Here at Shona, we love when we get to meet someone who is stepping outside of what the world considers “the norm”. It’s so interesting to have the opportunity to chat with women who are doing cool, unusual, and interesting jobs. So, we were only delighted when our friends at UCD School of Mathematics and Statistics and UCD School of Computer Science introduced us to their new project ‘Role Models in pSTEM: You can be what you can see’.

The ‘Role Models in pSTEM: You can be what you can see’ project was created to highlight contemporary, positive role models for young women in the subjects of physics, mathematics, computer science, and engineering. The project hopes to make more young women aware of the very many career paths and opportunities available to them by pursuing these subjects. Following the UNESCO framework of factors influencing girls’ and women’s participation in STEM, the interviews explore the backgrounds and influences of each of the role models and highlight what they enjoy about what they do. The project was designed by Dr Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin and Dr Catherine Mooney, who work in the fields of mathematics and computer science, and was funded by the HEA and Institute of Physics.

So, we are delighted to introduce you to some incredible role models over the next couple of weeks. First up, we have Kyla Adanza. Kyla is a software development engineer at Amazon Web Services in the Safety Engineering team.

Question 1: Could you tell us what you do and What drew you to your role as a software development engineer in Amazon Web Services?

I’m a software development engineer at Amazon, more specifically in AWS. I’m in the Safety Engineering team. We build automated incident management tools. When there is a problem that is impacting Amazon’s customers, our tooling is responsible for managing the process, gathering a bunch of information and knowledgeable people to restore service to customers as quickly as possible.

I like the thought of creating something that could be reached by thousands of people even if it was a tiny thing like a button on a website. And with AWS being a very popular cloud computing platform, it’s nice to know that what I do even as one person impacts a vast amount of people. Another big inspiration for me was the movie ‘The Internship’. Although it was probably not the most popular movie at its time, I loved the tech lifestyle they sold in the movie and I always thought to myself what a cool place it’d be to work there.


Question 2: Were you drawn into studying STEM subjects in Secondary school?

Yes! For transition year in secondary school, I wanted an insight into as much science as possible, so I chose to study biology, physics and chemistry. That then lead me to study physics and biology for my leaving cert. I also really loved maths although it didn’t necessarily love me back, but I really enjoyed challenging myself to always do better! Growing up I always found myself gravitating towards maths and science rather than arts and languages. I always remember looking forward to getting maths homework since I found it straightforward while I dreaded having to write essays as well as reading and analysing poems.


Question 3: Were there any particular difficulties or challenges you had to overcome in terms of your study or work?

Probably the main problem I’ve gotten related to being a woman in STEM is having guys from my course and even my guy friends telling me that part of the reason I got my job in Amazon is because of my gender and ethnicity. When I came back from my internship, I overheard other people mostly the guys saying I got a position not because I earned it but because companies just want to fill the female quota. It’s disgusting to hear considering I know I worked significantly hard during those 8 months of my internship and I know I’m more than just my gender. After many discussions related to that topic, I realised there’s no convincing someone that’s already made up their mind. While companies may have female quotas, they’re not going to hire someone solely on their gender. They’ll want to see if that person is intelligent and hardworking and if they have the capabilities of raising the bar.


Question 4: What do you wish someone would have told you when you were younger?

When I was younger it was fixed in my head to make sure I get into Trinity or UCD so I really pressured myself to study hard to get those high points. I was incredibly anxious for all of 6th year that I didn’t really enjoy my last year of secondary school. When I got my results, I was disappointed to get my third choice which was Computer Science at Maynooth University. I’m ashamed to say, that before I went to Maynooth, I looked down on it and any other college that wasn’t Trinity or UCD. But looking back now, I’m so glad to have gone to that college. I experienced so many things that ultimately led me to my dream job because of Maynooth. So my advice would be to not stress too much about the leaving cert or what college you go to. Once you graduate you’ll have as much of a chance of applying for a position as those that went to Trinity or UCD. In my experience, companies usually only care whether you’re right for the role.

The second piece of advice is to apply for an internship during college. Companies mainly get their graduates by absorbing them from their internship, so there’s a higher chance of you getting a job offer after an internship. Also, make sure to do as many extracurricular activities related to your course outside of college hours to add to your CV. The majority of recruiters and managers are mainly interested in the experience section of your CV. So, by doing those extracurricular activities it’ll help make your CV stand out compared to others.


So, we don’t know about you, but we definitely would love to hear more about Kyla and her career. Sure you know us at this stage, of course, we have you covered!

Check out the video below, courtesy of Kyla and our friends at UCD College of Science.


More videos and resources are available at: https://www.ucd.ie/mathstat/rolemodelsinpstem/

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