I teach mainly first year Computing students and also conduct research into how humans interact with computing, what decisions they make about their own privacy and how to better inform those decisions.
I did Computing at Higher level at school and was encouraged to study it at university by one of my teachers who opened my eyes to the wide range of careers that are possible in computing – other than the programming aspect - including looking at different types of technology and how they can be used by people to improve their lives. My PhD, at the University of Dundee, examined how adults living with disabilities used technology to assist their day-to-day activities. Once I’d completed that, I came to Abertay as a postdoctoral researcher on a Knowledge Exchange project called Design in Action and after two years, and my first maternity leave, I started my permanent lectureship.
In my current position, I work part-time over three days a week so I can split my time between work and caring for my two young sons. Saying that, I don’t think anyone has the perfect work/life balance! Sometimes there are more work demands that mean I have less time for family and sometimes my children need me more so I spend less time working. I’m really lucky that my job is reasonably flexible, if still demanding, and that my colleagues are there to provide additional support when I need it (and vice-versa). I’ve needed to vary my work patterns since the birth of my second son – when I dropped from a 0.8FTE contract to 0.7FTE (condensed into three days) – and my line managers and Abertay HR have always been supportive to my flexible working requests. Staff with children or other caring responsibilities also get five Carer’s days per year if family demands need to take you out of work unexpectedly.
I don’t think there’s been any one particular person, lots of people have inspired me at different times. Particular teachers at school, tutors at uni and now my colleagues at work have all been great and helped encourage me to go further. Computing was definitely male-dominated when I was at school; by the time I got to Higher level, there were only two females in the class and uni was about the same ratio. Within SDI at Abertay, the staff gender balance is about 50/50, which I think is a testament to those women who do pursue the subject past school level and tend to keep going as they’re interested and able, and not necessarily driven by what the majority of their peer group are doing.
I would’ve told myself not to worry so much about how I would be perceived as a female studying computing. My experience has shown me that we are all individual and that it really doesn’t matter. Also, I would have told myself to invest in Bitcoin back when it was really cheap!