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Inspiring young women

To mark International Women's Day, a group of women from Ocado Technology took a trip to a local school in St Albans. They spoke with female students about their careers and about possibilities for the future…

Steph Hicks, Business Management GraduateJun 06, 2023Culture Stories7 min read

Ocado Technology attended the annual Inspiring Women event at St Albans Girls School. The annual event brings professional women from around 30 local businesses to the school, to connect with and inspire the students in a two hour ‘speed networking’ session. 

The idea is that the students get to hear about and discuss a wide range of opportunities and career options they may not have considered before - to inspire them to aim high.  Speaking after the event, Science Teacher, Declan Bowyer, explained there was a particular focus on introducing students to women who work in STEM-related roles (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths). “We're always looking to try to offer the students more activities for enriching STEM,” he told us. “Providing  an insight into the kind of fields that they can go into… as viable career options. Part of this is introducing students to some inspirational women who work in STEM… part of today's event.”

The Ocado Technology team members at the event were Amy (UX Designer), Dawn, (Principal Product Manager), Laura (Engineering Team Leader), and Madhavi (Principle Project Manager). Their goal was to show that engineering and technology careers are available to all, regardless of gender. 

Each visitor sat at a table in the main hall while small groups of students moved around, sitting at a new table every ten minutes. Madhavi: “Most of the students were either completing or approaching their GCSEs and we talked about what we do in our work and our lives. We were also able to ask them about what they do, and their own ambitions.”

Growing Up

UX Designer Amy, enjoyed listening to the students reflecting on how they viewed their parents as role models. “Today we met a lot of young, inspiring women. It was nice to sit down and talk to them about their interests, their hobbies, and where they might want to go in the future.”

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Laura, Engineering Team Leader, reflected on how she felt when she was younger - “I lacked confidence,” she said. “Letting [the students] listen to stories from all these different roles, they can hear that actually, not everyone is super confident, and you shouldn't be comparing yourself to everyone around you.”

Anything is possible

The event helped to develop a deeper understanding of technology and engineering for the students. Most attendees agreed that one of the most inspiring aspects of the day was when students heard from women in traditionally male roles. Student Sophie said, “It was good to see that women are doing engineering jobs; mostly we see men doing those jobs. It's nice to know that women can do them too.”

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Headteacher Ellen explained, “Events like today show students there's a huge number of opportunities, a huge number of careers out there. It's not just that you have to go for something that is thought of as being the norm of what's expected of a girl.”

Women at Ocado Technology work across many different projects, products, and teams.

Laura is the engineering team lead for Code for life: “It’s a not-for-profit initiative from Ocado Technology,” she explains. “It was started by volunteers back in 2014 in response to computing being introduced into the curriculum. We have two computer games with a host of resources, supporting teachers who might not have a background in computing and it's all free to use!”.

Madhavi, a principal project manager within the fulfilment team, leads a team of project managers delivering the automation in our smart warehouses and other areas. She says of the most satisfying aspects of her role is the team, and the people: “I love talking to people, interacting with them, and bringing them together to collaborate, to network, and to get things done.”

Principal product manager Dawn, works on a range of Ocado Smart Platform innovations, such as intelligent in store fulfilment and micro distribution centres: ”I get the high level view of how everything is pulled together and what the future looks like.”

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As a UX Designer, Amy can be responsible for anything from look and feel to accessibility of user interfaces. “I like working with lots of different people. I enjoy how many smart people I’m around all the time, and the challenges - which there are lots of! There’s a big community at Ocado Technology… Everyone's nice, and inspiring to be around.”

Diversity is key

Headteacher Ellen further highlighted the benefits of the event. “Today the students saw a diverse group of people, and whether they had a chance to directly talk to that person or not, they could all see themselves represented in the room. We had students and guests from a variety of backgrounds. If I'm sitting there as a student of Bangladeshi heritage or of Nigerian heritage, or as I am, of Irish heritage, you could see people that were like you in the room and could see these are inspiring women, and you can be like them in the future.”

Madhavi noted that the most important thing for her during the day was the two way interaction she had with the students. “They asked questions, but I was also able to ask them questions. I could tell them about my career path, my education, and a bit about my history being an Asian female in a male dominated workforce.”

Laura highlighted why diversity is so important at work: “There's so many different ideas coming into the product, which makes it stronger. At the end of the day, you need diversity. I love innovating with the team, we all work together really well, really closely.”

The future

The event was worthwhile for everyone involved - the networking set-up allowed the students to speak to a number of visitors and gain insight into the different roles and careers that are available. The students were open to seeing other avenues they could explore in their careers and the visitors left feeling inspired by the talent that will soon be coming into the workplace.

A key theme that shone through the day was the importance of diversity. The students saw a broad range of professionals from many different cultural and ethnic backgrounds, and learned how that can have a positive impact on business. Diversity is something we embrace here at Ocado Technology. We have a number of different Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) formed and run by our employees.

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