Stephanie Bally

Felixstowe, Suffolk

How it all started:

Stephanie has always had a passion for maths, having studied further maths at GCSE. At A Level she studied physics, maths, electronics and music technology.

She realised she had a skill for data analysis and computing when her school entered a team in the ‘Cipher Challenge’ led by Southampton University, which sets a spy-based coding challenge for teams to solve. She wrote a computer programme that could auto-decipher some of the codes and it was soon recognised that she had clear skills in this area.

In year 10, she had no firm idea of what she wanted to do. When she couldn’t get work experience in music production, she explored other options and, ultimately, took up an opportunity at BT. She spent her time in the research department working on future security, using some of the early virtual reality (VR) headsets before they were widely released. Stephanie explains, “Today I use VR regularly as part of my job but when I was 14 and seeing this for the first time it blew my mind.  I couldn’t imagine this type of technology would be used for playing games and watching TV.”

“My work experience completely changed my career plans.  That’s why I’m so passionate about encouraging apprenticeships to other people now.”

The Future:

So far, Stephanie has worked on 5G ahead of its launch, researching how it can be applied into industry, schools, devices, haptics and all things ‘future tech’. She’s worked in the Openreach research team, looking at how BT can provide better service to customers, the software defined networks team and immersive content team, the latter looking at future devices to make BT user experience even better.

She finished in the Openreach research team, where she felt she had made the biggest impact, having contributed research to support a conference in Madrid. Now, she’s looking at how BT can improve fibre broadband technology, learning about a completely new subject for her.

Stephanie explains, “I love working in applied research – it’s so varied, there’s never a mundane day and every project is so diverse, meaning you’re constantly learning new things.  Different people define success in different ways, I have always thought of success as doing or contributing towards something that makes a difference. The work I’m doing has the potential to make a real difference in how we use technology, and I would like to stay in this job or this type of job as long as this continues to be the case.”

The Need For Ambassadors:

Many of the apprentices are encouraged to develop their business essential and soft skills by getting involved in attracting new talent. It’s a great way to accelerate an apprentice’s own development, and it’s an integral part of Stephanie’s career.

She says, “For me and a lot of my fellow apprentices, giving back and getting others involved in STEM careers is something we really want to do. It’s very rewarding when you notice colleagues in the corridor that did work experience with you two years before, or when you hear younger students say that they’re going to take a computer science A level or GCSE because of their time with you.”

“I want to help show people that STEM careers aren’t about being a nerd or a genius.”

“There is something missing in the education pathway. We need to start talking to students about the technology sector at a younger age because doing this at the 16 plus ‘BTEC’ or ‘A level’ stage is almost too late.”

“Technology is a huge part of everyone’s life, especially the younger generation.  Snapchat filters, for instance, are using augmented reality. Netflix and other streaming services are using machine learning algorithms to provide suggested shows for users to watch. Future technologies are being integrated more and more into our everyday lives and we need young people to be inspired and excited about this!”

“Ambassadors can show all students the fun in learning what is behind these future technologies, and prove that it isn’t that scary. The truth is, ultimately anyone can be part of changing and enhancing how the world uses technology, they just need to know where to start. STEM ambassadors are vital for spreading that message!”