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IWD 2020: Tara – Technical Lead at FutureLearn

For International Women’s Day 2020, we’re highlighting the experiences of women at FutureLearn who've proved that gender needn't be a barrier to achieving your goals.

Tara Ojo, Technical Lead

Tara is one of the technical leaders at FutureLearn and works with the scalable platform team to improve our infrastructure and the efficiency of our product teams.

Read on to discover Tara’s journey – her experience of studying a Multimedia Computing degree and continuing on to start a STEM career. 

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

To me, it’s a celebration of all the diverse and powerful women around the world. It’s about empowering other women and showing them that even though we may struggle now, there’s proof things are changing.

How did you get to this stage in your career?

My dad was a great role model for me because he was a technician and I was used to seeing him build computers at home. When I was deciding what to study, computer science felt like a natural choice for me. 

During my studies, I did an internship and a placement where I got to take on real-life projects like building websites and I even got to build an app. It was definitely during this time that I started to feel confident that I wanted to do this as a career because I was enjoying my work.

After university I worked at a large retail and food brand through a graduate scheme and I got to work on front-end development. This was my first real experience working fully as a team. 

Once my graduate scheme was over I ended up as a software engineer at FutureLearn and progressed into a leadership role.

What has been your experience studying and working in a male-dominated industry?

Before I decided to study computing, I had no idea it was a male-dominated industry. It was really when I started working in my placement during university that I realised, but I don’t think it would’ve changed my decision – I chose to study computing because it was something I wanted to do. 

In classes maybe only 5% of us were women and in meetings at work sometimes I’d be the only one. It was a little bit daunting at first, but I got used to it and I didn’t feel like I was treated any different to anyone else. I noticed once I started working for a larger company, there was a bit more diversity which made it easier for me to settle in.

When I started to notice there weren’t as many people like me doing these roles, I really wanted to encourage others who might not have even considered it. I started taking part in talks at schools and volunteering at code clubs which has really developed my public speaking skills and confidence and hopefully convinced someone else to do it too!

What’s your advice for people who want to start a tech career or studies?

  • There are going to be frustrating and boring parts to your studies and your work but push through because you’ll find the areas you’re passionate about and your struggles can help you in interviews.
  • Be yourself, even if that’s different to the people around you. 
  • Try and reach out to people in similar positions on Linkedin and Twitter and discuss your experience
  • Give advice and encourage others to do the same as you so they can be part of the change too. 

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