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!

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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.

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future is female, her business now, internships, personal development, ucl, undergraduates, women in technology

Our CFG Project: Analysing Statutory Homelessness in the UK

After a great response to my article about my first coding lesson, I thought I’d do a follow-up article to show you what kinds of things you could learn to do with Python, or achieve by the end of a course with Code First: Girls.

Designing our project

I partnered up with my classmate Michelle to develop what we’d learned about .cvs files (comma separated values) into our final programming project. We were given three potential project options, and as we wanted to challenge ourselves, we chose the assignment we understood the least!

We were provided with a sample data set by CFG, which we initially used to practice what we’d learned. However, we then decided to apply our new knowledge to a new data set: the GOV.UK statistics on number of households in statutory homeless, by ethnicity over time (2007-2018).

https://www.ethnicity-facts-figures.service.gov.uk/housing/homelessness/statutory-homelessness/latest#full-page-history

After successfully completing the course requirements, we set ourselves the following extension goals:

  • Collect all of the data for each ethnicity for 2007 and 2018 into lists
  • Compare the numbers of homeless for each ethnicity for 2007 vs 2018 
  • Compare the ethnicity percentage breakdown for 2007 vs 2018

To do this, we worked together to use our understanding of csv. files, functions and variables to process and calculate the figures. We had to reformat some of the statistics for them to be processed, but had a great chat with our instructor Marlene, who helped us to do this.

A sample of some of our project code, using what we had learned over the previous 5 weeks

Our results

Our programme analysed the original dataset and output a variety of statistics:

For example, we found that the overall number of households in the UK in statutory homelessness has decreased -22.87% from 2007-2018 (-16,780). The majority of these households come from a white ethnic background. However, in the same period of 2007-2017, whilst the number of white households in statutory homelessness has decreased by -35.6% (-19,350), the number of BAME households has increased by +18.6% (+2,820).

Furthermore, we got some hands-on experience in how using Python can be used to tackle real-life dataset issues. As part of our process, we asked our programme to sum up the different ethnicity statistics and output the total homeless for 2018. However, we found that our results (56,590) differed from the listed government figures for total households (56,580). Upon further investigation, we discovered that we had found a flaw in the official statistics – the total number given was more than the sum of the components added together. This taught us a valuable lesson in how good programmes can catch flaws and irregularities in data!

Lessons and next steps

We were really pleased with our project and enjoyed presenting about it to the rest of our CFG cohort. I was so impressed by the quality and creativity of my class’ work, and learned a lot from my peers about their coding journeys!

Having passed the 8-week course, I’m now working on self-teaching more Python, and exploring other programming languages. I’ve completed a Coursera Introduction to Python Course and am now getting to grips with Harvard’s Introduction to Computer Science CS50!

I will shortly be creating a blog post of all my favourite free e-learning resources for anyone interested in beginning to code. As always, feel free to drop me a message if there’s anything I can help out with.

Finally, I just wanted to say thanks to my great teammate Michelle for all her hard work, and our brilliant instructors! This has been a challenging and inspiring first step into developing my technical skill set.

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

Girl Meets ‘hello world’: My First ‘Code First: Girls’ Review

(fun fact: getting your code to say ‘hello world’ is one of the oldest traditions in software)

I’m currently on Week 5 of an Introduction to Python Programming course ran by not-for-profit organisation Code First: Girls (CFG). Over the past few years, I’ve had a particular interest in the technology sector, and decided it was time to bite the bullet and start investigating how I could get involved.

Now, this was an interesting challenge, given that I’m a pure humanities student who hasn’t had formal Maths education since GCSEs and didn’t have the opportunity to learn to code during my undergrad. I heard about Code First: Girls through a friend and was apprehensive of how I’d find it.

Regardless of this, I decided to go ahead with the CFG online course, and have never looked back. The course is designed for university students and those in full time work, and consists of 8 weekly 2-hour workshops.

I’ve had lots of other non-STEM peers ask me for an honest opinion on how I’ve found the experience, particularly in the early days. So, to give you an idea of what it might be like, here is a summary of my main takeaways from my first lesson.

Note: the content of CFG classes remains the intellectual property of CFG, so I’ll primarily be discussing how I prepared for my first Python class and how I found it.

Things I wish I’d known before my first CFG Python class:

  • I promise you don’t need to have done coding before. Promise. P r o m i s e. Especially for your first class! Everything is designed for complete beginners, so come with an open mind and willingness to learn. If you get stuck, there are multiple instructors, so it’s straightforward to ask for help. If you enjoy logical processes, you’ll probably enjoy it; my degree background is social and political sciences and I liked the way you can slowly build upon your coding knowledge to create more advanced programs.
  • Give yourself some time to install and set up the required technology: CFG provide very clear instructions on how to set up everything you need for your first class. We use PyCharm Community, and at the beginning of my first class, when I went to open this for the first time, it took about 20 minutes to open on my incredibly slow laptop. I was stressed trying to simultaneously memorise the steps the class was taking and waiting for the programme to open – lesson learned and it’s been plain sailing ever since.
  • It doesn’t have to be a solo battle. CFG offer a variety of courses – why not encourage a friend to sign up as well? Although CFG manage the applications and allocation of students to courses, having someone you know do any of their courses is a good way to hold yourself accountable. I was fortunate enough to end up on the same lesson slot as one of my friends (hi, Michelle!) and have found it incredibly helpful to talk to someone else during this learning journey about both its highlights and challenges.
  • There are so many online resources to support you in your journey. CFG do a great job providing their core curriculum, teaching and homework tasks. However, if there is anything you are unsure on, there are also hundreds of blogs, videos and courses that you can follow to go over topics covered in class.

Interested in signing up yourself?

Code First: Girls run three free courses:

  1. Introduction to Web Development
  2. Introduction to Python Programming
  3. Introduction to Data Science and SQL Programming

These courses are open to self-identifying women:

  • aged 18-23 
  • OR are currently studying at university
  • OR have finished their studies in the last two years 

If you’re interested in signing up for a free course (2 hours, once a week for 8 weeks), you can do this here. As you can probably tell, I’d highly recommend it.

In these uncertain times, it is useful to think of different ways to approach challenges and think broadly regarding different options which may be available to you.

A big thank you to all the volunteers at CFG for helping female students from all backgrounds to begin to explore careers and possibilities within the tech industry.

Got any questions? As always, feel free to contact me through the HBN contact page, or LinkedIn.

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