News | 23 Jun 2020

Zoom girls: The software engineers of the future?

Michelle Willis, Head of Technology Operations at Vodafone UK, recently took part in a series of online events for young women aged 16-25 promoting science, technology, engineering and maths subjects and careers. What was her advice?

Michelle, who joined Vodafone two years ago after a career working for other mobile operators and a renewable energy start-up, has the huge responsibilty for ensuring Vodafone UK’s mobile and broadband networks are working around the clock.

Speaking to more than 50 girls over Zoom about her role and answering questions, she admitted that working in a very male-dominated industry had been challenging at times. But the good news was that more women were now taking up science and engineering roles.

“I’ve been working in technology for about 20 years,” she said, “and things have changed a lot over those years. Things are a lot better now. It’s a very diverse culture at Vodafone.”

Michelle Willis, Head of Technology Operations, Vodafone UK
Michelle Willis has a long and successful career in telecoms and technology that will hopefully inspire young women to follow suit

One audience member asked what the most in-demand technology job would be in five years’ time.

“We are anticipating that a huge number of our roles will be for software engineering,” said Michelle.“I have some of my team moving now to become software developers”.

The reason for this, Michelle explained, is that eventually machine learning and artificial intelligence technologies will enable the network to monitor itself, leaving humans free to concentrate on writing and implementing the software needed to manage such a self-service system.

Our mission is to inspire the next generation of females into STEM fields

(Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE, STEMettes)

The ‘STEM Mode In’ sessions are organised by STEMettes, the social enterprise working to encourage more girls and young women to take up STEM subjects and careers. Michelle was taking part in week 13.

In addition, Vodafone’s Charlotte Crowson, Senior Product Manager, and Natalie Walker, AI Contact Specialist, took part in a YouTube Live session talking about artificial intelligence, machine learning and chatbots.

Natalie Walker and Charlotte Crowson from Vodafone leading a session on Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Chatbots

And at the end of the week, Product Architect, Luisa Tamrakar, and Co-ordination and Support Specialist, Roshni Mistry, participated in an Instagram Live session.

Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE, Head Stemette and co-founder of STEMettes, said: “We’re delighted to partner with Vodafone for a special Week 13 of STEM Mode In to motivate and inspire today’s generation of young women to enter the world of STEM.”

“Our mission is to inspire the next generation of females into STEM fields by showing them the amazing women already in STEM through a series of events, cohort programmes and impactful content platforms.”

More than 250 girls participated in all the weeks’ activities.