It’s International Women’s Day, and we wanted to take a moment to celebrate the many great women who make Imrandd what it is.
Janice Grant Shaw is one of these women. Janice joined Imrandd in 2018 and as Research and Development Manager, is responsible for overseeing technology projects in this area.
When she’s not busy at Imrandd, she’s running her business Company Connecting, who have created a comprehensive database and network of tech companies in the UK and overseas.
Janice very kindly took time out of her busy schedule to tell us about her career and experience working in the technology sector, as well as what advice she’d give to women considering a career in this rapidly growing space.
How did you get started in the technology sector?
“I started with Logman Computer Service in December 1979 without any background in ‘computing’ as it was then. I had a degree in Economic History and History, with a bit of Statistics, Zoology and Botany thrown in!
I knew very little about computing other than it seemed interesting and I made up my mind that this was what I wanted to do. I got my break with Logman Computer Services and started as a trainee programmer. At that time punch cards were still around, but I went straight to the more modern computer – a Systime PDP 11/70 which took up a whole room and I think had only 1 meg of memory.
My first three months were very difficult as I just didn’t get it. I was learning Basic+ programming language and the RSTS/E operating which looking back on changes over the years were absolutely NOT intuitive! One day something broke, and from that point I fell in love with coding. Things just fell into place.”
What is your experience of working in the sector?
“More than forty years later, I am still working in the sector – so that says something!
Much of my career has been working with tech in the Oil & Gas Sector. I have done a number of other things e.g. lecturing at RGIT (now Robert Gordon’s University) and went back to do a Masters in European Policy, Law and Management in 2003. Interestingly, I still do not have any formal tech qualifications.
At the time I started out, you had to be able to turn your hand to everything. So, I picked up a broad range of skills. In the early days there was a reasonable mix of men and women, but this changed sometime in the 90s. I’m not sure why – you may want to look at one of my Company Connecting articles for some further thoughts.
I guess things were pretty tough for women in the combined sectors of Technology, Oil & Gas. It was difficult to be heard at times. It was without a doubt a man’s world.
I wrote thousands of lines of code, designed and built Inventory Management and CMMS systems, worked on POB / personnel tracking systems, and many others. I even headed up Application Support for North Sea Sun Oil from Aberdeen, and managed the folk in the London office long before we even knew what remote working was. By this time, I had my first son, and so managed to do all this while “only” working two days a week! It’s amazing how productive you can be if you set your mind to it.
I then moved onto work with other operators and companies. I got hooked on the whole area of data and have never become ‘unhooked’. It’s a tough area. The glamourous bit is producing the pretty picture – but that only happens at the end and is definitely not my forte. I prefer the other 80% involving cleansing, pattern spotting, slogging through data until you can find some sense. It’s just fascinating.”
What advice would you have for women looking to get into the tech space?
“Not easy to answer. Would my advice be any different to a woman, than to a man?
The best advice I can think of to women is, yes, technology is dominated by men but please don’t be put off. Technology covers so many disciplines and requires many different sets of skills. Please just get in there! It can be tough, frustrating, difficult, but also wildly exciting when you realise you have cracked a problem.
Perhaps my advice would be directed more to employers; don’t just look for people with degrees, and certainly look beyond technology degrees. For example, those who study history, will be creative and have a solid understanding of analysing large amounts of information, and the ability to look at things from many different perspectives. Just think how valuable this ability is in the data area.
Of course, given my own background in history I may be biased. Perhaps we can pull in the Imrandd R&D team to download my brain and carry out a statistical analysis on the potential for bias!”