Debbie Carter
Research Training and Engagement Officer

DebCarter2What did you study (at school, college or University)?

I always had an Arts bias at school; science and maths were not my thing! I did A levels in Economics, English and History, then didn’t really have a plan of what I wanted to do so studied History at university. One of the most interesting parts of the course was adding data to a database, so I needed to know a bit of Linux – that was probably one of my early real uses of IT and one of the best parts of the course!

 What do you do in IT Services?

I am the research training and engagement officer for Advanced Research Computing, you might have heard of us as the BEAR team. We support researchers with their computing needs and my role is to spread the word to users about what we can offer. We go to inductions, hold drop-in sessions, and find other ways to spread the word such as Twitter, blogs and email. I also co-ordinate and deliver some of our training provision, including Python, R and Linux for using BlueBEAR, our supercomputer. I regularly wear bear ears to act as an icebreaker (we’re not scary IT people really!) and it also makes BEAR more memorable.

How did you get into technology?

After university I worked in libraries in further and higher education. Although we dealt with lots of books and journals, my interest was always the IT side of information, helping users and how to find things. I completed an MSc during this time and my dissertation was about intranets.

A job came up partly doing library work and partly a community outreach/IT training role, so I moved to that and learned a lot about the logistics of organising training and assessment. Then I moved into e-learning, teaching and supporting users with using virtual learning environments to deliver course content. I did this at UoB for a long time, working with a wide range of people across campus, learning lots about the teaching, learning and assessment process.

Supporting research in IT Services has been a really interesting learning curve, finding out about the needs of researchers and how research data works. There are always new ways to reach out to users and contacts to make, and it feels like supporting them in what they do really makes a difference.

All of these roles have had one thing in common – supporting users, particularly those who are not comfortable with using technology. 

What advice would you give to girls considering a technology related career?

  • Learn to touch type! Ok, this isn’t just for careers in technology, but it really has been one of the most useful things I ever did and I can’t imagine not being able to do it (and it freaks people out when you carry on typing and look at them J)
  • Don’t be put off by not having a STEM background; it isn’t necessary to work in technology.
  • If you enjoy tech enough to make it your hobby, then why not make it into your career and get paid for it!
  • There are lots of different technology roles, some of them don’t exist yet, so be flexible and find the area that suits you the most.
  • Get any experience you can, whether it is involvement in a code club, taking an online course etc. – it all helps.

What advice would you give to women thinking of working in IT Services at UoB?

Don’t think you need to be really technical, a programmer etc. with a background in computer science. There are lots of people doing that type of thing, but there is a whole infrastructure that supports what they do – and that is also valuable! Look at a broader range of roles, including soft skills – some people need hand-holding to use IT!

It is a great team of people actively looking to increase the number of female staff, so you could be part of that!

 

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