If you follow any of the major tech influencers on social media, then you’re sure to know of Penny Hindle. We got the amazing opportunity to chat with Penny about what it means to be a developer out of University, being an inspiration in multiple tech communities and how social media impacts her career!
Hi Penny, we know you from your amazing Twitter feed and presence
within the tech community, but please introduce yourself and give us a
brief overview of your current presence within the tech industry?
Hey! I’m a software developer at X-Lab in Leeds, we have a few different products but our main one and the one I mostly work on is digital pathology messaging software which is used in pathology labs. I only graduated in 2019 so I am relatively early on in my career, but I am actively involved in the tech industry in Leeds through volunteering, teaching, mentoring, public speaking and attending a range of meetups and conferences.
You’ve recently graduated from University (congratulations!) and started
as a Software Developer, how have you found the transition between
coding in an academic and commercial environment?
It’s definitely a very different experience. In an academic environment, you are expected to do everything from scratch when completing coursework to really test your understanding. Which for example means you can’t use any new frameworks – even if they are used widely in industry. I also picked a lot of modules which I enjoyed but don’t use in industry, such as graphics programming and a lot (really, a lot) of maths.
I think there is a big difference between being a computer scientist and a good software developer. I’m glad I learnt all the foundations at uni, but it could never have fully prepared me for industry!
Now that you have finished your time at University, do you feel there are
any positive points that especially helped you secure a graduate position
over other avenues into coding?
The most valuable things I gained from university were the opportunities. For example, hearing about internship and placement year opportunities that were only available to University of Leeds students. I also found out about plenty of volunteering and extracurricular activities which helped me to build up my CV. Whilst I could have learnt how to code through other avenues, I believe university was fully worth the time, effort and money for these reasons.
Throughout your time at University, you have also been an Instructor at
Code First:Girls, an award-winning non-profit that is making getting
women into tech a priority. What inspired you to get involved with the
organisation and wider Women In Tech community?
Ever since I started my journey in tech I have been one of the only women. When I did A-Level computing at 16, I was the only girl out of 1000 students in the year group. It’s always something I’ve wanted to help improve, because one of the main reasons I think there is a lack of women is a lack of understanding what tech really is, and a lack of relatable role models. It’s not just sitting in a room coding all day long, it’s underlying in every industry.
Getting started in a male dominated sector can seem like a huge
challenge, is there anything you wish you had known or done at the
start of your journey with software development?
Despite it being a male dominated industry, I have always been surrounded by supportive men who have made it a lot easier, so there have rarely been times that I actually felt disadvantaged for being a woman. One thing I wish I’d known at the beginning of my journey is to not compare myself so much to others in terms of my technical ability.
You’ve built a positive personal brand across social media platforms
such as Twitter and Instagram and even first caught the bug for
development through Tumblr. Does social media still inspire your
Definitely! I have always been really into social media; in the past it was Tumblr and now it is mainly Instagram. I think there are a lot of benefits to being technical when it comes to social media. Whether it’s being able to create your own website or blog or just trying to understand how the Instagram algorithm works to try and beat it! At the end of the day, every single social media app has been created by a team of people in tech.
We recently watched your live Inspiring Figures conversation with
Pauline Narvas and were particularly interested in your passion for
online tech communities such as the Leeds tech community and Women
In Tech communities. Why do you feel these online hubs are so
There are so many great meetups, events, courses and people in the tech community. It helps to create an inviting community where people can come and learn more or have a taster of different roles and jobs available. I think it gives people the chance to find out about opportunities they may never have been able to discover through their day job, for free.
Are there any other members of the community, or in other industries
that inspire you?
As you mentioned above, Pauline Narvas is someone who I’ve become really good friends with through the Leeds tech community and she always inspires me! I’m always inspired by everyone in the Leeds tech space, I couldn’t give a list because I would definitely be missing people off!
Is there anything else you’d love to add to give an insight into the world
Something I always say to everyone is that tech is a great way to get into any industry, because not all tech roles are stereotypically tech. You can work in TV, film, gaming, fashion, food, marketing, education, medicine etc, because all of these industries need people in tech somewhere down the line.