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, 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
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
future is female, her business now, personal development, the future is female, women in technology

10 Tips from Teaching my First Python Class

Today, I returned to Code First Girls’ Python course, which I passed as a student back in the sunny days of August. Plot twist: this time, I’m doing the teaching.

Yes, as part of my CFG Fellowship programme, I’ve been paired up with two other brilliant Fellows to teach ~30 women to code. Exciting? Yes. Terrifying? Absolutely.

Here are 10 of my lessons as the session’s Lead Instructor:

  1. You don’t know how you’ll do it, til you’re doing it. All week, I’ve been wondering how on earth this I was going to do this. Still didn’t know until I was sat at my kitchen table with a live audience. Have faith that you’ll do your best!
  2. Key concepts and shared understanding are the backbone of accessibility. As it was the first class, I had to introduce lots of new concepts and terms to our students. I often felt like I was repeating myself, but actually, when I was clarifying and compounding upon what I had said, we started to gain better traction as a group and our engagement improved.
  3. Lean on your team. My Instructor team were amazing at supporting my lesson, helping fix technical issues for students, responding to queries, and dropping in advice. Their support helped me in leading the session, and was a great reminder that we were in it together!
  4. Have a huge, huge glass of water. Way better idea than the 3 tiny cups I had to see me through 2 hours talking.
  5. Everyone needs a break. Including you! I built in a 5 minute break halfway through the session for our students, and only then realised how much I appreciated the breather myself. Check in with how you’re doing, and be open with your team.
  6. Try different ways of explaining things. One of my co-instructors said she really liked the analogy I made comparing variables to sticking a post-it note on your packed lunch in the fridge. Wonder how the class felt about that one.
  7. Tech problems come for everyone, even people in technology. Is it even 2021 if you don’t ask if people can actually hear you..?
  8. There’s never a perfect time to start. I was nervous to apply for the Fellowship, as I thought I could do with more long-term industry experience first. Whilst this experience is throwing me in the deep end, being accepted onto the programme has given me more confidence in my abilities, and an early opportunity for responsibility that I wouldn’t usually receive til later in my career.
  9. Being new to an industry can be a superpower. I only completed this course myself about 6 months ago (and even did a post about my first ever class in June!) which made me wary of teaching it. However, my old Instructors reminded me that this also means I’m tuned into how the course feels for beginners, and where I need to focus extra attention for its audience. Now, I consider it as an asset to my team, rather than a shortcoming.
  10. Recognise that this is challenging, and you’re doing your best! It was a huge relief to get through the class, and hear some lovely feedback from students. I’m currently sat down with a Kinder Bueno cake (!!) from the local bakery writing this, and realising, huh, not bad for a first day.

So, those are my initial thoughts on the experience! I learned a lot today and I’m looking forward to seeing what develops over the next 7 weeks of the course. I’ll also be working with my team to implement new techniques and methods based off of today’s class.

Have you ever taught or studied an online coding course before? Would you have any advice for instructors or students? Feel free to leave them below!

Standard
advice, future is female, guest post, personal development, the future is female, women in business

Navigating a Man’s World: Tips for Female Grads in Male-Dominated Industries

After graduating, I completed a four month consultancy internship in the construction industry – not exactly famed for its high ratio of female employees!

Transitioning from psychology lecture halls filled with 90% women to boardrooms where I was the only woman took some adjusting to.

Here are some of my biggest lessons!

The minority effect

Research shows that we all feel less confident when we are the minority in the room- be that in terms of gender, race, or age. It is important to actively address this instinctive lack of confidence. I used to push myself by setting little targets- firstly it was just to speak up at least once every meeting I was in.

As I grew in confidence, my targets got harder: to challenge a solution that I didn’t agree with, or to put my own ideas forward. Soon I no longer had to build myself up before speaking in meetings – it came naturally!

Confident language

Women typically use less confident language than men in business settings. This sometimes reflects higher levels of self-doubt: research shows that in areas stereotypically seen as masculine, women are likely to under-estimate their ability, whilst men over-estimate.

Women’s use of more tentative language may also be driven by reinforced gender norms.  We’re socialised to believe that men should be assertive, whilst women should be polite and soft-spoken. This can lead to many women attempting to soften their points in order to not sound forceful. Unfortunately, this manner of speaking suggests uncertainty, and often undermines what you are trying to say.

Some phrases to work on eliminating include:

“Does that make sense?”

“I’m not sure though…”

“… but I don’t know.”

– 21 year old me, repeatedly, after making a cogent and valid point

Being interrupted.

Numerous studies have demonstrated that women are far more likely to be interrupted than men-especially in “male-dominated” environments. The culprits aren’t just men- with women also much more likely to interrupt other women than their male counter-parts.

So how should you react when you’re interrupted? The key is to strike a balance between remaining professional but assertive. Battle the instinct to ignore the interruption, to apologise, or to ask for permission to carry on (e.g.: “I’m sorry, can I continue?”). Instead, calmly point out that you had not finished talking.

For example:

There are just a few more points I would like to cover before we move on.

I’m sure your feedback will be extremely valuable, but I would like to finish my point first.

Female role models.

Ironically, one of the best parts of working in a male dominated industry was meeting some truly inspirational women along the way! On a practical level, they provided some great advice on navigating the challenges of working in a male dominated environment. On a more personal level, seeing these women excel in high level positions massively motivated me! Your company may have women’s groups that you can join. If not, LinkedIn is an amazing platform to use to connect with female mentors who are passionate about widening the accessibility of STEM careers. Just make sure to approach these conversations politely and tactfully, and understand that not every woman is going to want to talk about gender – and that’s ok!

I hope this has been helpful! Feel free to get in touch if you have any questions or comments.

– Kiera

Kiera Adams
Article guest-written by Kiera Adams

Standard
new year, personal development, undergraduates, women in technology

8 Ways to Digitally Upskill for Free!

Happy new year!

As a humanities graduate, people often ask me where I learned (and am learning!) my technical knowledge.

Today’s post is a cheat sheet of some of my free favourites.

Have you used any of these before?

As always, send me a message if you have questions about getting started!

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

How To Survive as a Non-Tech Technology Team Leader

Do you ever make impulse decisions? Me too.

One of my latest adventures? Signing up as a Team Leader on 2 Hackathon coding challenges… as a UCL humanities graduate.

…Why?

(a question also asked by many of my friends & family)

During lockdown, I decided to begin learning to code. After getting a Code First Girls Python certificate, I was selected for their Career Nav mentorship programme, which advocates for women challenging themselves in the technology sector.

So, I thought, what better challenge than getting involved in 2 Hackathons: a Big Data challenge and diversity and inclusion product development. As part of my application, I clicked a button to put my name in the hat for a leadership role, without much further thought.

Turns out if you apply for things, sometimes you get accepted..!

Qualifications? Barely any. Nervous? Absolutely.

Through numerous Google Meets and agenda setting, we more than made it out alive – we made it to the Diversity Hackathon Challenge Finals!

So, what on earth happened as part of that process?

  1. Leadership doesn’t meant you have to know everything – work to use the skills of your team. Put your ego at the door and accept where your skills lie. Nearly all my team were more technically skilled than me! At the beginning of the project, we had a discussion around our personal strengths and divided the workload accordingly.
  2. Google. A lot. All the time. Accept that sometimes you will do hours of research just to figure out 4 ways not to build your final project.
  3. A surprising number of your skills are industry-neutral – use them! I’d never done a Hackathon before, but I was surprised by how much of my abilities I’d developed on my 2019 consulting internship came in handy. For example, project management techniques were essential to our overall success. And a pretty slide deck never does any harm..!
  4. Use your support network. My friends and family were so supportive during the process, and I was enormously grateful. They helped me to build confidence in my capabilities and in my ability to take up new challenges in future.

Whilst there were some stressful moments, leading on these 2 Hackathons was definitely one of my highlights of 2020.

So, if you have the opportunity to begin to learn to code, or explore the technology sector, I would absolutely recommend it!

Have any questions? As always, feel free to drop me a message.

Standard