TechSPARK has teamed up with Manchester Digital to deliver you Digital Her, a project from the Institute of Coding. We want to showcase talented women and non-binary people from across the entire tech and digital sector who are doing amazing work in the South West.
The objective is to create a platform of role models for young women and non-binary people to encourage and inform anyone who may have been dissuaded away from tech about the opportunities in our region. Through talking to a range of individuals with various roles and experiences, we want to highlight the various career paths available whilst reaching out to people who didn’t know there was a perfect role in tech for them.
This week, we spoke to Configuration Engineer, Zoe Thexton. To find out more about how her engineering career with Open Bionics started out, check out the full video interview below!
Finding the creative in the technical
Zoe tells us, “I’m on the team that designs the bespoke arms that our users wear.” She adds that pre-pandemic, “Another big part of my job is to travel around the UK and other countries, making relationships with processing clinicians and explaining how our product works.”
One thing that attracted Zoe to pursue engineering was its unique opportunity to combine maths and science with creativity. She explains, “I had this blend of interests during my A-Levels,” crediting her teachers who encouraged Zoe to consider taking engineering into higher education.
Her career today reflects this blend, as she tells us she predominantly uses computer-aided design skills in her job, but communication is also a huge part of her role. She says she values the “balance of technical and personal skills.”
Seizing the opportunity
When speaking about how her career with Open Bionics began, Zoe tells us, “I ended up open bionics because I accidentally walked into the back of a lecture that my now boss, Joel Gibbard, was giving.”
Zoe was so enthralled by “his vision for using technology to create a better world for different communities” that when Joel asked the lecture hall if they had any questions, Zoe says, “I stuck up my hand and asked if I could have an internship.”
The pioneering work Open Bionics is undergoing inspired Zoe to get involved. She was given an internship that summer, and then roughly a year later Zoe was taken on as a full-time employee.
Zoe tells us that despite considering dropping out of university, her degree has given back tenfold. She explains, “I think forcing yourself to go and learn a huge amount of information on all these complicated subjects is ultimately really satisfying, but at the time is very difficult to push yourself.”
And there are few jobs more rewarding than helping children. Zoe says the biggest piece of feedback Open Bionics receives is the positive reaction kids get to their bionic arms in school: “They have this awesome thing that turns something they’re feeling negatively about into a cool, positive experience. I think the most satisfying thing I found about my job is seeing that confidence change in younger users.”
Making a difference
When we asked Zoe what her favourite thing about working in tech was, she told us, “Working in an industry that I feel is making a difference to people’s lives. I think that really gives me the motivation to go into work every day and work really hard.”
She says it’s also great to be apart of an industry that is constantly evolving, even in terms of the groups of people that are finding themselves in the sector. Zoe says, “20 years ago, about 1% of all engineers were women. And now it’s closer to 20%. But you know, it’s still very far from achieving 50 50 – I want to get more involved in projects like these to do what I can to, to help tor continue moving stuff in the right direction.”
For young women and non-binary people making decisions about where to take their career, she says, “If you have an interest in going into tech, I think definitely pursue it.
“I think it’s easy to be put off because it’s a traditionally white male space, and if you don’t see yourself fitting in, then it’s really easy to go with something else. But I’d say just go for it. It requires a lot of work to be successful, but if you’re happy to put that work in, you can get the most rewarding careers out of it.”
For more, watch our interview in full here:
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