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International Women’s Day - “..ripping stereotypes to shreds” - Apurva’s Story

Posted on 5/03/2018 by Greg Clarke

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There’s a story my Mum likes to tell about me when I was four years old.

One of our family friends had come over to visit, and he saw me engrossed in a Tintin comic (the one where they go to the moon). The friend pointed at a drawing of the moon on the front cover and asked ‘Apurva, what’s this? Is it a ball? Is it cheese?” I proudly declared “NO, that’s a crater!” and carried on reading in the stunned silence. I guess it wasn’t a surprise to my parents when, 14 years later, I ended up pursuing a Masters degree in Physics at Imperial College London.

Part of what drew me to Physics initially was the fact that it is so logical and can be very multidisciplinary. I played a lot of chess in my free time and I enjoyed Science, Mathematics and Computing at school; studying Physics seemed like a way to combine the logical thinking skills I’d gained from my hobby and the subjects I most enjoyed learning. However, by the end of my second year at University, I realised that my main interests (and skills) were actually more to do with programming and technology than scientific research. I had done some Summer internships which involved a great deal of programming and some software development, and I never found myself more fulfilled by my work than in those summer months.

The realisation that I wasn’t studying something I was truly passionate about was a terrifying one, and certainly one of the biggest crossroads in my life so far. Should I continue with Physics, or perhaps drop out and switch to a Computer Science degree instead? While I’ll never know for sure what would have happened if I had chosen the latter path, I can say wholeheartedly that I learned a great deal about persistence and motivation in those final two years of study. Realising that I wanted to be a developer was almost the easy part! What was even harder was trying to realign my studies and my journey so that I could get there.

The journey wasn’t always without opposition either. During some work experience, a manager had asked me to produce a technical document for him, but also asked me to make a ‘simpler’ version for another department because “there are a lot of lady-folk there.” I was too timid to say anything to him at the time, but it’s a comment I’ve not forgotten. Even during my studies, I remember seeing a particular leaflet that had been made by an organisation promoting women in STEM fields. Though I’m sure most of it was written with the best of intentions, what is really ingrained in my mind is the bizarre photo on the back page of a woman pretending to eat a circuit board. Perhaps they thought more women might give engineering a chance once they knew it involved taste-testing the electronics...

Though these aren’t the only incidents, they are certainly part of what has given me the motivation to persist with a career in technology, so that I can join the women in the industry already who are ripping stereotypes to shreds.

When the time finally came to apply for jobs, I went through the usual routine of setting up a LinkedIn profile and going through the daily grind of writing and sending applications for development roles. It was in the first month of that job-hunting process when I was contacted by a member of the MThree recruitment team on LinkedIn. She explained the details of the programme to me, including what kind of candidates they were looking for and what to expect from the training and beyond. The training offered by MThree sounded like the perfect way to bring myself up to speed on those topics. The fact that many of MThree’s clients are investment banks meant that it could also be the perfect place to start forging a career for myself in financial technology.

Having cleared the initial tests and interviews, I started the training programme in January and the last six weeks have been both incredibly fun and demanding. The range of topics included Introductory Finance, SQL, Java, and general professional skills. We have been given projects to do each week to test our learning, and were also given access to online resources to help with the process. The other trainees have been wonderful to work and learn with, and our group has a wonderful diversity and energy to it. There has hardly been a dull moment. OK, maybe those few hours learning about Regulatory Compliance, but that’s it...

Alongside the training, MThree has been putting us forward for interviews as roles became available. After a few rounds of interviews, I am grateful to say I’ll have the opportunity to work with Morgan Stanley in Glasgow in a web development role starting next month. I’ve lived in London my whole life, so moving to a new city and starting a new job is going to be a dramatic change, but I’m excited to see where this adventure takes me in a few years!

My biggest piece of advice for women pursuing a career in tech is make the most of the opportunities that come your way. Whether it’s interviews, training or something else, just put yourself forward and don’t be afraid to try something new, even if you have no idea what path it will take you on right now.

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