Woman of the Week: Reena Pau
Reena, tell our readers a little about yourself and what you do?
I am a Research Fellow in the School of Education, University of Southampton, UK exploring why there is a decline in the numbers of women choosing to study and work in technology careers. I did my PhD in the School of Electronics and Computer Science (ECS). Being able to work in the two groups means I am able to add a different dynamic to my research. I love my researcharea!!
As well as ‘the day job’ I also founded ECSWomen. This is a group within the school to support women in technology through arranging monthly events for networking and inviting inspirational speakers to inspire women in the school. I think its important that young people have female role models they can look up to. I am also on other committees such as the British Computer Societies Womens group and am running the universities women in engineering group; Theano.
I run an annual murder mystery for the UK’s national science week. This is an event aimed at families. Research has shown that in the UK young people (especially females) appreciate science and technology if they understand its uses and this is best done through a narrative. I worked with professional actors which enables children to identify the murderer by solving ‘clues’ such as robotics, lasers, DNA, lie detectors and GPS. We have graduate students who created the clues from their own research backgrounds. This format of events contributed to the University winning an award in 2009.
I also spend some time working with local charities with technical support, these are domestic violence and sexual abuse charities. This is rewarding and I meet some very inspiring people.
Has technology changed your life in any way?
YES!!! I find that I can do so much more with my day with social networking and email. I wouldn’t be able to do to all that I do. I could not live without my mobile phone and laptop. With challenges in work and life, I find more and more thinking and suggesting ‘lets see how we can do this’, rather than ‘I don’t think we can do this’. Its given me the power to create opportunities rather than wait for them, which is really empowering.
Although, I have to make sure that I don’t let it take over my life… virtual relationships with friends are great as its an extra way of keeping in touch…but I don’t want it to be the only way of staying in touch. Just because its easy… that doesn’t make it better. So because I can keep in touch with more friends online, I need to make an effort to make sure I actually meet them face to face.
I find technology empowering…. But I need to make sure it doesn’t over power me.
Take us through a typical day in your life.
Everyday is different! The day begins with checking email, checking facebook, checking twitter… THEN I have a shower and have breakfast. Then check the above again. Go to uni… recheck …attend meetings, go to coffee, keep checking!!! I find my day involves a lot of socializing and organisng fieldwork, organizing women’s events and lots of talking!! I actually sit down and focus on proper work from 5pm. That’s when I tend to do my writing and other things which require a lot of attention. I find at the moment I don’t leave the uni until 9/10pm. I would probably go home and do some more work after eating dinner. Work/life balance is not my strongest point! I am trying to have weekends for myself though, but this does not always happen as I don’t often see my work as ‘work’.
What are your current projects?
I am currently extending my PhD research to look at ethnic minorities as well as gender and what motivates different types of people to do different science subjects. We are going to schools, colleges and universities and asking young people to create an advertising campaign for science, so we can understand what would make them want to work and study science. This is important so professional societies, universities and organisations know how to market their science to young people, understand what young people think with regards to science careers and attract a diverse workforce.
I have also just taken on ‘Theano’ which is a faculty wide women’s network to support women in science within the University. My aims and objectivies for it is for it to involve social networking, such as twitter and facebook. I also aim to use YouTube. I want to introduce new things, I feel that such a network can benefit from this exposure.
Why do you Blog?
I have to admit I haven’t blogged for a while. I am microblogging on twitter. I do this because I want to share my frustrations, joys and other emotions with the world! Its like therapy.. I also love sharing information with others, the more I share the more of an online presence I have and this is very important in a world which is online.
What is the best gadget you ever played with?
I recently had a go on my friend’s iPad. It was amazing!!!! It’s too expensive for me to buy but I want one!!! I feel that it will make life easier. It just seems like life will be so seemless with it. Not having to carry around a laptop to every meeting, conference and even coffee meeting will just mean I can get on with the thinking and doing without having to worry about the technology getting in the way.
What social media tools do you use?
Mainly Facebook and Twitter. Occasionally LinkedIn. If I use anymore… I doubt I’ll get much work done!
How many hours do you spend on the Internet?
Every hour I am awake probably!!! I spent yesterday dog sitting at a friends house who did not have the internet… I spent the whole day thinking about life online. I took the dog out for a lot of walks to take my mind off it. But I got back home and I hadn’t missed much.
What advice would you give to a newbie starting out ?
Find a mentor, someone who you click with, who you can have a laugh with and someone who has got to where you want to go. One size does not fit all so get different mentors for different aspects of your career.
My supervisor once said to get to where you want to go you need to focus focusfocus. Its difficult but I think its possible to get what you want through hardwork and accepting help from others.
Also, you need to believe in yourself. If you don’t, then no one will.
What are your top 5 favourite websites?
Blogs my friends write so I can keep up to date with what they are doing.
Where do you look when you need a little inspiration?
The type of research and work I do is about people, so I guess people are my inspiration… as corny as that sounds! So going off to have coffee with one of the students is great as it makes me remember why projects like Theanoand ECSWomenare important.
Myinspiration also comes from the fabulous people around me.I am lucky to be surrounded by so many inspiring people, my PhD supervisor, Professor Dame Wendy Hall is someone I am indebted to as well as very inspirational, Dr Sue Black is just fab, Clare Owens is a doll and many others.
So what can we expect from you in 2010 and beyond?
As well as doing the projects mentioned above. I really want to focus on my research career. This year I want to a publish journal article on my PhD as well as doing well in the job I am in. I am still deciding on whether I want to stay in academia or do something else. I know that I have a lot of weaknesses in the world of research, I am not very good at it but I just love it so much. I have a lot to learn and along journey ahead, I cannot wait!! Bring it on J