Interesting insights from BT intern Chloe WardBy BT Ireland,
Chloe Ward, BT Intern and Computer Applications and Software Engineering (CASE) student in Dublin City University, gives her perspective on why we need more females in tech and how businesses can lift students up with opportunities.
You are studying computer applications and software engineering (CASE) in DCU. What interested you in that field?
I’ve always had an interest in technology because the technology sector is constantly changing and it really excites me. I first came across coding when I was 14 because I saw a YouTube video about an organisation called ‘Girls Who Code’ which then led to me researching coding and learning web design on a website called ‘Codecademy’. It was an online environment that was created to show you how to code. I found it fascinating and knew that I wanted to pursue a career in tech which lead to me picking CASE in DCU. I think organisations such as Connecting Women In Technology (CWIT) are extremely important as it allows girls to be introduced to STEM careers which will definitely get more girls interested in STEM careers as a similar organisation had its impact on me!
You are one of only four females out of over 100 students in your year in college. Why do you think so few females are choosing tech courses?
I think few females are choosing tech courses because they fear that it’ll be too hard, especially the fact that it may not be promoted as much in all-girls schools. When I was choosing my CAO choices I opted more for technology-based courses and my guidance counsellor told me I should consider looking at nursing or teaching courses because they weren’t as hard - which actually led to me putting teaching on my CAO.
Due to the lack of females in STEM careers not many girls know other females, or have female role models, in tech careers which kind of makes girls not consider going down that particular career path. Looking back I was definitely worried about going into a male-dominated course. But with the many organisations that exist about introducing women to STEM etc. it’s closing that gender divide significantly because with this year’s 1st Year CASE students there were significantly more females in the course than there was when I started in 2018.
What activities have you been doing with the DCU Access Programme to try to encourage more young people to pursue third level education?
As an Access Ambassador, I do workshops with students from DEIS schools (Delivering Equality of Opportunity In Schools) around the area relating to topics from CV preparation, goal setting, study skills and team building. I do ‘The UFirst Program’ that caters for both 5th and 6th Years as they start their final years in secondary school. The program makes them aware that Third Level Education is a possibility for them because statistics show that students from disadvantaged areas are less likely to pursue Third Level Education, and so by doing this program students get the confidence and knowledge they need to realise that they are capable of furthering their education.
I have also signed up to the ‘Smart Skills’ Program which I am excited to take part in. It’ll be teaching secondary school students how to make games, which will hopefully introduce more females into STEM courses too!
We’re delighted that you joined BT for your work placement this Summer, as part of the DCU Access To The Workplace Programme. How important is it for businesses to give students that opportunity?
It’s really important for businesses to give students work placement opportunities as it allows them to see how the knowledge that they’ve learned as part of their college modules can be used in the real working environment. It’ll also give students an opportunity to broaden their skill set outside of what they learn in their college course, like I did by joining the Communications team.
Many students during the Summer usually work in fast food or retail shops so to be given the opportunity to gain work placements is really important. Many students don’t have connections in business, and therefore, it is great if a business can give young people that front door to allow them to get experience, earn a wage and make connections that would hopefully benefit them in their future career. Before starting in BT, I didn’t have any connections in business but through meeting many people in BT and getting an insight into their career journey that has changed and even my LinkedIn network has grown significantly!
Though your work placement with us has been 100% virtual due to Covid-19, how have you found being part of a tech company?
I found it really interesting being part of a tech company. I’m really grateful to have got this opportunity. I’ve learned so much about BT by having meetings with so many different people from areas right across the businesses, including software development, databases, customer service, project management and networks. I’ve also really enjoyed being part of the Communications team and helping out with work relating to the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition. It’s amazing to see how they’re adapting the exhibition to a virtual online platform this year, and I’ve got to play my part by encouraging more DEIS schools to enter. I’ve really enjoyed my work placement this Summer as I’ve definitely learned a lot of new skills and knowledge about IT that I’ll definitely be able to use for the college semester ahead.