Meet The Role Models is a technology community series which highlights the stories of The Ada Lovelace Initiative role models. The success of the Ada Lovelace Initiative is down to the continuous participation of technology professionals across Ireland and since September 2015, voluntary speakers have reached over 5000 secondary school students between them.

Our latest interview features Sarah Sharkey, Software Engineer at Stripe.


Hi Sarah! How would you describe your current role?

I work at Stripe as a software engineer. My role is quite cross-functional, I work with a lot of different teams on a common goal – bringing Stripe to more countries in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. It’s quite fast-paced; we’re ambitious with what we can do. It’s never boring that’s for sure. It’s important to take ownership and initiative in my role, if something looks broken or could be improved, fix it!

What attracted you to this type of career?

I’ve always had a passion for solving problems. I didn’t want to go into a career that involved a lot of repetition, I wanted something that would allow me to solving interesting, difficult problems and be creative with solutions. Being a software engineer is basically figuring out how to tell computers what to do, and you can have a lot of fun in doing that!

What did you study in college?

Computer Science in Trinity College Dublin.

What were your favourite subjects when you were in school?

I loved subjects that involved maths and problem solving: Maths, Applied Maths and Physics. However, I also really liked art as I enjoyed drawing.

What were your favourite hobbies when you were in school?

Gymnastics, played a bit of hockey in school, but mostly just enjoyed going out with friends.

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

That it’s a man’s job. Some of the first computer scientists and engineers were women (Ada Lovelace for example!). I’ve worked with many incredibly smart female engineers.

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

Seeing the impact of the work we do. Hearing user stories about how our product has helped them feels pretty great.

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

I’m passionate about encouraging more female students into STEM. It’s such a great career path that more should consider, and I think the Ada Lovelace Initiative is doing a great job at getting more people into it!

How important do you think it is for young girls to have the opportunity to meet female role models in the stem space?

Very, it’s important to have role models you can relate to. If there were only male role models in STEM then it might not encourage as many girls into the area.

Who is a role model in history that you look up to, and why?

Whitney Wolfe Herd (very recent history, I know). She is super impressive – she’s the CEO of Bumble and the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire. I love her perspective on business “The power lunch is no longer just for men”. She empowers women and leads by example of what can be done when you put your mind to it.

Who would you say is your own role model in your career today, and why?

The Collison brothers. Before I joined Stripe I had always admired what the Collison brothers had achieved. Patrick was enthusiastic about computers and taught himself how to write code from a young age. Him and John started their own businesses and now they’re founders of Stripe, a 3000+ employee financial services and software company that is enabling millions of companies in over 120 countries to run and scale their businesses. Not only is Stripe very successful, but they’ve maintained a humble, user-focused and inclusive environment in the company which I really admire and have experienced first-hand.

What advice would you give to any young girls considering a tech / stem future?

It’s such an interesting, fulfilling career with so many possible paths – I did computer science but there’s plenty of different areas in STEM you can go in to! Go with what interests you the most. If you end up liking a different area more than what you chose, then there’s always the option to pivot and change focus. You’re not married to any particular area, careers are full of opportunity for change so follow your interests!

We would like to thank Sarah for joining us to share her inspiring story.

If you would like to learn more about The Ada Lovelace Initiative, please visit our A.L.I page.

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