I am delighted to share this awesome interview with you, Sarah Beharry is a Software Engineer who has just taken the plunge of moving from Southampton to Bristol to start her new job with OVO Energy this month. She was first introduced to me by a friend of hers in Southampton who had suggested to get in touch with us to help find a role in Bristol. Of course, I was so excited to help her! I was struck by Sarah’s confidence but also calm nature and positive outlook on life, she gave me some very honest (and useful) opinions on how tech companies can attract a more diverse mix of people and not just focus on attracting more women.
This interview is definitely worth a read if that’s something you are trying to improve within your organisation, thank you so much Sarah for sharing your story with us ????
Sarah, I know there’s been some big changes happening for you recently and a huge congratulations on securing a position with OVO Energy in Bristol. What was it that attracted you to the company + also to Bristol?
Bristol’s always been a city that has been attractive to me: I have friends there, the music scene is incredible, and the tech opportunities are so exciting. When I heard about OVO and started reading about them, I realised it was a place where I would be able to learn so much in a short time, and be given quite a lot of autonomy to make technical choices, which was pretty attractive. (The office is also gorgeous!)
How did you get started in your career as a software engineer?
I did a Masters in Mathematics and decided to continue my studies further wasn’t right for me, so I decided to find work after graduating. I ended up working for a small software house that took STEM grads who didn’t know how to code yet and trained them up. I remember coding up a basic calculator in my training and just falling in love with being able to get my code working… The rest is history! 🙂
There is a lot of stigma around women in tech positions, and a lack of diversity in most tech companies. What do you think companies could do differently to attract a more diverse mix of people?
Some people think of diversity as simply being “more women” or “more folks of ethnic minorities”, but I believe so many more types of ways in which we are different: some of us have kids, some of us are disabled, some of us are night owls or teetotal or just really really shy! Workplaces should make it clear that all of the ways people can be different are expected and accepted. They can do this by demonstrating quietly, but constantly, that people are accommodated for what they need without it being a big deal. Things like flexible working, and varied social groups can help, but there are lots of things (big and small) that can be done. Once you start doing that for all the ways people are different, accommodating for someone being a woman should follow. Hopefully 🙂
As a female in the tech industry, what has been the biggest barrier you have faced and what advice would you give to someone who might be going through the same thing?
The hardest thing has been to deal with the micro-aggressions: every now and then, someone will assume I’m more junior than I am, or need more assistance than I’ve asked for, or just say something off-colour and not very professional.
I’ve dealt with this in multiple ways in the past: generally, I will want to correct the person, especially if it’s someone I will be expecting to be working with for a while. But sometimes, it’s better to make like Elsa and “let it go”!
I know that you love to sing and perform, is that a passion you think you would follow more now that you’re living in Bristol?
Absolutely! I’ve had a bit of a search online and there are more choirs than I could shake a stick at! I hope to join a choir very soon once I’ve settled in.
What is something you think you will bring to the engineering team at OVO Energy?
I am pretty good at trying to translate between those who understand the details of building software and those that understand the details of a customer’s desires – I aim to help teams that I join to stay customer-focused while also being able to explain to our stakeholders about the technical sticky patches that always hold things back from time to time.
Tell me something that would surprise people about you?
I was misdiagnosed with tuberculosis in my early twenties – it was just a nasty case of pneumonia but they had to quarantine me for weeks!
2020 is here – What do you want to achieve in the new year?
Successfully moving and settling into Bristol is the main goal! Secondary goals are to learn more about functional programming, and attempt making puff pastry from scratch.
Do you have a role model?
I have found a great deal of inspiration from Pat Kua (@patkua) and Captain Awkward (@Cawkward): between them, I’ve learned a lot about how to be a good tech lead and how to handle difficult situations with grace.
If there is one thing you would want people to remember you by, what would it be?
I do try to find the positive in almost anything – and I will always find myself volunteering for everything going!
What is your favourite quote?
A general quote: “Nothing worth having is easy to get”.
One more about software: “First make it work. Then make it good. Then make it fast.”
Thank you for being our first interview of 2020!
An interview by Steph Jackson.
A voice for diversity in tech <3