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Lara Mackey

Lead Data Engineer, Cancer Research UK

Ruby Chohan

Technology Accelerate Scheme, Cancer Research UK

Natalie Menzel

Senior Quality Assurance (QA) Engineer, Cancer Research UK

A leading UK-based cancer charity is offering opportunities for careers in technology and engineering for women as it strives to help create a world where people can live free from the fear of cancer.

Data, technology and analytics skills are proving increasingly important in the fight against cancer. Women in technology and engineering are helping tackle the disease.

A meaningful engineering and technology career

Data plays a critical role in shaping the direction of campaigns and fundraising initiatives, explains Lara Mackey, 29, who is a Lead Data Engineer at the Charity. Her role consists of collecting, transforming and preparing data for analytics.

“The quality of our data is very important as the charity makes more data-led decisions in terms of campaigns and how we interact with our supporters,” says Lara, who studied electronic engineering and music technology at the University of York.

She initially worked as a software engineer for an audio technology company. “But I then started to think about wanting to do something meaningful in the tech-for-good space,” she says.

Inclusive and passionate work environment

When she discovered the opportunity at Cancer Research UK, she felt passionate about joining, as her father was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer. “I wanted to do something different, and his diagnosis made me realise I wanted to do something more impactful,” adds Lara.

Having joined the organisation last September, she has found a working environment diverse in gender and race with flexible practices. Lara, who works a four-day week, also points to the ‘tech awaydays’ with a range of speakers and activities. “The charity works hard to make sure that everyone feels connected to the cause,” she adds.

There are opportunities to grow with supportive learning development and opportunities to get into higher positions.

Natalie Menzel, Senior Quality Assurance Engineer

Developing and expanding skills

Cancer Research UK delivers an innovative emerging talent scheme — Accelerate — to enable people to hone their skills and find a particular focus within the charity, which places inclusivity at the heart of its operations.

Ruby Chohan joined the Accelerate trainee scheme last year and is now covering six-month placements across various directorates working in tech and engineering. Following a film studies degree, she moved to the Netherlands and learned to code and then took a computer science Masters at the University of Birmingham before joining the scheme.

The two-year rotational programme of short placements provides candidates with cross-organisational insight and the opportunity to develop skills.

Organisation that offers opportunities

Ruby, 26, says she enjoys learning new tech skills within an organisation that matches her morals and has a goal of improving cancer survival rates. “I am embedded in a team and getting to know the product well by moving around different roles.

“It gives me confidence; we get to learn technical skills, see concepts realised and learn best practices, but we also get to hear about the amazing work other teams are doing with our weekly ‘tech huddle’.”

With gender-related networks and women in key positions throughout the charity, she feels part of an organisation that offers opportunities. “They want us to succeed, grow and develop personally and professionally,” adds Ruby. She notes that the scheme is not just for graduates but is now open to anybody with potential, passion and relevant skills.

The quality of our data is very important as the charity makes more data-led decisions in terms of campaigns and how we interact with our supporters.

Laura Mackey, Lead Data Engineer, Cancer Research UK

Advancing in a career while helping people

Senior Quality Assurance (QA) engineer Natalie Menzel, 30, works with developers in a role that involves software testing, coding and automation.

She joined the organisation two years ago, driven by a desire to further her career and help people. “The core purpose of the charity highlighted something personal in me.”

A workplace that values employees and diversity

“There are opportunities to grow with supportive learning development and opportunities to get into higher positions,” Natalie says.

“At Cancer Research UK, you feel very supported in terms of wellbeing; colleagues care about you. We also have gender equality networks and the opportunity to work across a diverse range of products and different technologies.”

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