My Future Is Tech

March 6th 2019
March’s Inspiring Figure – Jennifer Opal

Inspiring Figures is back this year! If you’re new here, this is a monthly blog column where I share with you people who are catalysts in inspiring and motivating me. They are people you should really know about.

Because of travel, I had to miss the February feature so to make it for it, I’ll be sharing two Inspiring Figures posts this month to also celebrate International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month.

You can read January’s Inspiring Figure, Brinda here.

Each feature first took place live on Instagram – thank you to everyone that joined in!

This month features, Jennifer Opal.

I’m not sure who initiated the follow (this is the world we live in now 🙈) but I’m so glad that we found each other! I’ve been following Jennifer’s journey primarily on Instagram and have been immensely inspired by her progress in her technical knowledge but also pursuit for a career in technology.

Jennifer recently graduated from BT’s furtHER programme, a collaboration with Code First: Girls which allows women to learn how to code and gives students the opportunity to interview for a Software Engineering job within the business. She is now a Junior Software Engineer at BT!

It was a pleasure to chat to her for this month’s Inspiring Figures, she is a leading example that you can completely change careers and come into tech without a Computer Science degree. You just need enthusiasm, passion and a work ethic to learn, Jennifer certainly has this!


Getting into Technology

Before tech, Jennifer was actually pursuing a career as a shrink for kids. At the time, she was working with young offenders, she found it an empowering role but also very challenging.

She began to question if she wanted to do continue this and after some thought, she decided to pursue a Business and French degree. In the second year of her degree, she got onto a Code First: Girls 8 week course. This was when Jennifer first discovered coding!

“I wish that I found out about it sooner. I absolutely loved it!”

BT FurtHER Programme – the opportunity for women to kickstart their career in tech

Jennifer first found out about the BT FurtHER Programme on the Code First: Girls newsletter and decided to apply in August. To get into the course, you are required to do an interview round with one of the coordinators from Code First: Girls and BT with various questions around the interest in technology. 2 weeks after the interview, offers were made!

Jennifer shared a story of how when she received the call, she screamed for her mum because she thought she had gone off the call but people were still on the other line. Definitely a reaction they won’t forget 😂

The whole nature of the programme was more project based, with the first month learning web development and then moving to other languages such as Python.

Although they all struggled at some points of the course (which is expected, it’s not an easy journey!), they all made the most out of each other and worked together throughout.

“It was also so interesting that we created a community straight away! Because we were all on the same boat, we were all learning from each other.”

As part of the course, participants also had the opportunity to hear from several people across BT (from Belfast, Ipswich) to share their stories of the business and their day-to-day role in technology. Jennifer shared her appreciation on people that took the time out of their day to speak to the cohort, they helped a lot in understanding what to expect whilst working at one of the biggest companies in the UK. In addition to this, the support from tutors, from Code First: Girls was incredible. ✨

Jennifer’s biggest highlight from the start to the end of the course. By the end of BT FurtHER, she gained enough confidence to deliver a speech in front of so many people at BT Center in addition to her confidence gain in her technical skills and knowledge.

I personally know exactly how much a Code First: Girls can give you. I’m so happy that it has also has had such a positive impact on the FurtHER cohort!

The power of documenting your journey

Jennifer has been documenting her journey as a BT FurtHER student on her Instagram and has plans on continuing to do this in her new role as a Junior Software Engineer.

I have personally really enjoyed following along with her learning and have had moments of inspiration from her as I’m sure others have had just from reading her posts!

Jennifer is keen to blog more on Medium and has also wanted to explore creating a fashion blog where she will of course try and mix the worlds of tech and fashion together. How cool 🙌🏻

Being a Junior Software Engineer

Jennifer officially started her role as a Junior Software Engineering this week, when I spoke to her about what she’s most excited about she said, “I’m a whole mix of emotions right now!”

Going into her first tech job in a totally new city (she had never lived outside of London before) is such a huge jump, but as we discussed, there is so much opportunity for growth. She’s looking forward to all these things but what she’s most excited about is the opportunity for continuous learning on her job and gaining the knowledge and experience as a developer.

Along the way, she’s eager to continue sharing her journey as she believes that the impact it has on others is incredible. For example, her brother is now looking into pursuing careers in cybersecurity because of her influence which is fantastic.

Barriers of tech

“The biggest barrier is in accessibility. Not a lot of people know that they can learn how to code, or get into tech. If I hadn’t gone to university, I wouldn’t have known about coding or Code First: Girls.

Programmes like BT Further is needed. Groups like Code First: Girls is needed. We need to provide a platform that tell people that THEY CAN learn how to code and get into technology. These are the skills, the technology, the resources.”

There is a rise in these programmes for women which is fantastic, but Jennifer highlights that we need programmes for other groups such as people of colour. How can we give them that space as well? Diversifying is an important topic as Jennifer states it brings in new ideas, expertise and more!

“Another aspect is money. Most people live paycheck to paycheck and leaving a job to pursue something they’re not 100% sure about can be difficult. We need to make tech more accessible to all!”


CATCH UP ON OUR CHAT ON YOUTUBE

You can catch-up with our conversation on YouTube below! A huge thank you again as usual to Clark Narvas for putting these together.


You can find Jennifer primarily on Instagram and Twitter! I hope her story and projects interesting, our conversation certainly left me feeling hopeful about the future in technology! Jennifer truly is an Inspiring Figure. 

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