My Journey as a Woman in STEM

International Women’s Day has been and gone, but it’s important to think about what the day means. It’s a celebration of women who more often than not don’t get enough recognition for doing what they do – but it isn’t solely about celebrating. It’s also about making efforts to break down gender stereotypes and norms – and this is especially true for women in STEM industries.

While more women are working in STEM than ever before, they still only make-up around one quarter of the STEM workforce in the UK. Even as the UK faces a severe STEM skills shortage – with a recent study forecasting more than 600,000 vacancies in STEM by 2023 – many women still struggle to enter and stay in the STEM-related industries. As women in STEM, it’s important that we share our stories so that those looking to follow the same path know that it is entirely possible and there is always a way in.

So, what about me? I’m currently on a graduate training programme as a digital consultant at Sopra Steria – one of the biggest global tech consultancies in the world. I get to learn my job in a very practical, hands on way. More specifically, my job includes working directly with clients while simultaneously getting involved with our technology teams to figure out how best we can help said clients.

As for my route into STEM, I initially studied Politics and Sociology at Cardiff University – not your traditional STEM subjects. During my study however, I took a couple of modules centred around technology and internet governance and from that, I knew exactly what I wanted to pursue. A couple of years and a nerve racking assessment centre later – I chose Sopra Steria. Beginning my career in digital technologies at a standout organisation that is heralded for its innovative solutions and expertise with female and male role models.

If you’re looking to get into STEM but perhaps haven’t previously studied a STEM subject, don’t be disheartened. It’s important to remember that there a number of routes you can follow. Looking to the future, I want to further develop my knowledge of technology and identify which area I want to specialise in and I believe I am at the right place for it.

Of course, I am at the beginning of my journey but at Sopra Steria, I feel wholly comfortable and proud to be a woman in STEM and have a plethora of colleagues who are passionate about what they do to look up to. It is truly an exciting time to be a woman entering the sector. Never before has it been a better time to put myself out there and try to make as much of a difference as I can. But, it is important to remember that while we have come so far as an industry, there is long road ahead to true equality, and we cannot take our foot off the pedal.

By Lauren Boys – Junior Consultant

Solving organisational challenges in partnership

On Monday 14 January, I and seven colleagues spanning all areas of our delivery – from the training room to the web team and the data team – attended a Tech for Good Hackathon with some fifty Sopra Steria graduates and mentors.

We know that if our charity is to continue to grow both in its impact and its reach we need more effective and efficient systems, and to achieve this will require a greater focus both on problem-solving within our current workflow as well as implementation of new digital solutions.

hackathon monatge

Focussing on the student journey, from enrolment, on-course support to completion, we were hugely impressed by the enthusiasm, professionalism and team-work that the Sopra Steria graduates showed, tackling what often appear to us as quite intractable operational challenges.

The opportunity for me and my colleagues to simply take a day out to reflect on current practice was in itself hugely helpful, and one that we don’t otherwise find the space for: but to marry that opportunity with the creative ideas and plans put forward by the Sopra Steria graduates really made it a worthwhile day, giving us the clarity and focus this piece of work deserves.

Over the next few weeks and months we’ll begin implementing some of the ideas from the Hackathon, and can’t wait to see how those ideas develop.


Anthony Harmer – CEO, ELATT

Sopra Steria Welcomes ELATT

On Monday 14 January Sopra Steria Graduates will take part in a Tech for Good hackathon for our London charity partner, ELATT. In a day-long hackathon event, our grads will work in teams with Sopra Steria coaches to create solutions to one of ELATT’s critical business challenges. At the end of the day, the best ideas will be selected by the senior team from ELATT, and the charity plans to implement the solution or solutions that best meet their needs.

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This event is co-sponsored by the Early Careers, Community, and Digital Innovation teams, and is part of our Tech for Good Programme, which is focused on using our digital, technology and business expertise to create positive impacts in the world.  It is also an important part of our hands-on, impact-focused approach to learning and development in our Graduate Programme.

ELATT is an award-winning digital skills training college offering opportunities for learning and qualifications to under-served people, helping them get the skills they need to succeed in the workplace.

Anthony Harmer, CEO of ELATT, said,

‘As an education charity with big ideas but limited resources, this Hackathon provides us with an invaluable opportunity to draw on the insight and expertise in the Sopra Steria team to help us improve our services for our students and turn our ambitions into reality.’

Kaila Yates, Sopra Steria Chief Marketing Officer and board sponsor of our Community Programme said,

‘We know that digital technologies are transforming organisations every day.  We believe that our charitable partners like ELATT will be able to do more with digital, and helping them make a difference for their students and the London communities they serve is an exciting opportunity for us and a great example of our Tech for Good programme.’

For more information please contact Laura Lucas (Early Careers), Jen Rodvold (Community & Tech for Good), or Morgan Korchia (Digital Innovation).

Why Digital Skills should be top of the class in today’s schools

What will the jobs market be like in 5 years’ time (or even in 1 years’ time) – given the rapid changes that are going on right now?

Robotics and Intelligent Automation are becoming mainstream, chatbots and avatars are taking over call centres and new fintech banks such as Monzo and Starling are turning the traditional banking market on its head.  People of all ages will have to start acquiring new skills and approaches to working if they want an interesting, sustainable and well-paid job.

It’s a fact that digital is transforming the jobs market.  People with digital skills and knowledge are in high demand and are commanding high salaries.  Data is the major differentiator – and understanding how to gain insight from the increasingly huge volumes of data that we are all generating is crucial to every business right now.  Universities and many Financial Services organisations have already started investing in digital and data.  There are a plethora of courses and training available – but until recently – digital wasn’t really taught in schools – leaving young people who didn’t choose (or couldn’t afford) to go to university woefully under skilled and unprepared for the new reality of employment in today’s demanding jobs market.

The first Digital School of Excellence

That’s why it’s great to see Newbattle High School in Midlothian launching the first Scottish-based Digital School of Excellence.  As well as teaching digital skills, Newbattle will be one of the first schools to also include Data Science as a core part of its curriculum. The Scottish Government, Edinburgh University’s School of Informatics as well as local businesses like Sopra Steria are investing in this landmark Digital School as they know it’s the only way to get the right ‘talent’ and skills into the jobs market.  The school doesn’t just teach digital and data skills – it also encourages its pupils to be entrepreneurial, to challenge the status quo and to understand the creation process of great products as well as instilling the right skills and techniques to ‘sell’ their ideas to a sceptical and highly demanding audience.

The Unified Schools Programme

In Scotland, the financial services industry is working on its ‘Unified Schools Programme’ under the leadership of Scottish Financial Enterprise (SFE) and led by HSBC’s Colin Halpin. It’s an exciting project with a joint message about why financial services is an exciting, progressive and diverse industry to work in. The programme is focused on promoting the sector as THE digitally focused and customer centric place to be for young people, highlighting the advantages a career in digital can offer.

An SFE pilot project involving Newbattle High School and Queensferry High School kicked off in November 2018 to give young people opportunities to experience financial services through short placements. SFE members and Skills Development Scotland are fully supporting the initiative.  Why?  Big business knows it needs fresh talent and realises it needs to promote the financial services industry as a great place to work, highlighting the multiple opportunities that the sector can deliver if it’s to get the creative and talented people it needs to be future ready. There really is a job for everyone in financial services – and for young people with a positive attitude, creativity, enthusiasm and focus, it can be a fantastic first step into the world of work.

I used to be concerned for today’s young people facing an uncertain future in a demanding jobs market.  Now I can see exciting new career opportunities where the education system, with support from government and industry helps the next generation to think differently, to be brave and to create ideas that will shape our future.  Scotland is setting the pace for change – the question is – when will the rest of the UK catch up and put digital skills top of the agenda?

The UK Consulting team attend Sopra Steria Consulting University 2018

Last week’s annual Consulting University in Paris was a huge success, with over 1500 Consultants from across Europe in attendance to hear from Executives about our vision for the future. Amongst the UK Consulting community were 20 Junior Consultants from our Graduate Programme. We recognise that our graduates are vital to the future success and the culture of Sopra Steria and we invest in providing them with experiences and networking opportunities that contribute to professional development.

Views from our graduates

Megan Archer
Junior Consultant

“It was really exciting to attend the Sopra Steria Group Consulting University in Paris and to share that experience with over 1500 Sopra Steria consultants from across Europe. In the opening speech, Jean-Claude Lamoureux, the Group Consulting Director said that “in Europe, consulting is on NOW”. He’s absolutely right. In the UK we have already recognised this and are accelerating our big leap forwards into the world of consulting.

Since my fellow graduates and I joined the company as part of the new Junior Consulting

programme, we have been asked to bring our energy, youth and fresh ideas to the table to make a real difference to the consulting culture in the UK. Seeing all of the French consultants, hearing their success stories and witnessing examples of their innovations has given us all the confidence to push this to new levels.

Merci beaucoup Paris, for a fabulous time and for making me super excited about the future of Sopra Steria Consulting!

Our Graduate Programme

Are you a graduate with a passion and a desire for early responsibility? a curiosity for how technology can transform how our clients do business? a flair for analytical thinking, problem solving and first-class communication skills?

Read more about our graduate programme

Demi QUINN
Junior Consultant

“I can’t imagine there are many graduates who can say that they were invited to Paris in the first five months of starting their first job…. but I was! It was a pleasure and a privilege to attend the 2018 Consulting University and to meet so many new faces who were so genuinely excited about the future of Consulting at Sopra Steria.

   

Most of the UK consultants commented on how much they enjoyed the opportunity to network in Paris, not only with our European colleagues, but also with the wider Sopra Steria UK Consulting community.  It felt great to be part of such an exciting and diverse UK team – and we will definitely be getting a date in the diary to get together again in the UK!

One of the biggest highlights for me was one of the shorter sessions that we attended. This was a mixture of motivated speakers across the company discussing some innovative projects and exciting capabilities that we are already working on.  I hadn’t realised just how pioneering a company Sopra Steria really is.

I also have to mention the Digital Escape Challenge that we completed, which wasn’t what I expected at all. Teaming AR and an ipad, with the classic scavenger hunt and end-of-world scenario was an awesome way to get 1500 consultants excited before dinner (even if my team lost!!).

   

We had an unforgettable experience that has us ready and eager to smash the end of 2018!

Thank you for having us Paris #UC2018!

Our Graduate Programme

Are you a graduate with a passion and a desire for early responsibility? a curiosity for how technology can transform how our clients do business? a flair for analytical thinking, problem solving and first-class communication skills?

Read more about our graduate programme

Ready Steady Cook

by Software Engineer Graduates, Alistair Steele and Gregg Wighton

Two from our February 2017 Graduates cohort discuss their recent Graduate Project using Chef Technology to solve the problem of setting up a machine (laptop) adhering to company standards. Their aim was to introduce a working example of DevOps and learn more about that sphere. This post talks about the problem they sought to address using Chef, what DevOps is and the experience they have gained from their Graduate Project.

The Problem

During a new starter’s induction day, a considerable amount of time and effort is spent on setting up a Development machine (laptop). Tasks involve downloading software and creating a folder structure which adheres to the guidelines set out by the company. This manual process is time consuming and tedious, plus it allows room for human error. The same issue occurs for a current employee who has to rebuild their machine. A third issue can be seen with employees who have forgotten the company guidelines.

Company time, in particular for new inductions, would be better spent in various other ways. Allowing the new employees to read company policy or familiarise themselves with the office building and appropriate contacts.

A key aspect of this project was to eliminate user interaction and cut down on the potential human error. To achieve this, three technologies were considered, Ansible, Puppet and Chef. We chose Chef as it is serverless, scalable and Windows compatible.

With the technology selected we looked at how best to use Chef and what it’s capabilities were. This required a lot of research – and trial and error. Understanding the problem enabled us to create three main goals: Silent Installs of required software, Folder Structure and Environment Variables, all of which were to be automated.

Our objective was for the user to simply download Chef Client, connect to the repository on InnerSource and then run a single command on the command line. The Automated process will then kick off and deliver the finished product. So what will it achieve?

  • Ensures standardisation throughout the company
  • Saves the company valuable time
  • Speeds up Induction process
  • Silent installs of software, folder structures and environment variables

Using DevOps to tackle the ‘Wall of Confusion’

In the traditional flow of software delivery, the interaction between development and support is often one of friction. Development teams are wired towards implementing change and the latest features. Support teams focus on stability of production environments through carefully constructed control measures. This divide in culture is now commonly referred to as the “wall of confusion”.

DevOps looks to break down this culture by improving the performance of the overall system, so that supporting the application is considered when it is designed. One method of doing this is to start treating your infrastructure as code so that it can be rebuilt and validated just like application code.

One area that would benefit from provisioning infrastructure would be the configuration of development environments. Setting these up can often be tedious as they rely on specific versions of software, installed in an exact order with particular environment variables and other project specific configurations – all of which can cause delays to working on a project and are prone to human error.

Automation, Automation, Automation

Chef is a powerful automation platform that uses custom Ruby DSL to provision infrastructure. A key feature of Chef is that it ensures Idempotency – only the changes that need to be applied are carried out, irrespective of the number of times it is ran. While it is intended to configure servers, the flexibility of the platform means that it can be used to set up local development environments.

Diagram described in the text belowOur diagram shows the architecture and workflow for the project. A developer writes Chef code on their workstation, then uploads their code to a Chef repository hosted on GitLab, and installers kept in an S3 bucket on AWS. This code can be pulled down to a developer’s machine to be configured and run in Chef Zero. This is a feature (usually used in testing code) where both a Chef Server and Chef Client are run at the same time. This approach ensures that development machines can be quickly and reliably configured for a project. This also introduces portability into development environments so that testing and support teams can recreate these environments should they need to.

Ready for the Cloud

Chef is tightly integrated with Amazon Web Services through AWS OpsWorks. This means that the Chef code used to automate physical servers or workstations can be used to configure AWS resources. This ability to standardize both physical and cloud environments means that it is possible to create a smooth workflow for both Development and Support teams.

Our Grad Project take-aways?

From experiencing work in a support team, we can see the benefits of embracing a DevOps culture and workflow. The ability to standardize environments means that Development teams are free to implement new technologies that can then be easily transferred and controlled by support teams. Having completed Phase I of ‘Ready Steady Cook’, we aim to embark on Phase II- developing an automated setup for a specific aspect in the support team.

We have both gained valuable experience in working through a project’s complete lifecycle, from inception to development to testing and production. Throughout the project we utilised Agile methodologies such as working towards fortnightly sprints and daily stand-up meetings. This project has also widened the scope of our graduate training in that we have gained certifications in Chef and are working towards certifications in other DevOps technologies.

Sopra Steria is currently recruiting for the Spring 2018 Consulting and Management Graduate Programme. If you, or someone you know, is interested in a career with us, take a look here.

Inspiring digital skills in the next generation

I recently had the opportunity to go with colleagues on behalf of Sopra Steria to Victoria College in Belfast alongside Digital Shared Service (DSS) to present to fifty teenage girls on Working in IT.  It was a great opportunity for us to give something back to the local community and support Digital NI in promoting STEM subjects and digital technology careers to students.

Sopra Steria has an active role in each of our local communities where we partake in outreach programmes.

We aim to open the student’s eyes to the wonders of IT, the world of digital and its impact on individuals working and personal life.

It was a strange, but nice feeling being back in the classroom, especially being the one talking at the front! I had the challenge of beginning the session, introducing my company and myself to the students and explaining my own journey from a history degree to working in IT as a Graduate Business Analyst. I explained how not all jobs in IT are code based, the unique job roles included within IT and the different skills needed.

We next wanted to highlight the importance of IT within everyday life and introduced “Game Changer” a programme which has the ambition of raising physical fitness and promoting healthy lifestyles in children and that Sopra Steria is working on with Halton CCG and Widnes Vikings Rugby. Through the programme we have developed TRAKKA – a fitness band and associated measurement and monitoring application – and Sopra Steria’s programme lead Louise O’Leary captivated the students, challenging them to think about how simple changes in lifestyle can create big changes in wellbeing. Although the TRAKKA wristband was designed for younger kids they were interested to see how the ecosystem developed from TRAKKA:

Inspire, Inform, Improve

diagram 'trakka' ecosystem - circle of text: Nutrition, Data/Web/Apps, Information, Behaviour & Wellbeing, Academic Improvement, Activity, Content, Ideas - back to Nutrition

Data is at the heart of TRAKKA, highlighting performance and areas for improvement and following on from Louise’s presentation, another of my colleagues Dermot Boyle moved the conversation on to another important topic, data analytics, bringing it to life with real life and familiar examples. This is another emerging IT area where we will see increasing focus over the coming years and where apprentices and graduates will be able to make their mark as they start their careers. Designed to get them involved, we concluded with a quick hands-on session, asking them to answer questions from information in our TRAKKA, Power BI dashboard.

In our work with other schools and colleges across the UK, we’ve been involved in a number of projects providing Raspberry Pi kits helping to building IT and entrepreneurial skills. At the end of our visit we donated a Raspberry Pi to Victoria College to support them in working with the students to develop coding knowledge in a fun and interactive way.

Louise, Dermot and I all really loved being involved in this visit; it was fun and energetic and we really hope the students felt the same. It appears our time was well spent as the school has asked whether some of the children could take up work placements – so we may even see a few of the faces again in and around the Belfast office! It’s a big choice choosing your future career and it would be nice to think that we provided someone with that spark of inspiration to enter the world of IT.

If this is something that you feel interested in or want to know more about, please feel free to get in touch – we would be more than happy to help! You can leave a reply below, or contact me via email.

image of students at Victoria College
Our student audience at Victoria College

Look at how our sustainability programme encourages students to build skills and careers in IT.

Understand more about our vibrant team and work in Northern Ireland.

We offer great training, development and career progression prospects – find out more about our Early Careers opportunities.