Laura Crouzieres – Project Manager- Space Between

Laura Crouzieres is currently a project manager for Space between , and even though she has a degree in Criminology and Sociology she found herself interested in the technology aspect of things.

She talks about her career path and exciting projects she has for the future.

Tell us a little bit about how you found this career path:

I started at Space Between at the beginning of 2019 and have been
focusing mainly on delivering new and exciting software for our
customers. I was first exposed to the world of project management back in 2011 where I managed projects for a company that provided nursery management software. Having a degree in Criminology, I didn’t even know what software was, let alone how you managed tech projects, however I learnt fast and developed a real love for being part of the team to provide an intuitive software solution that was going to make such a difference to people’s work life. Since then I have worked for several companies in both a product and project manager role and I am continuously learning and being amazed at what technology allows us to do today!

Laura Crouzieres – Project Manager “Space Between”

What do you enjoy most about managing technology projects:

For me, I love seeing a concept come to life. It still amazes me to this day, that someone can design a fab idea on paper and the brilliant team I work with can take that idea and turn it into a piece of software that hundreds, if not thousands of people will use every day in their life to make things that little bit easier for them. Knowing that I have helped deliver a solution to a customer that is exactly, if not better than what they wanted and seeing it out there being used, makes my job so worthwhile.

Can you tell us about some of your exciting technology projects:

We have so many exciting projects on the go at the moment, it’s hard to know where to start! In the essence of going green, the team has produced a mobile app for all of our customers branches for potential candidates to use and register with, reducing the need for multiple paper forms. There are many advantages of this app including the aforementioned benefits to the environment but also it is a huge time saving and error reducing piece of functionality as now there is no need for someone to then duplicate what was on the form into the CRM, as the app automatically inputs it straight there.

We also have a really interesting project ongoing where the possibilities of where the software can go are endless. We are creating a members portal which will allow candidates to create a profile, upload specific information, receive relevant notifications etc. This portal will eventually be the hub of our customers business and we already have so many ideas for what the future phases of this project could be!

What kind of areas of technology does you role expose you to:

As previously mentioned we have multiple projects on the go that evolve various areas of technology including web app and custom web app development, website development and mobile and tablet applications. Depending on what area of technology is being used for a project, the upfront planning and technical architecture has to be adapted slightly however the managing of the project stays relatively the same. At Space Between we use an Agile methodology for projects, utilising the Kanban approach.

Tell us a bit about your extracurricular interests:

I am captain of a ladies netball team in Ashford. We play every week and I absolutely love it, I get such a buzz from playing and when we win it’s just the icing on the top. It’s such a fab team sport and I have met such lovely women from playing and can call them all my good friends. We often meet up outside of netball and do our next favourite thing – dancing!

I also volunteer at the RSPCA, some people may call me a crazy, cat lady! I am a Home Visitor which means I get to go meet the lovely people who wish to adopt a cat or a dog and just make sure they and their environment are right for the animal. Once they have been approved, I get to go back a couple of months later just to see how they are getting along – this is my favourite part as I then get to have lots of lovely furry cuddles!

Karen Scott and how to get involved with coding

Karen Scott set up futureCodersSe in 2017 to provide opportunities for young people to learn to code and accelerate their learning through a variety of projects.

FutureCodersSe mission is to offer young people a place where they could learn, improve their skills and help them land their dream job doing what they love.

Karen talk about her current role and the path that took her where she is now:

Karen Scott Co-founder of FuterCodersSe, software developer
Karen Scott

“I run the community interest company, futureCodersSE, which I set up in 2017 to provide opportunities for young people to learn to code and to accelerate their learning by working on app development projects.  I started my career as a software developer in 1988 when I worked on 3D interior design software for Apple Mac computers.  I had a Higher National Diploma in Computer Studies which, at the time, was a brilliant course, allowing me to experience a range of programming languages, including Ada, Fortran, Prolog and assembly language.  Through the course I gained a good, all-round understanding of computer science concepts, which has been invaluable throughout my career.  There were many opportunities to try different roles and I wrote technical manuals and some small articles for magazines.

I spent many years teaching teenagers, specialising in the teaching of programming, software development, website development, games development and networking.  Further opportunities came up for me to become an A Level examiner, to write education materials, to contribute to books and to develop new learning programmes.  I have also grabbed opportunities to volunteer and I am a STEM Ambassador, a digital T Level Ambassador, a MozFest volunteer, a Crisis at Christmas volunteer and a YHA volunteer manager.  It has always been important to me not to waste an opportunity and I have been lucky enough to meet a large number of really interesting people and to experience a range of interesting roles.

I now work half the week as a Software Developer for Navigator Productions, the company behind the Learning Lounge eLearning platform.  My role there is to work on new features and to support a move from a single programmer situation to a team project with cloud hosting.  Eventually, we want the team to be set up so that new developers can be onboarded easily and procedures are in place to facilitate effective team working.

I work the other half of the week as director of futureCodersSE.  Our 3-month work experience programme helps young people to build coding skills, technical knowledge, confidence and experience of working in a software development team.  We have run the programme six times now and young people have been offered apprenticeships or further work experience as a result of experience on the programme.  My ambition is to expand the programme into a full training programme and to use it to support learning on an apprenticeship programme.

I have had so many opportunities in my life and believe strongly that always being open to opportunities has been beneficial to keeping my career interesting and rewarding.   I want to create as many opportunities for others, especially those just starting on their own career paths, as I can.”

What do you love about technology, coding and the job you currently have?

“My whole career has been in roles closely connected with technology.  I love to problem solve and I love to be creative.  Coding and software development allow me to do both, finding new solutions and improving existing solutions.  I love to learn and there is always a need to learn new technologies, new platforms and even new languages.  During my long teaching career I had to learn new languages, techniques and software at least every other year and always had to be really creative to come up with interesting learning activities.  Technology presents endless opportunities to be creative and this, for me, is by far its most important feature. 

I have only recently joined Navigator Productions and I am really excited about my role.  The opportunity to create an environment that is more ready to provide opportunities for young programmers is really exciting.

FutureCodersSE has already run six work experience programmes.  Our model is to take a requirement for a small app (always web-based), then to recruit four or five young people (between 16 and 24).”

Why do you think tech roles are not as appealing for girls as they are for boys? Or are they becoming more popular?

One team of futureCodders at Work with Karen
One team of futureCodders at Work with Karen

“We are finding it less difficult to find girls who are interested in joining our work experience programme as time goes on.  I don’t have any specific evidence in terms of interest from girls but my gut instinct is that there are a significant number of girls out there with a natural interest in coding but who haven’t had an opportunity to learn and who aren’t likely to be identified, or encouraged, by a teacher or parent as having that natural interest.  I do know that when I talk about joining our programme to develop useful projects and to learn to code while doing so, girls are more interested.  When I talk about learning to code and creating an app while doing so, we tend to get less girls.  I think, as a girl myself, that girls are drawn towards more purposeful activities.  I think that if we want more girls to be involved, then ensuring that all children have the opportunity to learn, so that it is mainstream, will be really effective.”

Can you tell us about any exciting projects you are doing at the moment?

“We have just released the prototype for an exciting app, developed by our young development team, which was supported by two amazing volunteers, Maggy Burns (front-end developer at Space Between) and Josh Thompson-Smith (full-stack developer).

Our app ArtWorkingWords facilitates a ‘conversation’ between an artist and viewers of artwork in a gallery.  The app is a web-based mobile app which allows you to scan a QR code associated with a picture or sculpture.  This will bring information to the app which includes a sound clip from the artist.  The artist talks about the piece of artwork, what it represents, the thought processes, etc.  The viewer can then use the app to record a short response to the artist which is uploaded to a database.

Each artist has a login to the artist area of the app’s back office, where he/she can listen to all the responses and can run them all together through an analyser to identify key words or phrases and get an overall picture of what people are thinking in response to the artwork.  It has been popular with artists, who are able to hear the sort of things people say in a gallery (which they wouldn’t have access to otherwise).  People who are in the gallery love being able to hear the artist’s voice and to hear about the artwork.

We are really excited about the app and now need to start to talk about it widely and try to take it forward.  If it can become commercially viable it could, potentially, fund future work experience programmes as well as providing a continuing set of interesting projects.

ArtWorkingWords was written as a suite of functioning parts.  The app itself is written in Javascript using the React framework.  The back office is written in Python, using the Django framework and connected to a Postgres database.  The app connects to the same database through a set of APIs written in Python and running through an API gateway service provided by AWS.  We use Gitlab repositories and AWS services to host all parts of the app.  Our young developers focus on either Javascript or Python and all contribute functionality.  We ask all to learn enough HTML and CSS to support the rest of their programming in a web-based environment.”

How can people get involved with futureCodersSE ?

“We are taking applications for the next work experience programme now, to start during November.  We are looking for young people with an interest in coding.  Some may only just be starting to learn, others might already be writing some great programs.  We have some exciting projects coming up.

We are always on the lookout for volunteers.  We have a range of roles, including supporting a development project, leading coding workshops, offering a work experience placement within your company, starting the process of setting up an apprenticeship opportunity.  We are particularly interested in partnering with companies and/or individuals who may have the capacity to support the organisation of networking events and hackathon type events, especially where they will appeal to young people.

You can find information about the work experience programme on our website and can email karen@futurecoders.org.uk with any questions.  We run workshops to help beginners to start their learning journeys and will be opening up opportunities on traineeship and apprenticeship programmes in the near future.”

Maggy Burns – Conversion Rate Optimization Specialist / Front-End Developer- Space Between

Space Between is a company founded in 2016 that specialises in eCommerce growth. They are based in Kent and work closely with their clients making sure they provide the best results possible.

After Shelley Grierson introduced me to the company and her amazing work, I wanted to hear more about the women working there. So today I’ll be offering you an interview with their Front-End Developer and Conversion Rate Optimisation Specialist Maggy Burns.

A little bit about how you got into your role

I have been at Space Between for a little over 3 years now, joining as a very junior developer that was very keen on the front end side of web development. I had just finished my apprenticeship in software development and had decided that working on the front end side of websites, using HTML, CSS and Javascript, making them look beautiful and seeing the clients face light up when shown a brand new webpage was where I was happiest. Since then, my role has changed slightly as I am now starting to work with the CRO team, bringing my front end skills to help write CRO experiments. The psychology and data analysis involved in CRO is what has really drawn me to it.

What do you love about technology?

I love that it is constantly evolving and (arguably) making everyday life a lot easier. I can’t imagine a time where Google maps didn’t exist to guide me around, and I would have to order a takeaway by calling someone and speaking to a human, and I am grateful for that every day.

How you have been supported and found opportunities as a woman in tech?

I am incredibly lucky with the amount of support I have been given in my career. Starting from when I was in college I was supported by my amazing IT tutor Karen Scott and women’s safety organisation PinUp Payback to work on a women’s safety app. It was this opportunity that got me into coding outside of my college course, and really made me passionate about web development and started my career. I am a true advocate for giving young girls the opportunity to write code, and breaking the stigma that it’s a career path meant for a specific type of person. The world of technology is becoming more diverse, and the more people that join from diverse backgrounds the more inclusive technology will become.

Can you tell us about some of your most exciting projects?

At my voluntary job, being a tech lead at futureCoders SE, I am currently building an app with the team for the art exhibition Duende – ‘the mysterious power of art to deeply move one’s soul’ – a celebration of artwork by women. It’s so exciting I can’t give any more away – but we are launching the app at the art exhibition and I can’t wait to show off all of the hard work that the futureCoders team have done. It involves QR code scanning, semantics analysis and is built using React JS, Django and Amazon Web Services.

Tell us a bit about your award nomination and volunteer work in the technology and education sector

I was so fortunate to be nominated for the Medway Youth Awards Youth Worker of the year for the voluntary work I do at futureCoders. Every Monday evening and Saturday I am with the brilliant futureCoders team. futureCoders aims to create great coders and to link them with employers. We work with young people, aged between 16 and 24, helping them learn to code through our education programme, hackathons, coding workshops, project workshops and careers events. We help them to become more skilled and more employable through our work experience programme. Karen Scott and Emily Groves are the co-founders of futureCoders, and I thought that what they were doing was absolutely brilliant and I had to be a part of it. I have now been volunteering there for 2 years, bringing my front end development expertise and helping the junior developers gain confidence in writing code.