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Features | 23 Jun 2021

Women and engineering: ‘Don’t be afraid to get involved!’

On International Women in Engineering Day, Vodafone technical specialist Katie Pontin looks back on her career and offers her advice to women aspiring to a career in technology.

Technical specialist Katie Pontin is now a six-year Vodafone veteran. As part of the UK networks team, she is focused on demanding projects such as the roll-out of OpenRAN and improving mobile coverage inside buildings.

So it may be surprising to learn that Katie wasn’t sure which career path to take as a freshly-minted Business Information Systems (think IT) graduate.

“I’ve always had a passion for technology, but I didn’t have a clear idea of which career path to follow,” she says.

“So I joined the technology graduate programme at Vodafone. They’re always at the forefront of innovation and technology. But from the outside, you’re not aware of all the individual roles available.”

After spending time in retail, corporate security and operations, Katie soon found her calling in the networks team.

“Working with new technologies, getting my hands on those at the forefront of innovation, and meeting customers’ demands, takes problem solving and creativity. It’s enjoyable to work through all that and reach the end goal,” she says.

‘No question is a stupid question’

Although Katie has always felt supported and encouraged by others in her pursuit of a tech career, especially at Vodafone, she admits to feeling a little out of place when attending meetings with other mobile network operators where everyone else is a “man in a suit”.

But that awkwardness disappears when she realises she sometimes knows more than they do!

“We all don’t know everything about every topic,” says Katie. “I don’t need to pretend to know everything about every topic. Technology is always going to evolve and your own knowledge will continue to grow as part of that.”

Katie also credits the UK networks team for reinforcing this unpretentious outlook on her career development and on work in general.

“Getting hands-on experience, even if you do something wrong, that’s the best way to learn. No question is a stupid question. I’ve been really lucky to have that support to try new things and not have a fear of failure,” she says.

On International Women in Engineering Day, Katie’s advice to young girls and women considering a tech career is simple: “Don’t be afraid to get involved! The roles within engineering and technology are broad, so explore the options and don’t feel like you’re expected to know everything from day one.”

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