Skip to main content

“Everybody has to start somewhere” - why I chose an ICT career with Defra

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Defra digital

A lady with blonde hair]

On International Girls in ICT Day, Associate Cloud Engineer Niamh Bergin explains why she has chosen a career in Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and she reflects on some of the challenges she has faced and overcome, personally and professionally, including feeling the effects of imposter syndrome.

I joined the Defra Cloud Academy just over a year ago. Prior to this I was at university, studying Sociology. After graduating and beginning the search for a fulfilling career, I found it difficult to break into the world of work and make myself visible to employers. I lacked inspiration and became disillusioned with the hunt for opportunities.

Then I came across the Defra Cloud Academy apprenticeship. The opportunity has enabled me to build new skills and develop a wealth and depth of new knowledge. For me, this experience has been a journey of both personal growth and personal development.

At the start of my journey, I felt the effects of imposter syndrome. I’d be surprised if this wasn’t a universal experience for a lot of women who are starting careers in the ICT sector. I feel fortunate that Defra had strong women leaders and a coaching community to support me during these early days.

I think it is important to stress too that ‘everybody has to start somewhere’; in a rapidly advancing technological world, even those most senior and those of high technical expertise are constantly having to learn and develop new skills and understanding with each advancement. Thinking in this way has stood me in good stead so far.

Broadening my horizons

My experience on the Cloud Academy programme has been nothing short of transformative, both personally and professionally. Through this programme, I've had the opportunity to delve into the intricate world of cloud computing, building invaluable skills that have not only enhanced my technical proficiency but also broadened my perspective on modern technological landscapes.

On a personal level, the programme has challenged me to step out of my comfort zone, confront complex technical concepts, and push the boundaries of my capabilities. Through perseverance and dedication, I’ve cultivated resilience, adaptability, and a growth mindset, traits that extend far beyond the realm of cloud computing and are invaluable in navigating life’s challenges.

Professionally, through the knowledge gained and the networks forged through the programme I have been able to broaden my career horizons with an instilled sense of confidence and purpose in the pursuit of my professional aspirations.

Working in Defra

Defra’s values and principles align closely to my own. A desire to make a difference - contributing directly to policies and initiatives aimed at protecting the environment and combating climate change. So, choosing Defra as an employer was an obvious step to take.

The career development and opportunities including training, mentorship, and the chance to work on diverse and challenging projects have also been key factors for me choosing Defra.

Women leaders have had such an influence on me in Defra

I believe it’s important to have strong and effective women leaders in the ICT career sector to address disparities and break down the systemic barriers present in this historically male-dominated field. Seeing women in leadership positions helps to challenge stereotypes, encouraging greater representation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.

Women leaders serve as role models and sources of inspiration for aspiring professionals, in particular young women and girls like myself who might be considering careers in ICT. Having women leaders brings diverse perspectives, experience and approaches, which fosters innovation and drives success.

I am fortunate enough to be surrounded by strong female leaders in Defra. From these women, I have learned the importance of empowering those around us. The willingness of women leaders to invest in the development of their team members inspires me to support the growth and advancement of others in my own career journey.

I’m also a member of the Defra Women’s Network which is a group made up of people from across Defra who are impacted by and passionate about issues that affect women in the workplace. And I’ve received some mentoring from a female colleague, which has helped me hugely in understanding my own potential and feeling confident in myself.

I really feel that the prioritisation of inclusivity by women leaders in Defra creates a productive environment and positive workplace culture which empowers every individual and makes you feel valued.

An enjoyable journey so far, with plenty more still to come, hopefully!

In essence, my journey with the Cloud Academy has been a transformative one, fostering holistic growth and empowering me to thrive in both my personal and professional endeavours.

The most important lesson I have taken from my career experience so far is the importance of adaptability and continuous learning in a rapidly evolving technological world.

In this constantly evolving landscape of information and communication technology, new challenges and opportunities arise with each advancement. I have learned it’s essential to foster a mindset of adaptability and to embrace lifelong learning.

A career in ICT is a journey that holds endless possibilities for growth, impact, and fulfilment. Never underestimate the power of your voice and your ability to make a difference within this sector; joining the ICT sector, as a woman, is essential for driving diversity, inclusion, and innovation – who wouldn’t want to be a part of that.  And it’s important to remember that you belong here - your potential within this field is limitless.

Niamh Bergin is an Associate Cloud Engineer in the Defra Cloud Academy, working towards a Level 3 ICT Apprenticeship.

In 2024, International Girls in ICT Day will be celebrated on 25 April. This year’s theme for the Girls in ICT day celebrations is “Leadership“, to underscore the critical need for strong female role models in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers.

Although women now fill 40% of high-skill occupations globally, their participation in ICT-related fields continues to be low. Women are nearly absent from software development, engineering, technology research, academia as well as at the highest levels of policy making. They also tend to leave science and technology jobs at higher rates than men.

While there is a leadership gender gap in every industry, the largest gaps are found in the STEM fields. Women in ICT often find themselves in junior or support roles rather than in managerial roles, with little opportunity for advancement. They are also less likely to hold an executive position, become ICT entrepreneurs, or be represented among science and technology policymakers.

To thrive in STEM, girls and young women must be exposed to women in leadership positions, fostering inspiration and breaking down barriers that hinder their progress. The Girls in ICT Day 2024 theme aims to address these challenges, encouraging empowerment and leadership development for a more equitable future in STEM.


Sharing and comments

Share this page

1 comment

  1. Comment by ANDREA MARSTON posted on

    It sounds like Niamh has had a very positive experience and I do hope this continues throughout her career and her hard work is always appreciated. From my own experience I can say that working in government is unlike anywhere else, but the skills you learn are both useful and (if you decide you do need to move on), transferable.


Leave a comment

We only ask for your email address so we know you're a real person

By submitting a comment you understand it may be published on this public website. Please read our privacy notice to see how the GOV.UK blogging platform handles your information.