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Ellen Macpherson

Junior Software Developer, BT

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There isn't a single bit of biology stopping us from being able to understand a line of code!

What do you do?

Day-to-day I maintain and contribute to BT's TV and Sport apps which go out to millions of customers a month. I work primarily with JavaScript and CSS.

I'm also starting to move into a more customer-focused/UX space, using big data analytics tools to understand the experience customers have with our apps. About half my day is spent on analytics and the other half is fixing bugs and writing new code.

Why did you choose this field?

I was definitely a late bloomer! And I still don't know that I've really chosen a specialisation since it's so early in my career. I didn't know tech was a viable option for me until mid-2018. My undergrad and Masters were both in politics and history. It wasn't until I needed to use Python for my Masters thesis that I encountered my first line of programming. My supervisor had told me to just hire someone to code for me, but I really wasn't into that idea because money was tight and it was my research! I learned enough to finish my thesis and I was hooked. The feeling of being able to conquer a skill you never thought you'd be capable of is so empowering.

After I finished uni, I was given the opportunity to take part in a bootcamp run by Code First: Girls in conjunction with BT. We learned the fundamentals of web development and Python. BT offered me an interview at the end of the course and the rest is history. I'm enjoying flexing my front-end muscles in my current role, but I'm open to other avenues too.

What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?

Aside from landing a job at the UK's biggest telecom company (a huge one!), I look at the apps I'm developing in my spare time now and it gets me quite emotional.

I spend a lot of my time considering how those of us who are fortunate enough to have well-paid careers can help other people who aren't as lucky. To have the ability to take an idea - no matter how small - that could genuinely help people or make them feel more included, then develop it and see the results is pretty amazing.

Why do you love working in STEM?

I love waking up and knowing I'm going to be giving my brain a workout every day! It's such a fast-paced, exciting industry to work in.

But I also wake up excited to check Twitter and see fresh ideas from an incredibly diverse range of people in tech. We still have such a long way to go for tech to be truly representative, but I have faith we're making the tech industry a more diverse and empathetic place every day. It can be hard to see when you look at the giants, but I've been really inspired by smaller start-ups and grassroots community movements.

Best advice for next generation?

Know your history! Women used to dominate computer science until it began appealing to men. There isn't a single bit of biology stopping us from being able to understand a line of code! We won't all become engineers, but we should consider it just like every other school or career option.

And try to bring empathy to everything you do. Tech can sometimes seem a cold and distant industry to work in, but it definitely doesn't have to be that way.

Inspo quote / fun fact

My favourite app is the Clue period tracker. It revolutionised women's health tracking by seeking to fill a void where the realities of women's reproductive cycles had been ignored by the makers of health apps. It's inspired me to think about the gaps in data we still have to overcome and the users we're just not thinking about.