Soheir has enjoyed a rich and varied career in IT: from teaching maths and programming to becoming a software engineer - she has loved every minute. She says BCS feels 'like a second home' and is proud of making a difference to people.
What does BCS mean to you?
'BCS is like a second home to me. I like being there because I feel so comfortable, relaxed and happy. I feel I can be myself and don't have to pretend - there's not so much formality, so I can go wearing a t-shirt and jeans! The people are all so friendly and helpful; most importantly, they appreciate what we do.'
Why are you an active member of BCS?
'I joined in 2010 following my redundancy - I went along to an event and I loved it, so I asked if I could volunteer and it all snowballed from there!
'I believe in BCS and what it stands for. I would like it to be successful and known by every section of the IT and business industries.'
What do you do as a volunteer?
'I have many hats for BCS - I am in the committee of many BCS specialist groups including:
- Chair of Business Change (fifth year)
- Event Coordinator, Agile Methods
- Secretary, Software Practice Advancement (SPA)
- Course Coordinator, Quality
'My role as Chair of Business Change involves organising events and ensuring the budget is enough to cover our costs. Some other groups have asked me to join their committee and I said, "sorry, I cannot unless you clone me!"'
How does your role help BCS to succeed?
'Any group is important to the success of BCS because it is crucial that BCS is known for having a variety of events to cater for all roles within the IT industry.
'This range is presented on our website which helps to put BCS on the map, so people know what we are doing and that their niche is represented. It helps the recognition of BCS, so that everyone in the IT and business industries knows who we are and want to become members.'
What is the most interesting part of your role for BCS?
Meeting new people and interacting with other members. I find being involved in what’s going on behind the scenes and seeing how it all works very interesting. I like the organisation required to make sure each event is a success, everyone is satisfied and the speaker delivers at the expected standard. It can feel like mission impossible to make everyone happy, but luckily, we usually manage!'
What are you most proud of with BCS?
'I'm proud that I am making some difference to people. When I run a good event with excellent speakers and the audience is satisfied, I feel very proud. The hard work I put in to these events is recognised by our members. This recognition is important to me and makes me very happy.'
What makes your role enjoyable?
'It's so rewarding to see people happy, learning new things and networking, In fact, it's mutual, because I always learn something new as well.
'I enjoy learning and keeping myself up to date with new technologies. The friendly staff and BCS members make everything I do enjoyable.'
Are there any memorable / striking moments you've had with BCS?
'One striking moment was when I was chosen by my colleagues to attend the 60th anniversary celebration of BCS. I was invited to St James' Palace for lunch!
'Another stand-out moment for me was when we ran an event for kids called 'Create your own shrimp'. The happiness on the faces of the children when they successfully created functional circuits was priceless.'
How do you balance work / personal life / volunteering?
'My time is incredibly busy because I fill it to the brim - I'm always going all over the place. But I like it that way because I hate to sit at home doing nothing; I have to find something useful to do. I help also at Tech Surgery (laptop Surgery) once a month. There is no secret to keeping on top of it all; it's down to hard work.'
What matters most in your professional life?
'Success, appreciation and helping people. I like helping people in general and I do a lot of volunteering to help as many people as I can. I want to be known for helping people and that usually is what people say to me.
'Software engineers (one of my previous jobs) can be isolated, sitting in front of their computers for ten hours a day with little social contact - in fact, we actually talk to our computers! Volunteering has improved my communication skills no end and made me more confident, so my people skills are good enough now to help other people.'
How did you get to where you are now?
'Patience, hard work and never giving up! I started as an electrical engineer before working as a maths tutor. I taught Maths, Electrical Engineering and computer languages like LISP and Pascal. I studied for a PhD and helped in the electronic lab. I then worked as a Software Engineer and loved every minute of it! I've also had a variety of roles as project manager, test manager and head of quality assurance.'
What's important to you outside of work?
'Spending quality time with my friends matters a lot to me. Other than that, my passion is art. I've been going to the National Portrait Gallery for more than five years now and I learnt to draw from scratch. Now I paint and go to workshops at many galleries.'
What would you say to a new volunteer who asks you how to be successful?
'Honesty is key; just be yourself and be sincere. If you're honest, you will earn people's trust and that's how things move forward. Also, don't be afraid to seek help. By trying hard and doing what you can, people will respect you.'
What do you want to do next in your BCS journey?
'I have just been elected onto the BCS Council for Specialist Groups. This will be something new for me and I don't quite know what to expect yet. I would like to work with BCS and member groups to attract new members. I will also promote training and mentoring for BCS members, to encourage them to continuously develop their personal and soft skills.
'I believe we all have a role to play in providing the skills needed by the IT profession and the public to thrive in a digital world.'
With the turn of the decade, where do you think BCS should be heading?
'I would like BCS to involve mentoring in the work we do for our members. So many people are out of work at the moment as a result of recession, Brexit, etc. and they need to be put back on the right step.
'We can help prepare them to be put forward for interviews by getting them up to date with technology advancements through talks, events and affordable courses. I always ask members if there are certain topics they would like to know more about; I then try and find a speaker to address this need. It's important we continue to do this to help our members stay on track in their careers.'
If you had children, would you recommend they follow in your footsteps?
'Yes, definitely! I have three nephews who are in the IT industry and I encouraged them to pursue this. They love it and they're brilliant - I'm not just saying that because they're my nephews! We have to encourage children and prepare them for careers in IT and that comes from educating teachers and parents about the merits of IT.
'If children get encouragement to go into the IT industry, it's then up to them whether they like it and want to. It's about giving them the opportunity to get involved in IT and consider it as a career option.'