Beth Probert

Software Engineer, Altran UK

How I came to STEM

Science, and space, in particular, have fascinated me for as long as I can remember. Whenever I had a spare minute as a child, I’d be reading about the structure of the solar system and finding out how to become an astronaut so that I could go and explore the cosmos myself. Growing up in an all-female household, I learned very quickly that there is nothing in life women can’t achieve once they’ve set their mind on something and I wanted to learn everything I could about science and space.

My curiosity and passion for science stayed with me into adulthood and I completed a Physics with Astrophysics degree. During my studies, I was continually inspired by watching women like Christina Koch launch to the International Space Station, but my focus had shifted from wanting to go to space myself to helping others get there.

I learned how to code for the first time at university and was amazed to learn about the software used to send people to space and the advances being made in the 21st century. I really struggled with it at first, but by the end of my final year, I’d been able to build scripts that created fluid dynamical simulations of stellar surfaces and modeled the motion of comets. I found further motivation and inspiration in Dr. Katie Bouman and her team that helped researchers take the first-ever picture of a black hole, and from then on I was hooked. Learning to code was a skill I never knew I’d develop, and one that I now felt was key to my future. I knew coding had lots of applications outside of astrophysics and I wanted to take my new knowledge into the world and see what I could do with it.

Why I love what I do

It’s amazing to have a job where you get to build something that’s never been built before. As a software engineer, I do something new every day and learn something new every minute! I write scripts that have direct, real-world applications and it’s great to know that software I’ve worked on is being used by people all around the world.

I work in the Intelligent Systems Expertise Centre (ISY EC) at Altran UK. At ISY EC, we specialize in developing high integrity, safety critical software for a variety of industries including rail, space, energy and aeronautics. Developing software that keeps people safe is very rewarding, but also very challenging. I never have a boring day at work!

I’m currently on Altran’s graduate apprenticeship scheme which means I get to study for a software engineering qualification alongside my day-to-day work. I’m always being stretched and developing new skills that I never thought I’d have. I’m also surrounded by incredible engineers and managers that make every day very enjoyable. I’m very fortunate to have a job that I love!

What I’m proud of, & what I’m hoping to achieve through the WYPB

I’m excited to join the WYPB and help to bring about a cultural shift in the STEM world. Throughout my life, I’ve been continually aware of the gender imbalance in STEM subjects and the wider world.

I know that there are no obstacles on the path to a STEM career that women can’t overcome. I was so lucky to grow up surrounded by strong women who pushed me to do what I wanted to with my life, but I know that this isn’t the case for everyone. So instead of hoping that women are supported and growing up in encouraging cultures, I want to work hard and ensure that cultures in STEM classrooms and workplaces are permanently shifted so that I know that women are able to get into STEM.

I firmly believe that changing the perspectives of young people and children is key in addressing gender inequality. I hope to actively engage with and inspire the next generation of STEM women through outreach events, and help to remove any potential barriers that will stop them pursuing their love of STEM subjects. The WYPB stands as a testimony that change is possible and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.

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