Back in June, we welcomed Ada and Emily to the team as they joined us for their summer internships. To celebrate National Women’s Equality day, we’ve asked them about life as women in engineering.
“Hi! My name is Emily Youngs and I am originally from Edinburgh, Scotland but I am living in South Korea just now. I graduated from the University of Glasgow last year and have been in South Korea since. My main passion besides work is travelling so working remotely is my dream come true. I am very sporty as I trained competitively as a Scottish gymnast for 12 years, so I love everything to do with sports, travelling and trying new things!”
“Hello! My name is Ada. My favorite animal is the elephant. In my free time I enjoy my non-free time, disassembling things, taking care of plants, going to the sea and preparing surprises. I am happy when people laugh.”
What motivated you to want to work in engineering?
EMILY: I was actually first motivated to work in engineering when I was in High School and one of my teachers told me I should be a Computer Scientist as he saw my capabilities. I remember so vividly his exact words were: “Emily I really believe you could go far in the world of Computer Science as there are no women in the field you could be successful pretty easily”. As I was only 15 years old I was so confused and shocked as to why this was a reason to pursue a career so initially, like a lot of women, I was discouraged. Why would I want to go into a career with no women? Why are there no women in this field? Why is me being a woman going to put me at any disadvantage or advantage? Why is it relevant?
I was so annoyed and confused by the comments that I actually applied to University to study Cognitive Science which is a multidisciplinary course entailing mainly Psychology, Philosophy and Linguistics. After my first semester I realised it was nothing I was passionate about or particularly capable in so I changed course to study a BSc in Computing Science and Business Management. It turned out all my fears of being isolated as a woman were horribly true but I was able to study what I loved doing. Since then I have been so passionate about driving a change for women in Engineering, and more broadly women in STEM. Even in the past 5 years since I have been a Computer Scientist, there has been a vast improvement in the industry in terms of equality for women in STEM and I hope to be at the forefront of this until we can achieve a 50 50 gender balance in the workplace for STEM employees.
ADA: Technology is fascinating in its evolution and potential and this has been a continuous motivation for me to learn and work in engineering. I got my first computer when i was 18, already studying something different. So it all started as a hobby that persisted and evolved through the years until, at the age of 29, while then working in education, i decided to change careers and pursue this fascination of mine.
What about the Snowplow summer internship appealed to you/ made you want to apply?
EMILY: Firstly, considering women in engineering, I have only ever considered working for companies who thrive on equality and diversity. In my research for Snowplow, I could see they had multiple campaigns and even just posts on LinkedIn about various topics in this area so I could tell it was something they were passionate about. I also loved how flexible Snowplow is in terms of working from home and allowing you to have a real say. Even as an intern, I feel so welcomed into the team and I can tell my opinion is really considered and, as I saw in my research before the interview, this was something Snowplow pride themselves on. Overall, I just think that Snowplow is an amazingly diverse, flexible and modern workplace and that is everything I look for when finding a new role.
ADA: The two main factors that made me apply to Snowplow data engineering internship were the chance to join a company I believe in and the opportunity to learn and gain experience in a field I am fascinated by.
Why do you feel it is important that more women work in engineering?
EMILY: I feel like women working in both engineering and wider STEM subjects in general is so important for a plethora of reasons I struggle to even summarise. My main thoughts for this discussion is always why is this even a discussion? Why is someone’s gender so important when considering which career path to choose? I really believe that everything in the world needs diversity in order to thrive to its full capability. To get fully informed decisions and successful results you must have a diverse team, to get a diverse team you need fair representation of backgrounds in terms of ethnicity, race and, of course, gender. So to solve this problem there must be more women in both engineering and wider STEM fields.
“I really believe that everything in the world needs diversity in order to thrive to its full capability” – Emily
ADA: On one hand, it is important that more women work in engineering because more women want it. It may be getting better, but there still seems to be some explicit or implicit cultural discouragement for women to work on fields traditionally dominated by men. On the other hand, engineering seems to constantly redefine what is possible, and could therefore be benefitted by the pluralism in perspective that women, or any other underrepresented group, could contribute.
What does an average day at Snowplow look like for you?
EMILY: During this internship, I have been given personal projects to work on so I am mainly working independently. I love this style of working as I can plan my day to reach my own targets and get on with work at my own pace whilst asking any questions or advice as necessary. We have weekly check-in meetings and larger team meetings which makes me very involved in the whole engineering department so I have a clear idea of what the company is working on as a whole.
ADA: What we as interns do at Snowplow is so interesting that no day feels average. We are constantly learning, improving and applying to great projects. We participate in meetings and have the chance to get feedback for our work. We also have opportunities to meet with people from other teams, which is another learning experience in itself.
What advice would you give girls and young women who might want to work in engineering?
EMILY: My main advice is to never ever doubt your own capabilities. It upsets me looking back on my time in University and seeing how much I was influenced by other people’s opinions of me. The stereotype of women in Science still stands so strongly right now that people subconsciously are biased because you are a woman and that is the sad reality of it. However, I think this is something you MUST use to your advantage. The satisfaction of proving someone wrong, sticking to what you believe in and know you are capable of and achieving the best results for you is the best revenge you can ever get. Honestly anyone who I have met who is sexist to women in the field hate nothing more than when they see you being successful.
ADA: If I could give some advice to girls and young women, it would be this: Don’t wait for permission to do what you love in life. As long as you respect others, just go for it. Indeed, we still have a long way to go as a society, in order to rightfully claim we are fair and equal. There are still people in the world who will never have the chance to follow their dreams. So, we also owe it to them to try our best.
“Don’t wait for permission to do what you love in life.” – Ada
What is the most valuable thing that you have learnt during your internship so far?
EMILY: The answer to this is twofold, I have learnt a lot of engineering practices such as completing my own project in end-to-end automated testing. The second valuable thing I have learnt, and arguably the most applicable to my later career, is how to prioritise my tasks and work effectively to other people’s goals and timelines.
ADA: One of the most valuable things I am still learning during my internship is what thinking like an engineer means, the engineering decisions involved all the way down to details and why those decisions are important. It is invaluable to see how experienced engineers think and work and at the same time understand how the quality of their work is reflected to Snowplow’s customers.
In the two short months you’ve been at Snowplow, what have you learnt about the culture here?
EMILY: To sum Snowplows culture up in three words I would say: modern, diverse and flexible. I think anyone working here would agree that Snowplow has all of its employees best interests at heart and goes out of their way to ensure we are an active employer in all important social movements, including BLM and pride. I think this is amazing as a diverse employer makes an open-minded and welcoming environment for all of its employees.
ADA: What I have learnt so far about Snowplow’s culture is that it totally reflects the company’s values in every way. Honesty, growth, ownership, inclusivity, empowerment, transparency, customer-centric, technical excellence. These are not just words, but are realized practices and this is one of the reasons for me feeling lucky to be here as an intern.
What does life after Snowplow look like for you?
EMILY: I am hoping to continue my career in data and continue to work for companies who provide a positive impact on its customers and the wider population. Eventually, I would love to own my own start up in the Health Technology field but for now I am hoping to continue to build my career in any company which has goals that align with Snowplow and can provide positivity and diversity as I believe this is the best environment for young graduates to grow.
ADA: Being in Snowplow, even for just 2 months now, has definitely influenced the way I think about my life and engineering in general. Snowplow raises the bar. The word “after” cannot express the fact that some experiences stay with us forever, which is what I feel that this internship will be for me. In short, I just wish that I will continue improving and will have the chance to be around great people and work on great projects again.
Emily & Ada, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and for your commitment and hard work during your time with us. It’s been a pleasure getting to know you both and we wish you the best of luck, and know that whatever the future holds for you, you will both achieve wonderful things.