I’m Margaret Ross, MBE, Emeritus Professor of Software Quality at Southampton Solent University. I am semi-retired, but play a very active role in BCS.
I sit on the BCS Council, Chair of a Branch and Vice Chair of 2 Specialist Groups and on various committees, and have also acted as Director for BCS Quality and e-learning conferences for over 20 years. This gives me an entertaining way to keeping up with developments, helpful for my students, and of course great networking.
As a child, I wanted to work in a flower shop! At 14, I changed schools to start learning shorthand and book-keeping ready to start work at 16. I thought book-keeping would suit me as I always liked playing about with numbers and maths, whereas my parents thought I would be a secretary.
However, my school had other thoughts and saw my potential; they moved me into the O-level stream and later talked to my parents and me about continuing for A-levels at a technical college.
Like many young students today, I had to make a choice in subjects; I liked maths, and literature, history and French but at that time, you could only choose science, art or languages. Thinking about future jobs, I felt the science stream was a better option but lacking basic knowledge of some of the subjects, I had to attend evening classes twice a week while studying the A-levels to fill-in the missing basics. My advice to young people faced with similar decisions is to try to consider the career options and ensure that you leave yourself with as many options for the future as you can - not necessarily easy, but definitely worth the effort.
Once I’d started my A levels, the college started talking about universities - my family had no experience of this; I was the first to go to university thanks to the support of my parents who helped me to progress to university for maths degrees.
From there, I didn’t know if I wanted to go into industry or teaching so I followed both, taking teaching qualifications and studying postgraduate aerodynamics via evening classes.The rest, as they say, is history My route was not planned, but I had great encouragement at various key points by caring teachers, lecturers and parents, and lots of luck, leading to a career in computing that has given me a great deal of interest, opportunities to meet wonderful people and to travel, all related to a subject, computing, that it has become more fascinating year by year.
I believe that many students do not understand how interesting and varied a career is in IT. While there are successful TV programmes and serials featuring other professions such as medicine, police, and even plane and yacht design to mention just a few, there’s nothing showing IT.
I decided to tackle this issue and entered a competition for a new TV series. My entry had romance, drama, tragedy and comic moments set in the computing and technology industries-I was lucky enough to win! The prize was that a professional scriptwriter developed a one hour pilot script. I’ve haven’t yet been successful in finding a TV production company to take it on, but I’m not giving up; I am currently working on a radio/Internet computing series.
So what skills do you need for computing?
My advice is to find out about all the roles that are open to you in IT. It’s not all about programming; there are exciting non-programming roles in IT, leading to the top jobs.
One of the most important skills I think you need is good communication; spoken, written and particularly the ability to listen. Problem-solving skills or in other words, the ability to see a pattern are also important. How do you know if you’re good at this?
Traditionally solving crosswords or being good at maths are often cited as problem solving, but I think many other hobbies need problem solving and pattern identification; everything from designing and making lace, complicated knitting, composing music, designing a garden, cooking a complicated meal. Competing in sailing, ballroom or Latin American dancing, to riding in the New Forest point-to points where you have to recognise what all the other competitors will be doing next. If you are good at seeing patterns, then computing could be the career for you.
Thanks to my career, I’ve experienced some exceptional moments. Apart from my marriage, the most memorable has to be receiving an MBE for services to education from Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace. While waiting for the ceremony, it was wonderful chatting to some amazing people who were also receiving Honours that day.
I was also delighted to accept an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Staffordshire relating to my work encouraging students, especially girls, into technology and being awarded an Honorary Fellowship and the John Ivinson Medal by BCS in recognition for my contribution to the organisation and my work.
So how did I get here - in truth, the answer is by chance.
Actively involved with the BCS for many years. Awarded Honorary FBCS in 2007, BCS John Ivinson Medal 2011. Also awarded Honorary Degree of Doctor from Staffordshire University and MBE for services to education in 2009.
Current BCS roles including:-
Member of Council, and other Committees, Chair of Hampshire Branch, Vice Chair of Quality and e-learning Specialist Groups. Also Committee member the following –GreenIT, Animation and Games Development, Cybercrime Forensics and BCSWomen Specialist Groups.
Previously BCS Senator on the Engineering Council, and Council Member of PITCOM.
Now Emeritus Professor of Software Quality at Southampton Solent University.
Having Mathematics degrees, my employment evolved from mathematics, to programming then to softer side of computing, currently part-time lecturing, supervising undergraduate projects and Phd students; External examiner for degree courses and Phd levels.