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Celebrating Women in Engineering

June 20th 2020

Kate Ross is a software engineer/developer with My Learning Cloud which is a multi-award-winning business based at the Portsmouth Technopole. Kate can code in a range of languages and has specialised in Javascript coding. Here Kate talks us through her journey into Engineering.

 

From Surf School to Code School

I took an unusual route into software engineering. After studying Psychology at Uni in Cardiff, I followed my first love – Kitesurfing –  and worked as a Kitesurf instructor for a number of years. I began my own Kitesurfing business in Bracklesham near to the Witterings in East Sussex. I loved teaching kitesurfing and enjoyed running my own business.

During this period I hired someone to build my website. It proved to be a pivotal decision because the developer disappeared with my money and left me with a part-built website. Feeling a bit burnt by the experience, I decided that if I wanted something doing well I should do it myself and I began a course on the online coding school called ‘Treehouse’.

As a result, not only did I build my own website but more importantly, I discovered that I had a talent and a passion for coding and eventually I found myself doing more coding than kitesurfing – I just loved it.

 

Did other Female Engineers Inspire You?

In reality, no. As with other engineering specialisms, women are really underrepresented in the software engineering industry. When I began my first job as a developer at a marketing automation company I was almost always one of the only female developers and it was hard at times. I did feel that people would tend to look to the men for answers and that I really had to speak up and assert myself before they realised that I knew what I was talking about. 

I do get inspiration from other women in the tech industry and in fact, my best friend is a data scientist and a surfer and so she too has a passion for the tech industry combined with a love of water sports and so we support each other.

 

What are the particular challenges women may face when looking to progress in software engineering as a career?

Yes, women are in a small minority as software engineers but I think this starts in the early years at school where parents, teachers and peers seem to have expectations that girls won’t be so keen on maths and science subjects whilst boys will be. This plays out later into subject choices, University and career paths. Few people realise how creative a career in software engineering is. I specialise in Javascript coding and I love it because it involves creative thinking and problem-solving, developing ideas and solutions for unique challenges.

 

Did you find being ‘self-taught’ a disadvantage?

Not at all. I found that some colleagues that had studied for this career specifically at Uni often had a broad understanding and level of knowledge but little in the way of knowledge about the finer details. In addition, their knowledge sometimes seemed a bit out of date. With my online training course and self-taught approach and with my passion for Javascript, I found that I would often have more detailed and up to date knowledge in this field. Although I don’t regret my time at Uni which was great, this direct training could be a great route for those who would like a well-paid career without racking up the debts associated with University.

 

What is your advice to women and girls who are curious about a career in code?

I would highly recommend that they take the seven day trial with Treehouse or one of the other online coding schools out there and see if they like it. It’s a great career from so many perspectives as it has huge potential, you get lots of freedom, it’s relatively future proof and there are great opportunities for career progression and ….. coding is fun. 🙂

 

What is your career dream?

I would love to be involved in delivering seminars and events that help to promote careers in the tech industry to women and girls. I want to get the message out there that coding and software development is not the preserve of the boys and that girls and women are just as capable and could have great careers in the industry.

My other dream is to become a software engineering contractor and work on fixed-term projects for part of the year and then travel and kitesurf for the remainder but that may be a little while off.

 

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