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I’ve always been especially interested in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), and for a long time expected and planned to be a Chemist. I initially studied Biomedical Science at university, but after finding the subject more procedural than problem-solving, my academic focus changed to business. I had a 5-year career in marketing, however I still found myself longing for a problem-solving opportunity.

Starting out as a ‘woman in tech’

For years, I talked about wanting to be a software engineer and was discouraged, being told things like “you don’t have the right mindset to be a developer”, “you’re too old to learn code now” and “you’ll never make it as a woman in tech”. 

When the pandemic hit, I was facing redundancy in an uncertain job market. So I decided to go back to university and study for a master’s degree in computing. Two years later, I applied to join Co-op and received a job offer to join their team.

An inclusive environment

Coming from being the only woman in the technical team at a small business, joining the diverse and inclusive team at Co-op was a fantastic experience for me. Co-op is focused on inclusivity and champions colleague networks, which work to create a safe and inclusive working environment for colleagues. Our networks include:

  • Aspire – A network of women and allies advocating for and developing a fairer world for women
  • Respect – Supporting LGBTQ+ colleagues to remain true to who they are, regardless of sexual orientation or identity
  • Strive – Providing opportunities for young colleagues, aged 16-30, with progression, training, and development
  • Rise – Working to amplify the experiences of minority ethnic colleagues across Co-op
  • Represent – Providing a supportive community for disabled colleagues, and promoting fair representation and equal opportunities

A collaborative coding culture

My welcome to the team was very warm and I was given the opportunity to join the Bootcamp, where I’ve learned about the working culture in Co-op engineering teams by getting hands-on code training from a Senior Engineer.

For example, two fundamental working practices at Co-op are Pair/Mob Programming and Test-Driven Development (TDD). Our culture of collaborative coding is about increasing communication and cohesion in the team and allowing coders to work together towards a collective goal. TDD allows us to be confident that our code meets feature requirements and that there are no regression issues. Beyond the technical benefits of these practices, they help to make bonds in the team much stronger so developers experience less imposter syndrome.

Since joining Co-op I’ve felt like a valued member of the team and within my first month have been able to engage with and contribute to teams from various areas of the business. I’m happy to say I’ve found a place where problem solving is at the heart of what I do.

Abby Donkin,

Software Engineer

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