• Natalie Wild

Women of Tech Meets: Aly, a Software Engineer

Updated: Apr 19, 2019

"I wish someone had told me that I could do this sooner. I always had the perception that coding was only for the really clever people and I wasn’t made out for it. So I wish I had someone to tell me that I can do it, it’ll be hard work, but worth it!"

Today I met for a coffee with Aly, a confident and bubbly Software Engineer based in Bristol, UK who beamed with joy when talking about the fact her job is getting to code for a living, working on a mix of front end, back end and database related projects.

Originally from South East London, Aly attended a local Grammar school when growing up and confessed that at the age of 18, she had no idea what she wanted to be doing in life “Its mad the choices we have to make at 18” she said, something I can entirely relate to.

One of Aly’s teachers suggested perusing a degree in Chemical Engineering and not really knowing what else to do, she did. She commenced studies at Bath University, where she also happened met her current boyfriend.

Aly admitted she didn’t enjoy her degree much. She had started Uni when the £9,000 a year fees had kicked in, and though she wasn’t enjoying it by the second year she felt so financially invested in the course that she persevered and stuck it out to the end regardless.

Alongside persevering with her studies towards her Chemical Engineering Degree, she started teaching herself to code online, reaching out to the online tech community for support along the way.

Following being awarded her degree in Chemical Engineering, she commenced her Master’s Degree in Computer Science at Bristol University. Aly described her chosen universities as “both really amazing but very different universities. Bath was all on one campus so everything is right there and its slightly out the way of everything, whereas Bristol Uni is more spread out and you’re right in the middle of the city”

After gaining her Masters in Computer Science she joined her current employer, a Bristol based engineering company, where she has happily been working as a Software Engineer for around 18 months, coding mainly in Java, JavaScript and React.

Have you faced any challenges in the workplace because you’re a women?

“I’ve always felt able to speak up for myself if I have felt like there is an issue at work, but there never really has been.

Generally I’m quite used to being in male dominated environments so I guess it’s never really bothered me that much. I have played Rugby since I was a kid, moving into women’s teams after a certain age, but it’s still quite a male dominated environment.

My current team is an all-male team apart from me, but I don’t really mind that. I don’t think I’ve ever been treated any differently because I’m a girl.

I think when I first started at my job, my team were a bit nervous just not knowing how to approach me, but I think that was just because they weren’t used to having a woman on the team, it was new for them. I’ve never reached the point of being offended by anything anyone has said, generally it’s a great place to work.”

What would you say is your long term career goal?

“Right now, I’m just kinda feeling so thankful to have found something that I really enjoy, and I can’t see myself doing anything different right now. I get to work on some really cool projects, and my employer is very encouraging for learning as well as being really supportive.”

How do you think employers could appeal to more women?

“Definitely make themselves more approachable. There are so many great companies out there but no one knows about them. There are lots of women tech groups and careers fares at universities, and companies don’t seem to really be tapping into that. If they put themselves out there and make themselves approachable, by the time is comes for graduates to be searching for opportunities they will think of these companies.

I think some people are put off by the defence aspect of the tech industry, but you don’t have to work in defence to work in tech, there are so many other things you could be doing like communications, cyber security, info security - the options are endless.”

What it is that you love about working in tech?

“That I get to spend my time solving problems and helping people. To technically fix something is a satisfying feeling, or adding a new feature to something that enables someone to do something better or faster, or something they couldn’t do before, it’s a rewarding thing for me.

I also love having so much ability to learn. There is always so much to learn in tech where things evolve at such a fast rate.”

Is there anything that you enjoy a bit less about working in tech?

“Because there is so much to learn and it can be done at any time of day, it can feel overwhelming and make you feel like you should always be being productive. It can feel like everyone is surpassing you and working so much harder and you’ll be left behind.

When I feel like this I have to remember to not compare myself to others. Everyone’s journey is different and I’m going at my own pace.

Also social media isn’t real life, so they might not be working all the hours they make it look like.”

Is there anything in particular that you’ve done in relation to tech that you’re particularly proud of?

“Last year, and again this year I have been helping out once a week at an 8 week workshop in Bath being ran by ‘Code First: Girls’. The workshops teach people to make a website from scratch in HTML, CSS and JavaScript as well as using version control and getting the site live. I wanted to do something to help others learn to code.

I was so so nervous before that first ever session, but now I absolutely love it, even if it’s still a bit terrifying though. It has helped me in to grow my confidence my myself a bit also my confidence in helping others. The students are so engaged and some of them go on to enrol in other courses to learn more.

What is the one piece of advice that you wished that you had received at the beginning of your career?

“I feel like I am at the beginning of my career! But I wish someone had told me that I could do this sooner. I always had the perception that coding was only for the really clever people and I wasn’t made out for it. So I wish I had someone to tell me that I can do it, it’ll be hard work, but worth it!

It was SO nice to meet up with a local lady in tech. It was so obvious that Aly was in love with her job and that her passion for coding was well and truly alive. I think I’ve just made a new friend.


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