Rachael Hayes, Product Engineer, Information and Communication Technologies   

“Knowing I’m making a difference to students is the best part of my job.”

After graduating, my first job was in training design within the defence sector. This was a million miles away from what I imagined I’d be doing, but I found I had a real skill for online learning.  

I joined Imperial in 2018 and I’m currently a Product Engineer within the student lifecycle. Day-to-day I support and improve existing e-learning systems and implement new ones. I speak to staff and students about issues they are having with a system, or ideas they have to improve it. I love how varied my job is and that I can keep learning. 

The pandemic had a big impact on my role, and lockdown presented an exciting challenge. I’m really proud of the work my team and I have done which enabled a relatively smooth transition to online-only learning. We faced some unique challenges, such as converting learning materials to be accessible in places where it’s not easy to log on to Blackboard and Panopto, running exams online, and helping ed-tech teams to run re-designed virtual lectures and seminars.  

Knowing I’m making a difference to students, particularly in regard to accessibility, is the best part of my job.  I led a project to introduce closed captioning for Panopto to all lectures. After a pilot, a profoundly deaf student contacted me to tell me she hadn’t been aware how much she’d been missing before she had access to closed captioning.  

I am very proud to have received a highly commended award for Rising Star at the Women in Tech Excellence Awards 2021. It’s great to be able to do such a rewarding job and be recognised for it and it’s an enormous honour to be a visible woman in tech. Next year (and all the years after) I want to be a bigger champion for women in tech. I’d like to see Imperial become increasingly diverse and open to people of all backgrounds, and I want to do all I can to help facilitate that. 

In my free time I’m an avid swimmer. At the moment I am sticking to the well-lit, indoor pool but I can’t wait to get back to London Fields Lido and Hampstead ponds. I also like to eat out with my friends, go on country walks, and read.  

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