Carly is a Senior Technical Specialist at Nationwide, a fabulous person to have in your network and a woman who is doing everything she can to help females in the industry. She is here to share valuable and insightful advice that is real, relatable and inspirational. Carly & Nationwide are continuing to make difference in people’s lives, and are celebrating Ada Lovelace Day on Tuesday 9th to celebrate Women in Tech (Link to tickets below)
From research assistant to Senior Technical Specialist at Nationwide. How did you get into the tech industry?
Like a lot of the women I’ve met in my career – it was purely by accident.
When I was at school I disliked IT, and despite studying Physics, Chemistry, Maths and further Maths, it wasn’t once suggested to me that computers could be anything other than something you type on and play games on (two things I hated), let alone that you could actually control them and get them to do useful things AND have a career with them! (I can only imagine I assumed that they just magically knew how to do everything!).
After my research contract at the Health Protection Agency (now Public Health England) came to an end, I decided to take a few months out of a ‘proper career’ and did some part-time temp work while I decided what I wanted to do.
It was then that a job at the John Lewis Partnership came up. It was a Trainee Computer Operator role, kind of like an informal apprenticeship, in the Operations Bridge and Data Centre. There was a long list of computer systems that you’d end up working with, but, most importantly, the job description made it very clear that you would be taught everything you needed to know – you just needed an enquiring, and logical mind, a willingness to work shifts, and the ability to speak to people on the phone. It sounded interesting, and totally not what I’d imagined IT to be like. So, I submitted my CV, attended an assessment day, and the rest as they say, is history!
What does your role entail as Senior Technical Specialist?
The role of a Senior Technical Specialist varies, depending on where you work, and part of the company you work for. In the Payments Squad at Nationwide, the team I’m based in, I focus a lot on the governance side of things, which may not sound the most appealing to some, but means I get a really broad overview of what’s happening in the industry. I chair the Payments Design Authority, which looks at things like design, security, resilience and scalability of our payments platforms.
I’m also the person who co-ordinates the annual Report on Compliance assessment, working with external bodies on our Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards. I’ve also been a bit more project based, and lead on different pieces of work from a design and governance perspective.
At Nationwide, we’re allowed to choose how we develop into our roles. For example, I focus more on the governance and compliance side of tech, where as some of my colleagues choose to get a little more hands on with the code, and are involved with things like code reviews.
I love that you support other women at every opportunity. Can you tell me a bit about the conference you are organising for women returns and women starting in tech?
Yes!!! I’m so excited about this event! Myself and a group of incredible women from Nationwide are hosting an Ada Lovelace Day event on Tuesday 9th October at the STEAM museum in Swindon.
Our aim is to create a supportive network, for women who are either returning to tech or considering a career in tech, and just need a little bit of a confidence boost. As well as a great networking event, there’ll be talks by speakers, including Dr Sue Black OBE, Danielle Macleod and Rachel Robinson from Nationwide, alongside some hands-on workshops too – if you attend and get chance on the day, try and have a quick word with any of them, I’m so in awe of everything they’ve all achieved.
Anyone interested can sign up here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/ada-lovelace-day-nationwide-supporting-women-in-technology-tickets-49980994500
Is there anything that you feel would help eliminate unconscious bias in recruiting women into technology roles?
I think raising more awareness that unconscious bias is actually a thing, would help. If you can get people to recognise themselves making decisions that have perhaps been influenced by unconscious bias, that would go a long way to people identifying it, and therefore avoiding it.
Maybe we have to actively stop ourselves from thinking in a specific way – it’s a challenge. The fact that they’ve noticed it’s happened is a positive. They’ll hopefully be more aware if there’s a next time.
What do you think is the biggest challenge for the next generation of women and how can we be a strong role model for them?
There are still many challenges, when women are more likely to take extended time off to raise a family, or care for a relative, and the industry remains gender dominant.
What I do think we’re obligated to do is support each other. I suppose what I’d want my niece (who’s 4) to see when she looks back in 30 years’ time is that we were the generation that lifted each other up. I really do think that we can be stronger together.
Have you ever experienced the imposter syndrome?
Yes. I think this is a topic that will be covered at least a couple of times at our event – I’m hoping to be going home that day with a couple of strategies for dealing with those feelings.
Who’s your squad?
My mum, my brother, my partner and my two best friends Charlie and Bex. I know that’s five but I’m a rebel! They are the most amazing bunch of people, and are equally happy bigging me up, coaching me through the bad times, sitting me down and telling me straight, or simply laughing at me when I say something stupid (they all laugh quite a lot!). I can be comfortable being me when I’m with them, and they help me be my best me. I love them all.
What’s your favourite quote?
Well, apart from ‘It’s all in the reflexes.’ (Jack Burton, Big Trouble in Little China – best film ever), I suppose it’s ‘Be Fearless’ – it’s something that we were told as IBM grads, and at the time if I’m honest I thought it was very corporate, but it’s stuck with me. Every time I’m in a situation that I’m uncomfortable with, that’s what is going through my head, and it’s not done me too bad 😊
Thank you Carly, see you next week