On Wednesday 23rd October, we welcomed hundreds of female STEM students to meet with 31 top prospective employers at the impressive Congress Centre in the heart of London. Sponsored by NatWest Markets, the event was an overwhelming success with over 650 students downloading a ticket and a fabulous turnout on the day.
As noon approached, students began to arrive and a long queue formed up the staircase whilst they waited to be checked in and shown to the theatre space. Due to the huge popularity of the event, we invited students to arrive in two separate waves and scheduled two welcome talks, to ensure that nobody missed out on invaluable information from our event sponsor.
The welcome talks were led by STEM Women events manager Sophie Chadwick, followed by an in-depth presentation by Carla Floyd, Head of Corporates and Specialist Sectors at NatWest Markets.
Carla Floyd, NatWest Markets
After the talks had finished, the students all filtered into the large networking hall which was populated with company banners, free goodies, leaflets and employers waiting to start discussions and offer advice to prospective candidates.
Around the room there were stands from NatWest Markets, EY, BlackRock, PwC, VISA, Viqtor Davis, Expedia, PA Consulting, Johnson Matthey, Alfa, Accenture, KPMG, Heathrow, Baker Hughes, ExxonMobil, VMware, Deutsche Bank, SEI, Barclays, Capgemini, Mazars, Kilburn & Strode, Wates, Caterpillar, AWE, Mizuho, Toshiba, Amazon, Genius Sports, Subsea 7 and American Express.
During networking, lunch was served to everyone. Waiters circled the room with bowls that were filled with a delicious selection of dishes including salmon with dill and potatoes, vegetarian curry and a light Caesar salad. Dessert was a tasty chocolate mousse which proved extremely popular!
At 1.30pm the first of two panel sessions began featuring insights from women working at NatWest Markets, American Express and Wates. As the panel was announced to the networking hall, the theatre space quickly filled up with students eager to hear from the inspirational women. On the panel, we welcomed Carla Floyd and Burcu Karabork from NatWest Markets, Pavan Sangha from Wates and Adebusola Adegbuyi from American Express.
During the panel, we heard what it is like to work in each of these companies, how the women got to where they are today and some great advice for students applying to graduate schemes. We also discovered what it was like to be a woman in engineering from Pavan Sangha:
“On my current project we’ve got a team of about 30 to 40 people and I am the only woman on the team. So, obviously, at team meetings, it is apparent that I’m the only woman. But at Wates, that’s not a disadvantage, because I think being female and going into this industry, our mindset is slightly different from the males in the team. So, say in team meetings, if I say something and then a male colleague says something, they will always listen to my opinion, because I usually offer a different perspective.”
After this, the discussion was opened up to the students and they were invited to ask the panel some questions. We covered topics including the best ways to prepare for assessment centres, interview tips and how to stay positive.
Carla Floyd from NatWest Markets offered students some advice; “Before you go to interviews, make sure you do enough research so you can build a story in your head. Then the questions you can ask at the interview are the ‘why’ and the ‘how’. The people that do the best in assessment centres are the people who have spent time understanding the role and the industry.”
One student found Carla’s advice especially helpful: “I was really inspired by the interesting speech from Carla from NatWest Markets and the really useful advice of the women on the panels. It has helped push me back into a positive and brave mindset with my applications!”
After a very short break out, the second panel was ready to start. This one had a focus on Technology and Consultancy, with female representatives from EY, PwC, Expedia and Wates.
The panel session began with a short presentation from Narmada Guruswamy from EY. It covered what the company does and the opportunities that are available to recent or future graduates. We then heard more about what Narmada does in her day to day role at EY as an Assistant Director in forensic discovery and analytics practice:
“In my career, I’ve been very passionate about promoting women in technology because we don’t see enough of them! I do quite a lot of work that is targeted towards that, working with the EY women in technology group and heading up the workstream for Tech UK. And in 2018, I got the tech women hundred award which was nice!”
Narmada Guruswamy, EY
Narmada went on to give the students some inspiring advice for the future: “I think the best piece of advice that I could give would be to go with your conviction, to define yourself the way you want to be defined. You are the best person to say ‘this is what I want to be, and this is who am I.’ That will take you far because when you have conviction, you can do anything you want to do.”
We then heard from Grace Ge, a recent graduate now working in technology consulting for PwC, followed by Mel Hodge from Viqtor Davis. Mel talked about her career from starting out as a programmer to moving to Silicon Valley and the importance of always taking on new challenges and saying yes to new opportunities.
The final speaker was Senior Director of Technology at Expedia Group, Nasreen AbdulJaleel. She spoke in-depth about how technology has changed over the years and one of her biggest career highlights:
“A couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to build, from scratch, a team of 100 technologists that was completely gender balanced, over the period of a year. And we managed to do it, it is now the most gender-balanced team we have anywhere on the globe!
Nasreen AbdulJaleel, Expedia
“In my role and in technology in general, the more senior I get, the fewer women there are. And so, part of what fuels me every day is helping more women join me. In this room with all of you, I see the hunger you have and the integrity you have, I am driven to get you in the industry and to be part of the decision making.”
Following these hugely inspiring insights, students then asked the panelists their own questions. We covered some really great topics including the challenges many of the women had faced at work and how they overcame them, how technology has changed over the years and the importance of mentoring.
With both employers and students extremely happy with how the event went, we are so proud to be introducing so many female STEM students to inspirational employers. And with more events to come, we can’t wait to meet even more women in STEM. Check out our events page to find out where the next STEM Women event is taking place. You can also become a STEM Women member and hear news of our upcoming events first.
Are you an employer looking to exhibit and talk at one of our events? Get in touch with our team today and be part of the next STEM Women event.