You are currently reading Issue 164: Women in Engineering, June 2023

Connecting women and opportunity

Womanthology is a digital magazine and professional community powered by female energy and ingenuity.

Connecting women and opportunity

Womanthology is a digital magazine and professional community powered by female energy and ingenuity.

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Getting creative with computers to address the challenges of our diverse and interconnected world

Tanda Kabanda, Senior Backend Engineer at Selfridges

Tanda-Kabanda - Selfridges

Tanda Kabanda is a senior backend engineer at Selfridges, working in the POS (point of sale) team, having begun her career as a graduate software engineer as ASOS. Tanda has a BSc in Computer Science from Queen Mary’s University of London and an MSc in Computer Science from King’s College London, which she studied after securing a sponsorship. She features in a new Engineers gallery at the Science Museum in London, opening on 23rd June 2023 to coincide with International Women in Engineering Day.

Tanda Kabanda - Selfridges
Tanda Kabanda

“By embracing diversity, the engineering field can better address the complexities and challenges of our diverse and interconnected world.”

The journey to becoming “more technical”

There were no programming lessons during my younger school education, the most I ever did in school were HTML and CSS [cascading style sheets] but I always had a love for using computer software to create.

Tanda’s award-winning Piczo page from 2007

During my upbringing, the era of Piczo and Myspace was dominant, where customising personal web pages was all the rage. I took great pride in my Piczo page and even received an award for having the “most organised site” from my Piczo idol at the time, which gave me a huge confidence boost.

For A-Level I did ICT, media studies and sociology, and then after those I applied for a Computer Science BSc at Queen Mary University of London. Upon graduating, I encountered difficulties in securing a graduate role, repeatedly receiving feedback that I wasn’t “technical enough”. Determined to overcome this hurdle, I pursued a Computer Science MSc at King’s College London through a scholarship, which proved to be the most demanding year of my life, but it allowed me to become “more technical”, and, crucially, confident in my skills.

Tanda Kabanda on her InternChina internship in Chengdu
Tanda and a friend on her InternChina internship in Chengdu

While I now possessed enhanced confidence in my technical skills, I lacked practical work experience. I found an amazing scholarship internship opportunity with InternChina and spent two transformative months working in Chengdu, China, which turned out to be an incredible and invaluable experience.

Designing a career in fashion-tech

Returning to the UK, my focus shifted towards finding a role that genuinely interested me. During my search, I discovered that one of my favourite websites at the time, ASOS, offered graduate software engineering positions. It was an amazing opportunity to contribute to the applications that drove a business I both loved and used regularly.

Tanda Kabanda and her colleagues at ASOS
Tanda (top left) and her former colleagues at ASOS

Starting my career at ASOS allowed me to grow both personally and professionally, and I am immensely grateful for the experiences and progress I achieved there. I continue as an engineer in the retail space at Selfridges and find great satisfaction in embracing the fresh challenges it presents.

Mob rule when teamwork makes the (retail) dream work

As a backend engineer at Selfridges, my primary focus is on supporting the functionality of in-store tills. A typical day in my role begins with a cup of coffee and listening to a podcast while I go through emails and review the progress made the previous day. I have a daily stand-up [meeting] with my team where we discuss our ongoing tasks, report on our progress, and align ourselves with the priorities for the day.

Collaboratively, we brainstorm and engage in ‘mob programming’, exploring different approaches to address the current challenges we face. During the course of the day, I also review any open pull requests, engage in pair programming sessions with fellow engineers, and dedicate time to writing code. The most satisfying part of my workday is when the code I develop proves successful, passing all necessary tests, and I can confidently merge my changes into the main branch.

Outside of my regular work hours, if I happen to be present in the office, I thoroughly enjoy taking the opportunity to browse around the store. Engaging in conversations with retail clerks about their experiences with the tills is particularly rewarding, as it provides valuable insights when it comes to developing solutions tailored to their needs.

Engineering is everything

Diversity of thought is so important because engineering underpins everything in the human world. We require a diversity of thought to promote innovation, enhance the way we problem-solve and, most importantly, bring a global perspective that represents the world we live in. By embracing diversity, the engineering field can better address the complexities and challenges of our diverse and interconnected world.

International Women in Engineering Day is so important to be celebrated for many reasons! Most important for me is to inspire future generations, challenge stereotypes and biases, address the gender gap and simply come together, network, and share experiences. By celebrating and supporting Women in Engineering Day, we work towards a future where gender equality is a norm in the field and where all individuals can thrive and contribute to engineering’s advancements.

Engineers gallery at the Science Museum in London

I am one of the engineers to be featured in the new Engineers gallery at the Science Museum opening in London on 23rd June. My involvement in this prestigious opportunity came about through my collaboration with the Royal Academy of Engineering for the This Is Engineering campaign. The campaign aims to highlight the diverse range of engineering fields and in my case showcased the fusion of technology and fashion at the online retailer ASOS, where I began my career.

Immeasurable happiness and overwhelming pride

It is a tremendous honour to have the opportunity to be a part of the Engineers gallery and the last thing I ever expected to be part of my career journey, especially alongside the other brilliant individuals who have made significant contributions to the field of engineering.

This opportunity brings a sense of fulfilment and pride that I will cherish for a lifetime. By being in this exhibition I am an example of the representation of an engineer I wanted/needed to see growing up, when I visited the museum as a child. It is an extraordinary feeling to realise that I can inspire others and demonstrate the possibilities that exist in engineering.

Showcasing that you can be an engineer, work for a fashion company and collaborate with others to create solutions that have an impact on driving a business forward is truly amazing. The happiness I feel is immeasurable, and I am truly grateful for this incredible chance to shine alongside such remarkable individuals in the engineering community.

My aspiration is to pursue a long-lasting career in engineering, focusing on developing solutions for problems that interest me. Most importantly, I strive to serve as an example for young girls, especially black girls, for them to see a representation of an engineer so they know that they can become one too. The 2007 version of me, who won the “most organised site” award after spending endless nights putting together some basic HTML and CSS, is filled with overwhelming pride. We did it!


The Engineers gallery at the Science Museum in London opens on the 23rd June 2023:

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