Ann

Tell us about your experience?

I am a creative, organised and self motivated individual with excellent communication skills, a tenacious approach to problem solving and proven ability to work independently.

After starting my career as an electronics engineer followed by a variety of less technical, family friendly opportunities, I’ve relished the chance to rekindle my passion for technology by completing the Tech Returners Your Journey into Tech programme.

I bring with me a range of operational experience gained within blue chip, the voluntary and community sector; and small business environments. This breadth of experience has allowed me to hone my communication skills and I consider myself articulate in person and in writing, in both informal and formal situations; to be able and self-motivated to work independently and as part of a team for internal and external clients; to be willing to ask the ‘stupid’ question to clarify or validate my understanding; and to look for innovative solutions to improve my own productivity or solve a problem.

Tell us about your technical skills?

To update my skillset for a return to technology, I’ve successfully completed the Tech Returners Your Journey into Tech programme. where the syllabus included HTML, CSS, JavaScript, React and NodeJS. AWS for an RDS instance and MySql for creating and querying databases; as well as Lamba for FaaS. The syllabus also covered programming fundamentals, test driven development, responsive design, agile techniques and Git and GitHub for version control. The projects completed as part of the programme are hosted on GitHub pages at https://AnnJBarr.github.io/ninetyeightandthreequarters/ and https://EstamosAlwaysCurious.github.io/finder/ to give an idea of my aesthetic style and abilities.

Following on from the returner programme I am working on improving my Python skills, working alongside a mentor as well as more formal training.

My tech journey started in basic on a ZX81 and graduated onto a BBC Micro. Then onto 6502 machine code, Pascal and Fortran. Followed by starting my career as an electronics engineer - developing solid engineering understanding and practices, working with databases, SQL querying and early HTML. From this followed a period of non technical roles and creative use of IT in order to solve problems or improve my own productivity.

Transferable Skills

Communication Skills & Stakeholder Management - Experience of working in a range of organisations has helped me to build strong communication skills such as identifying and influencing key stakeholders, collaborative working with a range of partners and a proven ability to communicate formally and informally, in writing and in person. Previous presentations have included double decker buses and debit cards as analogies to describe the situation.

Tenacity - I think I have always been quite innately tenacious, pursuing subjects which were a surprise to my family, pushing back against stereotypical expectations of sugar and spice and successfully working in a number of areas where I was in a significant minority. However, running a small business, definitely required a tenacious approach - it helped me to value the benefit of quantifying a goal and understanding how and when some flexibility of approach or technique was required and pivoting to redefine the goal or approach in the face of failure. I think it taught me to remind myself to be brave and willing to try something new if tried and tested wasn’t working.

Creativity - whether you would like me explain how a double decker bus can make a good calling card for encouraging volunteers or how to make a Princess Leia dress out of a sheet, I like to look for creative ways to solve a problem. The Tech Returners Your Journey into Tech has helped me to remember that creativity as well as logic is inherent in technology and that good technology benefits from this combination.

Independence - Whilst working for a charity promoting volunteering, a key part of the role was working independently, based from home as part of a small team. I was responsible for scheduling and delivery of presentations in education settings, and working on a one-to-one basis with students to identify suitable volunteer placements and advise on fundraising. I was also responsible for reporting achievements to funding bodies. Completing an OU degree by distance learning and successfully completing the Your Journey into Tech programme also required a good ability to work and motivate myself independently.

Team working - I am hard pressed to think of any role I’ve been involved with either professionally or voluntarily that hasn’t involved working as part of a team to achieve common goals. My current favourite teamwork is as part of the PyCon UK organisers, working with an amazing team of volunteers to deliver an annual conference for the Python programming community. Differences of geography, availability and experience mean that I always have to remind myself to communicate and communicate well, to articulate my assumptions and to ask for help as the team solution is always greater than the sum of the individual parts.

Problem-solving - I love having a problem to solve and find that challenge exciting and motivating. However, I am pragmatic in my approach to problem solving, will look first to see if it is actually a problem and for whom, look to see if someone else has solved it first and look to use tools creatively. My best recent example was in creating an online advent calendar as an engagement tool for my business. I did not have the skills or the time at that point to develop a fully fledged app so I created a solution using HTML linked Canva images in my franchisee CMS of the website to connect to a time limited Survey Monkey form to collect information, extracted to a spreadsheet and winners selected using an online random number generator. Maybe not the most elegant solution but an engaged customer could easily click a social shared link and be in with the chance of winning a bean bag - successful problem solving.

Interpersonal skills - After working for a few years in a large blue chip speciality chemicals company, my excellent interpersonal skills were rewarded when I was recruited into a small team of engineering technologists responsible for networking and sharing best practice across the business. I trained as a facilitator for an interpersonal and motivational skills programme; was responsible for conducting facilitated project risk assessments and training a team of facilitators; and part of the team responsible for managing the design and implementation of the first company-wide engineering intranet.

Chocolate brownie baking - I have baked brownies for many years and have a tried and tested recipe often requested by friends. One summer, my children were attending a number of cadet activities and residential opportunities and I took the view that if you are in an unfamiliar place and know no-one, food is a great ice-breaker, so they were dispatched to each and every occasion with a box of brownies. To this day I still get asked whether there will be Barr brownies at events. As well as hopefully helping my children, the brownies provided me with my best performing business social media post ever and the topic for a lightning talk at a technical conference. That is an achievement of which I am quite proud.

Tell us why you are passionate about a career in tech?

As a returner to tech, I have been excited to rediscover my passion for technology and learning new skills.

In recent years, I have reestablished my links with the technical world by involvement with the Python software community as a volunteer organiser of the PyCon UK Django Girls workshop and a member of the core organising team of PyCon UK. I have enjoyed being able to establish credibility as a useful member of the community, despite an atypical tech background.

I am now looking for a challenging role to harness and grow my blend of interpersonal, creative and technical skills and experience. I enjoy the challenge of having new problems to solve and consider myself committed and pragmatic in my approach.

I am open to conversations about diverse roles within the tech community but feel my strengths would be best employed in full stack software engineering, product owner/manager or developer advocate roles.