Claire Burn: Fighting For Diversity While Exploring Security In Code

Claire Burn: Fighting For Diversity While Exploring Security In Code

Written by WWCode HQ with thanks to Claire Burns

Member Reflections

Claire Burn came to technology through biology, and a fascination with the intersection between the two disciplines. It all started with a book on bioinformatics which discussed how computing can be used to enhance the efforts of Biologists working in the lab and in the field. That led her to take on an internship at the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute, where she spent a full week exploring that subject and speaking with professional scientists and computer analysts.

She found the internship inspirational, appealing to both her scientific background and her passion for programming, and it led her to enroll in a Bachelor of Engineering program at Queen’s University Belfast. There she made her mark, securing prestigious internships at Citi and SAP, and spending time as a freelance software developer for Secure Broadcast during her placement year. In 2015 she graduated with 1st Class Honours and received a BSc degree in Computer Science.

Claire joined Women Who Code While completing her undergraduate program, after a colleague told her about the group. There she found a network of support and inspiration that helped her to overcome her own lack of confidence. Through the women that she met she came to realize that coding was an ever evolving learning process, that didn’t have to be mastered overnight, or ever, as long as she kept constantly growing to meet the needs of whatever problem she was tackling.

Women Who Code also gave Claire an opportunity to expand her reach while exploring some of the issues that mattered most to her. She was promoted to WWCode Belfast City Lead, and from that position she spearheaded an initiative to develop a Youth Outreach Program for the city. This involved her and others going into local schools and delivering tutorials to girls on coding and other aspects of technology. That built her prestige, confidence, and contact list, while also positioning her as a promoter of social good in the community.

Her passion for promoting diversity in tech has extended to other opportunities as well. She is a Women Techmakers Belfast Leader, and she has spoken about these topics at various events including Women Techmakers Dublin 2015, Future2016, and Women Techmakers Belfast Summit 2016. She also teaches a class entitled Code First Girls, which is a voluntary web dev course.

Claire was awarded a Scholarship by the Centre for Secure Information Technologies prior to her enrollment in a Master’s program at Queen’s University Belfast. There she is working towards achieving her MSc in Cyber Security. While doing so she has continued her advocacy work, single handedly organizing the Women Techmakers Belfast summit, an event with over 100 attendees which was focused on raising awareness of gender equity within the tech industry by highlighting brilliant female professionals. She’s also managed to hold down a part time programming job with Core Systems.

She hopes to one day work for Google as a software developer, or for a smaller company as a security expert. But for now she is focused on perfecting her programming skills, and her understanding of the theory and mathematics behind cyber security, while continuing to advocate for gender equality in the tech industry. When asked what advice she has for the next generation, she said, “Never be intimidated and don't worry about how you compare with your peers in terms of skill- move at your own pace.“

Contact Claire:
Claire's Twitter: @RhythmOfRiora

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