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 Kirsty Downey who works as a Technology Associate at Citi Innovation Lab Dublin about her experience of visiting Sacred Heart Secondary School in Newry, County Down.
Meet Jolene Dunne
Today’s interview is the 14th instalment of Meet The Role Models and features Jolene Dunne who is a Software Engineer at Proofpoint in Belfast. Jolene volunteered to take part in The Ada Lovelace Initiative & last term she visited St. Louis Secondary School in Dundalk, County Louth.
Hi Jolene! How would you describe your current role?
I currently work as a Software Engineer at Proofpoint in Belfast. My role is to carry out server-side development for our product, a tool to help small/medium businesses manage their email and information security. Typically, a request for a new feature comes in from the product team, my job is to take that request and to further scope out requirements and design a solution. I would then do all the development and implementation work, before passing it on to be tested and eventually released to our customers.
What attracted you to this type of work in the beginning of your career?
I’ve always been interested in technology and how computers worked, but I think what attracted me the most was the idea of applying analytic and problem solving skills to real world problems. When I was choosing what to study in university I thought about studying Maths or Physics as I was good at those – but I preferred the idea of doing something more practical where all the effort you put in and skills that you learn can directly lead to a tangible product or service that will help people in their day-to-day lives.
What would you say is the best part of your work?
I love solving problems – so the satisfaction I get when I figure out something really difficult is the best part of my job for me. That’s essentially what programming as a career is – coming up with solutions to problems and implementing them.
What would you say is a common misconception about your role type?
That I sit in a cubicle all day coding and don’t speak to anyone – while I may not have as much client/user interaction as some other tech roles, communication is a very important part of my job. It goes all the way from explaining your plan for the day to the rest of your team in morning meetings, to communicating expectations effectively to your manager and other stakeholders, to even commenting and documenting your code correctly!
What motivated you to get involved with The Ada Lovelace Initiative?
I would have benefitted very much from something like A.L.I when I was in school – I didn’t know any other girls in my school who had gone on to study anything IT-related. I know there are probably students out there who might be unsure about software engineering as a career, and that’s where we have to come in and help. It’s so beneficial to have visible women working in tech – even though we might not consciously think so, it’s very important for young women to see people who look like and have similar backgrounds and interests to them succeeding in our industry.
How would you describe your school visit for A.L.I. – My Story?
I visited St. Louis Secondary School in Dundalk last November. I was nervous before my visit – I was worried that not all the students would be interested in the topic, and maybe it would be boring for some of them. I really enjoyed the visit though and I was very pleasantly surprised to get some great questions about the different applications of Computer Science in various domains, from apps and social media all the way to bioinformatics. I’d definitely do another visit if the opportunity came up again.
Did you feel differently before and after your visit?
I was really happy and surprised that everyone seemed so interested – I know that not everyone will end up pursuing a tech career, but I was glad that software is such a big part of our lives nowadays that even just discussing what a software engineer does can be of interest and relevant to everyone.
Now that you have completed your school visit, would you have any tips for other role models?
I would say keep everything as simple as possible and try to keep your tech terms to a minimum. It’s something I’m very conscious about as sometimes it’s difficult to talk about our industry in terms that people would be familiar with.
Who is your own role model, and why?
My role model is a lecturer I had when I was at university. We had very few women in our department, and even fewer were teaching staff. She was the first woman I knew personally in the field who had a list of amazing achievements that stood by themselves regardless of her gender – that’s what I aspire to!
We would like to thank Jolene Dunne for sharing her story for Meet The Role Models and also for visiting the pupils of St. Louis Secondary School in Dundalk. 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