In July, I began a new role at Microsoft, which has meant that I have spent most of the summer feeling like the new girl at school.
It can be an unsettling feeling, after a long time knowing exactly what to do in almost every situation, to suddenly feeling that you know very little. Almost nothing makes sense and you’re quite unsure of where you can add value.
It is, however, also incredibly exciting (not to mention quite tiring!) to spend most of every day learning.
Be a learn-it-all not a know-it-all
Microsoft’s embrace a ‘learn-it-all’ culture – as opposed to a ‘know-it-all’ – encourages everyone to regularly take time out of our working week to learn something new, and experiment with innovative ideas.
We know these might fail. But even in failure, we’ll have learnt something. Whilst we have been living this growth mindset culture for some years now, it’s rare that we get the opportunity to be immersed in learning almost all the time.
Whilst most of us in the Western world have been fortunate enough to have access to education, globally, it remains out of reach for 72 million children – 54% of them girls. These girls can only dream of the most basic education, let alone worrying about ‘upskilling for the future’.
But upskilling for the future is essential if we’re to harness the value that technology offers us. Already, we’re beginning to see how technology like digital whiteboards is transforming the classroom experience. I have colleagues working to improve education from the ground up in remote areas. And, in my extended role as Vice-Chair of the Women@Microsoft UK board, I’m proud to be able to help introduce new learning opportunities to women here in the UK, both inside and outside Microsoft.
Introducing Data Science bootcamps
I’m not only passionate about encouraging personal development in others. Here at Microsoft, I’m privileged to be able to continue my own learning journey.
The Internet of Things is one area I’ve focused on, learning about the technical aspects behind this incredible, transformative technology. Not only that, I’ve written my very first machine learning model, taken a neuroscience leadership course, and have completed the second module of my Social Psychology degree.
Not everyone has access to these learning opportunities. I wanted to bring some of them to women across the UK – and that idea led us to our Data Science Bootcamps. Launched on International Women’s Day, these bootcamps were designed to give women a first step into the world of data science. I did this for two reasons: I wanted to bring the learning from the inside out, and also there are simply not enough data scientists in the UK for us to really leverage the data-driven world we now live in.
We held nine bootcamps across eight locations. 660 women applied for positions. With only room for 100, we accepted 120, expecting a drop out, and 96 turned up. Of the 96 people that attended, 52 have completed at least their first certificate in Microsoft’s online data science course. Some have gone on to complete many more, and are well on their way to their first qualification in the subject.
Of course, there’s a lot more to data science than an online course of 10 modules, but this gives learners the basics from which to build.
As Maggie Woodward, who attended the Glasgow bootcamp, hosted by our partner, Incremental Group told us:
‘Although this module, and the rest that make up the Microsoft certification in Data Science, can be studied online, it was far more beneficial to attend this bootcamp to learn and share with like-minded peers, as well as hear the experiences of senior women in the field of data science. The staff and office at Incremental were very welcoming, and although we covered a lot, it didn’t feel rushed. It was great to get the certificate of completion, and a proud addition to my CPD. Best of all, a few months after attending, my employer advertised an opportunity for a Graduate Apprenticeship in Data Science. Armed with my learning from the bootcamp, as well as the industry knowledge from our hosts, I created a strong application that was accepted. I’m looking forward to starting my degree this September.’
Skilling up for the future
Our ultimate goal with these bootcamps is to enable women returning to work, or transferring from other fields, to learn a new skill, and find a new role somewhere in the world of tech.
While these positions exist at Microsoft HQ, working with our partners means those attending the events could look for local work in these fields. Whilst the women who attended these events have been busy continuing their studies at home, we’ve been planning a series of ‘Careers Fairs’ with each of the partners that hosted an event. This gives them an opportunity to re-engage with their host partner, understand more about potential available roles, get CV tips and advice, and generally set themselves up to pursue a career in data science.
Our initial Data Science Bootcamps were very much a pilot scheme. We’ve learnt so much from these events – because, after all, we do see every experience as an opportunity to learn – and we’re now keen to give even more women a boost in the tech world.
If you like the sound of exploring data science and would be interested in attending a future bootcamp, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until the next bootcamp, I’m going back to an online course learning more about IoT Edge and Azure Sphere. I hope you have the opportunity to learn something today, this week or this month. If you don’t know where to start, Microsoft Learn is a great first step!
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About the author
Ella is a business development manager for IoT at Microsoft EMEA, where she also enjoys an additional role as Vice-Chair of the Women @ Microsoft UK board. Working in technology, Ella spent a lot of time in the early part of her career being the only woman in the room. Determined to re-address the balance in any way she can, Ella is passionate about creating inclusive environments, harnessing the power of both genders, and inspiring the next generation into technology. She is a STEM Ambassador and a Modern Muse.