I attended an all girls Grammar School from 11 to 18, and was surrounded by very ambitious and driven women. Most of my friends knew from very early on that they wanted to be Vets, Engineers, Doctors, or Lawyers, and subsequently followed a very prescribed path of GCSEs, A-Levels and then pushed to Oxbridge or the traditional red brick universities.
Being a Grammar School there was a strong incentive to hit targets for the top grades, and stats for students getting accepted into the top performing universities. At careers fairs, the stands were filled with the likes of Google, PwC, Deloitte, and JPMorgan. In that respect the school was supportive of STEM subjects and pushed students into the top degree courses.
However, unlike most of my friends, I had no idea what career I wanted, and the school could have done more to promote a wider range of degrees, as well as apprenticeships and other routes into careers.
I ended up selecting my GCSE options, and eventually my ALevels, based more on my favourite teachers - these included ICT and Computing, Economics, Graphic Design, and Media Studies. Looking back, these subjects were less traditionally academic, but well-suited to several roles in the tech industry. Without much guidance on where this random selection of subjects could take me, I went to University to study International Business and Management. My year in industry placement was as a Product Manager at Airbus, developing a Satellite Communication service offering for a Military/Defence aviation customer.
Surrounded by a lot of current and ex-engineers, many with military backgrounds, and working on very technical offerings, I struggled a lot with imposter syndrome. Even the Early Careers community felt segregated between ‘techys’ and ‘business’, almost feeling that Marketing, Supply Chain, Project/Product Management etc were the ‘soft roles’.
After graduating during the pandemic, my options to go abroad were limited and I began a graduate scheme in Business Development for QinetiQ, continuing in a similar technology-driven industry. The rotation of four placements across 24 months gave exposure to multiple business areas, and I worked on a range of projects heavily linked to technology and future capabilities.
Highlights such as developing the industrialisation plan for an element of a hybrid military vehicle, conducting market research for the specification of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, and roadmapping capabilities linked to Artificial Intelligence, Cyber, and Digital Integration.
Looking back I think I had boxed myself into only having value in Business related areas, and I was convinced I couldn’t participate in technical conversations, or question engineers and technical experts. If I could give my past self any piece of advice, it would be to continue pursuing what you enjoy, and to recognise the value of intellectual diversity. My experience and strengths play into a bigger team, in an international company, across a vast industry. Being able to work with a business mindset, alongside heavily technical functions brings a huge advantage - translating capability for customers, simplifying technical language, and driving real business value from technical offerings.
After completing my graduate scheme I moved to Naimuri, a smaller subsidiary of QinetiQ where it’s heavily encouraged to work outside of a fixed job role. From the first week of joining I was empowered to get involved with multiple teams, across Business Development, Strategic Partnerships, Marketing and Communications, and the wider work within the Data Intelligence Centre of Excellence (DICE).
The best piece of advice I received was to not be pigeon-holed, or get too narrow-focussed on a ten year plan. Opportunities come up unexpectedly and if you’re not flexible and open-minded, better chances could pass you by. I’ve also been very fortunate to work in a company that empowers everyone’s voice and a positive environment to discuss opinions - this has been a really key part in building my confidence to work in a non-technical role, within the tech industry.