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Celebrating Ada Lovelace

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Luisella Strona and Edie Pearce

To mark Ada Lovelace Day, #ALD19, we’ve asked two developers in our Digital, Data and Technology (DDaT) team at the Department for International Trade (DIT) to share their career journey, things they like about their job and advice to help more women start a career in ‘tech’.

Luisella Strona, Full Stack Developer

How did you get into software development?

I started in Chemistry and fell into coding by necessity. It was three decades ago, during a postdoctoral research. I had to calculate the distribution of different isotopes in a large molecule. I thought using a computer programme would make my life easier, so I embarked on building one. I liked it so much that I ended up switching careers from Chemistry to Computing!

Luckily the University of Kent where I was working offered a good Computer Science course for people who already had a degree. In my course, one in 10 students identified as a woman. In Chemistry, the ratio was one in 20.

What do you like about your job in the DDaT team?

Before joining the Civil Service in 2007, I worked as a software developer in various private sector companies. The work in our team here at DIT is highly collaborative. I like our culture of exchange and support, and the variety of people from all around the world bringing their own perspective. Technology moves all the time and I get constant opportunities to learn. In parallel, I feel the impact of what I’m developing. Our work potentially affects businesses worldwide.

What’s your advice to help more women start a career in technology?

Based on my experience, the gender issue in technology must be tackled early in education. Discrimination happens at school where girls just don’t get support or role models to help see themselves in technology. Over the years, I’ve realised how much my career has positively influenced young girls around me - it has helped them broaden their spectrum of career choices rather than dismissing a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) career by default. 

My top advice is DO what you love! Explore and don't let anyone discourage you. I’m really glad I did follow my passion for science and technology: I absolutely love what I do (most of the time...).

Edie Pearce, Front-end Developer

How did you get into software development?

When I was 11, my older sibling bought me a book on web design that got me tinkering with websites. Since then I played around with CSS to make my own blog themes for sites like Myspace, Livejournal and Tumblr. I got more into coding when I was studying for my MA in electroacoustic music composition. I learned how to code in Supercollider and used this to create my own performance programs using MIDI and gestural controllers (such as touchscreen and mouse).

My last job was not technology-related at all, unless you count using email and Excel! After I left that job I was at a bit of a loss for what to do next. My sibling suggested I attend a coding bootcamp at General Assembly in London. I moved down here from Yorkshire and was able to stay with them for the duration of the course.

What do you like about your job in the DDaT team?

I joined DIT two years ago. My favourite part of my role is being able to get stuck into all different aspects of web development. The team is still relatively small so it’s good to be flexible in what you can do. When I started out I had only a cursory knowledge of Python and no knowledge of Django (I had been taught Ruby on Rails at the coding bootcamp) and had to pick up a lot of new things very quickly. Now I feel pretty confident in front- and back-end and I’ve also learned how to do deployments. I’m still learning new stuff every day.

What’s your advice to help more women start a career in technology?

Build a network of other female developers - share resources, support each other! The General Assembly alumni Slack server has channels for women and LGBTQI+ people where I was able to find useful resources and events. Through these I also came across Ada’s List - a global community for women in tech. STEM ambassadors also work hard to help improve gender diversity in our field - our Chief Data Officer Sian Thomas is one of them. Try to find female mentors in tech who you can go to for advice. Ada Lovelace reminds us that women were the original pioneers in tech! Let’s reclaim that title!

Specialists from our team will be at London’s technology job fair Silicon Milkroundabout on 23 and 24 November. Stop by the UK government stand 106 for a chat. #UKgovishiring

Check job opportunities for developers in our team.

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