Beth Clarke is an advanced consultant engineer at Capgemini Engineering, having joined the organisation when it was Altran UK, working in their High Integrity Software Expertise Centre on a graduate apprenticeship scheme. She was one of the finalists in the 2020 Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) Young Woman Engineer of the Year Awards, and in 2021 was named as a Women in Tech Rising Star by Computer Weekly, as well as being the current vice-chair of the WISE Young Professionals Board. Beth has been a member of the National Scout Council, having recently taken on a new role as the assistant county commissioner for growth and development with Avon Scouts.
“This year, International Day of the Girl also falls on Ada Lovelace Day so there will be plenty for me to celebrate!”
Dreaming big in a small world
I spent my childhood growing up in a rural village in the South of England. I was so fortunate to have almost unlimited access to the outdoors with forests to play in and explore, and clear pollution-less skies that gave me incredible views of the stars above. For a lot of my childhood my world was very small – I did not venture often outside of my local area other than for the occasional school trip. Despite this, I always had big dreams to be the first person in my family to go to university and to study astrophysics: I wanted to learn more about the stars I had grown up staring at.
To help achieve this goal, in 2015 I completed A-Levels in physics, maths and further maths, and I was fortunate enough to get an offer from the University of Bath to study on their brand new (at the time!) BSc Physics with Astrophysics programme. I had also been awarded the Lloyds Banking Group Scholarship, which would provide me with job opportunities and financial support during my time at university.
I learned to code for the first time at university, and my interests switched from research to engineering: I wanted to use code to help us understand the world around us better and develop meaningful products that had a positive impact on society. So, after graduating in 2019, I joined Capgemini Engineering (which was Altran UK at the time) on their graduate apprenticeship scheme so that I could retrain and gain new qualifications as a software engineer. I completed my apprenticeship in 2021 and I now work full time developing and testing cutting-edge technologies.
Testing software that helps keep millions of people safe every single day
My job title is ‘advanced consultant engineer’. What this translates to day-to-day is that I help to develop and test high-integrity software, which is software that is built in such a way that we minimise defects and can mathematically prove an absence of run-time errors. It’s software that helps keep millions of people safe every single day.
As a consultant, I’ve had exciting opportunities to work in a range of industries including rail, scientific research and most recently satellite communications. I am currently working as a test lead, meaning I lead and support a team of test engineers and our work helps to reduce the chance of bugs making it into the final product. I think testing is a lot of fun – I get to spend a lot of time trying to make something break!
My job is also much more than just coding. As well as leading teams, give presentations, design systems and collaborate with people and companies who are leaders in their fields, all whilst developing software that makes a difference. I also have time allocated in my job to co-lead our internal Women’s Network and volunteer for a number of other organisations including the WISE Young Professionals’ Board and The Scouts.
Opening doors for young people
I have been involved with The Scouts since 2017, so nearly six years now! I joined whilst I was studying at university, initially as a way for me to complete the number of volunteering hours I needed to do in order to be awarded my scholarship funds..! But after completing the mandatory hours, I found myself really enjoying Scouting and wanting to spend more of my time doing it.
I have had so many incredible opportunities during my time with the Scouts. To name just a few: I have attended a World Scout Jamboree in the USA alongside 50,000 Scouts from across the world. I was a member of the Colour Party at the 2019 Queen’s Scouts Parade at Windsor Castle helping to lead the parade in front of the Royal Family. I’ve led Scout Groups in Bath and Bristol including a group based in the Bristol Royal Hospital for Children. All of these experiences have given me skills for life and helped me develop incredible friendships and make memories that I will treasure forever.
Scouting opens so many doors for young people, and I’ve seen first-hand how life-changing it can be both for young people and adult volunteers, and that’s what makes Scouting so important to me.
Scouting for new opportunities
I’ve recently taken on a new role as the assistant county commissioner for growth and development with Avon Scouts. This role means that I am responsible for ensuring that Scouting provision across Avon County (which includes, Bath, Bristol and the surrounding areas) is readily available to all young people who want to get involved.
Practically speaking, this means I am proactively looking for opportunities to open new Scout groups and Explorer Units to reduce the length of our waiting lists as well as meeting with district commissioners and other volunteers to work out plans for how we can grow and support existing provision. This may involve helping to recruit more volunteers or supporting groups with school assemblies to help spread awareness that they are there! I do this alongside a team of staff from The Scouts who are experts in recruitment and opening new groups to make sure our efforts are as effective as possible.
This role is great for me as I can make use of my tech background! To identify potential opportunities for opening new Scouting provision, I need to analyse large amounts of data about: locations and populations of local schools, capacity and location of existing Scout groups, and the availability of currently unused venues such as village halls that could be used to host Scouts.
Avon is a large area geographically and so trawling through this data manually would take a very long time. I am using my tech background and some mapping software to triangulate opportunities that are highly feasible and would have the greatest impact, before presenting them to volunteers who can get to work on the ground. It’s really exciting to be able to use my skills in this new way, and to help more young people access Scouting who previously couldn’t.
Differences between Scouts and Guides
The main differences between Scouts and Guides are their origin, population and programme. Scouting was started in 1907 by Lord Robert-Powell as a programme that was only for boys. Girl Guiding was started in 1909 after a group of girls turned up at a boy scout rally in the UK declaring themselves girl scouts! Agnes Baden-Powell (Lord Baden-Powell’s wife) then officially founded Girl Guiding the following year.
Over 100 years later, Scouting is now open to people of all genders and this is the case across all of our age groups. Girl Guiding is currently still only open to girls, and this represents a key difference between the two organisations. Scouting and Guiding also have very different programmes of activities and different badges you can earn, and so are suited for different audiences with different interests.
An inclusive movement
Scouting has come on in leaps and bounds during the 21st century in ensuring that all young people have equal opportunities. As well as opening up the movement to people of all genders, we also have dedicated Scout groups for people from different religious groups and we regularly support national events such as Pride.
All adult volunteers must also complete mandatory training modules, and many leaders complete training on areas such as mental health and understanding sexuality so that we are equipped to support young people no matter who they are.
We also regularly release new badges for young people to complete. We currently have over 200 badges that young people aged 4-25 can earn during their time in Scouting, which include topics from Electronics, Astronautics and Computing through to Swimming, Creative Arts and First Aid. By having such a variety of badges on offer, we help ensure that we offer content that will be of interest to all young people.
International Day of the Girl meets Ada Lovelace Day
International Day of the Girl provides us all with a chance to celebrate and champion incredible women and girls who are making a massive change in the world, and working to make society a more inclusive place. There are so many change-makers who need to have their stories shared, and I always look forward to sharing and reading about these inspiring women and girls.
This year, International Day of the Girl also falls on Ada Lovelace Day so there will be plenty for me to celebrate! I look forward to thanking and putting a spotlight on the amazing women and girls in my life who encourage me every single day.
Getting stuck in
As 2022 draws to a close, I think I’m looking forward to getting more stuck into my new Scouting role and getting back into conference season! As we move out of the pandemic, I’m really excited to be attending more events in person! In particular, I can’t wait to speak at the British Computing Society’s Software Testing Conference and the Women of Silicon Roundabout Conference in November.