I was lucky enough to have both my parents working in the technical industry so STEM was always on my radar from a young age. However, I never had any interest in following in my parent’s footsteps until late in my schooling when I did a couple of coding courses and really fell in love with programming. Programming gave me a way of practically solving abstract problems that are often hard to understand when only talked about in theory. I was very keen to keep exploring technology beyond what is typically taught at school, so I started a robotics club at school. Through this club, I was able to practice both technical skills, exploring electronics for the first time, as well as soft sills, teaching others to do some basic coding as well as leading a team during a robotics competition at the University of Cambridge. This combination of team work and problem solving was really appealing to me and I was sold on the idea of pursuing a career in this space.
Talk us through your journey in STEM and what you have achieved?
Following my introduction into STEM, I was determined to pursue a degree in Computer Science to further my knowledge. However, because I had only found this passion late in schooling, I had not been excelling in subjects which are usually required to pursue this degree. Some people thought I would struggle with the mathematics required for a computer science degree and I was encouraged to think about a Business degree as an alternative. However, I knew that this was my passion, so I decided to do a foundation year before starting university to get a better base of maths. Finally, I was able to pursue a Computer Science degree, and despite what other people thought, I excelled, graduating with honours and getting awarded for being the top ranked female in my class.
How does Featurespace support your goals and ambitions?
I really wanted to learn as much as possible during my early career so that I could choose what area of this space I wanted to settle in. Featurespace has been a great place to do that. I have been afforded the opportunity to explore what it is like to work in various teams and with various technologies. On top of this, I have been given a huge amount of learning resources, through Udemy and other training platforms, I feel I have learned so much. Featurespace has also been great at allowing me to explore my interest in leadership and management. Despite my age, I have never been discouraged from taking on leadership tasks within my team.
What advice would you give to women looking to succeed in STEM?
I spent a lot of my early years fighting against people who had little belief that I could make it in STEM because I had peaked somewhat late at school and shown little interest in maths until that point. My advice would be to keep pushing and ignore people who will inevitably question your abilities. Not everyone’s journey into this industry looks the same, and just because you may not feel like you are a maths wizard when you are 14, it does not mean that you will never be able to learn and make a career in technology.
Daniella Swanepoel, Software Engineer