Isabel Richards, Software Engineer at Ocado Technology

by Isabel Richards, Software Engineer at Ocado Technology

At school I liked art and I liked physics, and I didn’t sit neatly on either side of the arts/sciences ‘divide’. Remaining on the fence throughout university and my career so far has led me to my work in technology today. 

At university I studied Physics and Philosophy, and I enjoyed spending some of my time solving problems and some of my time reading and debating. Having the perspective of the one discipline helped me in the other.

For example, I tended to ask more questions in Physics classes than my peers because, being used to not knowing the answer in Philosophy, I wasn’t shy to admit that I didn’t understand everything first time. 

After university I kept up a double life trying, where possible, to develop both technical and non-technical skills. By day I started working in the world of small business, selling breakfast products to retail companies. By night I took free courses in programming with Code First Girls. This exposed me to lots of different types of people and mindsets as well as teaching me different skills.

From this background I joined Ocado Technology, which builds the software that powers Ocado – the world’s biggest online-only supermarket. We design pretty much everything in-house, from the website used by Ocado’s customers to the routing systems used by our drivers.

I have discovered that creating software doesn’t just involve programming but also an understanding of the job it needs to do, who it will be used by, and how. My background in the non-technical arena of business and the technical arena of physics has prepared me well for this area of the technology world.

This aspect of the industry can easily be overlooked from the outside but provides a wealth of opportunity for people who may not have had the traditional, computer science entry into the industry, and who can bring much needed insight from other disciplines.

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