Women in Tech: Interview with Tamaryn Thomson

Women in the tech industry account for only 17% of the workforce and just 5% of these positions are leadership roles. The number of women in the engineering industry is even lower, with only 10% of professionals female. It is clear that there is more work to be done to encourage women to consider roles in these industries and to educate on the career opportunities that they hold.

Tamaryn Thomson is a recent Engineering Graduate and we spoke to her to hear about her experiences in the industry so far.

What interested you to a career in technology?

In year 10 my high school participated in a Lego robotics competition where the purpose was to build a battery powered car. The car had to be as slow as possible by assembling gears on the vehicle in a way that produced torque rather than velocity. I had already been studying an Engineering Graphic Design course but this competition really got me interested in building things and having a more hands-on approach to tasks, as opposed to standardized tests.

I also did well in Physics and Maths so once I’d looked into how I could apply my passions to a hands-on environment I found engineering, and in particular Mechatronics engineering to be great inspiration.

What are you most excited about doing in your new role?

I can’t wait to apply my knowledge and get involved with different departments. I have been offered a varied role, where activities will differ each day. I will be working as part of a cross-disciplinary team, applying myself to tasks in mechanical design, software, system hardware and system testing. I love the variety of the role and the opportunity to continue to develop in a well-rounded manner.

In 2018 it was reported that only 17% of tech jobs were held by females, did you notice a gender in-balance during your university studies and/or work placements?

I think it’s hard not to notice a gender in-balance, there are definitely more men in the engineering industry (and in university) but I’ve never felt out of place either. The fact is that women are being accepted in these male dominated industries. I also think that young women today are being given more opportunities and are realising, as I did, how incredible and interesting engineering is.

How important/beneficial do you think it is for people to have a mentor?

I think it depends on the person. I like the idea of a mentor as it’s someone who can impart their past successes and failures to guide you in your role in the first few weeks. Equally, without a mentor, you can learn to adapt and grow quickly (in some ways) as you have to be more independent and to trust yourself to know what you’re doing and be able to justify your work without relying on someone else. I’m quite ambivalent on this topic. I think there are pros and cons to having a mentor and as long as the pros outweigh the cons for the individual and the company, that’s what matters.

What advice would you give to someone who may be put off studying a tech or engineering subject at university due to the lack of senior female role models in the industry?

I’d tell them to pave their own way, as so many women have done before. One woman who has truly inspired me is Dame Anita Roddick; she was a businesswoman, not an engineer. She found a unique way to do what she loved, regardless of what people around her said or how the industry was shaped. I’d say become the role model you want to see inspiring younger women into the industry.

If that advice didn’t work, I’d probably just argue/advise that if this is a topic and industry that you’re really passionate about, people will take notice. You don’t need a role model to tell you who and how to be.

Currently just 5% of leadership positions in tech are held by women, what career aspirations do you have?

I much prefer being in a lab and working with my hands. I’m unaware of many leadership roles which will allow me to continue to do the work I love and am passionate about, without straddling me with meetings and paperwork.  That being said, I hope to inspire others (not just women), without entering a leadership role. My mind could be changed in the future though.

My career aspirations, aren’t to go as high as I can in a business but rather to effect positive change as much as I possibly can. I want to help people, through my work, and make a difference to the environment. I think those are more important than money and prestige.

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