Tech Trailblazers

Tech Trailblazers: Laura Soutar

  • Name: Laura Soutar

    Role: Senior Software Engineer, Civica

    What does your typical day look like?

    I’m an early bird, so my work days starts around 7.30am with coffee and planning my to-do list for the day. I work across a few projects with a few different roles so my day usually ends up being about 30% code, 40% analysis, 20% meetings and 10% admin, which in reality is probably an average day for an Engineer in this industry. I try to step away from the computer at least once an hour, usually to refill my coffee mug and chat with colleagues, home time is normally around 4pm.

    What are you currently working on?

    I am just finishing up on our Criminal Justice Data Sharing project, where I developed a System Management Console and its associated API’s to allow the customer to manage the new system. My focus is now turning to managing the development of our new product SensAI, which came about as a result of leading our innovation team here in Belfast. It uses IoT sensors, AI and data visualisation to inform and alert people to potential issues or anomalies in a given area. It has been exciting to work on and I can’t wait to develop it further.

    What inspired you to join this company in particular?

    Civica were taking part in the apprenticeship programme I was aiming to join to get started in the industry, so my application was part of that process. My research showed they had an excellent reputation, especially here in Belfast, so I was delighted when they offered me the apprenticeship opportunity. From there they have been amazing in terms of mentoring, training and support to get me to where I am today.

    Did you always want to work in this industry (tech)?

    Short answer is no, I’ve had a long and winding road to get where I am today. That being said, I genuinely feel at home here now, whilst I wouldn’t change my path, it’s nice to have found an industry where creativity, logic and problem solving are part and parcel of the day job.

    What’s your favourite part about your work?

    That’s difficult to answer, I genuinely love the whole software development process, from gathering requirements, to design to cutting code and delivery. There isn’t one specific area that I’m evangelical about, but I suppose the true answer is that no two days are the same and there are always good problems to solve.

    What would you say to other people considering a job in this industry (tech)?

    DO IT! You won’t regret it, no matter where your true interests lie, you will ultimately find an area in the industry that allows you to do it. It’s not all about coding, there is so much more to it than that.

    Who inspired you to work in this field?

    My big brother, Chris McGrath, he helped me figure out starting to code and took the time to help when I was trying to figure out if it was a career I wanted to pursue. It was a difficult time in my life and his patience and support helped me have the confidence to apply for the apprenticeship and give it a go.

    What do you consider to be the most important tech innovation or development in recent years?

    Oh dear, that’s difficult! For me I suppose it’ll be anything that truly helps people. I can’t pick one specific example, but AI and Machine Learning is at the heart of it all.

    How do you see this technology impacting on our lives?

    Be it by allowing the visually impaired to identify object by using their phone, or by automatically transcribing speech to text for the hearing impaired. My mum was severely disabled, and if Alexa or Google Home had been around then, I know she would have had much more independence by being able to make calls or shop without the need for a carer to assist.

    What tech gadget could you not live without?

    It’s a cliché, but my smart phone has to be the answer. Whilst I’m not a slave to it, it’s probably the only piece of tech that I use on a daily basis for many different reasons (actually phoning someone is rare though!).


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