As a first-timer at the annual BCSWomen Lovelace Colloquium, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was keen to attend as many of the day’s presentations as possible, as well as answer whatever questions I could from the female undergraduates hoping to find out more about their career options in software.

We had a lot of different questions directed at us at the Scott Logic stand, from the c.170 STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) students in the hall, some of whom had travelled from as far north as Aberdeen and as far south as Exeter universities. Many enquired about what we had to offer them as an employer, how to prepare for an interview, and whether they’d be able to get a job in software if they aren’t studying computer science. We also had quite a few approaches from people who said they didn’t want to become developers, and wanted to know what other options there were in the software field.

So many options

I can’t help thinking it’s a shame to get asked this, as it shows there’s something lacking in educational careers advice if you aren’t given more accurate, or at least broader information, about the many paths you can take after uni. Simply Googling isn’t enough to get a really good impression of the number of options there can be. Most undergraduates I spoke with were at an early stage in their studies and career decision-making, so it was nice to feel we were being useful to them.

So, I spoke about what I do in my day to day work as a tester at Scott Logic, and it was really nice to see people’s interest in software testing, as it’s a career option a lot of people haven’t really encountered before they enter the world of work. And people seemed generally interested in our graduate programme, which is great news. It’s nice to think I may end up welcoming some of those I spoke to as colleagues in the future.

Lots to take in

Grabbing a few minutes away from our sponsor’s stand, we also had a look around at some of the posters the students had put up for the event. There were a lot of very interesting ones, on topics ranging from the gender divide in technology, and whether video games are a sport, to machine learning and voice-controlled telepresence robots. My personal favourite was on software testing - a myth or priority. Talking to the student who wrote this, we discussed some of the pitfalls testers encounter, how working as a team with developers can aid in testing, and a tester’s role in getting a good quality final product out.

I also managed to get to three of the presentations, one about open source intelligence, one on technology for social good and another about the brain computer interface. All of these were dynamic and engaging presentations. The open source intelligence presentation was scary to say the least; the presenter showed us how within half an hour, she was able to collect great amounts of information on one individual person: where she worked, where she lived, where her family lived and where her boyfriend lived and worked. It showed that whatever we put on the internet is out there for whoever wants to see it, and that is quite unsettling if you think about that information getting into the wrong hands.

Together we stand

While my colleague John took questions as part of a panel at the end of the day, I reflected on what was all in all, a very good day. We’re already signed up to sponsor next year’s 10th annual colloquium and I’m proud we remain committed to our involvement in the event. I hope that from a Scott Logic and a recruitment perspective we were both able to give assurance to the women in attendance that there is very much a career to be had for them in tech should they wish to pursue it, and meeting so many like-minded and enthusiastic women was fantastic.

However, as an industry moving forward, I feel events like this should include more men. After all, the issue these events try to address is the exclusion of, or unfair disadvantages for women when it comes to working in technology. There’s a danger that by having women-only groups and events, we create a bigger divide rather than minimising it, and this can sour young impressionable people towards working in STEM. We must be careful or risk creating an impression for women and girls that there’s an us and them culture in STEM, where females must stick together because they will be discriminated against. This simply isn’t the case, and the idea is enough to put anyone off a career path into STEM. All of us as women, alongside our male colleagues, need to collaborate to tackle this issue together. It’s an issue that in the end affects all of us, not just women.