prior experience, and from what I have seen online, I was personally expecting robots and drones that complete tasks straightforwardly.

I was pleasantly surprised when the first person I talked to immediately started talking about his motivations as a developer – helping students and colleagues alike. And, again and again, after each person I talked to, whilst there was still a focus on the tangible and material outcomes, there was an utmost focus on the intangible things at work.

A large part of my talk with a Product Manager was about a metaphorical ‘Northern Star’ – a purpose for work.

I was told that working is easier when you have been given a reason to keep on moving forward, something that I did agree with.

It was refreshing, in contrast to the do-or-die mentality I am often faced with in Sixth Form – and ultimately, a progressive outlook at ‘work’ is something that I would love to experience when I eventually enter the workplace!

Author: Matt La, work experience student from Farnborough Sixth Form College

From manager to C-level, do you have what it takes?

Headshot of panellists
The panellists, left to right: Julie, Leila, Jane

We know IT has a long way to go before it can call itself “an inclusive industry”. We recognise that and work towards bridging that gap. Equality, Diversity and Inclusion is one of our strategic pillars as a part of our strategy – Investing in people and talent. In support of our EDI initiatives, we are collaborating with a number of partners that help us strive to achieve that mission.

We had excellent engagement for our latest collaboration with Everywoman, From Manager to C-Level: The steps, skills and qualities that can give you the edge webinar. 420 of you registered and more than 100 tuned in live! I encourage you to watch the recording if you couldn’t make the live session on 28 January! Some of our top female leaders were panellists:

  • Julie McCann, Interim Vice-Dean for Research in the Faculty of Engineering
  • Leila Guerra, Vice Dean of Education at the Imperial College London Business
  • Jane Neary, Director of Campus Services

The panel shared fantastic career insights and tips. They can be applied by anybody who’s aiming at a C-level role in their 5-year plan!  Jane, Julie and Leila took the audience through the steps you can take to make it happen, and the skills and attributes needed to make it to the top.

Here’s my favourite quote from the event:

Seema: What skills and attributes does someone need to succeed?

Leila: Networking and building relationships are universally important. Making sure you have diverse, rich and global circles. Self-awareness is of course important to have as well. Being able to look at yourself and identify what’s your voice, your passion. The element of passion is so important! Having an innovative mindset as well, knowing the role will not be linear. On the other hand, being resilient, patient and generous with yourself and others. Being in peace with yourself does really help. Your employer hired you for you!

You might also find the How Imperial’s ICT and digital team leaders are moving the needle on diversity article interesting!

More general on-demand content can be found on Everywoman’s webpage.