Cynthia Benin on encouraging careers in technology

1st July 2020 / BY / IN Our Team

From a young age, I’ve always had a keen interest in the way things work. I would often take my toys apart and try to put them back together. I loved jigsaws, puzzles- any kind of good problem. I think this natural fascination with how things worked has just followed me throughout my life. It wasn’t always to do with technology though.

After finishing school, I still wasn’t entirely sure where my passions lay. I knew that I loved to solve problems, but I also really wanted to help people in some way. I pursued A-levels in Maths, French and Physics, and after successfully completing these I started a degree in Medical Engineering. This was a perfect combination of the things that drive me in life – an amazing mix of critical thinking and technology, whilst also helping others. I wanted to be able to design prosthetics.

During my time at University, I came to the realisation that whilst I did enjoy most of the course structure and content, I was more drawn to the programming modules. I ended up getting really into it, spending much longer working and tinkering with my code than needed. It was then I truly started to consider a career in technology and quickly made the decision to switch degrees and study Computer Science at Keele University.

My case is not rare. You often find people switching to tech careers shortly after finding out all it has to offer. This realisation sets in much later for most since, up until recent years, there hasn’t been enough exposure to the opportunities available in technology at school, and the options are not advertised as well as other ‘clear-cut’ career paths. This lack of awareness heavily contributes to the huge disparity in the number of men compared to women in technology, and the tech-gender gap. This is the main focal point for organisations such as Women in Technology and the Stemettes – to start early and help girls explore these tech career choices, by holding workshops and events. Acknowledging this problem is the starting point in ensuring more girls and women are able to consider tech as their future career.

To do my part in raising awareness, in my final year I undertook the Undergraduate Ambassador Scheme, an education module aimed at students who may consider teaching in the near future. The students have weekly school visits throughout the year and help teachers deliver content. In this module, I ran a short project which aimed to bring awareness to year 8 girls who would go on to choose their GCSE option subjects, and help them think about Computer Science as an endless set of possibilities. They were encouraged to enter in the 2020 Matrix Challenge, a cybersecurity competition aimed at their age group. Discussing specific subsections of tech such as cybersecurity, app development, user interface design, etc., helped them to think about a future in technology in realer terms, and discover and break down the various roadmaps they would need to follow.

I want to do more to help people find their place in tech, and work towards closing the tech-gender gap.

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