Inspirational Interviews – Natalie Cheung

For this instalment of our inspirational interview series we are talking to Natalie Cheung.

Natalie is an award-winning leader, volunteer and civil engineer who is passionate about promoting careers in STEM! She is currently working to deliver the STEM Ambassador programme in London, as STEM Ambassador Coordinator.

For her volunteer work and active citizenship, Natalie was awarded the YMCA England and Wales Young Leader of the Year 2018 and University of Manchester Medal of Social Responsibility in 2019. She is also a Council member for the Women’s Engineering Society and won their Amy Johnson award in 2019 for promoting diversity in engineering and applied sciences.

What/Who inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?

At school I was interested in Artificial Intelligence and Technology which led to me studying Computing at A-Level. I wanted to program robots! I considered a wide variety of engineering disciplines to pursue at university and ended up picking Civil Engineering which was quite different to my original plan. This was influenced by a work experience placement in construction where I realised how many roles there were behind civil engineering projects like buildings! I am so grateful for the mentors who opened my eyes to career options in construction when I was 16, I had never even heard of civil engineering before that.

What does your typical day look like?

As a STEM Ambassador co-coordinator I help to deliver the STEM Ambassador programme which gets volunteers from different STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) fields inspiring young people to consider pursuing STEM. In my day-to-day, I work with volunteers, employers, schools, councils, museums, libraries, youth groups and more! I love organising events and supporting STEM Ambassadors to create resources that can reach young people.

Have you had to overcome challenges? If so what we’re they and how did you do it?

Those who know me now would be very surprised to hear I was a very very quiet teenager! Like many others, I have overcome challenges of confidence and impostor syndrome. Last year, I set a goal to improve my public speaking skills as I recognised this is a skill that can support me in my career and personal life. I sought out opportunities to deliver presentations and talks, especially those which were out of my comfort zone. The highlights of my public speaking work last year include coaching from TED, speaking at an international conference in front of the President of the UN General Assembly, being part of an engineering panel live-streamed to ten of thousands of young people and my first paid motivational speaking events.

What do you think can be done to get more girls into STEM?

Girls are already interested in STEM fields but it would help to have further support, mentorship and inspiration for groups which are currently under-represented. We also need to normalise seeing women in all levels of all STEM careers so they are visible to young people of all genders, plus parents and teachers. If you are interested in pursuing a career in civil engineering or STEM education, I would advise using online networks to learn from other people in the field. I have met lots of people from LinkedIn and Twitter who I can learn a lot from, including those in other fields. If you approach people in a polite way, they are often willing to provide advice from their experience or direct you to resources. As a mentor, I have really enjoyed working with engineering students and those seeking to find a STEM education role.

What do you like to do outside of work?

Outside of my day job and voluntary work in STEM, I have started a podcast “Yellow Bee Pod” which highlights the experience of East and Southeast Asians in UK, like myself. This is an underrepresented group in media and I am grateful for the opportunity to provide a platform for voices we don’t hear from enough.

Thank you so much to Natalie for speaking to us about her journey and career, we hope these interviews inspire more women and girls to get into STEM!

2SistersInSTEM

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Peak Hike To Plane Crash Site

One of the many perks of going to university in Sheffield is being so incredibly close to the Peak District. I have been to the peaks a few times in my first and second year but not ever for a proper ‘Duke of Edinburgh’ style hike.

So a few weeks ago some friends and I went for a hike in the peaks to see the B-29 Superfortress crash site.

My flatmate and I drove from Sheffield city centre for about 50 minutes and parked in the outskirts of a little village called Hayfield. We walked (or scrambled) up to Mill Hill to meet a couple of friends and then carried on the Pennine Way for a socially distanced hike up to the crash site.

It was a super foggy day so it was hard to see very far in front of us, the Pennine Way was fine to navigate but as soon as we left the path to reach the crash site we were relying heavily on a compass! Once off the nicely paved path we were walking through boggy moorland, I had made the rookie error of forgetting to bring my walking boots with me to uni, so it was trainers for me and they were soaked!

We were walking through the boggy moor for about half an hour but then we came upon the crash site. It was incredible to see, the wreckage covers a much larger area then I first assumed. Over the years parts have been moved and blown about but because of its remote location there is still a huge percentage of the aircraft wreckage still there to be seen.

The aircraft took off from RAF Scampton travelling to American AFB Burtonwood. B-29 Superfortress crashed into the peaks on the 3rd November 1948 whilst descending through cloud. All 13 crew members were killed but the cause of the aircraft crash was never actually discovered.

As I said, on the day of our walk there was an incredible amount of fog and cloud so the conditions would have been relatively similar on the day of the crash, which was a eerie realisation.

I have to say my legs were incredibly sore the day after but it was definitely worth the pain and effort! I feel incredibly lucky to have been able to see this piece of history still in the same place after over 70 years, I would highly recommend going to visit this site if you are ever in the peak district!

Here is a selection of pictures I took whilst at the crash site!

Maisie

2SistersInSTEM

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Pots, Pans and Panic – Heading Back to Uni!

Hi it’s Maisie here! We have had a bit of a break from the blog over the summer but we are now back and ready to go – I have even got a swanky fringe so it’s all new round here!

It is now nearing the time that I will be going back to university, so I thought I would have a little ramble about how I am feeling regarding heading back to uni after my internship year at Boeing Defence UK.

Excited but surrounded by pots, pans and panic I will venture back to Sheffield!

I had such an incredible year at Boeing Defence UK but now it’s onto my final year at the University of Sheffield. I’m heading back to university! I am ever so excited to get back to Sheffield, I adore the city and can’t wait to live there for another year. I do know that university will be different because of the current global situation but I hope that by being sensible and safe I will still enjoy my final year at Sheffield – time for me to get my degree!

How is university going to be different?

University life is going to be different in many ways, no late nights in the library, less societies and no dancing in clubs at 3am – the latter probably being for the best! But most importantly because of the current Covid climate I won’t be in any face to face lectures (most contact will be online apart from labs and some tutorials). This means I will be on my laptop for a large percentage of my day, I will need a good laptop stand and very comfy chair – and my glasses when my eyes are exhausted from reading about aerospace materials for hours!

What is my living situation going to be like?

I lived in a flat by myself in Southsea for a year so going back to Sheffield will be a readjustment in that sense. I will be living with two of my best friends so it definitely won’t be too difficult – we all get on super well, as long as everyone does their washing up! Also, as we have said before, Lily and I have been living together during lock down, in my opinion this has been good on a lot of levels – mostly me having to adjust to living with another human being again! I think Lily was more happy with the fact I love cooking which meant she got some tasty meals (if I do say so myself!).

So what have I learnt from my internship?

I learnt so much throughout my year at BDUK and I met some incredible people. It was not only aerospace industry knowledge I gained throughout my year, I have learnt so much about the world in general and about myself (cheesy I know but it’s true!!). I definitely think I am a lot more independent now after my year of work, not just in my actions but in my thoughts and opinions. University is the first taste of freedom for most people but you are still in that little educational bubble, I think taking a step away from that has really helped me to re-evaluate lots of aspects of my life. So using all this new found knowledge I really do hope to do my best and achieve as much as I can in my final year!

How will I manage my money?

With my year at BDUK I earned an income so I was pretty comfortable with my budget and spending. Now I need to snap back to student life, I will be keeping a strict budget and managing my spending. I have to say that my weakness is second hand book shopping, I just love a book bargain so I had better keep an eye on that! I keep tabs on my money by having a spreadsheet with all my outgoing payments, including rent, utility bills and also food shops – lily has told me about an app she uses called EMMA so I may have to have a look at that before I start my new year and new spreadsheet.

How will I be keeping to a routine?

Time management is a must and from my year of real-world work I had to have a structured work day. At BDUK I actually started work at 7am so it was a massive change from what I was used to, I would wake up at 5:40am to get into work on time. However I am concerned that I will fall back into my irregular sleep pattern that I definitely developed for my first and second year of university. No more 10am wake ups for me, I have got to keep to a proper morning routine and set a time when I will start working every day.

How am I feeling?

Because I have been away from university for a year I am slightly concerned that when I get back to I am going to feel old – I mean I know I’m only 21 but this years freshers were born in 2002?! I can’t quite get my head around that. Also a readjustment for me will be going back into an academic setting, I haven’t learnt in a structured way for over a year so I’m a little nervous about getting back into the swing of things. I am going to have to put a lot of time and effort into all my work and I know it will be different and strange in many ways but I am up for the challenge.

I had better get packing now, I’ll update you on how I’m getting on in the near future!

Maisie

2SistersInSTEM

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5 STEM Related Places To Visit In The UK

As lock down is slowly lifting in the UK more and more attractions and museums are reopening. Me and Maisie really miss visiting new places and learning about new things! With London’s Science Museum reopening this Wednesday we thought this would be the perfect time to share some of our recommendations of science-y attractions we have visited and loved or hope to visit soon! There are so many interesting and varied places to visit relating to science, technology, engineering and maths in the UK and around the world! Read on for some of our favourites!

Bletchley Park

Bletchley Park is now open to visit (but you will need to pre-book a timed entry slot). Maisie and I visited a few years ago now and absolutely loved it! The site is quite large and you get to really explore and immerse yourself in the incredible stories of Britain’s World War Two Codebreakers!

If you have watched the film the ‘Imitation Game’, you may be familiar with the story of Alan Turing’s Bombe: the machine used by the mathematical genius to crack Germany’s Enigma encoder, enabling Britain to tap Nazi communications.

It is so fascinating to see the place where it all happened and to really appreciate the scale of the Bombe machines, you can even see one in action and witness the whirring and the clunking in person!

Find out more here.

The National Museum of Computing

Right next door to Bletchley Park is The National Musuem of Computing which is re-opening on the 8th September 2020. This is somewhere I desperately want to visit

National Space Centre – Leicester

I visited the National Space Centre in Leister when I was at secondary school.

During the day we were able to attend a talk about growing plants and food in space and how conditions in space craft affect the growth of biological organisms.

Rocket tower was an especially memorable part of the centre, it is home to the Blue Streak and Thor Able rockets. You are able to stand underneath a real rocket and it is truly awe inspiring, the tower is 42m in height it can be seen as you enter Leicester.

I really loved my visit and can absolutely say that the trip added to my interest in aerospace engineering and also space in general.

Science and Industry Museum – Manchester

I have heard great things about the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester and really want to visit! It’s exhibits explore recent and historic breakthroughs in science and industry.

Highlights include the industrial history of Manchester, featuring a walkthrough Victorian sewer, a gallery of classic transportation and The Manchester Small-Scale Experimental Machine (SSEM), nicknamed the ‘Baby’ computer, which was the world’s first computer to store and run a program.

The museum is now open WED–SUN 10.00–17.00, all visitors are required to book a free ticket in advance.

Find out more here.

Woolsthorpe Manor – Lincolnshire

Wellcome Collection – London

The Wellcome Collection is a free museum and library for ‘the incurably curious’ and it is reopening on the 7th October 2020.

Visit to explore the connections between science, medicine, life and art through the various galleries and exhibitions. The Medicine Man exhibition is amazing with all sorts of artifacts and items on display collected by Sir Henry Wellcome an enthusiastic traveller and collector. He amassed well over a million books, paintings and objects from around the world during his lifetime, and the most unique and incredible can be found on display!

Whilst it remains closed, you can still enjoy reading their stories and exploring their collections online, wherever you are.

Find out more here.

What are some of your favourite science, technology, engineering and maths related places to visit around the UK and the world? We would love to add them to our travel bucket list for the future!

Lily & Maisie

2 Sisters In STEM

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‘But you don’t look like a physicist!’

Hi, Lily here! For this week’s post I am going to be talking about the reactions I have faced when talking to people about the fact I did a physics degree. My thoughts on the conversations I have had, how the responses have and continue to affect me and ultimately why I think working to tackle stereotypes is so important!

A few years ago whilst I was studying at university a question I was often asked (and often felt uncomfortable answering) was – what do you study? Early on in my degree I would reply almost shyly, bashfully …’umm I study physics’ and it usually shocked people to some extent. But why? This is what I want to explore in today’s blog post!

Over the past few years being on the receiving end of this exchange many times I can pretty much group people’s reactions into the following:

  1. ‘Woahhh you must be really clever … I dropped physics as soon as I could!’
  2. ‘Cool that must be really interesting!’
  3. And third and finally – ‘No way! But you don’t look like you would study physics!’

As I worked through my physics degree I became more and more confident in my ownership of the word physicist. I hadn’t studied physics for 3 years, put ALOT of hard work into it to not feel worthy enough to be a ‘physicist’. And I think in some way this made me analyse the reactions I got to telling people I was ‘a physicist’ even more closely!

So let’s break down these reactions! Firstly number one, something along the lines of ‘that must be soooo hard’, or ‘I never got on with physics at all’. This is probably the most common response I get – which is really sad! People that have had such a rubbish experience with science and physics in particular at a young age that they ‘dropped it as soon as they could’ or ‘always remember it never clicking’ or that ‘they just never got it’.

I think there is something pretty important to think about here! Are people scared off from subjects when they are younger because they are told by friends, family sometimes even teachers that they are ‘really hard’ or maybe that ‘they haven’t quite got what it takes’? Now I am not saying that physics isn’t difficult, but I believe passionately that the majority of people who study physics or perceived ‘hard’ subjects are not naturally good at them! They don’t ‘just get it’ – they work really bloody hard and they slowly improve their knowledge over time. It is not magic! I think it is really dangerous to perpetuate this idea that certain subjects are only for people who show extraordinary intelligence or brilliance – this is not the case, what you need is a passion for the subject, lots of determination and the willingness to put a lot of hard work in!

The second reaction is great – it is always brilliant when at the mention of physics people respond positively! Usually they might have an interested in something science-y themselves or they may have seen or read a physics or science related documentary/film or book. This is why science communication and science in the media is so important! People’s whole perception and view of what I do is usually based around what they see through the media – for instance people often talk about Brian Cox and what they think of his documentaries.

The third and final response I frequently got (and initially really feared) is ‘No way! But you don’t look like a physicist!’. This response is usually preceded by a look of shock/confusion and is by far and away the most difficult to reply to. This response is the reason for years I was shy and often nervous to have this conversation. What am I expected to reply to that? When someone looks at you in disbelief when you tell them what you do/ what you study – it really does make you question yourself! It shouldn’t, but it does – does this person think I’m lying? Do I look incapable? Do I look too young? Is there something wrong with what I’m wearing? Is it because I’m a woman?

I know I do not look like society’s stereotypical physicist or scientist e.g. a caricature of Albert Einstein – mad scientist vibe! But the shock, disbelief and judgement from others can make you feel really self conscious! And this is something I really don’t want other young women in STEM to have to deal with.

This is why female representation in STEM is so, so important! Anyone no matter what they look like can be a physicist or work in STEM! Diverse role models working in STEM are so important and this is where social media really comes into it’s own. You can find such a wide variety of people working in all sorts of STEM careers, and this is only going to keep improving. We need as many people as possible sharing their stories to keep pushing for wider representation. This will hopefully lead to more people realising that physicists and people working in STEM come in all shapes and sizes, from wide ranging backgrounds, career paths and life experiences. That we are not all – a certain age, a certain sex, dress a certain way, talk a certain way – but that we are varied and unique and that this diversity and continuing to work to improve representation is what will push Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths forwards.

Working to tackle stereotypes is extremely important and this is one of the reasons why I started this blog! The more people there are talking about their experiences the more role models there are for young people aspiring to work in STEM. If young people can align themselves to people already working in the field this will hopefully give them the belief that they can do it too!

Let me know if you have had a similar experience ( ‘But you don’t look like a …’ )? And what more do you think we can do to continue to smash stereotypes of what a physicist or someone who works in STEM looks like?

Thanks so much for reading!

Lily

2SistersinSTEM

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3 STEM Podcasts I’m Loving in Lockdown

Hello, Maisie here! Due to lockdown Lily and I have been living together for a while now, it’s been fab but sometimes I just need to be in my own zone. You will often find me with my headphones on listening to some form of media – podcasts, audio books or music.

So here I am again with a few more STEM related podcast recommendations! Grab a cup of tea and have a listen to these educational and funny podcasts. Hope you enjoy!

The Curious Cases of Rutherford & Fry

Hannah Fry, Adam Rutherford solving everyday mysteries with the power of science! I think I have a slight obsession with Dr Fry and Dr Rutherford, I love their humour and chemistry – it’s contagious!

Taking inspiration from Sherlock Holmes, they scientifically investigate queries and questions that are sent in by their listeners.

Episode Recommendation: ‘The Scarlet Mark

‘The scarlet mark’ is an episode from rather a long time ago…2016! The questions this episode revolves around are ‘does red hair skipping generations?’ and ‘is the ginger gene is dying out?’ – in essence this episode was all about gingers! When Adam Rutherford called ginger hair “an astonishing beacon of awesomeness” I myself (possessing the ginger beacon) knew I would love the episode!!

Historian Professor Kate Williams tells us a little of the historical background of redheads – for instance Shakespeare calling it the dissembling colour. Also Judas was never described as ginger in the bible but has been portrayed as being a redhead for many years – hence red hair was a sign of distrust.

Listen to The Curious Cases of Rutherford & Fry here


Encyclopedia Womannica

I love this quick, snappy and easily digestible podcast. Encyclopedia Womannica features short (often 5 – 10 minutes) episodes containing key information about incredible women. The series talks about the women we should have learnt about in school – from warriors to explorers and obviously women in STEM! This being a STEM blog I am obviously going to recommend the ‘STEMinist’ section of the series but there are loads of other interesting and inspirational women featured throughout this podcast!

Episode Recommendation: ‘STEMinists: Emmy Noether

The episode that first caught my eye was about Mathematician Emmy Noether, I have to admit I had not heard of Emmy prior to listening to this podcast.

She was one of only two women sitting in on her university classes at the time. In 1907 she received her PhD in mathematics, after she graduated Emmy worked at the Mathematical Institute of Erlangen for 7 years (unpaid!). She joined the Mathematical Institute in Göttingen and worked on theoretical algebra and general relativity, Emmy proved two theorems that are key in general relativity and particle physics.

Emmy was not allowed to be an official lecturer because she was a woman, however in 1919 Albert Einstein himself stepped in to advocate for Emmy and eventually she was allowed to lecture.

Listen to Encyclopedia Womannica here


Science Vs

Wendy Zukerman hosts the ‘Science Vs’ podcast, this podcast investigates and discusses fads, myths and the big opinions behind them. Throughout the episodes Wendy discusses the topics with experts and tries to separate the fiction from hard science – Wendy is so enthusiastic and her podcast presence is excellent! I love the music that backs up each episode, it makes the half hour episodes fly by and you’ll be wanting to listen to another straight away! The most recent podcasts are relating to COVID-19 so give those a listen if you want to find out more.

Episode Recommendation: ‘Bigfoot

The Bigfoot episode talks about sightings of the human like beast that is Bigfoot – the question is could Bigfoot really be out there? Some people take Bigfoot sightings very seriously, there was even a scientific paper published investigating over 500 Bigfoot reports since 1944! One of the possible explanations they explore in this episode is the extinct Gigantopithecus, a giant ape dated to around 300,000 years ago. Some people believe that there may be one of these large apes roaming forests in America – not so extinct after all. By the end of the episode, after the scientific investigation, you may be able to guess what conclusion was drawn about the big man Bigfoot himself!

Listen to Science Vs here

What are your favourite podcasts at the moment – science related or not? Share your recommendations in the comments – we would love to hear them!

Maisie

2 Sisters In STEM

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Inspirational Interviews – Thant Phway

In today’s ‘Inspirational Interview’ we are talking to Thant Phway – Quality Engineer at Boeing Defence UK.

Thant has worked at Boeing for 4 years and talks about the journey, the highlights and the challenges that have brought her to where she is today!

Please can you introduce yourself and tell us about your current job?
Hi, I’m Thant Phway. I am a Quality Engineer in Boeing Defence UK. One of my responsibilities is to ensure that the processes and procedures within our business comply with International Standards, Aerospace Standards and the Military Aviation Standards. I have been with Boeing for 4 years and prior to that I have worked in various areas of Engineering within the Oil & Gas Industry.

What/Who inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
My dad is an Engineer and it was no doubt that I would be one too. He is always fixing things around the house and I was like his shadow. I used to help him take out tools he needed to fix a certain item and always interested in anything he was doing. He is however an Electrical Engineer and I knew from a very young age that I do not want to play with wires and I’d rather play with heavy tools and therefore, I studied Mechanical Engineering. Choosing Engineering was a very easy and smooth path for me. I have never wanted to do anything else.

How did you get to where you are today?
My parents have a huge influence on my journey to date. Both of them coached me well and gave me the directions I needed to make important decisions. As such, having a good ‘support team’ has helped me progress. I have also benefited tremendously from Leaders at work who mentor me and gives me the advice based on their own experiences. It is very important to have a mentor at every stage of your journey; be it in University or at work. Making mistakes is another most important factor that has contributed in my journey as without the mistakes I made, I would not have the chance to learn from it and to come out of it better on the other side.  

What does your typical day look like?
A typical day of a Quality Engineer consist of writing and reviewing processes / procedures. Another major part of the responsibility of a Quality Engineer is to plan an audit, conduct the audit and write the audit report so improvements can be made based on the findings of the audit. Conducting an audit can vary from 1 hour to several days depending on the scope of the audit. I am also a member of our STEM Strategy Group and Boeing Women Inspiring Leadership. As such, I also organise events related to these groups from time to time. I like to use my lunch time to go for a short run or go to the gym.

What are your career highlights so far?
My career highlight in Boeing certainly has to be when I got chosen to be part of the Enterprise Auditor Leadership Program. This program is a highly competitive program intended for a very small cohort of employees to gain exposure to all parts of businesses in Boeing. The program only choses 1 person per year outside of the USA region and for 2020, I am that person. This requires me to move to Seattle, USA for 18 months and I will be moving with my son and my husband. My future plan is to continue to explore the many businesses in Boeing and aspire to be a VP (Vice President) of Corporate Audit one day.

What do you like to do outside of work?
I love to cook – you can follow me on @thisisthant for some of the dishes I’ve made. Apart from that, I like to run and do gym classes where possible I also enjoy a long bicycle ride around the countryside.

Thank you so much to Thant for sharing her story with us, we really appreciate it!

2SistersInSTEM

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2 Years On From Finishing Uni

I really cannot believe (for one tiny second) that I graduated from university 2 years ago today! It was Friday 13th July 2018, which does have an air of unluckiness to it! But – thank goodness – it turned out to be a brilliantly lucky day for me! I had made it through my Physics degree and it was not an easy ride! This week I want to look back and discuss the uncertainty of what to do after you finish uni, how plans almost definitely change and ultimately how I think I have positively changed and grown as a result!

To anyone out there who is in limbo or uncertain about how the future is going to pan out (particularly if your plans have had to change because of the current global situation we are in) I hope reading about my confused, tumultuous story gives you some hope! That sometimes although things might not go to plan, (and sometimes the plan goes completely out the window) – you will hopefully end up somewhere you love in the end!

So rewind to 2 years ago. It is the beginning of 2018 and I am in the final year of my Physics degree. I am revising for my January exams, halfway through my final year, and it is TOUGH! I have a good few exams coming up over the next couple of weeks and I realise that I really have no time to do anything else even slightly useful apart from revise and take these exams. I know at this point other people in their final year are applying for graduate schemes, doing online tests and video and phone interviews. And I just think to myself HOW? My brain is so busy right now and I really, really don’t want to burn myself out. So I decide then and there – nope! I am not applying for anymore grad schemes or really even thinking about graduate jobs until I finish my final year exams!

I was unsure and uncertain as to what I wanted to pursue after uni anyway. So I decided rather than randomly applying to things out of fear, I would focus all my energy into achieving the best I possibly could in my Physics degree! And try not to think too much about the gaping hole in front of me with no plans and no certainty, otherwise known as – my future! I know that this sounds melodramatic but I have one of those minds that likes to plan things, and know what’s going to happen when! But no, sometimes life doesn’t turn out like that and sometimes it’s maybe for the best.

So my final year exams and hand ins roll around and then an overwhelming sense of relief and calm (even if it is only for a couple of weeks before I get my results!). Results day ended up coinciding with my Mum’s birthday, I was so nervous that I was going to ruin Mum’s day but the anticipation was too much and I just had to find out what I’d got. I ended up achieving a 2:1 (upper second class) degree and was over the moon! At some points this seemed like an absolute impossibility (I will talk more about this more in a future blog post).

So I finally had my degree and now reality set in – what on earth was I going to do with it? For a good few months I had been looking into potentially becoming a trainee patent attorney after my mum suggested it to me as a possible option! After extensive research I decided it really appealed to me as it combined my love of technology (finding out about innovative technologies and inventions) with my love for written and verbal communication and an eye for detail.

I set about working to get a job as a Trainee Patent Attorney and it was hard work! Filling out applications, writing cover letters, completing online tests, doing telephone interviews and ultimately doing lots of face to face interviews too. This experience taught me so so much! I did many face to face interviews and as prior to this I had limited interview experience – what it taught me was invaluable. Things like how to stay calm beforehand and how to come across as confident and considered whilst answering interview questions. The interview process was pretty intense; for a few companies I had multiple face to face interviews and technical exams!

It also taught me alot about rejection and managing expectations! Waiting for responses from employers, after applying and after interviewing is so difficult – and can be a little bit soul destroying if you get too invested in it! After some near misses, getting down to the final few candidates on more than one occasion I decided to widen my options and to consider more direct entry graduate jobs on offer.

Quite quickly I landed an interview for a small start up EdTech company, I interviewed and was offered the role! Science communication is something I have been passionate about for years and had lots of experience with (which I had built up throughout university!). But up to this point had not really considered I would be able to start a career in it! I really enjoyed the job but it was very hard work, with very long hours and no real way to progress within the company so I quite quickly began thinking about what I might want to pursue next.

After lots of research and consideration I decided to pursue my passion for technology! I really wanted to work in the technology sector and develop my technical knowledge and skills. I love learning and wanted to work somewhere at the cutting edge of technology but also in a sector that has a real world impact. When I came across the telecoms sector it really stood out to me as a brilliant option! I would be able to learn about and contribute to a sector that connects people every single day – through phone calls, video calls and messaging. And a sector that means people have access to a wealth of information at their fingertips – it really is incredible how much we now rely on the internet in our day to day lives! And how so few of us know how it actually works – this was so intriguing to me and I was so happy when I secured a place on the Technology Graduate Scheme at BT.

Over the past 2 years since I graduated I have developed so much as a person, and a lot of this is down to the twists and turns my career path has taken in that time! Back in 2018 I had no idea I would be where I am today – learning all about networking and how the internet works! But I love it and would not change one second of the journey that got me here.

I think the key bits of advice that I would give to anyone who’s just finished uni are:

  • Try and be flexible – if you get your mind (or heart) set on something it can narrow your vision and it can seem like you don’t have many options, but you do! You just have to be open and willing to adapt a little along the way.
  • Research, research, research – look into as many career options as you possibly can, try and align them to your passions and your skills. And then get applying!

Lily

2SistersInSTEM

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5 Unexpected Things About Life In Lockdown

Hi, it’s Lily here! Last week marked 100 days of lockdown in the UK – and at this point I really have lost all perception of time! Things have started to change a little, but even though restrictions are slowly easing we are still very far away from a return to any kind of normality. The challenge of trying to adapt to this new normal definitely has it’s ups and it’s downs. But today I really wanted to share the small but important, unexpected positives that lockdown has had on my day to day life!

(1) Reading more and reading consistently – as I have been working from home during lockdown and not commuting, I have been using the extra time to read more! I am so happy that as a result over the past few months reading has become a consistent habit and part of my life. My sister Maisie has been a major influence in helping me do this, encouraging me to prioritise and put time aside for it! I am a pretty quick reader so in the past I have often picked a book up, read it super quickly, finished it, put it down and then just not picked another up for weeks and weeks on end. To try and get out of this habit I have started reading multiple books at the same time, something I never thought my poor brain would be able to cope with, but something I am really enjoying! It also means that I can choose what to read depending on my mood and stops me falling into the trap of just veg-ing on the sofa if I don’t fancy that specific book! I have also inadvertently discovered the world of free audiobooks accessed via my library card. Until a few weeks ago I had no idea I could listen to audiobooks for free through my library – it has been such a game changer! The app I’ve been using is called Libby and all you need to set it up is to select your local library from the list and enter your library card number – it is that easy. I would highly recommend it! Me and Maisie have even got our Dad set up and hooked on audiobooks now!

(2) I finally tackled the ‘clothes pile’ – I really hope it isn’t just me who has a pile of clothes, which a while ago I must have decided I had the sewing skills to magically transform! Well at last I finally plucked up the courage and gave it a go, and it didn’t go terribly – yay! My bodge-job seamstress abilities have done me proud over the last few weeks. I transformed an old dress I didn’t get enough wear out of into a cute t-shirt which I have already worn tonnes. With the leftover material I then made my very first homemade scrunchie and it is addictive! I fear I may have created a monster – now I know how quick and easy it is, all my other clothes are in danger of being sacrificed to make more of them!

(3) Rediscovering my love for drawing – quite early on in lockdown whilst sorting out some books I found an old sketchbook. It had hardly been used – so I decided I wanted to fill it’s pages with lockdown drawings and doodles. Over the past couple of months I have drawn so many random things from supermarket car parks to a pair of spotty socks. And I am really enjoying it as a little escape from words and screens! It really calms me down and relaxes me and is something I definitely want to continue and aim to do more of going forward! I also found a book I had as a kid all about drawing technique which I am hoping to work through to improve my skills and knowledge.

(4) I am drinking more water – (I admit most of it through cups of tea – but it still counts right!). In my family I am notorious for not drinking enough water. I am that person who ‘forgets to drink’ unless I have a drink in my eye line at all times so I physically cannot miss it! It is a tiny thing but I recently got a new water bottle – perfect for a numpty like me as it has timings on the side of it to tell you how much water you should have drunk by certain times of the day. This along with my sister and I sharing a home office and it involving constant cups of tea being made has led to me forming much better habits. This is hopefully something I will stick with going forward!

(5) Getting to spend more time with my sister (and ultimately starting this blog!) – my fifth and final reflection on the last 100 days is that I am so incredibly grateful to have had my sister Maisie to help me through this crazy time. Living together, just the two of us, throughout lockdown has been a real bonding experience – we haven’t spent this much time together since before I went off to Uni (5 years ago now eek!). She has been a shoulder to cry on, a pal to vent with and ultimately she’s supported me wholeheartedly in starting this project – 2SistersInSTEM. She helped me find the courage to kick this off and I am so thankful for that. We are really enjoying writing blog posts, making videos and just trying to do our bit to hopefully inspire more young women into careers in STEM!

Do you have any unexpected positives that have come out of your lockdown experience?

Lily

2SisterInSTEM

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Inspirational Interviews – Vibhusha Raval

Hi! This week it is time for another installment of our ‘Inspirational Interviews’ series!

Today we are sharing Vibhusha Raval’s story, she works for BT as a Graduate Automation Delivery Manager.

She joined BT last September and has already got involved with, learnt and delivered so much!

Read on to find out more about Vibhusha and her journey so far!

Tell us about your current job
I’m Vibhusha Raval, and I’m a Graduate Automation Delivery Manager at BT working in the IT division. I work with teams across BT such as Wholesale, Finance and Networks to identify, design and deliver automation solutions. The role involves liaising with a broad range of stakeholders to understand the processes that are mundane and repetitive. These processes are best suited for automation and can deliver benefits to the business and free up the time for employees to do creative and complex decision-making work that requires emotional intelligence. I enjoy interacting with various stakeholders and learning about different parts of BT to broaden my horizons.

What/Who inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I studied a BSc (hons) in Computer Science and a MSc in Information Systems at Kingston University. I didn’t really have any family or friends who had done Computing, so it was solely my intrigue and enthusiasm to try something different and to see how I’d find it. I am one of those people who start liking what they do. I learnt about many aspects of Computing, such as databases, networks, security, design and programming. I also learnt about the Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC) and really enjoyed managing projects at Uni.

How did you get to where you are today?
I truly believe that if you want to achieve something you will find ways to make it work. Just like when you’re not committed to something then you’ll find excuses to not make it work! I studied up until my A Levels in India and came to UK when I was 18. I worked part time (3 days a week at a minimum and through the holidays) throughout my bachelor’s to fund my degree, which was very difficult but a necessity. I have full support from my family and that was a great plus point. Many challenges were thrown my way which not many 18-year-olds would usually have to deal with, but I kept a positive outlook and dealt with challenges one by one. The journey was anything but easy, but when you aim higher, the obstacles become opportunities. Prior to joining BT, I worked at a restaurant for nearly 5 years, so I didn’t really have any industry experience. What I had was even more valuable, the experience of approaching people with ease and a smile, which definitely helps me in my current role when I face any challenges.

What does your typical day look like?
Every day is unique and brings different opportunities which is what I enjoy the most about my role. I am a Certified Scrum Master (CSM) and have done a course on Agile Project Management. These two courses have been very useful to me as Technology products and service deliveries are swiftly moving towards the Agile framework. In the pre-pandemic world, I would meet the SME (Subject Matter Expert) in person to identify the requirements and update them on the deliveries that I was working on. However it has been a bit different since I started working from home, the face-to-face meetings are replaced by video conference calls and coffee with colleagues has been replaced by virtual catch ups. I try and keep a few minutes gap between long meetings so I can get up and stretch as I like to work for longer hours sitting in one place to concentrate, but that isn’t too good for the body. I have become accustomed to working from home and have tried to make the necessary changes to keep it healthy. My day ends with writing a to-do list for the next day.

What are your career highlights so far?
I achieved a competitive scholarship to pursue my MSc degree based on my excellent academic results and my passion for Technology. I joined BT and I have been recognised for my volunteering work, which is dear to my heart. I got rewarded for delivering great results for my team, which was fantastic because I take pride in quick and successful delivery of services to our customers. I was also invited to BBC Radio Suffolk to speak about my experiences and it was very well received by the audience. These are some of the highlights from the past 10 months, in my current role. I definitely encourage young people to dream big and go beyond limits to achieve your goals!

What do you like to do outside of work?
I love playing badminton, going for long walks, reading books and learning new skills which can help me excel in my life. I am passionate about helping others, so in my free time every weekend, I mentor young people virtually and help them rise above their challenges and choose STEM as a career because it’s truly worth it!

Thank you very much to Vibhusha for taking the time to tell us her story!

2SistersInSTEM

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