ADAmant that we will attract more women into STEM!

Vice principal Jackie Galbraith shares her thoughts on the importance of recognising and celebrating women in STEM in the past, present and future.

It’s Ada Lovelace Day 2016, and Ayrshire College is ADAmant that we will attract more girls and women into science, engineering, technology and maths (STEM).

This is a key priority for us and we are working with schools, employers and national organisations to raise awareness of opportunities for women in STEM sectors, encourage take-up of STEM courses by girls and women, help students succeed on their courses, and connect female STEM students on different courses across the college, with students in other colleges and universities, and with women in industry.

Many people argue that there has never been a better time to be a woman in STEM. There are tens of thousands of high value, high quality jobs in sectors like digital and engineering. Employers don’t just need women to fill these jobs – they WANT them, because of the skills they bring! And, increasingly there are more diverse and equally valued routes to becoming a STEM professional – through college, apprenticeships and/or university.

But, we have a problem.

The UK has the lowest percentage of female engineering professionals in Europe. The proportion of young women taking STEM subjects at school, college and university is stubbornly low. And, incredibly, there is a smaller proportion of women studying and working in computing and digital technology now than when I was a computing student 30 years ago!

And yet, throughout history, women have played an important role in STEM . However, you need to seek them out! It’s important to recognise women from the past and present to stake our claim in this exciting world. Days like Ada Lovelace Day are about celebrating the pioneering, but often unknown or forgotten, work of women in fields like computing.

Women like Ada Lovelace, the mother of programming born 200 years ago who wrote the first ever computer programme 100 years before computers were even invented! Unlike her mentor Charles Babbage, whose analytical engine was the forerunner of the physical computer, Ada had the vision to imagine that a computer could create images and music, and not just do complicated sums.

Women like Scottish mathematician Mary Somerville (soon to be recognised on a £10 bank note), born in 1780 who, despite living in an age when women were discouraged from studying science, is credited with an instrumental role in the discovery of Neptune. Mary was the young Ada Lovelace ‘s mathematics tutor and mentor.

Florence Nightingale’s infographic

Women like Florence Nightingale, well known for her dedication to injured soldiers during the Crimean War, but less famous for her mathematical ability. Florence’s analysis of large amounts of data, presented graphically ,demonstrated that significantly more men were dying from preventable diseases in hospital than from wounds inflicted in battle. This led to the government allocating funds to improve the cleanliness of hospitals. Hundreds of years before the terms ‘big data’, ‘data scientist’ and ‘data visualisation’ became the latest big things, Florence was a big deal!

It is not just rich, privileged women who have made an impact over the centuries. Jeannie Riley, one of many Glasgow female munitions workers during the First World War, dreamed of becoming an engineer. Sadly, when Jeanie’s husband and other men returned from the trenches in France, the aspirations of women like Jeanie were denied and they had to give up their jobs in industry.

Like Jeannie, American Mary Sherman Morgan dropped out of education during World War II to take a job at a munitions factory. After the war ended, she began working at North American Aviation as an aspiring rocket scientist. In the 1940s, an elite team of mathematicians and scientists started working on a project that would carry the US into space. Eventually becoming NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, what made it unusual was that many of those who charted the course to space exploration were women!

In January 2017, a new film tells the story of African-American mathematician Katherine Johnson and her two colleagues, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, whose calculations helped John Glenn became the first American astronaut to make a complete orbit of the Earth. Known as computers, these women played a critical role in space exploration.

It is important to recognise and celebrate the contributions of women scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians in the past. This is becoming easier with films like Hidden Figures and books like Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women who Propelled us, from Missiles to the Moon to Mars.

It is even more important to acknowledge and promote women in STEM today. Today’s women in STEM include our own students and staff (click on the links to find out more). They include the STEM ambassadors in schools across Ayrshire, as well as women in STEM industry sectors making an impact on companies in the region.


Tomorrow’s women in STEM are the girls in today’s nursery, primary and secondary schools – some of whom are connecting to engineering, science, construction and technology through activities like Primary Engineer, the Bloodhound Challenge, and Ayrshire College’s Girls in STEM and CoderDojo workshops.

We remain ADAmant that we will challenge gender stereotyping in career and learning choices, and that we will encourage more girls and women to embark on exciting STEM courses.

If you’re just as ADAmant, please get in touch.


Spotlight on women in computing – Claire Beattie

Claire Beattie 2Claire Beattie works as a service desk analyst for brightsolid, an award winning company which provides data centre and cloud services. In this article, Claire shares her passion for computing and hopes it will inspire other young women into the digital sector.

In school I really enjoyed Computing and Technology Studies, however, as no girls took these classes I didn’t take them and I ended up taking Office Information Studies and learned to touch type. We did a test in high school with a series of questions that would determine the right job for you, to help us pick what we would like to do for work experience. I was given fishmonger as my top job! I hate fish and could think of nothing worse! I ended up doing office work.

I was in my 20’s when I decided to finally study what actually interested me. I wasn’t happy working in administration – I found it boring. I was given an old computer which I took to a local repair shop and they advised me that it would need a better CPU (Central Processing Unit) and more RAM (memory). These terms meant nothing to me, but I was curious. I learned how to install these in my own computer and couldn’t believe how easy it was! I felt a great sense of achievement. This was a huge deal to me and I knew then that this was what interested me.

I started at college doing NC Digital Media, which was a fantastic introduction to just about everything you could think of. I did a bit of programming with Visual Basic, basic web design, Microsoft Office applications, Microsoft Desktop/Server support and computer networking. I thoroughly enjoyed this course and it showed me that my strengths were with computer networking, and not with hardware and programming like I hoped. I then completed HND Computer Networking and my CCNA, which is the foundation Cisco certificate.

At brightsolid, I’m a Service Desk Analyst and here is what I actually do in my job.

I’m the first point of contact for all of our customers, and internal support for our colleagues. Some days I could be dealing with run of the mill issues like helping with customer changes, then the next day we could have a serious issue regarding a customer’s service which means we are all hands on deck to resolve the problem as quickly as possible.

The coolest part of my job is being able to work on and learn daily about different things. I find technology interesting and being able to learn something new every day is probably what is best for me. But what about you? Could a career in the digital sector be for you too?

Just look at the technological advances the world has made in the last 30 years? We have the internet for a start! Without that you wouldn’t have your social media and be able to share your endless selfies, hashtags, pictures of your food and share cat videos! Now we are using our phones to take pictures, videos, text, facetime, email, use social media, banking and shopping – the list goes on. Then there’s gaming. Everyone’s a gamer these days, from Candy Crush on a mobile/tablet, to people who use Steam or a games console.

All of these cool things that we take for granted every day have people behind the scenes making it possible.

You need networking engineers around the world to create and administer the complex networks that create the internet, this is what allows us to connect with one another.

We need server engineers to make sure that our servers are up and running smoothly, our data is safe and for simple things like maintaining our gaming servers. Server and networking engineers that maintain our gaming servers, and the connections to them, limit the amount of times we are screaming about ‘lag’ and ‘glitches’ when playing Call of Duty and I, for one, am extremely grateful.

We need programmers to write all of the programs for the websites/social media applications/games that we use daily, and then there are games designers. The people who design all of the game content for things such as GTA V, or the likes of Until Dawn. Games are becoming more and more lifelike, through the amazing art that is possible with the use of computers and the fantastic software created to make it possible.

I was just speaking to someone today about the oculus rift. Virtulisation is becoming possible now. Virtual gaming? I mean wow! How cool would that be? Let’s remember how excited people got about the Nintendo Wii, as you could use the remote and fitness board to physically take part. Now we can immerse ourselves fully into our games. This would have taken people who understand hardware, software, programming and game design to make a single device. Albeit a really cool device of which I’m sure every home will have, much like a home computer.

How cool would it be to be a part of something like the creation of the oculus rift? The latest computer game? Or to be behind the scenes, like me, helping everything tick over so that we can take advantage of what we now see as normal?

The digital sector is just going to grow and grow. IT jobs are paid well and the more you learn, the more you can do and the more your salary will increase. Working in IT can give you a level of flexibility, although the internet never sleeps – everyone wants to be connected at all times of the day, which means there needs to be people out there on hand to support them. If you were to work in an office, administering its internal IT, then you might be a bit flexible during office hours. However, if you work for a Data Centre like me, we need staff to be readily available all day every day.

According to economists, there is lack of young people interested in computing, meaning that that we don’t have enough people going into the growing IT sector. The government believes that part of this to be due to the lack of girls interested, as working in the IT industry is seen as predominantly a man’s job.

I would say to any girls reading this article – if technology or computing interests you, go for it! Don’t be put off due to the lack of girls taking a course you like the sound of, and don’t give into peer pressure to go for the supposed ‘norm’ of being a beautician, hairdresser, nurse – or like me, an office administrator! I’m in no way having a go at people who have/are taking these courses or that work in these fields. My point is that you need to do something that interests you.

People think that computing is for geeks. Well, given that being a geek is now becoming cool/trendy, there is no better time to jump on board! Do you think that Bill Gates cared about being a geek when he created the Windows operating system and is one of the richest men in the world? Do you think that Steve Jobs cared about being a geek when every teen in the world seemed have an iPhone? And do you think that Mark Zuckerberg cares that he is a geek given how widely used Facebook is and how wealthy he is? Without them, home computing wouldn’t be as it is today, and we wouldn’t have the social media network or the convenience of using it on the move.

I hope to be working as a networking engineer in 5 years time, although I’m not sure in which capacity yet as there are different avenues I can take. I’m thinking of going down the route of internet security, but I guess I’ll just have to wait and see what becomes available to me and what interests me the most!


Meet Lauren Brock, HNC Computer Games Development student

Lauren Brock (2)Lauren Brock studied physics at university after leaving school, but changed direction with her career, opting to study computer games development at Ayrshire College. We asked Lauren about her journey into the gaming industry.

What did you do before going to college?

At secondary school, my interests were always geared towards animation. I started studying physics at university, but quickly realised it wasn’t what I wanted to do.

I was more interested in finding out what happens ‘behind the scenes’ of games, the art of CGI and graphics.

I took a few years off to start a family, but always knew I’d go back to pursuing a computer games career, so 5 years later I started the HNC Computer Games Development at Ayrshire College.

What attracted you to a career in computing?

I see gaming as a blend of technical knowledge, problem solving and creativity – which really appeals to me. I think there’s a notion that working in gaming is all about the design side of things, but there’s so much more to it.

You’d be amazed how many different jobs go into producing a computer game. The wide range of jobs available really appeals to me.  RAISING ASPIRATIONS | INSPIRING ACHIEVEMENT | INCREASING OPPORTUNITIES

Meet Shireen Robb, HND Technical Support student

Shireen RobbAfter starting at the College on the uniformed services course, Shireen Robb had wanted to become a police officer but health reasons prevented her from pursuing this. We asked Shireen why she chose to get into computing instead.

What attracted you to a career in computing?

It seemed the next natural option for me. I’ve always liked working with computers and liked finding out about new technology, so I decided to start with the NC Digital Media course, which led to me getting into the technical support side of the industry.

What has been the highlight of the course for you so far?

I’ve just got back from an educational trip to Disneyland Paris, which was fantastic. I was able to relate subjects I have learned during my time at college, and see how they are used in the real working environment – all in the Disneyland setting!

It was an opportunity to look at the way computing is used in the theme park industry. This was not something that would have crossed my mind before, but the amount of computing involved was amazing – everything from data security, motion, lighting, safety and special effects.

It was also really good to mix with students from other computing courses at the college too. As well as a great trip, I’ve made new friends.

What would you say to encourage young girls to think about a career in computing?

One of the things I’ve found with a career in computing is that there are so many doors to open and explore. There’s so many different aspects to the industry and so much involved, that the options are vast. I like to have a choice and there’s definitely that!

What’s coming up next for you?

I’ve got an interview soon with Dell in Glasgow as a Technical Support Associate. Long term, I’d really like to progress and get more industry accreditations.


Technicians make IT happen

In April 2016, an exhibition Technicians Make It Happen in London aimed to dispel outdated notions of what it means to be a technician, highlight the diversity of technician roles in a range of industries and show how important technicians are to the success of organisations and the wider economy.

Ayrshire College ICT technicians, Helen Blakely and Dawn Rowe, make IT happen for our students and staff. They spoke to us about where their career in computing has taken them so far and what they do on a daily basis.


What do you actually do?

Helen – my job changes every day, there are always new things to learn, new problems to fix. It can be anything from as simple as changing passwords around the college, to working out complicated software installations.

Dawn – I think our job is unique, in that we help absolutely everyone in the college from students, to staff, to guest speakers who are only in the college for a day. It’s really nice as you get to know everyone as you’re involved with every department.

How has your career taken shape?

Helen – I’ve always had an interest in building, creating, and figuring out how things work. And, if they don’t work, finding out why and fixing the problem. I studied computing at the old Kilmarnock College initially, then went on to work for ICI. Sixteen years ago I got a job at the College as an ICT Technician and have never looked back.

Dawn – I worked as a stock controller at a time when computing was taking over a lot of the manual jobs. I was really interested in technology, so thought it was a good time to retrain. I studied at Ayrshire College, started with NC Computing. Once I finished HND Computing, I went on to the third year of a computing degree at UWS. I became an ICT Technician at Ayrshire College 2 years ago and I love it!

What advice would you give to other women and young girls interested in a career in computing?

Helen – I was the first and only female ICT Technician at the College for a long time. I have to say that I’ve never really felt that this is an issue as we have a great team. My advice would be, don’t let the boys put you off!

What challenges have you faced in your job and how have you overcome them?

Helen – There are always challenges in our job, which is what makes it so interesting. Technology changes so fast, you have to keep yourself up to date with the latest software and systems and that can be challenging when you’re so busy.

What’s great about our job, is that people are always happy to see you as they know you’re there to help with any technical difficulties. It’s good to solve issues with them.

Dawn – There are challenges. It’s important to have good communication skills as well as the technical skills in our job as you’re speaking to different people every day. That’s a great part about the job, and another reason why no two days are the same, as you get to meet everyone!

What are the highlights of your job?

Helen – There’s a lot of highlights about this job, but we’re particulatly looking forward to working on the new Kilmarnock Campus. It’s a new challenge!

We’ll be helping to set up all the new ICT equipment, working with the latest technology, making sure it all runs smoothly for the students artiving in September – so it’s something to look forward to. I am very excited about that.



23 years and still learning!

gillian dochertyGillian Docherty is Chief Executive of The Data Lab. She has over 23 years’ experience working in the IT sector and is responsible for delivering the strategic vision of The Data Lab , the aim of which is to create over 250 new jobs and to generate more than £100 million to Scotland’s economy.The Data Lab is one of eight innovation centres funded by the Scottish Funding Council and it supports the development of new data science capabilities in Scotland.

Working in the technology industry for almost 23 years, every day I learn something new.  The pace of change has increased significantly and technology is changing everyone’s lives.  The way we interact with our bodies, our friends and family, our doctors, our peers and colleagues is changed by technology advances and, with the internet of things, connected fridges and washing machines are on the way.   In fact, it is predicted that there will be 20.8 billion connected ‘things’ by 2020.

I will share some of my journey to my current role as Chief Executive of The Data Lab and some of the fantastic opportunities I have had along the way and those I think are still to come.

When I was at school there were no computing courses until I was in my 6th year, but I really enjoyed sciences, maths and problem solving so it was a natural progression to take a module in computing when it became available.  I was excited about the new opportunities computing enabled but wasn’t as visionary as Steve Jobs unfortunately.  I followed that course by taking Computing at university and secured a graduate role at IBM. If I’m really honest, I wasn’t fully aware how important that decision was and how a whole world of opportunity would open up.

I started with IBM in Portsmouth, which seemed such a long way from Glasgow at the time, but I enjoyed joining with a graduate cohort where there was as many women as men. We had a lot of fun, the jobs were varied and we had lots of opportunity to move around and experience new departments. My role was as a technical specialist supporting systems from IBM and their clients, and the teams I worked in were some of the best in the world at what they did. So I had a great grounding in systems which ran FTSE 100 businesses.

I then took the opportunity to spend 3 months in IBM’s Almaden lab in San Jose when Silicon Valley was full of semi-conductor and manufacturing capabilities. Coming home an expert in a particular IBM product, I was asked to work directly with customers in IBM’s sales teams. I found getting to know different clients every day, understanding their problems and challenges really excited me and kept me motivated to keep learning and deliver value to the clients.  

Working in London and Edinburgh I supported many clients, coached and mentored many new colleagues and every day was enthused by the possibilities of technology and I was amazed as it changed the world a little bit every day.  For the last few years before joining The Data Lab I ran various parts of IBM’s business in Scotland including the hardware and software businesses – growing those businesses and building the right teams to support our clients.

In 2015 I had the possibility to make a big change, so after 22 years with IBM I resigned to join The Data Lab as chief executive. The Data Lab is an innovation centre helping Scottish businesses leverage the opportunity of data science and analytics with the intent of driving economic growth and high value jobs. 

The opportunity to make a fundamental change to the Scottish landscape and work with some many diverse industry partners both in size and focus was too good to turn down. Each and every day I speak with new start-ups, to growing scale-out companies to large global corporates and evangelise about the possibilities leveraging data in new ways can open up.

You may be wondering what I mean by data science and analytics so a few examples may help.

Netflix is a data driven business, and a recent example of their data analysis drove what House of Cards trailer you may have seen. They created 10 trailers and you will have seen the trailer that was most relevant to you based on your viewing habits. They collect billions of data points every day and build algorithms to analyse everything you do and recommend new shows and also show you the most suitable and attractive trailers for shows that may be of interest.

IBM’s Watson (a cognitive system) was created as part of a research project in 2011, and its first outing was to win the US game show Jeopardy. It is now working with oncologists helping analyse and understand more complex cancer cases, ingesting data from every research paper, clinical trial and previous case histories.  It helps oncologists diagnose complex cancer cases and recommend treatment pathways.

New Scottish startup Sansibles has developed ‘LiveSkin’ intelligent sensors for use in contact sports such as rugby. The sensors are fitted in players’ shoulder pads to capture data from collisions on the playing field. The data can then be wirelessly transferred in real-time to a specially designed app that sport coaches, physiotherapists and medics can use to monitor the force exerted by the athletes in a tackle or a scrummage, as well as examine how their bodies recover from injury. This information can be used to improve training regimes and rehabilitation programmes to better reflect how players recuperate.

Every day I come across Scottish companies using data in new and innovative ways and I am extremely positive about the opportunities to get involved in some exciting projects. Every day I continue to learn and appreciate how technology and data in particular is changing every aspect of our life.

Find out more about The Data Lab in this short film

Google IT – Do Cool Things That Matter!

At Google, the staff (Googlers) solve complex problems every day in a mission is to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible. What is it like to work for an organisation like Google and what kind of jobs do they actually do? We caught up with Heather Traher, Senior User Experience Researcher who works in the San Francisco office to find out more about her job and what it’s like to work for Google.

What do you actually do?

My job involves researching how people use technology, and looking for opportunities to make it easier and more helpful for Google’s tools to fit into their lives. Sometimes this means just interviewing people, or going out in the field and observing how they work or do things at home. Other times it’s testing out new ideas and prototypes in a research lab before they are turned into real products for the general public. There’s also surveys and other research tools that feed into how Google thinks about product development. I focus on qualitative research, which is the “why” side of things that complements the “what” that we can see in user logs.

How has your career taken shape between leaving school and now?

After school I did a degree in fine arts. From there I started working in interactive design firms, and was exposed to user research from a colleague practising in the field a few years out of uni. I was really inspired, and was mentored on the job to transition my career into doing research full time.

What attracted you to a career in technology?

It wasn’t something I pictured myself doing when I was applying for university, but during my time studying new media I started coding HTML and doing other things like that to complete my art projects. I became really interested in how people use technology, and how design can make people’s lives better.

What would you say to encourage girls and young women to think about a career in technology?

Girls can do a lot to help other girls – look for a professional mentor who can help answer your questions. Don’t be afraid to build things based on your own ideas! Google is a great workplace for women. Google empowers women to succeed by providing academic scholarships to future leaders in technology and supporting employee resource groups like Women@Google.

If someone had an ambition to work for Google where can they find out about careers?

Google has over 70 offices in more than 40 countries and is always hiring somewhere! Current positions are online at In the UK there are offices in Manchester and London. The company also runs a robust internship program that students can apply for while studying for a degree, masters or PHD courses. If you fancy being a Googler and working for one of the coolest organisations in the world, check out our website and learn about our teams

People have taken all kinds of paths to get a job with Google. You can start right here in Ayrshire by enrolling on one of our computing courses



International Girls in ICT Day 2016


International Girls in ICT Day takes place each year on the fourth Thursday in April.

This year it will be celebrated on 28 April with activity taking place across the world to promote the importance of attracting more girls and women into computing.

Ayrshire College wants more young people to take advantage of increasing opportunities in digital occupations and we are fully behind this initiative. Here is a flavour of what to expect from us in the days leading up to International Girls in ICT Day.

Industry body e-Skills UK forecast that there could be up to 11,000 job opportunities in Scotland each year in technology roles. Last week, the Institute for Public Policy Research and Burning Glass launched Where the work is to compare entry-level employer demand for occupations such as IT technicians and the number of students completing related courses. It reinforced industry forecasts that there are good opportunities available in Scotland for college leavers with relevant qualifications, predicting over 5,500 jobs with an average salary of over £30,000.

Despite these opportunities too few young people, particularly young women, are choosing to build a career in IT. Women are under-represented in IT occupations and make up just 17% of IT specialists working in the UK. At Ayrshire College, we are trying to address this by sparking an interest in computer coding and technology at a young age.

We work with schools to stimulate interest in IT careers amongst young people, for example by organising CoderDojo clubs for 7 to 17 year-olds who want to learn to code. This year, to coincide with International Girls in ICT Day, we are hosting CoderDojo clubs at our Kilmarnock Campus for girls and boys, and at Barassie Primary School.


This week we are also launching three Foundation Apprenticeships for S4/S5 pupils in schools across Ayrshire, including IT:Software Development – click here for information. An information session will be held on the eve of International Girls in ICT Day at 5.30pm on Wednesday 27 April in our Kilmarnock Campus.

And look out for more exciting news later this week about our commitment to provide opportunities for young people to build careers in this exciting growth sector.

Each year, throughout the week that International Girls in ICT Day takes place, we publish posts on our blog from women in computing – some in senior positions in the industry, some at the start of their careers, and others studying at college. This year, our contributors include:

Keep checking into our blog for more!




Guest post – Why coding is the new must have creative skill!

At a recent meeting of BCSWomen, Ayrshire College vice principal Jackie Galbraith met a young web developer, Carole Rennie Logan, who works at a digital agency in Glasgow. Jackie was a developer 25 years ago and was interested to hear from Carole how things have (or haven’t) changed for women in the computing industry in a quarter of a century. Sadly, Carole confirmed that being a female developer is still a bit like being part of an endangered species! 

However, Carole is determined to change this and mentors at CoderDojo computer coding clubs in Glasgow, where she makes coding skills available to people who wouldn’t usually get the chance to learn them. Carole is particularly enthusiastic about encouraging more girls into science, technology, engineering and maths.  

Read what Carole has to say.

Coding has quite rightly been attracting more attention in the last few years as an essential skill in an ever more techy world. But it’s still often pitched only to people who are into science, maths and engineering – and not to creatives.

Yet, arguably, coding is becoming the essential creative skill to have. 

How often do you hear “there should be an app for that” or “I have a cool idea for a website”? Most people have to leave it there as they don’t know where to start in bringing these ideas to life. With coding skills you can turn your cool idea into a reality!

When people picture a developer they often picture someone in the movies watching 1’s and 0’s fly across the screen, not a typical creative type. Being a web developer, I am guilty of describing myself as “just the developer, I didn’t do the design … I’m not that creative”. 

This needs to change. Developers have the new must have creative skill – coding!

Personally, I think the most valuable skills in knowing how to code is not being expert in a specific language, but learning and having the desire to pick up new skills. You may not have experience in building a phone app or the language used for this but, if you know the concepts of programming which are usually the same across languages, you just need to learn the syntax. So, if your awesome idea needs to know a language or framework you haven’t used before, you can do some research and have a play around with it until you can build what you need.

This is why coding clubs like CoderDojo are so important as they give young people the opportunity to learn and share their ideas with other coders. One of my favourite things about being a CoderDojo mentor is seeing the ideas that people have and how they just throw themselves into coding without the fear of “what if I break it?” that sometimes we adults suffer from. 

So, let’s encourage people who shy away from ‘geeky’ things in favour of more traditional arty hobbies to give programming a try – it might just be the tool to turn their vision into reality!

Want to find out about other women challenging gender imbalance in the digital world? 

Loraine Johnston leads on our computing curriculum at the College and established CoderDojo Ayrshire in November 2014 in partnership with CoderDojo Scotland. Like Carole, she mentors young coders and runs coding clubs all over Ayrshire throughout the year.

Dr Claire Quigley is a Project Officer for CoderDojo Scotland at the Glasgow Science Centre, where she supports the CoderDojo network of computer coding clubs for young people across Scotland. She worked in partnership with Loraine to establish Coderdojo Ayrshire.

Celebrating women programmers – past, present and future

Ada Lovelace Day – 13 October 2015

Ada Lovelace Day is about celebrating women engineers, scientists, technologists or mathematicians role models who inspire other girls and women. 

This year is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Ada Lovelace who is widely held to have been the first computer programmer. Close friends with inventor Charles Babbage, Lovelace was intrigued by his Analytical Engine and in 1842 at the age of 27 she wrote several early ‘computer programmes’. 

Despite the first computer programmer being a woman and female coders playing a big part in wartime and the post-war era, gender imbalance poses a major challenge in today’s IT industry, where women make up just 13 per cent of tech specialists in the workforce.        

So, on a day dedicated to promoting women in science, engineering and technology, meet Dr Claire Quigley and find out what inspired her career in computing. 

Claire studied Computing Science at Glasgow University. She is a Project Officer for CoderDojo Scotland at the Glasgow Science Centre, where she supports the CoderDojo network of computer coding clubs for young people across Scotland. In partnership with the College, Claire helped to establish Coderdojo Ayrshire, one of the most active coding clubs for young people in Scotland.

Dr Claire Quigley

Her experience includes working at Glasgow and Cambridge Universities, being part of a team which developed and ran an interactive coding experience at CBBC Live, and being one of the authors of a ‘Help Your Kids with Computer Coding’, a book introducing children to programming.

What inspired you to get involved in computing and make a career from it?

I wasn’t interested in computing at all as a teenager – I thought it was all to do with games, which I also had no interest in. It wasn’t until my second year studying physics at Glasgow University that I took an extra course aimed at allowing you to wire up your experiments to a computer and program it to do the measurements. This appealed to me as, while I liked and was good at the theoretical side of the course, I didn’t enjoy the labs and struggled to get my measurements accurate enough.  

After reading a bit of the text book and writing a few programs I realised that programming wasn’t necessarily all about games. In fact it seemed more like a “live action” version of the bits of maths that I enjoyed: taking a problem and turning it round in your head until you saw how all the pieces fitted together. Then writing a program to make the computer do things to produce the answer to the problem. I soon realised I enjoyed programming much more than physics and switched courses to Computing Science.

As a woman in the IT industry, what challenges have you faced and how did you overcome them?

The main challenge I’ve faced is that people occasionally assume that I’m not a programmer because I’m a woman. However, apart from that, I’ve found programmers to be friendly people to work with from all different backgrounds. Most of them are just interested in getting things to work, and finding new ways of doing that. Gender is not usually an issue at all.

Describe your job on a day to day basis. What are the highlights?

My job varies quite a lot from day to day, which is one of the things I enjoy about it. Tasks vary from emailing people to organising workshops or Dojos, meeting people to discuss the possibility of them setting up a Dojo or working with us on a project, writing code and worksheets that we’ll use at workshops, or actually running a workshop.   

Highlights are probably the days when I get to actually run a workshop I’ve been planning and see people engage with it. I also enjoy working on ideas for projects that combine different areas of science with programming with my colleagues in the science centre or arts with people from other projects in the city. 

What would you say to a girl or woman who was considering a career in IT?

Go for it – and keep in mind that there are more and more careers that use programming. From medicine, to wearable technology, science, games and art, programming is a tool to help you make things happen in the area you’re interested in.  

Inspiring the next genetation of programmers

Ayrshire College holds Coderdojo clubs throughout the year in venues across Ayrshire. Two are now open for booking –

  • Tuesday 20 October at the College’s Kilwinning Campus from 6-8pm  
  • Thursday 26 November at Dumfries House in Cumnock from 6-8pm

If you know a young person aged 7 to 17 who is interested in learning to code, book online at