I'm a software engineer and I've worked on projects that push the boundaries of what's possible in both the finance industry and the telecommunications industry. My career has led me to now be working day-to-day with the brightest people in the fastest industry at arguable the best investment bank in the world to build software platforms that optimise trading activity. It's amazing to work in technology where innovative engineering is at the critical centre of the business.
How did I get here? If I start at the beginning, I've been extremely lucky. I've grown up with great role models. My IT teacher at school was female and my biggest role model lived at home. As soon as my brother was old enough to go to school, at the age of 40, my mum embarked on a Computer Science master's degree part-time while working part-time to pay her course fees after 7 years of being a full-time parent. With all the social events she and her female coursemates would host, it seemed as if only women did Computer Science and from the level of laughter that roared around the dinner table over stories from their day, they were having a great time at that!
My mum has always had her finger on the pulse. In 1977, she fought her way into the first ever cohort of undergraduates since universities in China had been closed for a decade to study Semi-Conductor Engineering because "radios were cool and everyone wanted one". This inspired me to realise that engineering has a profound effect on people's lives and choosing to study it at university was the best decision of mine. It is so intrinsically linked with discovery, understanding and invention, and this excites me every day. I love how my own lines of code are now part of the fabric of technology's evolution.
It wasn't until I went to MIT after buying my first laptop at the age of 20 that I truly started specialising in IT. Working at MIT Media Lab, where art meets technology at the heart of everything from stackable electric vehicles to advanced prosthetics captured my imagination. I worked on making robots responsive to music and affective computing devices that shared people's emotions.
After graduating, I worked at BT as a research scientist developing business intelligence software using semantic web technologies. I enjoyed interacting with customers and building user interfaces that helped them make sense of their data to be able to make important business decisions. I collaborated with world-leading experts across Europe to trial the latest technology in knowledge platforms for sales teams and later moved to Beijing to lead a team in building smart supply chain infrastructure for the Asia-Pacific market.
Being part of a global team is also one of the things I enjoy most at Goldman Sachs, where I found my next challenge working in equities technology on software systems that boost trading floor efficiency. It's exciting to understand complex problems and then to collaborate across different teams to design, build and test new solutions, achieving great leaps in business impact. Technology is always changing and the most satisfying things about working in IT are learning new skills, being creative and making a difference.
Pursuing a career in IT has given me so many incredible experiences and opportunities. My advice for any young person is to consider taking STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) subjects at school followed by a degree subject with software elements such as Computer Science or Engineering, to help you gain skills and a foundation in problem-solving. Apprenticeships also offer a fantastic alternative where you can learn on the job.
My advice to anyone interested in a career in IT is to go for it! Take advantage of the wealth of resources available online. Explore open courses, videos or join a group to discover what's trending, pick a software language and create your first "Hello World" project! The technology industry is growing but so is the technology skills gap so right now has never been a better time to come and join us!
Jia-Yan Gu graduated from Cambridge University in 2008 with a master's degree in Electrical and Information Engineering. She was awarded a place on a prestigious international exchange programme at MIT where she joined CUER on the founding team that built UK's first road-legal solar car and raced in the World Solar Challenge in 2009.
After graduating, Jia-Yan joined BT and became Senior Research Scientist working in business intelligence. She represented the UK on world development issues at global youth forum, One Young World, in 2011 and joined Goldman Sachs in 2013 as a Technology Associate working on front office trading platforms.