Inspiring answers by Emma Swift, one of the Women in Data Ambassadors on her life and Enterprise Data Architect responsibilities
Emma Swift, Enterprise Data Architect
2. What is something about you people might not know?
I enjoy looking at and creating art. I’m also a bit of a font geek!
3. What are your hobbies?
Running, hiking, live music, cinema (all types of), jigsaw puzzles and of course, art.
4. What did you want to be when you were growing up?
I could have happily painted pictures all day until I was about nine. In fact, I had no firm plans until I did my A-Levels. At that point – I wanted to be a building’s architect as it mixed art with maths.
5. Who was your biggest influence growing up?… who were your role models?
I had two big “star” influences growing up – Marilyn Monroe and Madonna. Marilyn was a complex woman and so ahead of her time and understanding her life fascinated me. Madonna always stood out and has never been afraid of change and reinvention. I think I took both with me in terms of challenging myself and never being afraid to change tack or question it if something isn’t working. The technology interest was undoubtedly spurred by my father being a teacher in maths and IT in the 80s and bringing home all sorts of geekery from school (BBC Micro anyone?).
6. What were your favourite subjects at school?
Art most definitely. In relation to a career – I can’t tell you enough how invaluable Maths and its application actually is. Most things in life come down to a maths concept of some sort you can recognise.
7. What were your least favourite subjects at school?
P.E and languages. Although as an adult, I do now find value in both!
8. How did you come to choose your current career path or were you led to it?
After two years (and a lot of fun) designing buildings for my architecture degree two things became clear.
- I was good at passing exams.
- I was less disciplined in terms of studio work.
So, I had a choice to repeat the year or do something else. My architecture tutors suggested that I’d make a great graphic designer – and I remember being so pleased that my art talent in that discipline was noticed.
However, in myself, I knew I struggled with justifying my design choices. This led me back to wanting something to be either black or white rather than an undefined grey being the right answer. So, I reconsidered maths – in particular using it to help businesses perform – the practical application was very important to me. So I embarked on Mathematics, Statistics and Operational Research. All my career roles have been about targeting better outcomes for business using data – be that saving money or reducing the risk or helping design something new so it was a very wise choice.
9. What are the biggest changes in the world of work (for women) that you are excited about?
The fact we have a voice – the thing I think is so exciting is that people are recognising that if you don’t have female voices at all levels and in all roles you are effectively creating business products that will not perform with a female market – thus you are limiting profit potential. This wasn’t even discussed when I entered my career.
Two other things that have changed massively is dress and flexibility in working practices.
Firstly dress – I have a friend who shortly after she started work (in the 1990s) was summoned to the office because she was wearing trousers and told this was unacceptable for female staff. She was a smart thinker and challenged this, stating that this wasn’t in her contract so no, she wouldn’t be altering her behaviour. The disturbing thing was then a dress code written into contracts after this incident – surely it would have been better to recognise this ridiculous request for what it was!
Thankfully that and other practices have progressed – flexibility in the workplace is making the world a better place for us all. After all, if the technology exists that connects us from anywhere in the world – why wouldn’t it be used to achieve better life balance and reduce commutes (and along with it the stress of travel hiccups like missed connections).
10. Would you say having a degree is the only path to a successful career?
Absolutely not. Degrees were a good way to get a grounding in a specialist subject in my time. However, I think online courses and apprenticeships now have their place in terms of becoming a specialist with more study flexibility and drawing on real-life experience. I have definitely seen a shift towards different paths from what I began with.
Would you say there are opportunities for women entrepreneurs in your career?
Yes most definitely. I think the amount of skill-sharing/learning you see online makes it far easier to have a go at being an entrepreneur and combining or creating new ideas to fulfil a market gap or sell new services.
11. What advice would you give your younger self and school leavers today?
I learnt that there is more than enough time to explore what you love in the first 3-5 years of your career and/or further education.
Don’t nail yourself down to a narrow path but do the work on yourself to recognise what you find easy or difficult, boring or interesting or what to explore in more depth in. Pay attention to gaining some relevant skills to business – it’s likely these will be able to be applied in lots of different areas of your life.
And above all –
recognise that often in life the best is yet to come – so take refuge in that when times are difficult and that these don’t last forever.
Make sure to follow this series on STEM Careers Guide.
For more career-related and job search options, visit Rob Williams Assessment.
Enterprise Data Architect Responsibilities