Rachel is a second-year student at Technological University Dublin (TUD), where she is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in computer science with software development. Deciding to go back to education after completing two different PLC courses, Rachel is passionate about encouraging women to pursue careers in STEM. Here she shares more about her daily routine.
Did you always want to work in STEM?
When I was younger I really loved maths and solving little brain teasers, so I always knew I wanted to work at something that would challenge me. I only really realised I wanted to work in tech when I started my PLC in software development.
In college, I’m studying… computer science with software development. It’s a four-year degree course and I couldn’t be happier with my choice of career.
My most formative work experience was… at Google. The summer of 2022 I worked at Google Dublin as a site reliability engineer on their STEP internship program (Student Training in Engineering Program). The people I worked with were so supportive and encouraging that it gave me confidence in my abilities and made me realise that I definitely made the right choice by pursuing this career path.
My first real job was… working as a riding school instructor. I used to work evenings and weekends (pretty much any time I wasn’t in college) and I loved it. I taught people of all ages and learned how important good communication is.
The most invaluable thing I’ve learned so far is… good communication is essential for everything in life. Whether it’s in your work or personal life, communication is key. If I’m struggling in college or need a hand with something, I am never afraid to ask for help.
A common misconception about what I do is… that computer science is more suited to men or that you need to love computer games to study computer science. I am neither a man nor do I have even the slightest interest in gaming and I am thriving. When I was doing my PLC for software development, I was the only girl in the class and couldn’t figure out why. Computer science is for everyone and there are some great supports out there for women in STEM.
My main responsibility in work will be to… learn. When I was at Google I was encouraged to learn as much as possible and to never stop asking questions.
Do you have a career mentor or someone you look up to/seek advice from?
The first person I always go to is my mam. She was the person to encourage me to apply for scholarships and internships and supported me through going back to education.
The biggest risk I have taken with regards to my career so far is… leaving working with horses to pursue a degree in computer science. Before doing my PLC, I worked at the yard and was hoping to develop a career in either teaching or riding for a living. Going back to education was a pretty big risk for me because I was leaving something I knew I loved for something I had never tried before.
I wake up at… whatever time I have to be up at to get to college on time! As a student, I’ll sometimes have to stay up late to get assignments done or to study for a test the next day.
The first thing I do every morning is… have a cup of tea. I don’t think I could function without at least two cups of tea before college.
My morning routine is… tea, porridge, check emails, and more tea.
I can’t go to college without… my headphones. Sometimes college can be pretty loud with all of us students milling around and it can be quite overwhelming. I have the biggest pair of noise-cancelling headphones that I bring in for when I need to get work done or if I’m just a little sensitive to noise that day.
I travel to college by… car. I’m so lucky to be able to drive and I have my own little car that I’ve had since starting to drive. My car has been through a lot (having a learner driver behind the wheel has not been kind to her!) and is sometimes affectionately referred to as Penny… because that’s all she’s worth.
The most useful business tool I use every day is… Google Search. As most people in computer science will know; the key is to google everything.
I save time by… making my lunch the night before. It gets quite expensive eating out every day at college when I don’t have time in the morning to make any food.
I rarely get through my day without… chatting to my friends. I’m so lucky to have a few really good friends that I talk to every day.
The best part of my day is… getting home after a long day and having a really big cup of tea.
The most challenging part of my day is… trying to get myself into college mode. When I get into class in the morning it can be hard to switch on my brain to listen and take notes and it always takes a few minutes to get myself into gear.
I know it’s been a good day if… I have gotten most of the things on my to-do list done. I like to have a little mental list of the things I need to do for the day but the items on my list can sometimes be really trivial like ‘make sure to put my laptop in my bag for college in the morning’. Small goals are way more achievable and make you feel great!
I usually end my day at… the kitchen table having a cup of tea with my family and chatting about our days. It’s really nice to stay up to date on what’s going on in my siblings’ and parents’ lives and to share with them what my day has been like as well.
I switch off from college/work by… going to the stables to see my horse (his name is Buttons). Getting to see Buttons after a long day is so nice because he’s a great listener! I have a good few friends down at the yard as well and it’s a good way to unwind after a long day.
Before I go to bed, I… watch a show on Netflix. My current favourite is Gilmore Girls – it’s a nice little half an hour to unwind and enjoy myself.
I often prepare for tomorrow by… making my lunch for the day and making sure my school bag is packed. I used to forget my laptop charger once or twice a week so I’ve definitely learned my lesson. Always make sure you have a laptop AND a charger, not one or the other!
After a long work week, I destress by… going for walks with my friends. We go walking up the woods or walk around the estate and just word vomit about how our week has been and catch up on what we’ve missed. When I’m feeling extra energetic, I can usually convince someone to climb the Sugarloaf with me!
The accomplishment I’m most proud of is… getting into university. I didn’t complete a junior or leaving cert but I completed three years in two different PLC colleges and took a very alternate route to most. I think it’s important for young people to know that there are many ways to get to university and leaving cert is only one of them.
If you want to get into my line of work, my advice is to… make sure you love what you’re doing. Computer science is such a broad course and it can be hard to find the one niche you really love. If you have the drive to look for what you really want to do, you will definitely find it eventually. I myself am still unsure of what area of tech I want to be in, but I am doing everything I can to expose myself to the different roles that could be available to me after college.
The most common prejudice I come up against in my industry is… nothing as of yet. If anything, being a woman in computer science has only helped me. I’m so lucky to have received the Generation Google scholarship for women in computer science in Ireland. This scholarship was set up specifically to help and support women in making their way in a male-dominated industry and there are many more supports like it available to women in STEM.
The Google Scholar Programme aims to engage a new generation of young women in Irish Universities. For context, recent stats from the CSO, reveal that while workers in the tech sector have the highest annual earnings in Ireland just 32% of all ICT employees were female – with women comprising only 5% of all telecommunication engineer roles in Ireland.