Leeds women in tech: The Unsung heroes – Lauren Lewis
Next in our series showcasing the women in Leeds not only carving out their careers in technology but also helping to spread awareness, inspire our next generation and create opportunities for some of the most vulnerable people in our society.
Lauren Lewis – Data Engineer at The DataShed, and Ladies of Code
How did you get into tech
I left university after studying for my Masters in Physics in 2010 without a clue of what kind of career I wanted to pursue. The job market was still suffering from the financial market crash and the competition for graduate roles was high; things didn’t look too hopeful. I decided to start travelling, during which I taught English in South Korea and Maths in a tiny village in the Himalayas. It was travelling abroad I started picking up more hobbies, such as coding and slack-lining. I learnt programming by enrolling on MOOC’s (Massive Open Online Course) and from books; for a while all my code was written down in notebooks because I was living in a campervan without internet access.
After a difficult break up I came back to the UK in 2016, feeling very lost. I still didn’t know how to enter the world of tech, so I went back to university to study a conversion course for Computer Science. Realising I had already taught myself the majority of what I learned on the course I spent my time writing mobile apps, attending hackathons and meetups. It was at a hackathon I met my first employer and I can say I learnt more on that job that I would in any lecture.
Tell me about your role
I’m now a Data Engineer at The Data Shed in Leeds and I’ve been here for two years. The Data Shed is an IT consultancy and I’ve had the opportunity to work with some big clients such as Hermes, Tate Gallery and GAMSTOP. Being a small company my day job varies greatly including programming, testing and DevOps tasks. I really enjoy the challenge of learning something new everyday; even though this means some days can be a struggle, I can see myself improving at a rapid rate.
What do you do outside of work
For the past few years I’ve spent a lot of time improving my programming skills online. I volunteered for Leeds Animation Workshop to update their website to work with modern devices and allow online payments, but still keep the feel of their original site. I also helped teach my friend to code, who’s now working as a developer at Sky. It’s been great feeling closer to the community in Leeds.
These days I’m trying to spend more time away from the computer. I like spending time outdoors with my two dogs and I’m trying to become a bit more self-sufficient at home by growing vegetables in my garden polytunnel.
How are you involved in the Tech community
When I moved to Yorkshire three years ago I was lucky to have Natasha Sayce-Zelem as my Head of Technology. She’s a great inspiration for women in technology and she started the Ladies of Code Meetup group in Leeds. The meetup is a casual event for female engineers to network and learn new things. I’ve met some great people through this group and now I help co-organise the event. We’re always on the lookout for potential speakers and sponsors!
What do you think will be the next big thing in tech?
In my opinion there is a lot of hype around AI and Machine Learning, which will definitely have a big impact on the way we live. However, I think the most important thing for most businesses using technology is to get better at automation. Automation allows the computer to do all the boring repetitive tasks which avoids human error and lets the developers get on with the more interesting work. I think it’s so easy to jump on the next ‘big thing’, but if you don’t have the fundamentals in place you won’t be able to keep up.
But saying all that, I’m still going to enroll on a Machine Learning MOOC!
What’s next for you?
I like to set myself yearly goals, and this year’s goal was to become a really good developer and feel more comfortable in my role. I’ve got some great mentors at work and they’ve really helped me get a good base knowledge that will be invaluable for the rest of my career. Next year my focus will be on improving my leadership skills so I’ll be able to lead my own team and project in the future.