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Farrah Farhoudi: from Medical Physiology to Operations Lead

Social media handle(s): @farrahfarhoudi (Twitter)

A few words about me:

I’m a twin! I have an identical twin sister although we’re not so identical anymore. We’re similar in many ways and quite different in a whole bunch of other ways. Every now and then she’ll come to the work Christmas or summer party and it’s funny to see everyone's confused faces.

I LOVE seeing the world. This year I’ve been to Paris, Lisbon, Amsterdam (this was for the Women in Tech conference!) and California. I’d never been to Paris before and it’s possibly my favourite European city now. I’m big on work/life balance and find visiting other countries enriches my mind. I like to balance my energy. I’d describe myself as an extroverted introvert.

The majority of my professional career to date has been at dxw, across different teams and in different roles.

Are there any professional experiences you've had that are quite unexpected compared to what you do nowadays?

I got into tech and public services quite soon after uni. I had two jobs before this: working at the hairdressers across the street on Saturdays and waitressing at the cafe of a manor house. Both have given me essential life skills; blow drying hair and perfecting steaming milk for different coffee types.

Is your background more STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) or non-STEM related?

STEM (I do have a science background although possibly not a typical science associated with technology. I have a degree in Medical Physiology from the University of Nottingham).

Where did your professional journey start?

I’ve never ‘known’ what I want to do profession wise. I still don’t in many ways. I think that’s okay. I’ve always had the philosophy of doing what works for now. Agile, some might say. For A-levels I took English Literature, Philosophy, Biology and Chemistry. The mix of subjects reflects that I took subjects I enjoyed and not a tailored combination to compliment a particular degree.

Biology was always a favourite of mine in school. I took that further with my degree. With this degree, there are usually two main paths to take, doing a post grad degree in medicine or going into research. Both were (are) a lot of work and I was over it at the end of university!

How did you get into tech and what motivated you?

I knew I wanted to work for a small company. I was good at business operations and I’d done some of that through previous roles and work experience. I came across a paid internship advert at dxw which felt very appropriate.

I first joined dxw as a Commercial Operations Intern for 3 months helping with HR, recruitment, office management and finance. I was paid the London living wage which was great compared to many other internships that were unpaid, and very helpful as I had to commute to the Shoreditch office from outside of London. After the initial 3 months, my role became permanent. I continued for a year as a Commercial Operations Administrator providing general support across the commercial team.

An opportunity came about to work with the directors at dxw in an Executive Assistant role. This was an internal move facilitated and supported by those I had been working closely with. As part of this role I practised delivery skills with internal projects. For example, I led the delivery of the first return to work programme. Also within this role I was much more aware of the client facing element of dxw. I joined project show & tells and sometimes went to client offices and worked with Delivery Leads.

After another year or so, this naturally led to me becoming a Delivery Lead in another internal move. During this time I worked across different project types (discoveries, alphas, beta) and in different parts of dxw leading on the delivery of digital outcomes for public and third sector teams.

From there, I moved into the GovPress team where I’m now Operations Lead. This role builds on my previous roles and is a combination of internal business unit work and the delivery of what we do.

Have you experienced any 'career in tech' challenges / stereotypes?

As working in tech for me has been at dxw only (where everyone is very aware of this and diversity, equity and inclusion is front of mind) I'm lucky I can say I struggle to think of much.

Very occasionally, I have come across some challenges while working on projects. One example is some external stakeholders making indirect comments about myself and other female colleagues on the team to do with age and gender being linked to our professional experience.

However, generally speaking, I’ve felt I’ve had people looking out for me and helping me seize the right opportunities along the way.

"I like most things about working in tech, particularly the diverse people I get to meet."

What has been your biggest 'wow!' moment related to working in tech so far?

I can think of a few and many of them centre around human interaction and casual conversation. For example, having an honest conversation with a client team member and hearing them tell me that thing I said last week had really helped them. I always find myself taking a moment after those types of conversations - words have effect!

I always have a “wow” moment when a service or a website goes live. It’s the point when everything we’ve worked on comes together, when all the moving parts and different contributions come to life as one live thing. Never gets old.

What do you like / not like about working in tech?

I like most things about working in tech, particularly the diverse people I get to meet. I suppose I dislike that when speaking about ‘tech’ generally there is so much more to do in terms of diversity and inclusion.

"Your first role in tech might not be the one you ideally have, or the one you end up doing and that’s okay. Manage your expectations, be honest, see every role positively ...".

What's been your favourite / most memorable / funniest 'career in tech' moment so far?

A favourite is going to the Women in Tech conference in Amsterdam, and the team building/ bonding while we were there. I’m grateful we have a learning and development budget available to do these types of things.

A fond memory is speaking on a panel for Coding Black Females alongside some big names in public digital - I was quite nervous about this beforehand, but during it and thinking back afterwards I really enjoyed it. I would happily do this sort of thing again, which when thinking back to me beforehand, I really didn’t think I’d be saying!

And to wrap up, is there any advice you'd like to give to others interested in a career in tech?

I usually struggle to answer this question because my route into tech has been quite straightforward and I’m aware that’s not the case for everyone.

For me, getting into a career in tech is about mindset and expectations. I knew that my first role was about getting experience in the tech industry and that I might not be there in 10 years time. I had a lot to learn but also had a lot of value to give. I managed my own expectations when getting started which helped me see my first role positively.

Your first role in tech might not be the one you ideally have, or the one you end up doing and that’s okay. Manage your expectations, be honest, see every role positively and as a chance to learn and with good people around you things will work out.


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