My love for languages led me to a career in software development

Katie Cawthrone didn’t follow a classic route into a digital career, but hard work and determination enabled her to follow her dreams and pursue a future in tech. She’s now a Junior Software Engineer at the Department of Work and Pensions and loving every minute.

Katie studied English, Spanish, French, Business and Media for her A-levels: of these, Spanish was her strongest subject and her original ambition was to find a career that used her language skills. Personal reasons meant that university was off the table: instead she started a secretarial role, but when she saw an ad for a trainee Java developer she jumped at the chance, knowing it would be a chance to re-start her learning journey.

The trainee Java developer role involved a 16-week training course. This was a challenge for Katie, a mother of two young children with a long journey to the training centre, but she was determined to complete it. She credits her language expertise for her facility with code: “I think this is why I love coding so much,” she says, “as a developer you are effectively learning how to communicate with the computer. It has always fascinated me how programmers can make computers do amazing things, and when you think about it, computer programmes are everywhere – in your car and your washing machine – so it’s an excellent choice of career.”

Now working on a project improving internal systems in DWP, Katie says that she has had a positive experience of being a woman in technology. “I don’t feel I’m treated differently from the men on the team. I do feel outnumbered though, and it would be great to see more female developers in the department. We need to drive a culture change, and make computing a much more female-friendly environment, encouraging girls and women to take the step forward to technology roles.”

Thinking of the future, Katie has big ambitions, aiming to progress to Senior Developer level, and working with a variety of languages including JavaScript, Angular and Node.JS. What would she say to any young woman thinking of a tech career? “Go for it!”

Katie has demonstrated that you don’t necessarily need to study computing at A-level or go to university to pursue a career in tech. You can start working in tech at any point in your life – all you need is passion for technology and the motivation to continue learning.