Ada Lovelace Day - the second Tuesday of October - aims to raise the profile of women in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) by encouraging people around the world to talk about the women whose work they admire and learn about the achievements of women in STEM.
Ada Lovelace is believed to have been the first computer programmer.
Friends with Charles Babbage - who is seen by many as the father of the computer - Ada was intrigued by Babbage’s ‘Analytical Engine’ and she is credited with developing an algorithm for the machine to calculate a sequence of Bernoulli numbers – a sequence of rational numbers, connected to number theory.
As part of our efforts to inspire others and create new role models, we caught up with some of our team for their perspectives about the importance of women in STEM on Ada Lovelace Day.
Sarah Lappin, is a 17 year old student who undertook a work placement in the Leidos Glasgow office earlier this year.
What attracted you to working in IT?
I became intrigued by how everything works in my first two years of secondary school. When introduced to programming in computing I loved the problem solving aspect and the wide range of possibilities the skills bring - being able to create whatever I wanted. Technology is such a big part of everyday life and will play a huge role in our future, and I want to be part of the innovation and technological advances to come.
How did you find doing work experience with us? What was your biggest take away?
Thoroughly enjoyed my work experience. Learning a new programming language was exciting and I felt I learned as much about programming in one week as I had done during months of lessons.
Of course, I was learning more about how projects are managed, the wide range of software that Leidos creates and about the sheer number cyber threats we face today.
Is there someone you look up to? Who and why?
Ada Lovelace was extremely ahead of her time and saw the potential for computers. Back in the 1840s, she didn't care about stereotypes or what people thought about her - she just wanted to explore her curiosities.
Today, Debbie Sterling is one of the leading voices against the gender gap in STEM subjects. Her work to encourage more women into STEM is extremely important, innovative and I believe is changing STEM for the better.
I am hoping to do an honours degree in Artificial Intelligence and Computing Science at Edinburgh University, and then go on to do a masters degree.
After completing my studies, I have ambitious hopes to start my own technology business. I also want to work towards making programming a compulsory lesson throughout primary school and early secondary as I believe it is essential if we want to advance technology.
And of course, I want to encourage more young girls to be interested in computing.
Sharanya Balaji is a developer with Leidos in Germany. Working for the subsidiary BEONTRA, Sharanya supports and develops tools that enable aviation customers around the globe to plan and optimise their activities
How long have you been with BEONTRA and what is your role?
I’m a database developer and administrator and have been with BEONTRA for one year.
I work on customers’ live systems and I’m able to fix issues that they may have, which could be impacting them and their customers. My work can make a real difference and have an instant impact.
I also enjoy having the opportunity to develop new concepts, as well as identifying and implementing improvements - seeing the end result being released in the new or updated product is incredibly rewarding.
What would you say are the main challenges facing women in the engineering/technology workplace today?
The IT industry is quite a male dominated one. Working as part of such an environment may be challenging for many women. But keeping up with the current technology trends in the Engineering and IT field can be hard for anyone. Given the number of developments that take place and working with such tech savvy people, this can be a challenge.
But I consider it to be a blessing in disguise. We all have to put in effort to keep up with the current developments, new facets of technology and future trends. But, in the end, I know I am rewarding myself by putting this knowledge into use with Leidos for the benefit of both my own development and ultimately for millions of air passengers worldwide.
For anyone to succeed - whether male or female - all it takes is hard work and determination.
Managing a 13 year logistics contract for the UK MOD, Barbara Doornink has faced challenges, but believes the key to success is to develop the confidence to apply your competence.
How long have you been with Leidos and what is your role?
I joined Leidos (when it was Science Applications International Corporation) in September of 2005 as Vice President, Division Manager in the Logistics and Engineering Solutions Business Unit.
I’ve just wrapped up in the UK looking after the Logistics Commodities and Services (Transformation) (LCS(T)) Programme for the UK Ministry of Defence.
What did you do before Leidos?
Prior to joining Leidos, I was the Vice President of Operations for IntelliTrans, a company focused on supply chain support through technology to the rail industry.
And before to that, I had a rewarding career with the US Army. In my last assignment I directed surface deployment of US forces to Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as their surface sustainment support. I drew heavily on my previous experience as Commanding General of the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) Distribution Center including 26 Locations with 11,000 employees and as the Logistics Operations Officer for the US European Command.
What would you say are the main challenges facing women in the engineering/technology workplace today? How have these challenges impacted you personally?
Working in a technology dependent area within a male dominated environment for most of my career could be seen by many as a challenge, but I saw it as an opportunity. Enthusiasm and desire to learn and develop are key attributes for anyone wanting to forge their way in the world - and I had plenty.
I was able to master my field and developed the confidence to apply my technical competence. As I progressed in my career it became clear to me that people won’t follow the lead of someone who is not competent. But competence needs to be accompanied by an air of authority and clarity as you start to climber the leadership ladder.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve faced my challenges, but I’ve always focused on what I need to do and what support I need to get it done. Find a common goal, articulate it and then come up with a plan to achieve it together.
What message would you like to give colleagues – both men and women – about women working in a technology company?
Forget gender. Throughout my career – both military and civilian – I have been presented with opportunities for one of two reasons. Either my superiors believed I was capable of dealing with the challenge ahead or, I had created an opportunity and had a clear plan on what I had to deliver in the long-term and I knew sort of team I would need around me to deliver success.
Every time, teamwork was of paramount importance. Each one of us has a skillset that can be applied to achieve good things. When those different skillsets, backgrounds and attitudes are brought together and combined I believe we can achieve great things!
It’s that diversity that is a real enabler, but for that to flourish a workplace has to offer good work for fair pay in an ethical environment – and Leidos does that.
It’s an organisation that encourages shared responsibility and - irrespective of gender, race or education – Leidos seeks the best people for roles and teams to work together to solve the world's toughest challenges across our different markets.
If you had to name a woman or technology leader that you look up to, who would it be
I’ve worked with lots of great role models – it wouldn’t be fair to name just one. They each taught me something new about how to get the most out of both myself and my teams. Their collective insight has helped me progress my career and my personal development throughout my career – enabling me to understand where I was, where I wanted to go and giving me the confidence to embark on each journey.
The Leidos Editorial Team consists of communications and marketing employees, contributing partner organizations, and dedicated freelance designers, editors, and writers.More Content by Leidos Editorial Team