Alexandra Wood | Dynamic Planner
A feel good story from Alexandra Wood this week 🥰
We love to hear about someone – especially a woman – who’s had a great journey into the tech industry – surrounded by incredible mentors and learning new skills on the job…enter Alex! It’s so important to share these feel good stories to prove it CAN happen that way!
Women Rock ambassador Izzy chatted with Alex last week about her journey and there’s some sound advice here for anyone looking to get into tech, including the importance of taking a break! In this case – making plum jam! We’ll await for our jar in the post Alex…
HEY ALEX! CAN YOU START WITH GIVING US AN INSIGHT INTO YOUR STORY SO FAR PLEASE?
Sure! I started by doing a Maths degree, well actually, although I had really enjoyed my Maths GCSE and A-Level I didn’t think I would be able to do Maths at university level so I applied to study Adult Nursing originally. It turns out I didn’t really have the right personality or skills for nursing and I wasn’t enjoying it so I quit after about 6 months and applied to do Maths instead, it’s hard to know what you should do when you are 18 but maybe trust your gut instinct and try and ignore the “I can’t do this” thoughts, if you enjoy it then you probably can do it with a bit of commitment and hard work.
Anyway, I studied Mathematics, I had the option with my course to do a placement year – I highly recommend doing this – I wasn’t so keen about the statistics side of Maths so I looked for something a bit different (the careers department at my university helped with this) and applied for a placement position with an engineering company called Renishaw, they placed me in the software department and that’s how it started. After the placement year had finished they offered me a graduate place and I went from there! I had an amazing team who taught me so much, I owe a lot to them. I worked primarily with C# on desktop applications, after 5 years there I decided it was time for a change and worked for a company building websites in C# using ASP.NET and Blazor, I’ve been there over 2 years and its now time to start the next challenge, still doing web but using a slightly different tech stack and for a different type of product.
AWESOME. IT’S SO ENCOURAGING TO HEAR WHAT A GREAT START YOU HAD IN THE INDUSTRY. CAN YOU TELL US WHAT THE WORD “DIVERSITY” MEANS TO YOU PLEASE?
It means different.
Applied to a single person I think it would mean keeping yourself varied having lots of interests… a career is important but make sure you have other hobbies outside of work, a relationship with one person can be nice but make sure you regularly see friends and family too. Too much of one thing can be bad.
Applied to the context of a team I think it means having a group of individuals who have contrasting but complimentary personalities so that they can work together to achieve the best possible outcome.
IF YOU COULD GIVE ONE BIT OF ADVICE TO SOMEONE WHO’S THINKING ABOUT FORGING A CAREER IN TECH – WHAT WOULD IT BE?
You don’t need to be obsessed with coding to have a career doing it, I really enjoy my job but I don’t code in my spare time and I rarely look at my computer outside of work hours unless I’m trying to learn about something.
Also, it’s worth noting that there are a whole range of roles that make up a software team, to name the ones I’m familiar with: Business Analyst, Product Owner, Product Manager, Software Developers, Quality Assurance – there is such a variety of roles that even if you don’t feel that you are naturally a ‘tech’ person there is probably still a place for you, as I mentioned in the previous answer, for me diversity means different and different is good.
GREAT TIPS! AND WHAT DO YOU THINK COULD BE DONE TO PROMOTE THE REPRESENTATION OF FEMALES AND DIVERSE HIRES IN TECH?
It’s difficult. Personally, I’ve never had any problems with being in software because I’m a woman, the men and women (mostly men) that I’ve worked with have always treated me with the same respect as they have others and I’ve not had problems getting hired. I think it probably boils down to what pathways are taken at a younger age and what a person feels they are capable of. I hadn’t thought I would be capable of doing a Maths degree but luckily I eventually went for it anyway and it worked out really well for me in the end. Telling others of the success stories I think helps, SR2’s Women Rock initiative is a great way to do this, it inspires confidence.
THIS IS SO REFRESHING TO HEAR! IS THERE ANY ONE THING YOU WOULD CHANGE ABOUT THIS INDUSTRY?
For me nothing, I’ve had a great experience working in the tech industry. Pretty much everything I’ve needed for my job has been learnt as I’ve gone along and I’ve had fantastic mentors. The people I’ve come across in the tech industry are great – please don’t be afraid!
YOU’VE MENTIONED HAVING AN AMAZING TEAM AT RENSHAW, BUT WHO OR WHAT INSPIRES YOU IN YOUR EVERYDAY LIFE?
Friends and family.
Family – my parents worked really hard to bring me and my sisters up, my whole family is really supportive, I just want to make them proud
Friends – those who are also in software know so many things, they’ve been doing it a bit longer but I want to be able to have the confidence and knowledge they have so I can do my job as well as them
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY DOING IN YOUR FREE TIME?
Lots of things! I’m lucky to have a garden so I do enjoy doing some gardening – I planted a small plum tree last autumn and made plum jam this summer. I decided I wanted to be able to make my own clothes so I am learning how to sew – to date I’ve made 1 top, 2 skirts and 1 dress, I’m in the progress of making a 3rd skirt (this is over a period of about 3 years so its slow progress). I have a dog so I walk most days and I like to go on longer walks with friends and family on the weekend. I also like to read, and to do Pilates and I like to make and eat nice food and sometimes I like just sitting and doing nothing at all.
WOW! WHAT A WHOLESOME LOAD OF HOBBIES! DO YOU HAVE A MANTRA YOU LIVE BY?
Don’t compare yourself to others, only compare yourself to you.
It really doesn’t matter what other people are doing and if you try to constantly compare yourself to others you are probably going to make yourself unhappy, enjoy your achievements.
Expressed much more poetically in Haemin Sunim’s ‘The Thing You Can See Only When You Slow Down’:
“My dear young friend, please don’t feel discouraged just because you are slightly behind.
Life isn’t a hundred-meter race against your friends, but a lifelong marathon against yourself.
Rather than focusing on getting ahead of your friends, first try to discover your unique colour.”
Wonderful words Alex – you rock 🤘