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My tech story: Catriona Barker

“Not wanting to do something because I’m a girl has never been in my head.”

Catriona works as Delivery Manager for Customer Experience at WANdisco now but her route to working in the tech sector started in a completely different area. 

What’s your role and how long have you worked at WANdisco?

“My job title is Delivery Manager for Customer Experience. I joined WANdisco as a technical author and technical documentation is still very much part of my job, I just do a little more project management now. I’ve been here nearly three years.”

Tell me a little more about your path to getting where you are today.

“My degree was in biochemistry. Then I did a PhD looking at inflammation during liver transplant rejection but a very molecular level. After that, I moved here from Newcastle to start a job at Rotherham Hospital. I realised I wanted to get out of the lab environment and was looking at doing medical writing. 

“I saw a Technical Writer job advertised at WANdisco, which appealed to me because it involved the bit I liked about my work – taking a complicated thing and writing about in a way that makes sense to a wider audience. It wasn’t a subject that I had experience in, so it was quite a steep learning curve when I started. 

“When a colleague took maternity leave I did quite a lot of project management cover and then she came back I carried on. Now I do some project management in the Docs and Products Teams as well as writing.”

What do you most enjoy about your job?

 “Every day is different. In some ways that’s really stressful, but in other ways it’s quite good fun. I also work with a really good bunch of people.”

What would you say to other women who are thinking of starting a career in the tech sector but feel a bit intimidated by the image of it being male dominated?

“I always find this question really difficult because I’ve often worked in environments that are male dominated. I was the only girl in my physics class, but that didn’t put me off. There were more boys than there were girls in the lab when I started my PhD. It’s never really bothered me, but equally I spend my weekends digging up my garden or walking up mountains. I hate shopping – so maybe that says more about me! 

“I just think women should go for it really. Not wanting to do something because I’m a girl has never been in my head. My mum was a doctor starting when there weren’t that many female doctors, there are a lot more now but not so many then.”

How do you think the sector can help to bridge the gender disparity – the gap between the numbers of men and women – in the tech economy?

“I think we should do more in schools. I’d never thought about doing computing or anything to do with computing when I was at school. I used computers in science, but I never thought about going into a job about anything to do with software. Just one person did software engineering at uni from my year. I didn’t have a single IT lesson after Year 9, because if you did a separate science, you didn’t do IT. 

“If computers had been seen as interesting when I’d been at school, and not just a thing that you had to sit at to show that you knew how to do a PowerPoint presentation, then it might have been something I’d considered carrying on with. Our IT lessons were about how to use Microsoft Office, they weren’t anything to do with thinking about how programmes are created. 

“I have friends who are primary school teachers who are teaching kids things that I never learnt so I think it is changing.”

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