Case Study: Julie Walters

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Julie worked as Technocamps’s Project Manager between 2018-2021, which inspired her to develop her computing skills as the programme aimed to upskill the children and workforce in Wales. Here, she tells us more about her experience with Technocamps as both a staff member and a student.

Tell us a little about yourself.
I am Julie Walters. I tell everyone that I am the “real one” and the other one is a fraud! In any case, the actress and comedian Julia Mary Walters has no doubt had entirely different experiences to mine and has not worked for the last (nearly) 4 years at Swansea University!

My background includes finance in the NHS, running my own business, working for social enterprises and recently, education. At Technocamps, a programme developed by Swansea University, I had the privilege of managing a fantastic outreach programme that aims to upskill Wales in digital literacy, especially in the ‘nuts and bolts’ of computers and programming. As the large project with EU funding drew to a close, I moved over to the IT department at Swansea University, and I am currently working on all kinds of digital projects.

What was your role before the microcredentials course and how will it change your role/how you do it?
I recently decided it would be helpful to develop my understanding of managing software projects and I embarked on one of the Microcredential courses run by Technocamps. Before taking on the challenge, I was working in Project Management and helping the University to move from its old telephone system to a new and virtual digital solution using Zoom. The university’s systems moved over in January 2022, and we used the new phone system for clearing with enormous success this year.

This was an off-the-shelf application but making sure it launched on time, in scope and in budget was a huge challenge. Technocamps’s course reminded and refreshed many of the tools that I had learned during Prince 2 and my time as Senior Project Manager for Technocamps. It taught me some new tools too, including T-shirt sizing. This technique helps decide your priorities on a project by categorising into clothing sizes, which is a fun way to think of your priorities!

What part(s) of the course did you find most challenging and why?
The most challenging part of the course was personal time management. Having a full and busy schedule already, it is often difficult to make time to learn and develop your skills… but it is important. Learning all the different methodologies e.g. agile, waterfall, v-model has been helpful to embrace the best practice and to find the right approach when taking on a software project.

What part(s) of the course did you find most interesting/enjoyable and why?
I really enjoyed the variety of styles of learning. Quizzes, group discussion, videos, slides, Padlet. It keeps you engaged with the content when different approaches are used. I even enjoyed the assignment as it challenged what I knew and made me consolidate the learning. Through this, I really got to grips with critical path analysis once and for all!

How did you first get involved with computer science and what inspired you to take this path? 
I have always had a keen interest in IT. Way back in the 1980s, when computers were not an everyday household item, I took a degree in Business Studies with Informatics. We had to programme in Basic and Pascale. Now things have moved on significantly, although an understanding of programming, and some further upskilling I did to programme in Python, all make it easier to communicate within the department I work in, and to appreciate the innovative technology we all must engage with. I have been inspired by lots of really amazing people, but many women have especially inspired me to reach further and to not stop learning. I have had the privilege to work with many women in leadership positions, e.g. Helen Thomas, CEO of Wales Digital Health and Care Wales; Louise O’Shea from and Gwen Parry-Jones, CEO of Magnox. I have worked with the team at Technocamps, especially Catherine, Teri, Laura, Casey, Megan, Rasa, Alison, Jo and many others who are shaping the way we think about technology and leadership every day.

Where do you see your career path in the future and how do you think you will use the skills and knowledge you have gained?
It has taken a while, but I have recently found my niche in project management. I like being part of the whole process from start to end, scoping, engaging with stakeholders and seeing the final product. So I see myself growing in this field and gaining more understanding of the best ways to manage the projects I engage with.

Since taking this course, and a previous Masters in Strategic ICT and Leadership run by Edinburgh Napier University, I have been able to progress in my career. It has given me the confidence to apply for roles that I know I have the skills for. The Welsh Government have sponsored both of these courses to promote digital skills, and I am thankful for the investment in the sector and the encouragement of women to engage with digital careers. I began to develop these skills relatively late in my career, proving that it is never too late to learn, and it is really important to apply what you learn. Additionally this month, I have been promoted to Digital Programme Manager, demonstrating it is always worthwhile to invest time in yourself and find the time to gain the skills and brush up on your digital competency.

“If there is one skill that you need to improve, I would say find the course and go for it. Then, you too, can benefit from the ethos delivered by Technocamps of inspiring the next generation.”