Spotlight on women in computing – Lynsey O’Connor

IMG_1091Lynsey O’Connor recently started as a computer lecturer at Ayrshire College. Before this she worked as a project manager. In this article, Lynsey talks about the highlights of her role as a project manager and the opportunities available to change and develop in the ICT industry.

I’ve been working in ICT in the finance industry since leaving education in 2002.  After studying maths and computing at university, I was lucky enough to secure a place on a graduate training programme in London with a company called Reuters. The programme allowed me to try out various departments in the business and to decide where I would like to apply for a permanent role.

I spent my second placement in the ICT department of the editorial section of the company (they are responsible for reporting news from all over the world).  I loved it and stayed put for four years working as a project manager, before moving to Barclays Bank in Glasgow.

As a project manager, no two days were ever the same. My role was to make sure a project ran smoothly – this could mean anything from being out recruiting new team members, capturing requirements from clients about what they are after, liaising with development and testing teams, keeping track of and deciding how to spend multi-million pound budgets, preparing presentations and updates for senior management and any number of other things!

Project work is really varied and makes for an exciting role – I’ve managed projects such as moving 300 jobs from London, Singapore and New York to Glasgow, developing software to help prevent terrorist financing, shaving milliseconds off the time it takes to generate news headlines that appear on Sky News and many more things.

In today’s world ICT project management also means working in a truly global team and therefore doing some travel. On the last project I worked on, my team was spread across India, South Africa, New York, London, Glasgow and Singapore.

 Working in ICT projects gives you a really wide range of career opportunities – leading projects, specialising in areas such as development or testing or risk management, or getting into another field altogether.

In my time at Barclays I was offered ICT roles in HR, working for third party software development companies and also spent time as a Business Manager. I always emphasise to my students that, with a job in ICT, there is constant opportunity to change and develop. The world really is your oyster!


Spotlight on women in ICT – Jean Anderson

Jean Anderson studied HND Administration and Information Technology as a mature student and took on the challenge of a complete career change.  We asked her about her journey into ICT.

Jean AndersonWhat did you do before going to college? 
I worked for the bakery in Tesco. It was my sister who encouraged me to go to Ayrshire College. She had already attended and secured a job a medical secretary, so I thought – why not give it a go!

How did you get into ICT? 
I got into ICT so that I could keep up to date with my teenage son. Technology was moving so fast and I did not really have much of an idea of what was going on and felt like I was being left behind.

What challenges have you faced and how did you overcome them?
My confidence in my abilities has really grown. As a mature student, I was terrified at the thought of going to college, but I knew I had to do it as I wanted to be in a job that I liked and was financially better for me.

I learned that I was still capable of learning and that I had a lot more to give in the workplace than I had previously thought. Going to college has given me a new lease of life and I now have a new outlook in life.  It’s been the best three years!

Describe your job on a day to day basis. 
I am now a Housing Assistant at North Ayrshire Council where I do many different tasks in my job. I work on the computer quite a lot completing forms, working on spreadsheets and using databases.  I also use e-diaries, email and scanners on a daily basis. As well as the ICT side of things, I deal with the public over the counter and on the phone.

What advice would you give to others interested in a career in ICT?
I would tell them to go for it.  It’s interesting and the way forward for the future, as most careers have some sort of ICT involved in it.

I am going to be the oldest person there. I was, but at no point was this a barrier. I was made to feel at ease from the first day. My lecturers as they were excellent and encouraged and supported me 100%.

I now feel like the person I was when I was 20 – confident, outgoing and a valued member of society again!


Spotlight on women in computing – Loraine Johnston

Did you know more than 73,000 people work in ICT and digital technologies in Scotland? And Skills Development Scotland’s skills investment plan for Scotland’s ICT and digital technologies sector predicts significant growth in the number of opportunities in the industry itself and in other sectors which need digital and technical skills. From new start-ups to some of the world’s largest technology companies, there’s a mixture of exciting career opportunities to choose from.

Ayrshire College is encouraging more girls and women into ICT. With state of the art equipment and industry relevant courses, the College is well on its way to becoming a centre for excellence in ICT and digital technologies. Our computing and digital technologies department is promoting International Girls in ICT Day on 23 April to inspire girls and young women to consider careers in the growing ICT sector. We spoke to Loraine Johnston, Curriculum Manager for Business and Computing, to find out about what led to her career in ICT.

What did you do before going to college?

I worked for six years after completing high school. Jobs ranged from working as an advertising agency junior to a supervisor in a café bar at Glasgow Airport! Going into further and higher education has been invaluable to me. Without it, I wouldn’t have the career I have today.

How did you get into computing?

The first time I used a computer was when I was on a short media studies course and it was the newly released Macintosh Classic.  I went on to work in a PR company as a Junior Secretary using an IBM PC in the days before Windows!

My real early experience was the HND Multimedia Computing, which was a brand new course in the evolving area of computing. We developed software for CDROMs as the web hadn’t evolved at that time. I progressed to BSc Multimedia Technology and became a multimedia developer after I graduated.  A few years later I returned to higher education to complete a Postgraduate Diploma in Multimedia Communications.

What challenges have you faced and how did you overcome them?

I had to adapt to learning again after a six year gap.  Computers were new, as were the courses I was studying, so we really were the guinea pigs.  I had my own flat and had no option but to work part-time to be able to support my studies and myself. Computing is always changing and the biggest challenge is to keep up with these changes.

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

My job is really varied and every day is different.  I manage the Business and Computing curriculum department which includes looking after students and staff at Ayrshire College. The highlights are seeing people succeed and students being happy with their course.

What advice would you give to others interested in a career in computing?

As one of the fastest growing industries, there aren’t enough people in the UK to fill current jobs in ICT, let alone the predicated increase in jobs in the next 5 years. It’s also a brilliant sector for women to work in and progress, yet we are very much in the minority. At Ayrshire College, we want to encourage more women into this exciting area, to develop their skills and maximise the contribution to Scotland’s economy.

This is the perfect time to start a career in ICT.  The best thing to do is make the most of any course you study, learn the fundamentals (the technology may change but these don’t), teach yourself new skills and … practice, practice, practice!


Ayrshire College offers a wide range of computing courses. Find out more at


Spotlight on women in computing – Lisa Watson, CGI

Nineteen year old Lisa Watson is a Modern Apprentice at CGI Scotland. In this post, she talks about what motivated her to pursue a career in the IT sector.

The senior years of high school are the most stressful, because your decision on the subjects you choose pretty much determines what you are going to do after you leave school. This is even more terrifying if you have no idea what you actually want to do.

I was always pushed to do childcare, which I would consider the most female generic career path, so that’s what I did. I gained as much experience as I could with working with children and applied to university and college to become a primary school teacher or an early years officer. However, during the summer, after I had completed my exams and trembling with the anticipation of my results, the more I thought about my future career in childcare the more uncomfortable I became with my decision.

That’s when I would say my new adventure began. I frantically searched the web in deep hope that a new career choice would magically appear on my screen. At secondary school I did choose IT subjects – Standard Grade Computing Studies and Higher Information Systems – but I can’t say I thought of going into a career in IT. I always enjoyed business management at school and I also enjoyed the IT subjects I had chosen in my senior school years which were two of the subjects I succeeded most in. I came across a website advertising apprenticeships being offered by an organisation called QA. After a meeting with QA employees at their training building, they put me forward for an interview with CGI. This was nerve-wracking but exciting news that gave me an opportunity to start my career with two things that I really enjoyed – business and IT.

IT careers seem to have an old-fashioned stigma attached to them – along the lines of a small cramped office with loads of people sitting with their eyes glued to their computer screens programming all day long – but that’s not the case. This is why I guess IT careers have a male stigma as more boys and men are into computers than women generally. You can go down many avenues with IT which I have discovered for myself over the last 10 months working at CGI. You don’t have to be a “computer whiz” to join the IT world and IT is very much linked with the business world. Of course you need an understanding of how IT works but within IT you can explore a multitude of areas like HR, Marketing, Sales and Finance. These require you to have a range of good communication and people skills, as well as IT skills.

IT companies like CGI have networking events for running projects to allow people to gain contacts and meet people who are working on the same project but in a different area and even on the other side of the country! Networking events have played a big part in the last ten months for me. I even had the chance organise one, which was a great experience. Not many people would think events management would be incorporated within an IT company.

At CGI I also do charity work which is a very rewarding responsibility. After raising money for our local foodbank in Edinburgh at one of our networking events we have kept an ongoing link with them. Every month I find out what the foodbank is in most need off and organise an office donation.

Overall, my experience in the IT industry at CGI has taken me away from the old-fashioned outlook and has shown me that IT companies are becoming more open to new technology and becoming more socially aware. Starting a career in IT was definitely the right decision for me and I would encourage anyone to take the decision I did, as it has opened many doors for my future career.


Spotlight on women in computing – Maggie Morrison, CGI

Maggie Morrison is Director of Business Development, Public Sector at CGI Scotland. Prior to joining CGI, she was Account General Manager for Hewlett Packard in Scotland and previously held senior leadership positions at home and abroad for Cisco, 3Com and Cabletron. At Cisco Maggie founded four Cisco Networking Academies with not for profit organisations in Glasgow. Maggie is passionate about the digital divide, skills, and gender in the workplace. In this article, she reflects on her career.

Reflecting back on 32 years in the IT industry, I have had an amazing journey! When I graduated in the eighties there was a severe recession and jobs were tough to find, even for graduates. My priority after university was to find a job, any job, just to get on the career ladder. My first job was in telephone sales, a role which didn’t require a degree level qualification. Telephone sales is tough, you learn rejection early, but it is an excellent way to learn about any company and the sales process.

I left Glasgow, believing that I would find more opportunities in the South East of England, to work for a company called Macro Marketing, a distributor of electronic components based in Slough. My annual salary was £5,000 – not much money even back then! I may have ended up in the IT industry by accident but I could see that this was an industry with a future – an industry which would literally change the way we live, communicate, work, play and learn. That is equally true now – there are literally thousands of highly paid, unfilled vacancies across the industry and in Europe we are not producing people with the skill sets to fill them. Nor are we seeing enough girls entering the industry. Governments, education and employers need to work together to address this.

Computing is never boring because the industry moves so fast. Failing to keep up means disaster for an IT company. Thirty percent of UK tech start ups come from Scotland so that is a great starting point. But why does it not appeal to more young people and especially girls? IT roles often offer flexibility around location, working from home, working hours which can be fitted around other commitments important for a generation that seeks work life balance and that is likely to have multiple jobs throughout a career.

My career in IT has enabled me to fulfil multiple roles in sales, leadership and corporate staff roles. I have lived and worked in France, Germany, Switzerland, The Netherlands and, most recently, California and North Carolina in the US. I have visited forty seven countries in total and the majority of those have been related to various job roles – although I do also love to travel for holidays! I have been back in Scotland since 2008, bringing home all the skills I learned whilst living abroad and experiencing different cultures.

A well paid job enables you to do the things you love, to achieve your personal ambitions and to feel fulfilled. If you are looking for a career that provides variety, is well paid and one in which you will never be bored, you really should consider the IT industry.