Could you tell me a bit about your background?
Hi, I’m Kim! I am a London-based self-taught Software Engineer, Oxford and UCL alumna, currently Associate Software Engineer at M&G Plc. Having previously worked as a business-technology professional within an Agile software team, I am interested in the power of coding and technology for instigating social, environmental and economic change.
How did you get into tech? What made you choose it?
Did you know? My journey into tech was a convoluted path! At school, there wasn’t much of an emphasis in tech, so I focused on exploring careers in Law and Medicine. I didn’t know what I wanted to do after college; making decisions felt like the end of the world. Growing up, it was drilled into my brain that university was the only logical option. I thought about going to Medical School or applying for a shiny training contract in Law.
After graduation, I still didn’t know what career was right for me; many of my friends took on great Graduate Schemes. Instead of comparing myself to others, I bounced back to forge my own path. I eventually landed a full-time role as an Energy Industry Analyst and wrote loads of reports for a market intelligence company, whilst working at my part-time tutoring job too. My gut felt that job wasn’t for me and after 6 months, I moved onto a sustainability consultancy focused on accelerating the evolution and productivity of sustainable building management in cities, where I had the chance to work on the sustainability consulting team and eventually moved onto a business-technology role.
I was given the opportunity to put forward some ideas to grow the company’s proprietary technology solution, which was focused on the sustainable real estate industry. The solution had a data-driven approach to support on environmental data management and reporting for commercial real estate sector clients.
I was so grateful that the company put its trust in me and offered me the chance to be part of their new technology team. It was pretty much a blank slate at the time and something felt ‘right’ about it. Though I hesitated to leave my sustainability consulting days behind, I was elated at the prospect of being part of something special. For over 2 years, I grasped with the concept of Agile and engaged with the team on the software development of the sustainability software through the implementation of agile product/project management strategies, business requirements gathering and specification. I learned about scrum iterative software development and how to use Atlassian’s JIRA tool.
Bridging Business and Technology
With my multi-disciplinary background, I spoke both the language of business and technology. I wore many hats to bring together the details of the technology to something meaningful at the business level. I secretly enjoyed it whenever a bug appeared, as it would mean I could have a chat with the developer to try and debug something and ask them questions. I had loads of fun at work, everyone was very supportive and had
good ideas to bring to the table. Wearing many hats was challenging but rewarding when you were transforming the way the user approached technology-driven sustainability.
Connecting to my Passion
I wanted to connect with my childhood self to get away from what my mind thinks I should do, to seek what I really wanted to do and link it to my passions. I’m passionate about sustainability and smart cities and how technology brings people and the environment together, changing how people perceive and inhabit their environment. At the same time, opportunities at work and curiosity to know more about the inner-workings of technology made me realise that a career in Software Engineering would be a good fit for me.
My switch to software engineering built on the opportunities I had as a Business Application Consultant, where I engaged daily with developers to adopt the best practices of Agile, testing, continuous integration and iterative software development from scratch from a business requirements perspective. Outside of the 9- to-5, I was also inspired by Code First: Girls, where I attended their Web Development and Advanced Ruby courses at Twitter UK and M&S Digital from Autumn 2017 to Spring 2018. I have also enjoyed being part of Codebar and the technology community in London too!
In early 2019, I received a scholarship to attend a 16-week intensive Software Engineering Bootcamp at Makers, with the eye to fast-track my career in technology with M&G Plc, where I am currently an Associate Software Engineer.
What personal or professional milestones would you highlight?
I am a work in progress! I would say hitting those milestones on my journey into technology in the year 2018/2019 came at a time when I finally started listening to myself; only when I was being true to myself and listening to passions was my creativity and urge to experiment unleashed. I have no regrets on my first couple of jobs as an Energy Industry Analyst, Sustainability Consultant and Business Application Consultant. I gained valuable skills from these roles; enabling me to think in an interdisciplinary way.
What advice would you give your 10-year-old self?
Dear 10-year-old Kim,
It’s ok to be yourself; don’t compare yourself to others. Success and happiness is not something that can be quantified!
From 2020 Kim
Do you regret not having done something today for not finding time?
That’s an interesting question; there are loads of things that I could have done today like visiting my family, baking some cookies, going to the indoor bouldering gym etc. As human beings, we have to juggle so many aspects of life and therefore, I would say it’s difficult to retrospectively look back on the day, week or years before and think what could I have done differently. Learning from the past is helpful; but I try not to regret or dwell on the past and keep on moving forwards instead!
What books and podcasts do you recommend reading and listening to and why?
Hello World: How to be Human in the Age of the Machine by Dr Hannah Fry is a fantastic read on algorithms in our everyday lives and why we should not forget the role of the human in technology. Hannah Fry brought concepts like privacy, trust, decision-making, machine learning and image recognition to life. By relating these concepts to a range of topics such as Art, Crime, Medicine, Law, Data and Power; she made the book a very accessible and engaging read. I also recommend DeepMind: The Podcast, hosted by Dr Hannah Fry as well.
Who is your role model?
Dr Hannah Fry is amazing! She is an Associate Professor in the Mathematics of Cities at the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis at University College London. I admire her many books and talks aimed at demystifying mathematics and technology concepts.
How did you get into Girls in Tech and what made you do that?
I went to a Girls in Tech London event during London Tech Week in 2019 at JP Morgan on the intersection of technology and benevolence and wanted to be part of the initiative to #engage #educate and #empower young women into technology. Girls in Tech was a direct match to my personal mission statement which is:
“To use the power of coding and technology to instigate social, environmental and economic change. To empower others to utilise technology for good and give back to the community that supported my career into tech.”
I’m so excited to be volunteering with Girls in Tech London and feel so energised for what we have in store this year!
After so many years of being in STEM field, what do you think about diversity and inclusion in sector?
Things are definitely changing now; but we have more work to do. There are many workshops being run in schools to improve awareness and uptake of STEM subjects; but it’s the mentorship and work experience opportunities which need wider reach. A misconception of technology is you have to be a Maths genius to do it. In fact, technology roles are interdisciplinary; teams have product managers, test engineers, business analysts, UX designers, data scientists to turn ideas into something tangible. Through my personal experience, it’s providing the opportunities and platforms for young people to learn new skills in a free/low cost manner which will make the real difference.
What advice would you give to a person who wants to get into tech?
You are yourself, be the best version of yourself and you will succeed!
Success is without failures. Take risks – don’t be scared to grasp an opportunity
When learning something new, you will fail. Failing is not a bad thing; it shows that you are curious to experiment and take risks. Bounce back from failures and learn from them. Sometimes risks pay off, sometimes they don’t. But you will never know unless you try.
Respect yourself and respect others
Make time for self-care and ensure you are listening to your true self. Respect others and create a positive environment.
Track your progress – celebrate successes whatever the size!
Set achievable goals and give yourself a retrospective at the end of each day. Celebrate your achievements and be grateful for what you have right now.
Find yourself a community online or in-person or both!
Surround yourself with like-minded people. When you’re learning, it is important to ask questions and explore what’s happening in the technology industry. Technology teams collaborate all the time to generate ideas, so it is important to mix individual learning and group learning.
Don’t compare yourself to others
Stay on your own lane! Comparing yourself to others is unhealthy, because the time you spent focusing on someone else is taking away the time you spend on your personal development. Comparing yourself to others could lead you to becoming self-critical and you won’t be able to reach your full potential. Go out there and make your impact! 🙂
Starting something new is always risky and an opportunity cost; if you think it is worth it, make the jump and take the time you need to ease yourself in. Everyone is different, you know yourself better than anyone else. Change doesn’t happen overnight, you have to have grit and patience to see it through. If you fail at something, it’s natural to get frustrated, but get back up again. If it’s not right for you, then find something that makes you tick. Successes are without failures; they go hand-in- hand. Remember to go easy on yourself and get plenty of rest! I speak from experience of burning out so many times! Most of all, there are some things which don’t work out in life; c’est la vie!