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#STEMStories: Gwen, Engineering Manager, UK

1. Introduce yourself, who are you what do you do?

Hiya! My name is Gwen Diagram, I'm Engineering Manager for Quality at Monzo Bank which is a super rad neobank. Monzo has only been around for a bit over 4 years but we've got three million customers already so it's a very fast paced, exciting place to work. I've been in tech for ten years, I started in IT Support and moved over to testing in 2011. I really love the role of tester, it's based on helping teams build quality software faster. I love working with teams and I'm currently managing and coaching five other testers which I love!

2. How did you arrive at this career (or point in your life/work)? Was it always something you knew you wanted to do?

Funnily, no one ever plans to become a tester - and neither did I! I did want to be a programmer though - when I was 12, my dream was to become a programmer so I could sit in a dark room drinking coca cola, eating pizza by myself. It's pretty rare you'll find a job like that now though, software development is about team work, not building isolated programs in the dark! When I was 15, I went on a course to learn VB6 but I didn't get into IT until I was 23. I worked a lot of odd jobs - I started a career in hairdressing but it wasn't for me, it's not artistic enough. I also sold shoes, worked at Subway for 5 years, worked in a call centre and a few other bits and pieces. I was luckily enough to be given a chance in IT Support and I've never looked back!

3. What about your job makes you jump out of bed in the morning, especially on those cold, dark mornings?

My job is very different every day but it boils down to building a quality experience for customers in fantastic teams. The joy of releasing software and seeing people use what you worked on always brings a smile to my face! I love building strong bonds within teams through shared learning as well. Pairing with someone to work on a problem and solving it as a team is the best feeling ever.

4. What is your personal cure for stress or how do you raise your spirits in times of doubt? Can you share a Story?

Great question! If I'm stuck on a problem, I'll always go for a walk to mull it over. One of the best problems I ever had was I worked in a development team of me, two Developers and two Product Owners. We were building a website and I had a split role, I was Scrum Master and Tester on the team. The Product Owners were getting hammered really hard to build websites and deliver them as quickly as possible; we generally had two to three days to build a smallish website and get it live. Myself and my developers were having to work weekends and all kinds of hours to meet the demands and every time we finished a website, we'd have another, complex site that we had to build immediately. After several rounds of this, I was tired, my developers were tired and we were basically having a terrible time. After the delivery of another website, the Product Owner called me up and asked for us to work on the weekend - again after we had already worked the last two. I told them under no circumstances we would but we needed a plan for how we could deliver this website. Walking home, I figured out that I needed to get everything clearly displayed on a board and estimated so I could tell them how long it would take us to deliver it - without working excessive hours. Sounds simple (I basically implemented Scrum) but when you are right in it, it's hard to think! Go for a walk and clear your head, it does wonders for being able to see clearly.

5. Who is your role model? If no one, any thoughts on this?

Oh my god, there's so many! Lisa Crispin and Janet Gregory who wrote Agile Testing together are amazing. They always bring other people along with them and promote other people that they see doing good work. Linda Rising is another favourite, she's a consultant who is one of the best speakers I've ever seen. Renee Hunt as well who was my old Director at Sky. I hadn't worked closely with women in a long time and it was amazing to have such an inspirational woman in a leadership role to guide and mentor me. Tech has a lot of men to look up to as well who are incredible like Woody Zuill, Noah Sussman and Ard Kramer. There's far too many amazing people in tech to name all my role models. Each of the people mentioned has shaped my way of thinking.

6. What advice would you give to yourself if you could go back in time?

Know your worth and don't be scared to ask for it!

7. Top 3 tips for girls starting out in STEM?

  1. Be yourself. You're awesome!
  2. Go to as many meet ups as possible and find the community, whether it's a Slack community or online. Don't be scared of going to listen to topics you don't know anything about, that's how you learn.
  3. The advice that I gave myself - know your worth. Find out what you should be getting paid via sites like Glassdoor and ask for it!

8. How do you measure your success?

How much fun I'm having and how much fun the people around me are having is a good way for me to measure success. Seeing the software that I'm working on in the wild is a great success marker as well.

9. Where can we find out more about your work?

There's a few talks on YouTube you can have a look at. My favourite is probably the keynote I did for Agile on the Beach last year which is about Potions for Leadership in an Organisation - https://youtube.com/watch?v=Qi7xFx1A4yE Apart from that, you can catch me on Twitter or at a meet up near you!

10. Are you social? Will you share your Twitter handle, or LinkedIn profile, or Facebook so that young women can connect with you?

Yes, you can find me on twitter @gwendiagram

My DMs are open so if you need any advice, don't be afraid to give me a shout!