At the Raspberry Pi Foundation, we believe everyone belongs in computer science, and that it is a much more varied field than is commonly assumed. One of the ways we want to promote inclusivity and highlight the variety of skills and interests needed in computer science is through our ‘I belong’ campaign. We do this because the tech sector lacks diversity. Similarly, in schools, there is underrepresentation of students in computing along the axes of gender, ethnicity, and economic situation. (See how researchers describe data from England, and data from the USA.)
The ‘I belong’ campaign is part of our work on Isaac Computer Science, our free online learning platform for GCSE and A level students (ages 14 to 18) and their teachers, funded by the Department for Education. The campaign celebrates young computer scientists and how they came to love the subject, what their career journey has been so far, and what their thoughts are about inclusivity and belonging in their chosen field.
These people are role models who demonstrate that everyone belongs in computer science, and that everyone can bring their interests and skills to bear in the field. In this way, we want to show young people that they can do much more with computing than they might think, and to inspire them to consider how computing could be part of their own life and career path.
Salome is studying Computer Science with Digital Technology Solutions at the University of Leeds and doing a degree apprenticeship with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).
“I was quite lucky, as growing up I saw a lot about women in STEM which inspired me to take this path. I think to improve the online community, we need to keep challenging stereotypes and getting more and more people to join, thereby improving the diversity. This way, a larger number of people can have role models and identify themselves with someone currently there.”
“Another thing is the assumption that computer science is just coding and not a wide and diverse field. I still have to explain to my friends what computer science involves and can become, and then they will say, ‘Wow, that’s really interesting, I didn’t know that.’”
Devyani is a third-year degree apprentice at Cisco.
“At the moment, I’m currently doing a product owner role, which is where I hope to graduate into. It’s a mix between both a business role and a technical role. I have to stay up to speed with the current technologies we are using and developing for our clients and customers, but also I have to understand business needs and ensure that the team is able to develop and deliver on time to meet those needs.”
Omar is a Mexican palaeontologist who uses computer science to study dinosaur bones.
“I try to bring aspects that are very well developed in computer science and apply them in palaeontology. For instance, when digitising the vertebrae, I use a lot of information theory. I also use a lot of data science and integrity to make sure that what we have captured is comparable with what other people have found.”
“What drove me to computers was the fact you are always learning. That’s what keeps me interested in science: that I can keep growing, learn from others, and I can teach people. That’s the other thing that makes me feel like I belong, which is when I am able to communicate the things I know to someone else and I can see the face of the other person when they start to grasp a theory.”
Tasnima is a computer science graduate from Queen Mary University of London, and is currently working as a software engineer at Credit Suisse.
“During the pandemic, one of the good things to come out of it is that I could work from home, and that means working with people all over the world, bringing together every race, religion, gender, etc. Even though we are all very different, the one thing we all have in common is that we’re passionate about technology and computer science. Another thing is being able to work in technology in the real world. It has allowed me to work in an environment that is highly collaborative. I always feel like you’re involved from the get-go.”
“I think we need to also break the image that computer science is all about coding. I’ve had friends that have stayed away from any tech jobs because they think that they don’t want to code, but there’s so many other roles within technology and jobs that actually require no coding whatsoever.”
Aleena is a software engineer who works at a health tech startup in London and is also studying for a master’s degree in AI ethics at the University of Cambridge.
“I do quite a lot of different things as an engineer. It’s not just coding, which is part of it but it is a relatively small percentage, compared to a lot of other things. […] There’s a lot of collaborative time and I would say a quarter or third of the week is me by myself writing code. The other time is spent collaborating and working with other people and making sure that we’re all aligned on what we are working on.”
“I think it’s actually a very diverse field of tech to work in, once you actually end up in the industry. When studying STEM subjects at a college or university level it is often not very diverse. The industry is the opposite. A lot of people come from self-taught or bootcamp backgrounds, there’s a lot of ways to get into tech and software engineering, and I really like that aspect of it. Computer science isn’t the only way to go about it.”
Alice is a final-year undergraduate student of Computer Science with Artificial Intelligence at the University of Brighton. She is also the winner of the Global Challenges COVID-19 Research Scholarship offered by Santander Universities.
“[W]e need to advertise computer science as more than just a room full of computers, and to advertise computer sciences as highly collaborative. It’s very creative. If you’re on a team of developers, there’s a lot of communication involved.”
“There’s something about computer science that I think is so special: the fact that it is a skill anybody can learn, regardless of who they are. With the right idea, anybody can build anything.”
Share these stories to inspire
Help us spread the message that everyone belongs in computer science: share this blog with schools, teachers, STEM clubs, parents, and young people you want to inspire.
You can learn computer science with us
Whether you’re studying or teaching computer science GCSE or A levels in the UK (or thinking about doing so!), or you’re a teacher or student in another part of the world, Isaac Computer Science is here to help you achieve your computer science goals. Our high-quality learning platform is free to use and open to all. As a student, you can register to keep track of your progress. As a teacher, you can sign up to guide your students’ learning.
And for younger learners, we have lots of fun project guides to try out coding and creating with digital technologies.