Zopa’s women in tech: Meet Sheetal Patil, Senior Database Engineer

Tell us about your role at Zopa.

I am a Senior Database Engineer at Zopa. I am responsible for managing and protecting customers’ and company’s data. It’s a very hands-on technical role and I enjoy doing it.

What does your average day look like?

I start my day by checking if there were any issues reported in the morning / overnight by checking Slack channel and emails. Then I review my calendar and prep for any planned meetings. The remaining day is split between my projects and BAU work.

How did you end up in tech?

As a child, I was always passionate about Science and Maths. My father’s an engineer so I wanted to follow in his footsteps.

I pursued a degree in Mathematics. As I was interested in the world of engineering, I pursued another degree in Computer Engineering, with a specialisation in Databases. And that, obviously, landed me in tech. To enhance my management skills, I also acquired MBA from Leeds Metropolitan Business School.

What would you say to younger people, particularly girls, who are thinking about tech as a career?

Ultimately, if technology interests you, then don’t let that go and don’t pre-judge what a career in IT is about. Get some advice, take up any opportunities to find out more (pre-pandemic Zopa would sometimes host local students) and don’t be afraid to choose this as your path. And when you make the choice, be sure you follow it through.

The great thing is that there are so many routes into a career in IT. There are lots of part-time course options, some of them online, and for some you don’t have to have a degree. They’re sought-after skills, so they can also offer some much-needed job flexibility.

So how did your career evolve?

I started as an Oracle Database administrator and then worked on a migration project to port data from Oracle to a SQL Server. This was the beginning of my career as SQL Database administrator. I worked as a Database Manager mentoring a small team in Leeds and then I was offered a job in London. That move to London paved my path for working in financial organisations, like Zopa.

What was it like starting your career in IT?

The world of DBA’s is predominantly male oriented, so I never had many female colleagues. But this didn’t faze me. Looking back, I think the following are the things that helped to establish myself:

1 – I never dwelt on the fact that I was the only woman in the room. 2 – I would prepare for my meetings and presentations which helped me stand out. 3 –I work hard, I am meticulous, and I deliver to deadlines, so I let my work speak for itself.

What project has made you proudest?

While I was at a company that provides software solutions for the car industry, I pioneered a project for a major client which helped the company save thousands of pounds.

We took a process, which was manual, mundane and took a long time to complete, and set about automating it. I brainstormed some ideas with a team of developers, and we implemented an automated system using multiple technology stacks.

And now you’re at Zopa. What is it that excites you here?

I’ve been at Zopa for over a year, and thanks to the pandemic, I’ve only actually spent two months in the office! Even so, I find the culture exciting, and I am happy to be part of it. Everyone is very talented!

Why are women so important in tech?

Women are very good at analytics and multi-tasking. They bring a different perspective and skillset to the teams. This plays an important role in driving change in tech.

Any notable women you encountered in your career?

Yes, I’ve come across some impressive women in my career. Their people management and decision-making skills are inspirational.

One who sticks out is Sarah Houlston, who’s the Chief Operating Officer at Brewin Dolphin. She’s such a strong personality, and I find her philosophy for success really inspiring. She really encouraged all the women in tech to follow their goals.

What’s your advice for women who are coming up against sexist behaviour in the industry?

First, speak about the sexist behaviour to the person who is behaving in that manner. Tell them how it makes you feel. This should resolve the situation. If not, raise it with your manager and HR.

How do we need to challenge sexist behaviour as an industry?

I think there are certain alarming behaviours which we all can identify as sexist but then there are some which can be easily misunderstood. I think there should be some well-defined standards/protocols across industry. This would help people who are completely unaware that their behaviour is sexist.

What would you say to women considering tech as a career?

Working in tech is exciting and overall a very good experience. I have come across some amazing people working in tech who have inspired and motivated me. If you are considering a career in tech, then I would say go for it girl!

What are you doing to try to get more woman in tech?

I am a member of the Diversity and Inclusion forum at Zopa, and we are exploring various channels to get more women to join tech at Zopa. Watch this space!

Our voices of women in tech series aims to champion the talented women in Zopa’s technical teams and provide inspiration to other women considering one of the many career paths tech offers. At Zopa, we’re determined to create a supportive environment that attracts the best female tech talent. This includes exploring new ways to recruit women into junior tech roles, maintaining an inclusive environment that ensures all voices are heard and creating support networks to ensure women in tech have the community they need to progress their careers.

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