We’ve been working onsite in partnership with our friends at Publicis Sapient, to help them grow their design function and futureproof their hiring strategy.

I’ve got to know the team pretty well, and I’ve been amazed by the intelligent, inspiring, and genuinely lovely folk that make up the organisation.

So I’ve invited a few of them to share their stories with you all as part of FFS (Futureheads Five Stories), our regular interview series where we speak to people who have interesting stories to tell.

And we couldn’t resist the acronym.

Isabel Lewis is an Engineer at Publicis Sapient, where she launched and runs the Women Developer Meetup Group for the company. Through this, she’s gone onto host a CodeFirst:Girls course and other internal initiatives. She’s an active member of the London tech community, and she recently gave a talk on snapshot testing and offline first at React London BYOP.

What’s the story of your career so far?

I joined Sapient’s grad scheme in 2016 after studying Computer Science at Newcastle University. I did three months of training in India mostly focusing on full-stack JavaScript and web technologies. Since completing the graduate scheme I’ve been working as a full stack developer and have delivered on various projects across Financial Services and Retail.

About a year and a half ago I set up a group for the women developers across Sapient. We host internal sessions monthly to create open conversations and we have also hosted initiatives. For example, we worked with CodeFirst:Girls to run a course for women outside of Sapient from different professional backgrounds who had never coded before where we taught them to build websites using HTML CSS and JS.

What do you think about diversity in the tech industry?

The tech industry still has a long way to go, but I can see positive steps being made. There’s a lot of focus on getting more women into tech which is great, we should also be looking at diversity to represent people of different cultural backgrounds, people of colour, people with disabilities and LBGQT etc.

There’s also a lot of work going on in schools and coding courses to provide women and people from different economic backgrounds the opportunity to learn to code. This work is great, but the lack of diversity in the people joining tech is just one issue. We need to look at how we can retain the people that are bringing diversity to a team. There’s considerably more diversity in junior roles compared to more senior positions, we need to look at the opportunities they’re given once they’re in the roles and how they’re treated.

As there are more movements across the world around diversity and inclusion it will become a competitive requirement to create diverse teams that can build diverse applications. We need to build apps that have been tested on both men and women, and that can be used by people of all abilities. We consistently have straight white able-bodied men building applications where they are not the target user, which doesn’t always make sense. We need to have the diversity of people using the application to be reflected in the teams building the application.

What do you love most about what you do?

There’s nothing better than the moment you figure out a problem you’ve been working on for a while and it finally works. I like that I a job that keeps me thinking and requires me to be creative in my solutions. I’m also lucky to have great people around me that I can learn from.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned over the course of your career?

Don’t run before you can walk. The development industry moves so quickly and there’s a lot of pressure to deliver from an early stage, but it’s important to learn the building blocks of your craft rather than treating new technologies as a checklist to get through – because it’s a checklist you’ll never complete. If you take the time to learn the fundamentals then the concepts you learn will apply to other projects and technologies you learn in the future, and you’ll learn those a lot more quickly.

What do you think is going to be the biggest challenge in our industry over the next twelve months?

It’s really exciting to see new technologies being utilised by companies in innovative ways, but a big challenge will be getting people to maintain trust in applications that are becoming more invasive to our everyday lives. We can see with social media people are starting to question what information is being stored and who has access to this. With the addition of smart speakers being placed in the centre of people’s homes, companies will have access to data that’s more personal than ever before. It will be interesting to see where these ideas will lead and how quickly people will adopt these into their lives.

Want to find out more about working with Publicis Sapient, or fancy being interviewed yourself? Come and say hello at andrew@wearefutureheads.co.uk.

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