Here on the editorial desk, we spend pretty much our entire day on the internet. We use word processing software to write articles, before pasting the words into the back end of the website, which then appear for you to read right here on the page. But how much thought do any of us give to the work that goes into making a web page or piece of computer software do what it’s meant to do and perform the functions you expect? Erm, not a lot, we sheepishly admit (shame on us!). To us it all seems confusing, impossible to understand and kind of like a type of magic.
Enter Kayla Garland; a young woman making waves in the technology industry, having climbed her way to the role of Technical Project Manager at BAE Systems in just three short years after graduating. She’s busting the myth that coding is a man’s game, not only doing it for a living but keeping abreast of the latest trends in her spare time, while also working to encourage more women into the industry. I may have started the interview believing programming languages were like secret codes that only the initiated could understand but I left feeling that actually, this is a career path anyone can follow and with the right amount of determination (and a little bit of maths knowledge) make a success of...
What was it that attracted you to working in computer programming?
Programming is hard. Despite this, it's really fun and I get great satisfaction from finishing and delivering something really complex to customers. Development is no longer my primary job, but having the programming and technical background has been a great head-start into the Technical Project Manager role that I am now in.
What exactly did you study to get there?
I studied Financial Computing at Brunel University – not strictly a programming degree, but I covered C, C++, VBA and Java. Whilst at university, I had a summer job doing C# coding - this was really useful for my second and third years as it allowed me to apply knowledge to the course material. Having some applied knowledge was essential to me landing my role here at BAE Systems Applied Intelligence. When interviewed, it's good to know more about the Software Development process, rather than just being able to list key terminology and talk programming (although this is obviously useful too!).
What’s the best part of your job as a developer?
The variety. Every day is different. You can be working on the same project for a while, but each day the tasks in hand are different. I love having a challenge – this role constantly keeps me on my toes!
What’s the worst?
When you have a problem that seems too big or hard to finish; a complex task can take a while to get your head around. However, the satisfaction when completing it definitely tops the ‘best’ part of the role.
Do you think you have to be good at maths to grasp programming languages?
It depends on what type of coding you want to get into, but mostly yes, maths definitely gives you an advantage. There can be some complex algorithms to implement and understand - although this is just a good understanding of basic maths, rather than relying on an A Level or a degree in it.
Software development is a typically male-based area of work – how do you find working in a predominantly male environment?
What a common question! Personally, I don't even notice (honestly!). I work in a team of about 20, where currently I am the only female. Sometimes, people can make assumptions about being a female in this industry; first impressions have been made, assuming that I wasn't as skilled as the men. However, from being good at the job and working hard, you soon prove that you are as good (if not better) than a lot of the male staff. I have never let this bother me and I work hard for opportunities.
Do you think this is changing – are more women getting into it?
I'd like to hope so. I have been to a couple of recruitment events to try and engage women in this industry. More women are completing CompSci /Engineering degrees these days, and employers are actively looking to recruit any good staff. I'd like to hope that moving forward, these questions aren't asked any more - there should be little to no diversity!
What’s your opinion on children as young as five being taught to programme computers as part of their schooling?
What a great way to start learning technology. These days kids are using smart phones from such a young age, their brains can handle controllers and logic puzzles. Understanding the concept of how a computer works, and the logic behind the code is the first hurdle with programming. The younger you are, the more likely this can be picked up.
Where do you see your career progressing from here?
Having moved away from programming into Technical Project management, I see my career continuing to move in this direction. I do however play with websites in my free time, coding for fun and reading technical articles, just to keep up with trends.
What advice would you give to someone with an interest in computer programming who wants to make it a career?
Work hard. Don't let problems bother you, embrace the challenge, the rewards are great. Read articles on any new technologies, keep up to date and bring this to your team. Be creative. Enjoy it!
Whether you’re male, female, old or young, there’s no reason why you can’t get into computer programming for fun or in pursuit of a new career. If you’d like to follow in Kayla’s footsteps, start by looking at the range of courses available.