advice, personal development

3 Things You Won’t Hear Me Say

Over the past couple of years, there are a lot of phrases I’ve started to actively stop using at work.

Why?

As an ex-languages student, I believe that the language that we use builds the world around us; the way in which we speak defines the speaker.

Here are a couple of phrases that I’ve stopped using in professional contexts, why, and what I use instead.

Everyone is different, and there are exceptions, but I’ve found that this makes me feel more composed and confident.

If that makes sense?

Wanting to clarify understanding, actually makes me sound uncertain

Instead:

  • Would you like me to clarify any of the points I raised?
  • Any questions?
  • Does that seem like a logical approach?
  • Would you approach this differently?

No worries! / No problem! / It’s nothing!

Quick reaction, actually diminishes the work that I did do!

  • You’re welcome
  • I’m glad that it was useful
  • Happy to help
  • That’s great to hear

Sure, I can do that (when I can’t!)

I’ve learned the hard way that being overeager doesn’t overcome a lack of knowledge – raise issues early so that you can get the guidance that you need

  • I think we’d approach it like this – does that sound like a good place to start?
  • Could you walk me through what that would look like?
  • I have limited capacity at the moment – would this take priority over XYZ?

At first, this felt uncomfortable, but I’ve found that picking up these habits has improved my communication skills, and led to me being a better team member.

We’re all different – do you have any phrases or expressions which you’d add to this list?

Standard
coding, future is female, networking, women in technology

My first-ever panel! Welcome to CodeFest 2021

CodeFest is a huge, annual conference hosted by Code First Girls, which provides women with tech talks, career booster sessions and networking. I won an award at CodeFest 2020 last year, but this year, we were back in person!

I was invited to speak at Day 2 about my experience interning at Rolls-Royce’s AI Innovation Hub (R2 Data Labs), and how women can kickstart their careers in the technology industry.

This was my first-ever tech panel, so I thought I’d write up what my day looked like.

Welcome to my day at CodeFest 2021!

7.00am: Wake up, have a coffee, and re-read the panel brief from CFG. Mentally gear up for the trek to Canary Wharf from South London.

8.45am: The Jubilee line is magic, isn’t it? I check in to the awesome Level39 – a collaboration space for leading tech startups and talent. I’d love to meet more people in the startup world, so I’m pretty excited to be here.

9.00am: Set up for a morning of calls with my startup team at Ocula Technologies, including our daily stand up and a meeting with our engineering team to discuss our backlog. I nab a seat next to the window, and have maybe the best Zoom background of my career to date (see below).

Not too shabby…

12.00am: Time to meet my co-panelists! I had an amazing time interning at Rolls-Royce earlier this year, and worked with the brilliant Caroline, Manisha and Rebecca. Even though we worked together for 5 months, this will actually be my first time meeting my ex-colleagues in person. Off Zoom, Rebecca & I realise that we are both… tall. We catch up over lunch and get ready to take the stage.

12:40pm: We join the CEO of Code First Girls, Anna Brailsford, on stage. We’re live-streaming the conversation, but I hadn’t realised that we also had a live audience of over 100 women from the community. I also haven’t used a hand-held mic before! We had a great time talking about our careers and experiences, and enjoy a Q&A with the audience.

1.20pm: Just like that, my first panel is done! This was so fun, and I’d love to do more tech events in future. I catch up with a couple of attendees and make a note to watch back some of the earlier talks on catch-up.

1.30pm: There are some great talks lined up for the afternoon for the community, but for me, it’s back to work. Rebecca & I co-work and enjoy the awesome views over the city. I put on the CFG Day 2 livestream in the background.

We both were knackered after!

3pm: Whilst I’m 5-tabs-deep trying to figure something out in Jira, a CFG community member comes over and says she was one of my Python class students back in February, and now works in tech! Awesome. I drop my co-instructors a text to let them know.

5pm: After working through my board, it’s time to call it a day – I thank the CFG team for a great day and head to central for a celebratory drink with the panel.

So, that was my day! Here were 3 things I learned:

  1. Building communities exists online and offline. I ran into at least 5 people in-person during CodeFest that I knew through CFG, GirlCode, or other volunteering initiatives that I’m involved in.
  2. We are all working towards the same vision. The variety of talks and speakers all centred around the question of how we build for the future in a way that includes everyone – awesome.
  3. In speaking up, you affect more people than you realise! I didn’t expect such a great reaction to our panel, and it made me realise the importance of speaking up and sharing our experiences.

I had no idea what to expect from the day, but now I can safely say that I’m looking forward to my next community event already.

You can watch Code Fest Day 2: Career Booster here. I’ll also be doing a write up of some of my favourite parts of our panel!

Standard
coding, personal development, women in technology

My CFG SQL Project: LinkedIn Side Hustle

Let me tell you, studying an 8-week coding course alongside full-time work hasn’t been easy!

I do a lot of volunteering with Code First Girls, but this time, I was back to being a student. Over the past few months, I’ve been learning all about the world of SQL.

SQL is a programming language used for relational database management. I was interested in learning the basics because I’d often seen SQL understanding as a prerequisite for several tech jobs, so wondered what it was all about!

I got great feedback from my project overview when I studied Python last year, so thought I’d do the same for this SQL course!

My project: A database for a fictional “LinkedIn improvement” side hustle

I’m pretty active on LinkedIn, so when I had to think of an example use of a database, decided to mock up running a mini-business where I helped others to resdesign their content.

My project included tables on:

  • Clients
  • Email addresses and social media links
  • Phone numbers
  • Orders
  • Tracked messages

I built these tables from scratch, then, worked through mandatory and extension tasks to demonstrate some of the skills that we had been taught during the course, including joins, functions, procedures, queries and views.

I enjoyed the opportunity to practice what I’d learned about creating and maintaining databases, and think creatively about how what we’d learned could be applied to an independent project.

I also got to run some queries and analysis on my stored data, which helped me to see how this could be useful in a business context.

For example, I built a query with subquery which would identify all orders which my “clients” made for help other than a written feedback review:

This project gave me exposure to how we can build databases that work intelligently to support key business functions.

Reflections

So, that was my project!

Overall, I’m just getting started with SQL, and enjoyed getting to grips with it.

We covered a lot of content in this course, and I think it’ll take a while to sink in. I learned a lot of new tech concepts, as well as uses for SQL, and I’m proud of myself for committing the extra time alongside deadlines to challenge myself.

In terms of next steps, I was really impressed by some of my peers’ projects, and look forward to seeing more advanced code! Thank you to my instructors for giving the time to support us on this learning journey.

Standard
advice, personal development, the future is female, ucl, undergraduates, women in technology

Politics to AI: My Pivot Into Tech

It’s coming up to a year since I graduated from UCL in the manic haze of Lockdown 1.

So, it feels poignant to have just been interviewed by my previous university about my journey into tech since graduating!

You can read the full interview below:

UCL Careers: Interview with an Alum – Isabel Scavetta and the ‘Career Pivot’

1. Since graduating from UCL, you’ve spoken about a “complete career pivot” and being “grateful for having to re-evaluate”. Can you tell us more about your career journey so far?

I’m currently known for my work in the technology field, especially around improving its accessibility and diversity, which feels ironic given that I come from a non-technical background!

During my studies at UCL, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do after graduating. I did a couple of internships, attended a variety of careers-focused events and studied in both London and Seville. Through that time, I learned that I loved creative problem solving, teamwork and building solutions with real-world impact. I graduated in the pandemic summer so decided there was no time like the present to challenge myself to pursue my interest in tech.

What makes technology stand out for me is how I’m engaged by learning more. Many other industries have a slower pace of change whereas, for me, tech has only become more interesting as my journey has progressed.

So, I started coding with Code First Girls, studied for and passed several Microsoft qualifications, participated in technology conferences and Hackathon challenges, and reached out to women in the industry. Before long, my hard work started to pay off and I was able to use this experience to start giving back to others, achieving a Fellowship at Code First Girls, advisory position at Microsoft on their TechHer Student initiative, and an internship in Rolls-Royce’s Data & AI Hub (R2 Data Labs).

2. As a UCL graduate, BA European Social & Political Studies (ESPS), you have commented that your degree helps you “every day to quickly understand new concepts, communicate clearly, and draw connections across diverse subject areas”. Could you expand on this thought? What other transferable skills have your UCL experiences given you?

People often say to me that I’ve made an amazing transition from my undergraduate studies, but I think there’s lots of complementary elements between them. The main skill that ESPS taught me was the ability to pick up new concepts and develop an in-depth understanding of them in a very short period of time. In one degree, you could study across 9 different humanities departments, and in our first year, we had an exam covering all of them! This is vital in industries such as consulting and technology because you’re constantly introduced to disparate subjects and you need to try and figure out ways in which they are similar to things you’ve seen before, and also what differentiates them.

I was an active student at UCL, as I was involved in several societies, mentorship programmes and sports clubs. Balancing my various commitments and part-time work alongside my studies helped me to become proactive and self-organised, which has been helpful in my career so far.

Also, as a London based student I got the chance to go to some really brilliant networking events over the years and these taught me a lot about presentation skills, strategy, communication and clarity which have helped in developing my personal online presence and a compelling story as to why I could be a great leader in technology.

3. You recently taught yourself coding, and volunteered at the online project, Class of 2020. How have extra-curricular activities and voluntary experiences aided your career journey?

My voluntary work and extracurricular activities were essential to making the transition into technology, and “bridging the gap” between my degree and my interest.

To begin, they showed I had an active interest in this field, which gave me a lot of content to talk about at interviews. Furthermore, they helped me to expand my technical knowledge, which wasn’t something that I had the opportunity to do during my time at UCL.

One of the silver linings of the pandemic was that so many organisations made their online learning resources accessible and free to use, which was the purpose of the Class of 2020 project. I’ve written an article where I’ve listed some of my personal favourites.

4. You’re now undertaking a remote internship in Artificial Intelligence at Rolls Royce. What does a normal working day look like for you?

My time is primarily spread across two parts of the AI Hub. I’m interested in business and strategy, so I don’t actually code in my day job!

Firstly, I’m working on an innovation project where we are designing a new capability that has potential to disrupt the industries that we operate in. Secondly, I work to implement agile methodology on an AI-based project, where I liaise with my cross-functional team to ensure that what we’re building runs to our business objectives.

Due to this there’s no such thing as a typical working day for me, but often I will be conducting interviews with experts in AI across the field, ensuring that our data scientists in the UK and abroad are working collaboratively, resolving any impediments my team may face and contributing to group synthesis and design thinking workshops.

5. You’ve spoken candidly about overcoming “decision fatigue.” If you could give a UCL student any advice when thinking about future career planning, what would that be?

Some really good advice I was given was to work backwards when you think of career choices. So, rather than choosing a job you think you want and seeing if it fits, think about what lifestyle and experiences fit you, then see what jobs align with that.

For example, do you prefer to work independently or collaboratively? Do you enjoy more analytical or qualitative work?

This is a useful frame of reference because it’s something that you can map your existing experiences to, no matter how much or how little work experience you have.

When I first started my job search, I actually sat down and wrote out a map of everything I knew about myself in terms of what I was good at and what I wanted to develop. This is helpful because it helps you take a more open-minded approach to job hunting. I applied for a really wide variety of roles – some in strategy, research, tech, healthcare – but the constant was that I knew that this was the kind of work I would find engaging. Sometimes that meant I was applying for very different roles and very different Industries!

6. Did you make use of the services/events UCL Careers offer during your time here?

I booked a one-on-one UCL careers appointment in my final year, which was useful because it allowed me to articulate to someone new what kind of careers I was interested in, and why I wanted to pursue them. I think that was a really good exercise to start thinking about my job hunt and also not to feel like it was such a solo mission. It depends on what you’re interested in, but I know that UCL Careers do sector-specific career weeks etc. that a lot of my course-mates in the Politics department enjoyed.

7. What is on your bookshelf right now?

The book I tell everyone to read is Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez, which is all about the implicit gender bias in data. It’s a harrowing but impactful read about the ways in which the systems we use can work against us, and a great first introduction to why an intersectional approach is necessary in technology (and other industries!) as we build for the future.

Source: UCL Careers: Interview with an Alum – Isabel Scavetta and the ‘Career Pivot’

Standard
advice, future is female, personal development, women in technology

Why I’m Ignoring Negative Feedback

Honestly, I’ve been feeling anxious lately. Impostor syndrome is such a buzzword in this space that I’m not even going to use it!

The “post-university void”, as lovingly coined by my friends, is a bizarre place. Even more so when you graduated in a global pandemic.

Rather than being worried I don’t belong, it’s more of a challenge in having faith that I’m carving out the right career path for myself.

Something I’ve just started to build out, which has been really helpful, is a positive feedback document.

By contrast to my last post about rejection, this is a folder literally just of things that have gone well. The planned, the unexpected, the miraculous – it’s all coming together in one place.

Wait, why?

Don’t get me wrong, I love a learning opportunity. Constructive criticism has helped me to grow my skill set, and give me areas to work on.

However, especially amongst junior women, we have a tendency to overlook or discount our successes, and obsess on negative pieces of feedback. It can also be hard to stay grounded on what you’ve achieved, especially when everything moves at pace.

For this reason, in the short term, I’m putting my personal development goals to one side and reflecting upon what has gone well over the past year.

What does that look like?

My “counter-balance” GDoc has five columns – the positive feedback, who it was from, why they said it (aka the context), my thoughts, and when it was.

This helps me to reconnect with what I was doing at the same, remember that relationship, and reflect on how I helped others.

How has that helped?

First of all, it’s a great reminder that when I set my mind to it, I can do some pretty cool things!

It’s also a list of the brilliant people that I have worked with over the past few years, and helps show that I have more support than I think.

On a personal level, it’s helped me to see key themes across my feedback, and to identify my strengths.

For example, some recurring topics include:

  • Proactive and self-led approach to learning
  • Inclusive and warm leadership
  • Going above and beyond for others

Finally, it’s made me prioritise giving others positive feedback when I can, and ensuring that I show my appreciation when I notice someone do a great job.

Altogether, this has helped me to become more confident and self-aware, which puts me in a stronger position to learn from constructive feedback and learn new things.

Is this an exercise you’d try? If you’re curious about doing the same, feel free to drop me a message!

Standard
advice, future is female, personal development

Dear Sir/Madam: Please Reject This Application

Earlier this week, I had an interview for a volunteer role at an internationally-recognised social action group. I had some big ideas about how we could democratise tech education here in London, and work with others to achieve that.

It was a close call, but ultimately, they went with another candidate. Ouch.

However, what was most surprising to me were the reactions from my close friends.

You get rejections?

I get rejections all the time. I’ve got more “unfortunately” auto-filled templates in my inbox than I have Facebook friends.

I’ve had a lot of amazing opportunities in my early career. I’m active online, so these have ended up scattered all over the place.

I also like to be open about what I’m doing, because young women in particular struggle to speak up about their achievements and don’t post about them.

But let me say right now, it would be impossible without the flurry of rejections I get every month.

You name an email rejection softener, I’ve had it. Every time an email comes in, I get ready to scroll through the familiar words.

For example, people love the story of my transition into technology. However, as part of that process in late 2020, I received over 50 rejections for a variety of positions.

But even with this, I think that people understand that rejection is a key part of the graduate process.

So, beyond the job hunt, I’ve been turned down for:

  • Speaking engagements
  • Presentations
  • Flatshares
  • Volunteering roles
  • Tryouts
  • Universities
  • Courses
  • Awards

And that’s just off the top of my head…

It’s to the point that I could probably paper a wall or three, or give a compelling spoken word performance of the best one-liners.

Why am I sharing this?

  1. My social media presence has meant that I’ve helped 100+ individuals in their career journey, but I’ve found that I often won’t discuss the above until we’re on a one-on-one call. That seems ironic when it’s been such a huge part of my own journey to date.
  2. By and large, these decisions have helped me to become more resilient and less fearful!
  3. I want to keep myself accountable and normalise the process of “failure”.
  4. The flipside of these rejections are the opportunities I’ve had – if this helps someone else to go for it, it’s been worth my while!
  5. Rejection isn’t weakness or an assessment of worth. I’ve done some great things and can’t wait to see what’s next.

Ultimately, if I’m not being rejected, I’m not exploring outside of my comfort zone.

And if I’m not doing that, I could be overlooking a whole world of opportunities.

It’s taken a lot of work to cultivate this mindset, and it’s not a linear journey. Sometimes it’s tough, and I wonder what I’m doing most days. I also don’t trivialise the very real struggles that the job market and economy can present at the moment; this is a reflection on how missing opportunities has helped me to build stronger going forward.

So, with that in mind, I’m excited for my next rejection.

Looking forward to being the second-choice candidate again sometime soon!

Standard
future is female, networking, women in technology

Why Being Non-Tech in Tech is a Storytelling Superpower

When I first started out looking at careers in technology, I used to want to hide my humanities background. I would make vague allusions to my previous studies, or skip the question entirely….

Everything changed for me when I started owning my achievements to date, and advocating for the skills that I bring to a team!

I believe that storytelling is one of the most important skills for new graduates. By that, I mean understanding what makes you unique, and how to pitch that to potential employers and connections across your network. 

However, it’s not natural, and it doesn’t come easy, especially in the tech world.

If you’re in this position, here are 3 starting points to reflect on what you bring to the table:

  1. You have a new perspective. Diversity of thought has been shown to have value for business. If you have a different background to everyone else at the organisation, chances are, you see what is unclear to external players, and will be able to notice and challenge different elements of the project.
  2. You’re here out of passion, not out of automation. If you’re working to make the switch into tech, that’s a conscious choice you’ve made. It requires hard work and a strong interest in the industry. This means you’re more likely to have thought through why this could be a great fit for you!
  3. You’re a resourceful, self-led learner. With the pandemic, there are more free, accessible e-learning resources than ever before. Whether it’s learning to code, reading articles and reports, speaking to people in the industry… your proactive, self-enabled learning journey shows your initiative and drive.

Ready to challenge yourself this week? 

Sit down with your CV and see what high level “story points” you can see across your experience.

Then, think about how your unique traits, attributes and skills could be applied to a technology environment, and how it makes you a competitive candidate.

Once you have your story nailed, you will find it much easier to write job applications, and to grow your online presence. I’m looking forward to hearing about your next chapter!

Standard
coding, personal development, women in technology

8 Obstacles I Overcame as a Python Instructor

8 weeks ago, I knew that there were some challenging times ahead.

I’d received the great news that I’d been chosen to receive a Fellowship from social enterprise Code First Girls. This is an opportunity usually offered to women from a STEM degree background, so I was both excited and nervous about what was in store!

Part of this competitive leadership accelerator was teaching an Introduction to Python Programming course to 20+ women interested in learning to code.

This was going to be tough because:

  1. I only learned to code last June.
  2. All the classes were entirely remote.
  3. This was my first time teaching a coding curriculum.
  4. My co-instructors and I had never met.
  5. I was starting a new internship at the same time.
  6. We needed to provide support to students in class and throughout the week.
  7. Most of our students had never touched code before.
  8. We’re in a national lockdown!

2 months later, so I’m so proud of what my group has managed to achieve.

Here’s what I learned from those original challenges:

  1. Being new to something can be a superpower – you understand how to make concepts accessible to others.
  2. Building community online requires work, but is worth every second!
  3. Engage, adapt and improve set frameworks to the needs of your audience.
  4. Our weekly instructor pre-session meet ups and post-session debriefs helped us to quickly build a team identity, and continually improve.
  5. Sometimes, commiting to your passions is difficult (looking at you, my 8am-8.45pm Tuesdays!) but this is part of the journey.
  6. Creating clear structures for teams can help manage workload and expectations.
  7. Give students the opportunity to be self-led learners, and you’ll be astounded with what they produce.
  8. Some days, it can be easy to forget the continual pressure we’re under – be proud of yourself and your achievements.

Next, I’m looking forward to presenting the outcomes of the educational research project that I have been building with other Fellows.

I have loved my Fellowship journey, and look forward to using this experience to further my work to improve gender diversity in technology.

Standard
advice, networking, women in technology

First Day…. Not in the Office? 3 Ways to Build Virtual Collaboration

A year ago, I never expected I’d be working in an AI Innovation department. But, I think that past me would’ve been even more surprised to find out that I’d be starting from my dining room table!

A month in, I’m getting used to balancing working from home during the pandemic. Here’s 3 of my top tips for communication and teamwork that I’ve learned from starting my new tech role remotely:

  1. My gold question for new connections: “What’s the best way to contact you?”. When you’re networking online, and meeting various people across the organisation, it’s important to remember that everyone has individual preferences. I’ve found it invaluable understanding the best way to communicate with different members of my team to ensure the most efficient and quick responses.
  2. Not everything needs to be a video call. Zoom fatigue is real. If you have opportunities in your day, depending on the situation, see if your coworker would be open to a regular phone call! After the first week, my mentor and I switched to having our weekly catch up over the phone, meaning we can get out for a walk whilst we discuss the week. This helps me to be more open and relaxed during the conversation, as well as adding some variety to my day!
  3. Don’t be afraid to schedule in time when you need it. Usually, you’ll have access to your colleagues’ calendars. In the office, if you were struggling, you’d give someone a tap on the shoulder. Working remotely can make support feel less accessible, so it’s important to be proactive about seeking guidance. It’s difficult for your team to know what your day looks like, so get into the habit of reaching out!

Any first role is already challenging, and it’s important to recognise your resilience and adaptability! Your team will also want you to feel comfortable and confident in your new role, so feel free to discuss the above when you’re onboarding. Good luck!

Standard
advice, women in technology

BBC News Feature: My Journey into Tech

As a long-term BBC News reader, it was a surreal moment to start my everyday routine and find myself in featured in their latest Features & Analysis article!

Isabel Scavetta, aged 23 from Maidenhead, in Berkshire, has seen her expectations about jobs turned upside down. But not necessarily for the worst. “In some ways I’m strangely grateful for having to re-evaluate,” she says, describing a “complete career pivot”.

BBC News, March 2021

This was the result of a great interview I had two weeks ago, discussing my journey into tech: overcoming the upheaval of the pandemic, volunteering to democratise tech education, and landing my first full-time role in Artificial Intelligence at Rolls-Royce’s AI & Innovation Hub.

She taught herself coding and began volunteering work for an online project called Class of 2020, which provides free training for young graduates trying to get into work.

This has been an exceptionally difficult year for graduates. I have a lot to say around this topic, and my volunteering work at Microsoft, ClassOf2020 and Code First Girls is my small contribution to changing the way we think about entering the industry.

I run this blog to show that not only is it possible to enter tech, but also that transparency around careers and learning can be hugely beneficial. For example, I’ve referred at least 10+ people to begin their coding journeys themselves!

Curious to hear more? You can read the full article here!

Linkedin: Isabel Scavetta

@IsabelScavetta 

Standard