Speaker Spotlight: Laura Mawer’s Journey in Tech – Embracing Change and Community Power

In addition to being a member of the Datacove team, who are our amazing supporters, Laura also runs the Brighton Py group. She discusses her unconventional journey into the tech sector, exploring turning points, embracing change, and the value of mentorship and community. Read on…

Can you share a bit about your background?

Originally from Northern Ireland, I come from a family of mathematicians and engineers and grew up solving home made puzzles round the dinner table. I moved to England to study maths at the university of York, then went into teaching secondary and A-level maths in London and Sussex.

A few years ago I transitioned into tech, and now work as a data scientist for Datacove, a data & analytics consultancy based on Brighton. I have 2 awesome kids, an incredible husband, and enjoy treading the boards for a local musical theatre society.

Did you come up through a “traditional” techie route or has your career taken twists and turns along the way?

After my degree I went into teaching for 15 years. I loved being in the classroom and sharing the joy of maths with students, but the workload was becoming unsustainable and there is only so many ways to rewrite a scheme of work!

I had been exploring alternative career paths for some time, but it wasn’t until I stumbled upon Python that everything clicked into place. Teaching myself how to code for data analytics was a game-changer, and I realised quickly the possibilities it offered. It was then that I made the decision to pivot towards a career in tech.

I found Datacove through a friendly referral and got the role of data & analytics consultant. While I was relatively new to the field of analytics compared to some, my background in teaching and mathematics provided me with a unique perspective and lots of transferable skills that have proved invaluable in my new career. Since then I have continued to learn and develop my skills and have since advanced to the role of data scientist.

Reflecting on your career, is there a specific moment that stands out as pivotal or defining?

The most pivotal moment was definitely taking the step to learn something entirely new – coding, which completely reshaped my career path.

Throughout my career, I’ve constantly embraced change and sought out challenges. Whether it was stepping up to run a working group, which started the path to a promotion, or volunteering to pilot a new software, which landed me the opportunity to present at the international launch event for an educational tech company – each leap into the unknown has propelled me forward.

I’m not saying it’s always been easy, and I acknowledge the role that luck and privilege may have played in my journey. However, by putting myself out there, trying new things, and being willing to learn from my mistakes, I’ve been able to find many opportunities, grow and advance in my career.

What piece of advice would you give your younger self as you embarked on your professional journey?

You don’t have to have all the answers!

I remember feeling frustrated when things didn’t come easily or when I couldn’t do something perfectly right away—and truthfully, I still have those moments. But here’s the thing: you don’t learn anything if you already know how to do everything. It’s perfectly okay not to have all the answers and to seek help when needed. Everyone is constantly learning and growing, and that’s a part of the journey. So, embrace the process, don’t be afraid to ask questions, and remember that it’s okay to not have it all figured out from the start.

Looking ahead, what’s your big prediction for the tech landscape in 2024?

While AI continues to headline, I predict the use of various tools will be used to enhance efficiency in general. Whether it’s through the adoption of chatbots/virtual assistants, computer vision creating or interpreting visual content, or automation of repetitive tasks, companies will focus more on streamlining operations and making life easier.

Considering your involvement in Silicon Brighton and community-building, what does the concept of ‘community’ mean to you personally? How important is it in the tech industry?

Community is vital for collaboration and learning. It’s about coming together, exchanging ideas and celebrating each other’s successes. It provides a support system for newcomers, encourages mentorship, and promotes opportunities for career growth and advancement.

Within tech there is such a wide range of roles and opportunities and I wouldn’t have know a fraction of it without our Silicon Brighton communities. I’ve gained valuable insight, build meaningful friendships and explored potential business. These meetups have been at the heart of boarding my horizons and connecting me with like-minded individuals.

How do you balance staying updated with the latest industry trends while ensuring continuous personal and professional growth? Any specific resources or practices you find particularly valuable?

I am still very much new to tech so most projects still provide opportunities for me to learn something new. On top of that Datacove host knowledge shares of different tools and tech, I learn from our wonderful BrightonPy community group speakers and I read a lot of Medium articles!

As someone who has contributed significantly to the community, how do you see mentorship playing a role in the development of the next generation of tech professionals?

I’ve experienced first hand the challenges of breaking into the tech industry without connections. That’s why I believe it is so important to foster an inclusive and supportive community for everyone. I’m deeply committed to highlighting and sharing diverse pathways into tech, and encourage others to help out where they can.

As a STEM and computer ambassador, I actively engage with schools to educate students about the wide array of tech and career opportunities in STEM fields. My goal is to ensure that the future of tech is bright, with a diverse range of perspectives contributing to the benefit of everyone.

Is there any additional wisdom, experience, or anecdotes you’d like to share with our audience?

My mantra for any period of difficulty has always been “this too, shall pass”.

Anything else you would like to promote to our community?

We have taking over the running of EARL (The Enterprise Applications of the R, and Python, Language) conference and will be holding it in Brighton this September. We have opportunities for speakers and sponsorships so check out the site for more info and to be kept in the loop for when tickets go live – https://datacove.co.uk/earl-2024-tech-conference/


Want to hear more from Laura? Watch her previous talk here: