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Spring into STEM event with Cara Mark

Cara Mark, Data Warehouse Developer, shares how she helped empower the future generation considering a career in STEM at the Spring into STEM event with Cardiff University.

Education has been my most powerful tool in life so far, so when I was asked to be a panellist at Cardiff University’s ‘Spring into STEM’ event, I jumped at the chance be a part of the next generation’s journey into Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. The event was a 3-day virtual careers fair consisting of live Q&A sessions with guest speakers from within the STEM industry, and my slot was “A Day in the Life of Computer Science”, which I shared with other female panellists from similar backgrounds.

I kicked off the live session with a whistle-stop tour of my education and career, mentioning that when I was at school, I had no idea what I wanted to be when I was older! I knew that I loved Maths and I was good at it, and I was desperate to get into a job where I could wear beautiful office clothes like my Mum did! I decided on a Master’s degree in Maths at Swansea University – I had fallen in love with the buildings on the campus and the prospect of living on the beach. Throughout my Uni life, I had internships at the Centre for Nanohealth where I studied Data on Nanotechnology and how it was used across the world, and I spent a Summer at Morriston Hospital in Laboratory Medicine where I collated data on blood testing and reported trends back to the Heads of Department.

When it came to graduating, I still didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, but I had become very interested in data and the unknown world of Computer Science. I scoured for a junior level job where I could quickly learn the ropes of IT, and after a slightly gruelling interview process, I was very lucky to get a spot on the IT Graduate Scheme at Admiral. I was placed in the Data Warehouse where I got my head down and learnt how to code in Teradata SQL, design and build data models, and create reports on top of this data - which was all very satisfying to my logical, maths-loving brain! After a few years, I was put into a Scrum Master position within one of the internal projects, and when the restructure came along, I successfully applied for the Chapter Lead role that I’m in today.

Once we had wrapped up on the introductions, the Q&A box started filling up with questions from students who were watching the live session.

“What is the most rewarding thing about your job?”

This was easy as I’m grateful every day for the people I work with, the atmosphere they create, and the amazing team bond that we have in the Data Warehouse. The people and the culture here are easily the top reason in the long list of why I want to be at Admiral for a long time yet.

Other questions needed more thought: “What would you say to someone who doesn’t enjoy Maths but wants to get into Computer Science?”

Who doesn’t enjoy Maths?! But I thought about what I would have done without my love of my Maths education, so I answered saying that it is important to focus on subjects that you enjoy. There are plenty of STEM subjects out there that could get you into Computer Science and there’s a huge correlation in enjoying what you’re doing and succeeding in it. And of course, I mentioned our motto “people who like what they do, do it better!

Between the three panellists, we got through the Q&A and it was time to wrap up. My favourite part of the session happened after the live event had ended, when one of the University students helping in the background came off mute for the first time that day to tell us how the positivity in the (virtual) room was contagious, that she felt she could go out into the world of work with confidence, and now felt really motivated! This comment made the whole day worth it for me and is exactly why I love being involved with schools, universities, and careers fairs!

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