ITP Graduate of the Year 2019, Lucy Doherty, tapped into the growing trend of automation across telecommunications, particularly with the advent of AI, in her winning entry. We chat to Lucy to find out more about what motivates her…
What does wining the Graduate of the Year Award mean to you?
Winning the first ever ITP Graduate of the Year award has been a really special experience. I am incredibly thankful to have been recognised in this way, especially at this early stage of my career. Being Graduate of the Year means that I am part of an important precedent that is being set within telecoms, that the industry is evolving. This award will help me to encourage more women to pursue careers in STEM, especially within engineering. It is also proof that girls and women do belong in telecoms and engineering. If I can do it, so can they!
How have your employers reacted?
I am so lucky to have had such awesome reactions from everyone at O2, at all different levels in the company. My O2 line manager whilst I was on the graduate programme was also there with me during the evening and that was very special. He has supported me through so much throughout the last two years, so it meant a lot to have him there with me. I think we were both really pleased to be able to bring an end to my time on the graduate programme on such an amazing high. My favourite reaction came from the rest of my Early Careers cohort, which is made up of graduates and apprentices from Telefónica UK, who all onboarded in 2017. At the beginning of the ITP awards week, I was at the Telefónica Universitas campus in Barcelona with the rest of the cohort, taking part in offboarding activities that would help prepare us for the rest of our careers. I came back to the UK early, to attend the awards. As soon as I had sent the awesome news to my friends and peers who were still in Barcelona, I was getting videos sent to me, showing how people were dancing, having a great time and celebrating the outcome of my award. It was like they were in London celebrating with me. It made me feel so proud and grateful to be a part of a cohort that celebrates each other’s successes like that, because everyone realises that when one member of the whole cohort wins, we all do; it highlights Early Careers and recognises the potential that we all have.
What attracted you to a career in telecoms?
I was attracted to a career in telecoms because I knew I
wanted to work in a STEM industry after graduation. I wanted to apply the knowledge and experience I
had been accruing over my time at university. Working in telecoms also presented the opportunity
to push myself and continue learning, as I only had a basic understanding of transmission and
networking from university and knew
nothing about radio or cellular networks. I would be joining from the
perspective of being a customer and a subscriber, it has since opened up this hidden world of what
goes on behind the scenes that customers never see.
What has been your career highlight so far since graduating? What are you proud of / what have you achieved?
Winning the Graduate of the Year award and getting recognition for my work is definitely a big highlight, personally and professionally. Another of my highlights was one of my first projects I was given when I joined O2. This was to take responsibility for integration of a 4G cell site in O2’s live network. I was responsible for looking after all of the: planning, design, test, and deployment stages of the project. My team put a lot of trust in me, to be able to deliver this solution and it was also a great opportunity for me to challenge what I thought I was capable of, both from an engineering and project management perspective. Seeing all my eNodeB’s (4G radio element) working and carrying customer traffic was a very proud moment for me, and made the months of hard work all worth it.
Why should we encourage more women into STEM? How important is it to have STEM ambassadors?
We should encourage more women into STEM, because women in the UK have a long and proud history of making significant contributions within STEM. Current and future generations deserve to be given the equal opportunity to make their mark as well, by being judged based on their outputs and not on their gender. Similarly, diversity of thought has been correlated to increased revenue in business, and it also encourages organisations to connect more closely with their customers by reflecting wider society, including representation of: women, BAME, LGBT+ and many other demographics. O2 has a strong inclusion agenda, and has employee-led networks representing all of these groups. I think other organisations should also be placing a high priority on diversity and inclusion in today’s industry. A focus on creating a level playing field and culture that allows people to be themselves at work, will give everyone the opportunity to show what they are capable of and what they can achieve when given the opportunity to. With a greater female presence in STEM, organisations can also be more inclusive in their: solutions, products and the environment they create. STEM ambassadors are critical to the evolution and future of STEM industries, because they are able to reach out to, inspire and engage the next generation.
How do you think we can attract more women into STEM roles in the future?
I believe that industry can help to attract more women into STEM roles by continuing to focus engagement initiatives on girls and young women, particularly around primary school and high school age, interested in STEM subjects by providing the support and guidance so they feel confident and empowered to pursue these fields in their careers. This could include activities such as coaching or running coding clubs which are inclusive. From my own experience, I have seen first-hand the way more and more young women drop off the STEM radar the further they progress into academia and ultimately into their professional careers, because they don’t feel that STEM is something they can be involved in and don’t see themselves represented within. This gender disparity was something that became apparent to me at university level, where around only 25% of my cohort was female. I’m proud that alongside lots of my other O2 colleagues, that we are involved in initiatives like Girl Talk London’s ‘Step Into STEM’ programme. This scheme aims to provide mentoring and work experience to young women interested in STEM careers and pathways. Another way young women could be inspired is through STEM history being embedded into the curriculums taught at school.
An area of STEM engagement that sometimes gets overlooked are career returners and women who are wanting to move into STEM or having a career change. Given the rate of change within STEM industries, particularly within telecoms; learning, development and upskilling should be a priority and part of the culture within all organisations. This will help bring women in this position, up to speed on the current technologies and trends, whilst also ensuring that organisations are evolving and not allowing themselves to get left behind.
Have you been mentored? Can you tell us about your experience, how you have found it?
I am a mentee and also a mentor, so I have been able to see both sides of the mentoring experience. The Women’s Network at O2 have created a fantastic, company-wide mentoring scheme, which connects mentors and mentee’s throughout the whole business and that is how I was put in touch with my mentor. I find being mentored really valuable, and would encourage everyone, especially people who are early in their telecoms careers, to connect with a mentor. My mentor at O2 works in a completely different division to the one I work in, which I find really useful because I have access to an objective point of view, that helps to give me clarity around situations which I am already involved in. I also feel that being mentored helps me to be a better mentor, because I have had exposure to the qualities that effective mentors have. I was matched with my mentee through the Step Into STEM mentoring scheme. This is a really rewarding experience to be involved in, to be able to inspire and encourage the next generation of STEM leaders and pioneers.
How easy did you find the awards entry process and what would you say to other graduates considering entering in the future?
I found the entry process really straightforward and I would really encourage all telecoms graduates to have a go and submit something for the award. Even if you don’t make the finals, it’s still a really great opportunity to dedicate time to your development, researching and exploring a topic within telecoms that interests you.
Lucy is RAN Tools and Automation Engineer at Telefónica UK Limited and winner of the ITP’s brand new award, Graduate of the Year 2019.