In DWP Digital we’re passionate about redressing the gender balance in digital roles. For this to happen, it’s important that young women are shown the scope of technology opportunities available to them before they start making decisions on their future career.
So we recently welcomed Amanpreet and Katie, two girls from a local high school, to our Newcastle Data Science hub for a week’s work experience as part of the Next Tech Girls initiative.
Setting the challenge
After initial introductions (including a welcome from our director Paul Lodge), a bit of background on the department and an overview of the agile method of working we set the task for the week - to answer the question:
“Is access to the internet linked to population measures, such as the portion of a local population that are in work?”
The challenge for the girls was to link publicly available data together to understand the effects of digital connectivity.
Starting the sprint
As a team we held a sprint planning session defining tickets that the girls would work through over the course of the week. The rest of the first day was focused on gathering relevant available data from open sources to answer the question.
After downloading data related to internet speed and employment percentages, the girls were introduced to Jupyter Notebooks and how through this application you can shape and cleanse data using Python. At the end of the day, Katie and Amanpreet each had a clean dataset ready to interrogate and identify insights.
The next morning the girls shared the work they’d done at the team’s morning stand-up. We then introduced them to Microsoft PowerBI, a tool we use to create rapid prototype visualisations. Loading the dataset they had developed on day one into the tool, they created maps and charts to show the data.
On to the coding…
They began technical testing of their applications and identified possible improvements, for example adding a feature that allowed the user to search for their average broadband speed based on postcode.
By the end of the fourth day, both Katie and Amanpreet had working web applications that were ready for user testing.
One of our user researchers worked with the girls to develop the testing for the team to complete acting as users. They then applied any final changes based on the tests to the apps, and published to the internet and shared with the world.
And here they are! https://nexttechgirls.dwpdata.info/
A diverse community
Aoife O’Neill, one of our analysts who worked with the girls said: “Meeting the girls was great, and I was really taken aback by how much they’d learnt. When showing them my work in R Studio, they were clearly keen to understand my code, and even began to point out the differences they were noticing between R and Python!
“It was great that the girls got to meet a wide range of people working in tech, so that they can see that there’s a space for them in this community too.”
Abi Walsh, an analyst programmer, who also spent time with Katie and Amanpreet said: “It was refreshing to see young girls interested in what we do in the department. I was really impressed with their skill level and ability to understand the complexity of the department’s debt recovery model that I showed them. I think it’s really important to get girls interested at a young age so they can make informed decisions about their career paths.”
Alyson Atkinson, a lead product owner, said: “It’s great to see initiatives like this in action. The girls got to see the diversity of the roles and different career paths in government digital roles which is really important as we need people in digital who are representative of the people we are providing services for. I enjoyed talking to them about my role and the importance of product ownership - it was an opportunity for them to hear about a less technical role in the digital space.”
It was an absolute pleasure to have Amanpreet and Katie join the team for the week and it was inspiring to see their enthusiasm and aptitude. I hope that we’ve given them an insight into what working in digital is really like and given them food for thought about their future careers.