Women in STEM, Intern Interview - Rachel Wiles

Who are you, what you do & how do you relate yourselves to STEM-category?
I’m Rachel and I am currently interning at Bing Ads as an Account Coordinator in their Strategic Sales team. I am on a placement year during my Physics degree at the University of Kent, and a huge STEM subject advocate!

When did you start being interested in Physics/Engineering?
For most my education, I spent my time at an all-girls school, so I was a bit blinded and naïve to the concept of the stereotype surrounding STEM subject for women. Naturally, mathematics and the sciences were the subjects I was best at, and I was given some creative freedom to experiment in labs and with mathematics, and this is where it all clicked together. I was also privileged to be taught by several female teachers, who served as fantastic muses for the subjects, and opened windows of opportunity for students alike.

Why do you think females are likely to pursue their career in STEM subjects?
With a growing interest in the digital age, and the evolution of science and technology that follows hand in hand, women around the world are embracing the direction of STEM subjects and digital transformation. The boundaries between what women can and cannot do are being broken down, so now is a better time than ever for women to pursue STEM subjects, and I think in a few years to come we will see that shift in industries as women advance through their careers.

What is your advice to young girls who are interested in STEM subjects but might feel like that field is not well-suited for females?
Don’t let anyone sway you into another decision that your heart isn’t in. This goes for all subjects - pursue the subject that you love and have a deep interest in, as this is where you will thrive in your future career. For women in STEM subjects – show resilience and passion for what you do, and focus on how you can make yourself shine. Distance yourself from any stereotypes and prove your own self-worth, because you have earnt your place amongst everyone else. There are plenty of women with huge contributions in STEM subject history that you can draw inspiration from - learn their stories and appreciate their history to see how you can continue the women in STEM legacy.

What is your favourite thing about being a woman related to STEM-category?
People still seem shocked and surprised when I let them know my chosen degree subject, which makes me proud to be actively challenging people’s perceptions around STEM subjects, and influencing the way people perceive women in STEM. It gives me an edge on other degree choices I could have made, and adds fuel to my fire, so to speak, as it motivates me to pursue STEM subjects to a higher degree.

What is, from your perspective, the most challenging thing about being a woman related to STEM-category?
At university, it’s hard not to feel like the minority, as there were fewer women on the course I am studying towards. However, there is a sense of community and belonging with this, as there is a Women in Physics society in place, and it’s clear to see the numbers growing year on year as new people join the university.

Why did you decide to study a Physics Degree at University?
I started to become more active with the news surrounding science and technology, which really opened my eyes to STEM careers and the opportunities a Physics degree would bring. With an ever-changing world advancing towards technology, it was important to me to have an understanding on how I could influence this in the future, and learn the skills to contribute towards shaping the world in years to come.

Why did you decide to apply for a placement in Microsoft as a data analyst rather than within the sciences?
I wanted to see how I can apply the skill set I had learnt in my degree to a business role at one of the world’s leading technology companies, so Microsoft was the goal. The experience so far has been invaluable, and I would strongly recommend a business placement to anyone studying a STEM subject, as it gives you unique opportunities to bring your learnings into action. My team is led by a woman who previously studied Physics too, however there is a real mix of STEM subjects and other degrees amongst the team. Bringing a more mathematical approach into work every day helps me approach problems in different ways to others, and aid the team towards their successes.

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