Meet Cara Evangeline, who lives in the London Borough of Haringey, and is studying for a Masters in Big Data Science at Queen Mary University. In this OneTech Story, Cara shares her experience on our Talent & Employability Incubator which helped her secure an internship with a cybersecurity start-up Conatix.
Tell us about your experience on the Talent Incubator and what you got out of it?
I didn’t have any direct experience of the industry and didn’t know how tech companies operate beforehand. Once I got onto the Talent Incubator they gave us step by step each week an idea of how start-ups work and how to develop skills through the assignments they gave. I learnt how to write a CV and approach companies. It taught me exactly how to use LinkedIn. That is how I contacted many recruiters and recruiters contacted me.
I’m basically an introvert and the programme taught me to network with others. I got to work alongside my peers and do some project work together. I also had one to one meetings with Kay (the tutor) and she gave me some tips and advice. Overall, it was very good exposure for me.
Has it improved your understanding of tech?
Yes definitely. In India, we have different styles of approaching things. I learned a lot on my Masters, but through this programme I am understanding more about the reality.
Before joining the Talent Incubator my perception was to join a big, well-established company. But then I got to know all the pros of being in a start-up business. You get to do everything right from scratch till the end. Basically, you get acquainted with every technical step and what is happening inside your company, so that was a positive insight.
What did you enjoy the most?
The assignments. For instance, on presentation, when we got to develop a poster, to build our own ideas for a company as if we are going to be founders. It was a different experience and compliment to my technical dissertation that I was writing at the same time. That was a lot of pressure, but the assignments were so different and fun. It was a kind of relaxation.
Tell us about your internship?
The timing of the Talent Incubator was especially good for me as I was actively looking for internships. OneTech helped me to secure a placement and I’m now working in a cybersecurity startup called Conatix and my internship is funded by MITACS (a not-for-profit organization in Canada).
I had very little knowledge about start-ups and I had my doubts at first. But my colleagues have helped me and I am strengthening my skills, for instance how to code more professionally addressing all use case scenarios, how to build a model right through to deploying it into a product. I am absorbing a lot about machine learning technology, getting real hands-on experience. It has been unbelievable. Quite unexpected for me to get to do so many things.
How has your background and your community influenced your journey?
I am originally from India and did my BTech in Computer Science at the National Institute of Technology. In India the competition is very heavy, and it was a struggle for me from 8th grade, but I was able to get into one of the top colleges. I’ve been coding in C++, R, Java and Python for 8 years already.
To broaden my skills and knowledge and to gain international Exposure I came to the UK for my Masters after completing my bachelors. This UK education has given me a lot of confidence that I can achieve a lot in my life. In India, people define you by how you study. Here people define you by the kind of person you are.
Here everything in my Masters is practical. Gradually they take you from scratch to the end. The process is so good, putting you on a level where you can run with it. Many people come to me for help with assignments and that gave me confidence.
Have you had any challenges in your career journey so far?
My challenge has been to have the confidence to put things forward. In the past, unless and until I was 99% sure of something, I wouldn’t talk. In too many circumstances, I would wonder ‘what if something goes wrong?’, and it made me panic. But over time I understood that this is not the way it should be. That is not how tech works. Actually, even if you are 50% confident enough about something you should say it.
How did the Talent Incubator help you with those challenges?
The Talent Incubator helped me to open up. During the course, everyone was asked to speak and give their opinion, and they emphasised that often there is no right or no wrong. We were put into virtual break out rooms in small groups, and I got involved and shared my experiences. I surprised myself as I was not that kind of person! In an environment where you are constantly asked for your opinion, I found my voice.
This confidence has grown in my internship. We have a lot of meetings with external people and the company has given me a lot of opportunities. I realised ‘this is how it goes’ and I started speaking up. I’m so very grateful to them for this support.
What are your dreams and plans for the future?
I hope to get a job in the UK for the next few years, and pursue my career in Data science and Machine learning. I want to contribute my insights and knowledge to the best I can. My main ambition is to keep on top of ongoing trends and get more international exposure.
What is your message to inspire other young women to go into tech?
You can go 2 ways in life. You can dream for smaller things and settle in your comfort zone, but there is another way. You can take the direction where the journey might be more difficult to reach the mountaintop. Keep dreaming. Hope, trust, faith is what you need.
Before getting on the Talent Incubator, I had applied to many companies for internships and got no replies. There were moments where I thought that I should just give up. But hope and faith can make all the crooked paths straight. Do the best you can and leave the rest that you are not in control of.