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Sophie Durrant (U16), the current holder of Churchill’s first Amazon Women in Innovation Bursary is now in her second year of a Computer Science degree at Churchill College.
Whilst she always knew she wanted to study a STEM subject at University, it was only after considering the possible (career) paths after university during her sixth form that she took the decision to follow the CompSci route. She recalls; “I talked to various people in careers fairs about what different graduates went into and it was very obvious that the opportunities in Computer Science really were massive and if anyone asks, I tend to recommend that they go for Computer Science if they can.”
The Amazon Women in Innovation Bursary has provided Sophie with a fantastic package of support that includes an annual bursary of £5,000 for the three years of her course, access to a mentor employed at the Cambridge Amazon Development Centre to provide help and advice on business skills like interview techniques and CV building and access to internship opportunities. Sophie was also invited to visit the Amazon head offices for a day to talk about how she could be an Ambassador as well as meeting with people in the company to discuss the opportunities available. Since being awarded the bursary Sophie has benefitted from her mentor’s advice on several occasions and she is looking forward to taking up a paid internship with Amazon in the summer of 2018. She is clear about the benefits being a bursary holder has offered:
"Having the bursary means you can focus on your studies knowing that you have the support behind you to help you out. There are people to talk to if you get stuck, there are internship opportunities available and it takes the pressure off having to think about finances."
Sophie’s interest in Computer Sciences was sparked at a young age on the family computer when she spent her spare time in the holidays playing with the mechanics of programming to create games from Scratch. Encouraged and supported in her enjoyment of STEM subjects by her family, Sophie pursued her interest by studying CompSci at GSCE level at Tonbridge Grammar School for Girls where the culture was also fully supportive of girls studying the subject before going on to study the subject at A-level at Maidstone Grammar School.
Having decided that Computer Science was the route she wanted to take, Sophie made a direct application to Churchill, attracted by its reputation, the College facilities and the scholarships and bursaries on offer. She is now at the start of her second year and she does not regret her choice.
"The College support got me through my exam term. My tutor and my DoS have been amazing and I’m only ten minutes from the CompSci Building. Added to that, the College library is very good and there is a very down to earth atmosphere in the College."
In her spare time, she enjoys fulfilling the role of Secretary of the Tea Society and she played the flute in the orchestra for a G&S production of The Gondoliers. She also recalls a highlight of her first year being the opportunity to watch the American election live at the Cambridge Union.
Looking ahead to beyond completing her current studies Sophie hopes to mix up working in Industry with a bit of academia.
"In my ideal job, I’d like to be solving problems and getting my hands in the tech. There’s an Alexa place in Cambridge which is where my internship is likely to be and part of the appeal of that is getting my hands on this new, futuristic, very cutting edge technology."
Amazon UK recently confirmed that they will fund a further two bursaries for women studying CompSci at Churchill. Sophie herself is in no doubt that she would very much advocate studying Computer Science to any female considering it, citing the huge number of opportunities available in the sector. This is despite the fact that women are in the minority in the classroom as she is keen to point out, “you are in minority but it’s a minority of 20-25%, not 1% and most guys are perfectly fine”.
“We want to foster the next generation of high-tech superstars in Britain and help people from all walks of life invent for the future,” said Doug Gurr, UK Country Manager, Amazon. “We hope that over time this new scheme will make a big difference to many young women who one day will become future leaders in innovation.”
— Doug Gurr, Amazon UK Country Manager