One to Watch

In just over two weeks I’ve visited London twice, and packed a lot into my trips.  Safe to say I am very sleep deprived and, ironically, in need of a holiday so I can sleep.

On Wednesday I came back from an AMAZING trip to London with my school. But that’s not actually what I’m going to tell you about today. Instead we need to go back a bit to my trip to London the week before, for probably the biggest achievement of my life (so far); the 2017 FDM everywoman in Technology Awards.

Over 550 business and technology leaders gathered at the London Hilton on Park Lane on the 9th of Februrary where the winners of the 2017 FDM everywoman in Technology Awards were unveiled. Supported by techUK, this is the UK’s largest awards programme celebrating achievements and championing the advancement of women in technology and STEM careers.

The need for the tech industry to engage with women has never been more critical. 74% of young girls express an interest in STEM subjects at school yet only 18% pursue these subjects in higher education*. The awards play a crucial role in creating and showcasing successful role models. By highlighting their remarkable achievements, the awards aim to inspire others following in their wake to ensure that women, making up 49% of the workforce, influence bridging the digital skills gap and fill a significant number of the estimated 1.4 million technology jobs that will be available in the UK by 2020**.

I was nominated by the lovely people at Apps for Good. So prestigious are the awards that I didn’t even know what I was being nominated for. It was a big secret and I forgot about it for a few months, presuming nothing had come of it. Until an email appeared in my inbox: I had been shortlisted for the ‘One to Watch’ award and invited for an interview with the judges.

Living so very far away from London meant it was near enough impossible for me to travel to London for the interview and keep it secret from everyone.  Sophie Wannop kindly arranged for me to instead Skype with the judges, and I was allowed to tell Mr Aitken so that I could arrange time out of class and use his computer.

Before I knew it, it was interview day. 10.30 was my scheduled interview time, right in the middle of double Physics. The hour before the interview was quite possibly the worst hour of my life. I’ve never been so nervous about anything. I knew this was a big deal and didn’t want to come across as nervous which made it even worse! I spent all my time glancing at the clock, and every time feeling a bit sick with nerves. Worst of all, I knew it was completely irrational. I just had to be myself.

As I expected, my nerves vanished (almost) completely during the interview. I was myself, and felt like I answered every question the best I could. Now I just had to wait and see. I had no idea what to expect. I thought I’d have to wait ages to find out.

Turns out I didn’t have to wait long at all. The next day I received a phone call; I was a finalist!

Although I still had to keep my finalist status confidential until the official press release, I could now finally tell my family.  It was actually quite fun keeping it a secret, and was especially worth it for their reactions when I told them. Everyone was so excited! Well, apart from my brother who instead complained; “you’re going to London…again?!”.   Time flew by and before I knew it I was on a plane to London with my dad.  We spent 5 nights in London and crammed a lot into our little trip.   Impeccable timing meant that my being in London coincided perfectly with a screening of the new Eat.Sleep.STEM.Repeat documentary about Outbox Incubator which I attended in 2015. I hadn’t seen anyone from the Outbox Family in so long! It was great to see everyone and the documentary brought back so many memories.

I also went to the STEMette’s birthday party, visited family and we spent a whole day in the Imperial War Museum (honestly, I thought it was going to be boring but I loved it).

Anyway, the reason we were there was, of course, the awards night.  I knew the event was going to be big, but it was BIG. Having never been to an event like it I really soaked it all up.  The people there were amazing, every finalist’s story was different and it was such a wonderful experience to speak to some of these people and hear about all the things they had achieved.  People were also very impressed by what I had achieved despite being so young.

I guess I have achieved a lot, but I certainly had no idea who was going to win my category. We all had such different backgrounds I just couldn’t call it.  Luckily though my category was first up, but this was also a bad thing: I was sat at the very back of the room and if I did win I had no idea how I was actually going to get to the stage.

It was a very surreal moment when they called out my name as the winner.  I did manage to make it up to the stage, and carry the rather heavy plate, and say a few words, despite physically shaking with sheer shock! I just didn’t expect it. See I’m always busy because I like to challenge myself. Whether I’m helping Apps for Good, or working on Envirocache, I’ve always got something to do.  I know that for me not only would I not even be in this position without the help from mentors and role models and people who inspire me, but I may very well have given up a long time ago.  So to be recognised for my work is great, but to be recognised as a role model for others is even better, and very humbling.

I’d like to thank everyone involved in the event and all the sponsors for hosting such a great night and providing such an important opportunity to showcase the talent of women in technology and help inspire others.  It’s a night I’ll certainly never forget.   Oh and the food was really good as well… 😉