Professor Carole Goble CBE FREng is a Professor of Computer Science at the University of Manchester
“We need women visible at all levels in the business, especially decision making.”
How would you describe your current role to someone who knows nothing about engineering?
I engineer distributed computing and knowledge technologies to accelerate how we publish, interlink and process scientific data, and how we share and reproduce all the outcomes of scientific research, including: life sciences; systems and synthetic biology; biodiversity; chemistry; and health informatics. My software and services are free, open and used in the field.
Why did you choose to go into engineering?
Computing chose me. I always loved it, right back from the late 1970s when I saw my first computer in a TV documentary and went on to programme mainframes at school in 1977. Software is an amazing mix of creativity and living product that people can interact with. It is the ubiquitous instrument of science. Software drives the telescopes and drives the data analysis from telescopes – it’s a ‘datascope’. Computing is not just about technology – it is actually more about working with and for people.
What do you like most about being an engineer?
Coming up with smart theoretical research and visionary infrastructure strategy is important and fun. However, what I really like is when I meet a biologist and something I made meant they could discover something new or work with colleagues better.
Tell us about an achievement that you are most proud of.
I’m proud of being a Fellow of the Academy, which recognises that software engineering is engineering. Slightly geekily, I am proud I have software that entered the Apache open software foundation, which means recognition by peers and a testament to my great team, who I am also really proud of. All of the staff and students I have worked with have been so brilliant and such an inspiration. I am proud of my role in getting software recognised as a first-class asset of science. I am proud of my CBE because that made my parents so proud; they made me believe in myself and backed me all the way.
How do you think gender parity in engineering can be achieved?
Visibility and getting to girls early. We need women visible at all levels in the business, especially decision making. I went to an all girls’ school and it was only at university I found out that computing ‘was supposed to be for men’.
How has being a woman in engineering changed since you started working in the engineering sector?
On the upside, no one is surprised anymore that a woman is a software engineer or a computer scientist, especially a professor of computer science.
On the other hand, I am often the only woman in the room; more so when I’m at meetings operating at senior and strategic levels.
What would you say to someone considering a career in engineering?
Go for it! It’s creative, rewarding, enabling, challenging, principled and practical. What could be better?