Program Manager Off-road, Oxbotica
Sally always thought she would follow in her dad’s footsteps, however a last minute decision in her adolescence saw her take a different path and she hasn’t looked back since.
Read more about her journey, what makes her proud to be a woman in STEM and how Oxbotica has supported her during her recruitment and onboarding experience.
How did you hear about Oxbotica and what were you doing before joining the team?
Before joining Oxbotica, I was working for a software company as a project manager, developing electronic architecture systems for armoured vehicles in the British Army. During my time there, I happened to be involved in some research projects which focused on autonomous vehicles and I remember thinking at the time that it was such an interesting area.
I first heard about Oxbotica through my husband, who also works in robotics. He pointed out that they were looking for a Program Manager, and as soon as I read the job description I was hooked – it was like it had been written specifically for me.
Fast forward to today and I have now been working here for 6 weeks. Despite joining Oxbotica during lockdown – while everyone was still working remotely – the team went above and beyond to make me feel welcome and I am really enjoying getting stuck into my role.
Did you always want to be a technologist? If not, what did you originally plan on doing?
In actual fact, when I was younger I wanted to follow in my dad’s footsteps and join the Merchant Navy, but my mum insisted that I get a qualification before signing up, so I chose to do a BTEC National Diploma in Computer Studies at college.
Of course, I never did end up in the Merchant Navy － I ended up really enjoying the course and decided to find a job in tech instead. Upon graduating, I got myself a role as a receptionist at a software company and then proceeded to bombard one of the team leads about my college work until one day he caved and asked me to join the team. I remember the moment he handed me the Oracle Database tool still in the box, and the rest is history.
What team do you work in and what does a typical working week look like for you?
I’m the Program Manager for off-road, working alongside key stakeholders to deliver on joint projects. Like many other roles, I am not sure a ‘typical’ week exists, but generally I spend my time planning, coordinating various teams, problem solving, keeping up to date with developments and ensuring targets are met.
''As I read the job description I was hooked - it was like it had been written specifically for me.''
The technology sector has a predominantly male demographic, what is it like being one of the few females working in the field?
It is noticeable, however I do believe that the tide is slowly changing. I have personally never had a problem with being in the minority, and I have found that women bring a different perspective and dynamic. We see things in different ways and ask different questions, which I believe can add a valuable dimension to any team or company.
What is the most challenging thing for you about working in the engineering space?
I think it is probably that as women we are typically not brought up or educated in engineering, so we often end up starting off on the back foot.
Certainly when I was growing up, engineering was deemed to be the area that boys would go into and so schools didn’t push those subjects with girls as much. I don’t know if that has changed, but I certainly hope so as it would have been something I’d have liked to have done.
Is there a notable point in your career/life so far that has made you proud to be a woman in STEM?
In a previous role, I found a female team member who had just joined my team in tears one day and asked her what was wrong, she was not long out of university in her first job being asked to develop in a programming language she didn’t know on a new team of people she also didn’t know. It was all a bit overwhelming and she was doubting whether she could do it.
Fortunately, I was in the position of being able to reassure her that she could do it and provide the support and guidance to lead her through those difficult first few weeks. She became one of my best programmers and remained on the team for years before moving onto a new project as a confident young woman.
What advice would you give to young women looking to start a career in STEM?
Believe in yourself and your abilities, and go for it. You can make a difference.
''Women bring a different perspective and dynamic. We see things in different ways and ask different questions, which I believe can add a valuable dimension to any team or company.''
How has Oxbotica supported you during your first month and what do you like most about working here?
The induction week was great －I was given introductions into every area which gave me an overview of who was doing what and who to contact for questions. The IT set-up was brilliant and I was ready to go as soon as lunchtime on my first day.
Everyone I have ‘met’ has been so helpful and friendly, but I am looking forward to when I can actually meet the team in 3D!
How would you describe the culture at Oxbotica?
In three words – fun, collaborative and motivating.
It is a really great working environment, and the fact that we are working together in such a great domain to bring leading edge technology to the forefront is so exciting.
On that note, what excites you most about the autonomous vehicle space?
The thing that excites me most about this industry is being able to witness new things that haven’t been done before take shape and become widely available.
It’s rare to find a role where every single aspect is interesting, and knowing you are creating something that will ultimately help someone in the future is really rewarding.
''It is a really great working environment, and the fact that we are working together in such a great domain to bring leading edge technology to the forefront is so exciting.''