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”Be yourself and lead by example!” – An interview with Sarah Rudston

I met Sarah a couple of months ago when she first began looking for a role within the Data / Technology Industry. What really stood out to me about her journey was how she made that transition from Marketing to Technology, and her passion for the industry. From taking on a Master’s degree whilst working full time and becoming a regular at our Codebar Meetups and Bristol Technology Volunteers, she has gone above and beyond to immerse herself in the industry and expand her horizons through self-learning. On top of all this, she’s already a huge advocate for promoting diversity across the technical world and is keen to do her part to raise awareness of the issue!

Sarah is now a Data Analyst at Immersive Labs!! This is an inspiring read for anyone looking to make that jump into the tech world from another industry!

One of the main things that struck me about you was that you haven’t come from that traditional route into tech roles, it would be great to learn more about your career journey so far?

I actually started out in Marketing in terms of the jobs that I had after I graduated. My first degree was in Creative Writing, so it’s quite different from the type of roles I’m looking at now. About 2 or 3 years ago I began looking more closely at data, just because I was working in a communications role and the company needed a database. We didn’t have one at the time and there was no one else around to look at it too closely, so I thought why don’t I have a go and put something together and try to create it in Access!

I found the whole process really interesting and fun, and I just thought this is actually what I want to do now as a job. From there I started teaching myself programming, which was specifically to do with data just from using online courses. I then decided to actually apply for a Master’s Degree, because I thought I needed some actual structure for my learning as it’s easy to not commit to things when you’re also working a full time job. I started that about a year and a half ago, and that’s in IT so providing me a broad set of tech skills. I’m really enjoying it!

Then from Communications I moved onto roles that were a little bit more to do with data and I’m just trying to keep moving down that path now with new opportunities.

What an amazing start to a career journey in tech! Where do you see yourself heading in the future?

It’s a little bit up in the air at the moment as I’m currently looking for work with that focus in technology and data. I know the sort of thing I’m looking for is putting together technical solutions, problem solving, and looking at the bigger picture of an issue a business is having and how the tech could help to solve it. That’s the thing I really enjoy doing!

The learning that I’m doing at the moment is all to do with Python, because I know it’s a language that a lot of companies want and it’s also a language that is very versatile. It’s also really heavily focused on data.

I’m also volunteering my technical skills and trying to get involved in as many projects as I can that’s to do with that problem-solving side of things.

Do you think that your previous experiences in Marketing and Communications have helped you in grasping the technical skills?

It’s funny really, because when I started looking at the more technical roles, I thought no employer would be interested in what I had been up to in these roles. I even thought about taking it off my CV! But actually pretty much every time I’ve discussed a job with an employer they’ve been interested in that side of things because it shows I’ve got experience in talking to high up people, stakeholder management, in documentation and all of that I still think is important to anyone future job I have. A lot of technical roles still demand these sorts of skills and they’re becoming increasingly more important.

That’s so interesting, just goes to show that transferable skills are just as important as the technical ones! For somebody else who is in your situation and looking to make that career change into a more technical role- what advice would you give them?

Definitely try to link up with other people who are in the same position or who are currently working in tech. Bristol is such a good place to live for meetup groups and there’s something on pretty much every night of the week. I’ve found attending those really valuable for me and there’s so many supportive people who want to offer advice.

Great advice! In your opinion, why do you think there is a lack of females within the tech industry?

It’s difficult to say as I think it’s down to so many things. I think there is still some misconceptions at play that women are not going to be as good as these sorts of jobs, and I think it will take time to really chip away at that idea.

I think there’s also an element of “you can’t be, what you can’t see”, and if you walk into a work place and it’s all men, how does that make you feel? Is that the sort place that you would want to work in? I think it will take time, but ideas are starting to change!

Outside of everything you’re up to currently, you mentioned that you’re involved in volunteering within our Bristol Technology Volunteers Group. What are you up to there?

Yes, I’m always looking to volunteer for projects as I think it’s important in building my skillset. I’ve been volunteering with Happy City for just over a month now and I’ve been helping them put together some reports and visualisations on their data outputs using PowerBI. This has been really useful for me, because it’s something that I wanted to build up some experience with and I was able to dust off my R skills in order to put some of their reports together.

You also mentioned that you’ve attended a couple of CodeBar events, what sort of things have you had the chance to learn there?

At CodeBar I’ve been looking at a couple of different things. I’ve looked at a bit of Python the first time I went along, and another time I was preparing for an interview and they looked at the job description with me and offered advice on what I could say. It’s really useful to be in a room with people who have that experience and just be able to ask them whatever I need!

What’s your favourite quote?

My favourite quotes is one from someone who’s given me a lot of career-related support over the years, which is “Be yourself and lead by example”. Whenever I’m finding this too much or worries that I’m not going to measure up, I go back to that quote and it helps me relax.

Who’s your squad?

My squad includes my amazing husband, all of my friends, and all of the people who have given me so much support through all of my jobs, studies and career choices (you know who you are!).

Thank you Sarah for sharing your story, keep smashing it!

Interview by: Amy Vitoria

a voice of diversity in tech.



Sarah is also looks after #bristoltech subscription list on Twitter, check it out and get the hashtag trending!


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