The Digital Everyone project is part of Salford’s aim to become a Digital City, an ambition which forms part of our wider vision for a better, fairer Salford to improve resident’s lives.
Tech She Can - Inspiring women to join our tech revolution
The Tech She Can Charter is a commitment by organisations to work together to increase the number of women working in technology roles in the UK. It aims to do this at a societal level by inspiring and educating young girls and women to get into tech careers, as well as sharing best practice across the organisations involved.
Salford City Council is proud to be the first local authority in the country to sign up as a supporter, so we spoke to Strategic Director Debbie Brown to learn more about what that support entails, and how the Tech She Can Charter aligns with the values of our organisation.
Interview with Ashwini Nanjappa
Ashwini Nanjappa works in Salford Council’s IT department and is a Tech She Can champion. Working with Tech She Can she is helping to inspire more women to work in the tech industry. After reading her inspirational interview from the MEN, we wanted to interview Ashwini ourselves to get a clearer idea of the work she is doing.
What age did you get into tech?
I got my first job offer with an IT company through on-campus interview while in University. So, after finishing university with software engineering degree I set my foot into IT world when I was 22. I had to move to metropolitan city Bangalore in southern part of India. This tech hub city is famously called the ‘IT capital of India’ or ‘Silicon Valley of India’. So that’s where my journey in IT started and happy to say that it is now continuing in ‘Digital City’ Salford.
When did you start studying at school? Were there any extracurricular tech activities available?
I was in school in late 80s and 90s. And since tech wasn’t a thing back then for common people in India, I only used a personal computer when I was in high school in late 90s.
We were introduced to coding in BASIC language. And in university, there was Technical Club for students. This club conducted various activities throughout the year to enhance the skills of students.
How did you come to be an employee at a large public sector organisation?
In my first IT company, I was mostly working on projects for one of the Telecommunication Companies in the UK. And in 2008, I was sent to Bristol to work onsite on one of the new projects. And in late 2009, I had to move to Liverpool when I got married. That’s when I quit the job there.
And only started looking for jobs in Feb 2010 after nearly 6 months gap, when I was first contacted for a tech job at the council. And as you can tell, the interview went well and here I am, 11 years after , very happy with my current role and the progress I am making in my career.
I would like to add that flexi working hours and working from home options has helped me a lot all through the years.
What does your work entail?
I was recruited for my Java programming skills. So, that was my expertise when I joined the council. And I still code in Java for our Enterprise Management System – Documentum(DCTM). And I quickly learnt Documentum specific technical skills with hands-on experience in the council. And since the latest restructure, I have been leading Documentum (Enterprise Management System) and CAMS (Case management System) projects as well along with the development work.
What digital skills do you find yourself using the most?
My work involves analysing, documenting the business requirements, designing and developing software solutions specific to Documentum and CAMS.
So, I develop DCTM solutions using java programming and use software tools specific to DCTM to create business workflows and configurations. And I also use MS office products a lot.
How far do you see your career going? What are your professional aspirations?
- Currently I lead DCTM and CAMS projects , so I am working towards doing management courses to acquire managerial skills for the future.
- And I personally believe in equal rights for women and want a better world for my little girl like any parent would want. And I believe in being the change we want to see. So, with our council backing Tech She Can initiative, I feel I have the potential to bring more to the table and contribute more to the cause. So, given an opportunity, I would be dedicated to make a difference to our Salford community in this area.
Does your daughter want to work in tech?
Last year April, when home-schooling became the norm, Eva and myself shared the dining table for my office work and her school work. And Eva got a peek into my tech world and was really curious about the work world.
And during the same time, one of her lessons was about solar system and I taught her more than the lesson material provided as she showed a lot of interest in it. Since then, she’s read a lot about outer space, built a solar system model, built a robot and been doing kids science experiments and so on. And due to online school work, she knows a lot more about how to use devices, write documents, how to email , etc.
And I think seeing office life and school life together during lockdown got her thinking about what she wants to be when she grows up.
And once the schools opened in Sep 2020, she mentioned about one of her conversations with her friends. They were talking about what they want to be when they grow up and she had said she wants to be a scientist. So, yes she’s been a lot more curious and learnt a lot about science and technology since last year. And even wanted science related toys and books from Santa for Christmas.
And these are some of the books she’s been learning from.
Has she taken part in anything like Tech She Can?
Not through school, but since her favourite subjects are maths and science and she is very keen on doing kids science experiments at home, we have two monthly subscriptions.
- I have recently subscribed to KiwiCo – STEM kits for kids (age based). In this subscription, a kit is delivered each month which contains kid-friendly instructions and materials for hands-on fun to explore science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) topics.
- ‘Math Factor’ online subscription where she learns easy maths tips and strategies through games and fun activities for her age. This has helped her a lot with her school work.
- Last week, I attended ‘Tech She Can’ 3rd Anniversary celebration- a virtual event. It was a very interesting and very inspirational event. So, I decided to sign up my daughter to ‘Tech She Can’ as parents can sign up too for home-schooling. And the lessons and challenges are so interesting and fun. And we did one lesson over the weekend and my daughter loves it. And in her own words – ‘This is so much fun. I want to do more and more challenges’
So, looks like we will be doing a lot more Tech She Can fun challenges over Easter holidays.
What advice do you have for those wishing to find a similar career?
We are all equally capable irrespective of our gender and colour. Our gender should NOT define our dreams.
With more and more companies embracing working from home and flexi working hours, it is getting easier especially for women like us with childcare responsibilities to follow our career dreams and maintain work life balance as well.
We are in a time where we see successful women in all possible careers. But some of the areas has lesser number of women and technology is one of them. And with pandemic, we have come to rely on technology more than ever.
So, it makes sense to have women representation in areas that all of us use in our daily lives in various ways. And to achieve this, technology needs more women like you who are passionate about it. Let’s be part of this female tech revolution and contribute to the diversity of the future technologists.
Let’s make the phrase ‘technology is male dominated area’ a thing of the past.
‘Women can do “IT”’