Meet The Role Models is a technology community series which highlights the stories of The Ada Lovelace Initiative role models;  the female technology professionals who are committed to voluntarily promoting technology careers to female pupils nationwide.

The success of the Ada Lovelace Initiative depends on the participation of role models & since September 2015, The Ada Lovelace Initiative role models have reached almost 3000 pupils nationwide. In Meet The Role Models, we offer you the opportunity to get to know the role models who make these visits possible.

In our last instalment of Meet The Role Models, we had the opportunity to speak to Sarah Loughran who is a Solutions Analyst at Citi (the global bank).

Meet Kirsty Downey

Today’s interview is the 13th instalment of Meet The Role Models and features Kirsty Downey who is a Technology Associate at Citi Innovation Lab Dublin.

Kirsty volunteered to take part in The Ada Lovelace Initiative herself and is also leading the ‘Back To School‘ campaign which The Ada Lovelace Initiative is currently running with with the Citi WIT group. This campaign focuses on connecting Citi role models with their old schools for their A.L.I. visit.

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Kirsty Downey recently visited her old school, Sacred Heart Grammar School in Newry, County Down. Kirsty’s visit marked the official launch of the Ada Lovelace Initiative in Northern Ireland. We would like to introduce you now to Kirsty to hear more about her technology career to date and her experiences as a voluntary role model.

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Hi Kirsty! How would you describe your current role?

I am a Technology Associate for Citi Innovation Lab Dublin. The Innovation Lab aims to conceive, develop and launch new services that will disrupt the financial industry. My role is to help manage the idea pipeline within the Lab. The idea pipeline consists of generating new ideas before developing them into projects. I also work on projects as an innovation researcher helping to validate the ideas.

What attracted you to this type of work in the beginning of your career?

I have always wanted to work in a corporate environment. When it came to choosing a career path and a company, Citi ticked all the boxes. My dream was to work for a multinational company with a huge global presence. Business and IT were always my biggest interests during my studies. I knew from a young age that I would follow a career in Business and IT as I found it diverse and challenging.

What would you say is the best part of your work?

The best part of my job is working on a global scale and meeting people. I get to meet new people on a weekly basis as I work closely with different areas of the business. I also like the fact that my role is fast paced, usually the projects I work on don’t last longer than 4 months.

What would you say is a common misconception about your role type?

When people hear the word Technology they automatically think of the stereotype, most will think I sit behind a computer screen all day without any interaction from others. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I have a very social role within the lab as I meet and speak with people every day. We also work with clients which makes it even more interesting as we are constantly learning new things. I also work within a team which means communication skills are vital.

What motivated you to get involved with The Ada Lovelace Initiative?

I have been promoting STEM to students for a few years now and when I heard about A.L.I I thought it would be a perfect program to get Citi involved in. I think the program is an excellent way to break down stereotypes and help provide role models to female students. The fact that the commitment is just one hour for one school is brilliant as many working professionals are too busy to commit to a volunteer program.

How would you describe your school visit for A.L.I. – My Story?

I found that the girls were very interested in my story as I had only left the school 6 years ago. They asked me a lot of questions about my degree and work experience. Overall it was a very pleasant experience and I would highly recommend others to get involved in this great initiative. I would definitely take part in this program again.

I started my visit with a few fun facts about myself to show my personality which really helped to break the ice with the students. I then went onto tell them about my career journey. I tried to tell them how diverse technology is and that there are so many different roles out there today. I think it’s good to give them an insight into the industry now so they will know if it is for them or not. The girls asked lots of questions which was brilliant.

Did you feel differently before and after your visit?

I was a bit nervous in case the girls didn’t want to hear my story or didn’t find it interesting. However I found that not only were the students interested but also the teachers. I actually spoke to more students than expected as the teachers wanted me to stay a bit longer and speak to more classes.

Now that you have completed your school visit, would you have any tips for other role models?

My tip would be to keep it as simple as possible. The students won’t understand industry words and may not fully understand your job role. I also found that asking the students questions helps to break the ice for example I started and ended my presentation with the same question – ‘Who in this class is considering studying technology or working in technology’?. It might also be good to show of your personality at the start by telling them some fun facts about yourself.

Who is your own role model, and why?

SherylSandberg

Sheryl Sandberg would be one of my role models. Sandberg is a role model for women in more ways than one. She is married, a mother of two young children, and is second in command at one of the most talked about companies in the world. It is no secret that women all across the world have trouble rising up the rank for various reasons. Role-models like Sandberg are changing that. She has not just risen up in ranks in her career; she has also constantly advocated for the causes for working women.

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We would like to thank Kirsty Downey for sharing her story for Meet The Role Models and also for visiting the pupils of Sacred Heart Grammar School. If you would like to learn more about The Ada Lovelace Initiative, please visit our A.L.I page. We are looking for role models from every county, if you would like more information about visiting a school on our waiting list or your old school, please fill out our form here and we will be in touch shortly.

Stay tuned for more A.L.I. news from Verify on LinkedIn or @VerifyCommunity on Twitter – #alimystory