Amy Hart - Talks about her career, school days, women in STEM and what it felt like to win the 2016 WISE Rising Star Award
1 December 2016
Hi, I’m Amy Hart and I’m honoured to be the WISE Rising Star 2016. This achievement is the biggest of my career and personal life so far. In fact, allow me to retract that previous statement: this achievement is the biggest of my LIFE so far. The truth is, my career and personal life aren’t all that separate. I’m no different in work to what I am at home; I’m still the same driven, outspoken and slightly sarcastic digital enthusiast wherever I am.
Maybe that’s why I won this award; because my passion to revolutionise the IT industry to have equal numbers of women and men extends beyond my work environment and actually infiltrates the conversations I have with my family and friends at the weekends. Or maybe I won because of my pink hair…??
I’ve been asked to write about my experience as a woman in STEM and to be quite honest, I don’t have a lot of that - experience, I mean. The fact is, I’m 20 years old and have worked in Technology for just over 2 years. So perhaps I can’t draw on a wealth of experience in terms of years of service, but I think I can offer up some useful insights into what I’ve seen and learned.
Amy with her HMRC Digital Team
HMRC Digital is a wonderful place to work. Some people might read that sentence and doubt its sincerity, but I assure you I say it willingly. When I started here at the Digital Delivery Centre Newcastle (DDCN), I was fresh out of college and had no prior work experience. Ironically, the DDCN was a ‘baby’, too. It had officially opened a couple of months before my apprenticeship began, so essentially everybody was new.
We all grew as IT professionals - like one big digital family, and the transformation was incredible. A small group expanded into a strong workforce filled with the best talent. Not only did HMRC digital revolutionise Government’s digital presence and customer interaction, but what’s most admirable to me is they were and still are fully committed to developing the future generation of IT experts through welcoming apprentices and Industrial Placements every year.
I can’t overstate the importance of engaging with young people; particularly when they’re still young people. I’ve been to countless careers fairs and heard 16 - 18 year old’s telling me they don’t know what they want to do. What’s great about the apprentice ambassador programme I’m part of is we interact with children from as young as 11.
A few weeks ago, a colleague referred to me as “the mum of the apprentices” in the DDCN. I laughed, but actually it took me all of 4 seconds to understand exactly why. My desire to lead meant that I embodied the role of “team representative”. I was, and continue to be, first point of contact if the wider apprentice group ever have questions or concerns, and we figure it all out together from there.
I’ll be honest, the feminist in me itched to recoil at the “mum” comparison. Then I thought about it, and actually I take pride in it. All mothers are women, and being a mother doesn’t make them less of a strong and powerful woman. Without meaning to make generalisations, it’s clear that women can excel in some areas where men may not, and vice versa. I don’t think that there’s a problem with being a feminist. I question any woman who does not consider themselves to be. My concern is that this is not the shared ideology amongst young girls - and boys.
When I was in school, teachers never spoke openly about feminism; it felt like a bit of a taboo subject. The truth is, feminism is an extremely important topic all school children should be exposed to. That is how girls learn they can break moulds and how boys learn the importance of gender equality and respect. Otherwise, how are things going to change?
Society’s come a long way since the Suffragette movement, but you need only look at the number of women holding positions in STEM careers to know that there’s a lot more to be done. To quote Sheryl Sandberg’s ‘Lean In’, “knowing that things could be worse should not stop us from trying to make them better”.
I’d like to close with a bit of advice. If you ever find yourself being a finalist for an award, wear your comfy shoes to the ceremony. I almost didn’t, and my friend’s last minute bit of advice to “just put the comfy shoes in your handbag” meant that I was able to actually walk onto the stage to collect my Rising Star award from HRH Princess Anne. Had I not done that, HRH would’ve had to have come to me. What I mean is, have faith in yourself. Self-confidence is underrated.