Computing pioneer Ada Lovelace inspires next generation of Scottish tech superstars
To celebrate Ada Lovelace day, keen musician, Artificial Intelligence advocate and Computer Science student Sarah Lappin explains what she loves about her course, and why she decided to pursue a career in Scotland’s thriving tech sector.
I became intrigued by tech in my first two years of secondary school. I studied computing, and loved the problem-solving aspect of programming. This subject also helped me understand how programming allows me to create whatever I want. I love to play piano and flute, and it was fascinating to see how similar the process of reading and writing music is to creating software. Music and code are both languages and gaining digital skills opens up a whole world of possibilities for me musically as well as technologically, which is very exciting.
When considering a move into tech, Ada Lovelace was a huge inspiration to me. She was miles ahead of her time and saw the potential for computers when the first machine was still in its infancy. She understood that computers were not just number crunchers, but had the potential to process more complicated sets of instructions. Ada Lovelace saw numbers not just as quantities but as entities that could represent images, words and music – giving us the first articulation of data and code. She didn’t care about stereotypes or what people thought about her. She just wanted to explore her curiosity and do the work that she enjoyed.
I was also hugely inspired by Debbie Sterling, GoldieBlox Founder and CEO. She is an engineer herself, and does tremendous work to encourage girls interest in engineering and technology. I watched a TEDx Talk by Debbie when I was about 14 years old. I remember being so inspired by what she said; it made me want to go into tech more than ever. Her work is extremely important, innovative and I believe it is changing STEM for the better.
After I left school, I decided to do a BSc in Artificial Intelligence and Computer Science at Edinburgh University. Artificial intelligence in particular really fascinates me. And as it’s going to be a huge part of our lives, I jumped at the chance to learn more about it. I’m also interested in other aspects of computing science, including software development and cyber security, so I chose to do a joint honours, allowing me to do a little bit of everything I enjoy.
There are roughly 300 people in my lectures. Our first semester is focused on functional programming, computation and logic. I’m learning the basics of a programming language that is new to almost everyone on my course, Haskell. I especially enjoy this as I prefer the practical aspects of computing science. Because it’s a new language to most people, everyone is learning together, so it doesn’t matter how much previous programming experience you have.
There are lots of interesting people on my course, from a huge range of different backgrounds. And the fact that we have various levels of computing skills and experience has really benefitted our tutorials and made them more enjoyable.
Once I’ve completed my course I would like to pursue a masters degree, and possibly a PhD. I’ve always loved the idea of starting my own tech company, but I am keen to build my experience and hone my skills by working in the tech industry for a few years first.
I would encourage any woman considering a career in tech to go for it! It’s important to remember any preconceived stereotypes you might have about the kind of people who work in tech are exactly that – just a stereotype.
The tech industry is constantly changing and evolving. Modern technology is becoming a huge part of our lives, so there will always be something new to learn. If you learn some digital skills, you can do whatever you want, wherever you want.