A curiosity turned career – Stephanie Somade

With the everywoman Awards closing in, Student Circuit recently spoke with Stephanie Somade, one of the finalists in the Apprentice Award category, to learn more about her journey and advice she has for others.

What starts as a curiosity…

Can soon turn into a career! This is what happened to Somade, who complete her bachelor’s degree in the field of law instead of anything related to tech. In particular, Somade had a specific interest, intellectual properties and patent protection, especially within software. “I found that I really like software patent protection, so that’s what I wanted to get in to. When I left university, I soon realised that many patent lawyers actually have programming backgrounds, which made total sense as its best to know the products properly,” explains Somade. From here she realised that to climb the ranks effectively, she should explore a bit into the realm of programming to enhance her potential as a lawyer, it was this exploration that yielded a different outcome than first anticipated.

“So I set out to learn how to code a bit, it was purely for my CV, I didn’t have any intention to go into software engineering itself,” she continued. “But then when I started doing it, I was like, ‘wow, I kind of love this.’”

Upon this realisation, she spoke with friends she had within the field who encouraged her to pursue this passion. “I spoke to one of my friends who was undergoing an apprenticeship in software engineering at the time, and he was just like, you should do it! So, I decided to look into it, and the rest is history,” she enthused, now enjoying her newfound role in tech as a part of News UK’s commercial engineering team.

Getting into the role

Given Somade’s background in law, and very little prior knowledge, she was eager to demonstrate that you don’t need to know it all to start your journey into the sector. “When I started, I knew very little, when people ask me whether I’m self-taught [in coding] I can barely say I am considering I really only taught myself the basics,” she explained. “Going into the apprenticeship, it was more of just trusting and believing in myself. I will always say to people, if it is something you are interested in then do give it a try! You really don’t need to have a wealth of knowledge to get into it.”

For Somade, her apprenticeship was a hands-on opportunity, given things to work on as she learnt. “You’re kind of just thrown into it, but not in a bad way, there was no points where I was completely stuck or felt overwhelmed.”

One of Somade’s crowning achievements, and most enjoyable parts of her experience thus far, was her apprenticeship project, in which she created a tool to allow non-developers interact with certain aspects of what her team works on without the need to know the code themselves – unlocking transparency and efficiency across her team and elsewhere in the business.

“It was great to be able to identify a problem and streamline that process for my own commercial engineering team and the wider commercial teams.

“The project took me about three months, as a part of my apprenticeship, and is something that I completed independently. To actually come up with a finished product and see the results has been really great,” excites Somade.

Advice for others

Somade had plenty to say to anybody out there sitting on the fence about getting into an apprenticeship, whether it be in tech or elsewhere. “I’d always recommend an apprenticeship, coming out of university with a degree is great and can open many doors, but the opportunity [from an apprenticeship] you can’t get anywhere else. You aren’t just being equipped with theory in your back pocket, but also hand-on experiences. And you’re also getting paid! Doesn’t get better than that!”

She also stressed that the entire time you are well supported, given plenty of advice and support along the way. “There’s always a clearly structured timeline for you to follow, which keeps that nice learning structure that many of us out of schooling or university are used to.

“It is also tailored more towards you, it’s sort of almost based on how fast you want to go through it all. It took about a year and a half for me, others only a year, others two.”

Whilst she does admit that it can be a scary or daunting task to commit to, she recommends talking to people as much as possible, especially anybody who might be doing something similar.

Beyond just an apprentice

Somade isn’t just an apprentice in software engineering but is also driving diversity and inclusivity forward at her current position, something she feels strongly about.

“The programme is essentially a co-mentoring scheme, you get assigned to one of the directors of the company, building a personal relationship with them and discussing areas in which they can improve diversity and inclusivity (DNI).

“It’s been really great, something that’s not only important, but also fun and interesting. It’s great to feel heard, speak closely with one of the directors of the company, and feel like I’m making an impact.

Final words

“I really wish that I didn’t see the tech sector as being this taboo masculine-only high difficulty area. I really hope that more women get into the industry and just more people of different backgrounds. It’s such a creative area and having that diversity would be such a great benefit. So I hope that people would look at me, and others in the industry and not see us as ‘the chosen few’ but instead the norm, that it’s something anybody can get into.”