Winner of the 2015 Open Technology WISE Award Amanda Smith talks about life since winning
Being the first winner of the Bloomberg Open Technology WISE award gave me courage.
The question I’ll always remember when being interviewed by the WISE judges is ‘what would you do if you won this award?’ Whilst blushing and smiling, I said ‘the first thing I would do is go back to the schools I attended. I’d spend time with the students to show them that if I could have a successful STEM career, anyone can. Then I’d do anything possible to be a proud advocate for women in STEM’. A month after winning my award I was at back at my secondary school for their annual careers and higher education evening. I gave a talk on working with technology and data to build an open, more inclusive future that works for everyone, and that we need girls like them to contribute to building a better world.
Being the first winner of the Bloomberg Open Technology WISE award gave me courage. School wasn’t easy for me. I was bullied and couldn’t wait to leave. It was empowering to go back to share my story with students, encouraging them to be fearless and to follow their passions. I’ve become a mentor to students, supporting them with work experience placements, but mostly just listening to their fears, hopes and dreams. Students have the same questions I had all those years ago; ‘have I picked the right subjects?’ and ‘how do I know what I want to do?’. They’re reassured to find out from me that I didn’t get into technology through the traditional routes and that its never too late to change your career path.
Many opportunities have opened up for me to be a proud advocate for women in STEM. I’ve judged the app designs of students at Girls in ICT day and been inspired by their thoughtful, user-focused solutions to problems. I’ve supported the Enterprising Women conference and helped students practice their interviewing skills and design their ideal careers. Despite stillfeeling like I’m an imposter, people interview me about my career and include me in lists of influential women in data and tech. I’ve been honoured and humbled by the experience.
Since winning my award I’ve been promoted at work. I work with corporates and governments from across the world, supporting them with their data, digital and technology strategies. I’ve mentor start-ups and have become an accredited trainer. My family couldn’t be prouder. On the night of the award, my mum and nana were waiting by the phone to find out who won in my category. Now they both have a framed photograph of the Princess Royal and I sharing a joke after she presented me with my award.
Most importantly, I’ve met the most inspiring people and gained friendships. I’ve become more confident and found my voice. Having a 16 year old girl run up to thank me at a conference (because she didn’t realise she could get a career in technology before my speech) shows how important it is to share our experiences. You’ll never know who you might inspire, the decisions they might take based on your words, or most importantly – how you’ll make each other feel.