Inspiring answers by Chloe Smith, one of our STEM Careers for Women Ambassadors on her life and working as a data scientist.

1. Name and job role.

Chloe Smith, Data Scientist at Zurich Insurance

2. What is something about you people might not know?

I really love Sriracha.

3. What are your hobbies?

I am a volunteer for Blind Veterans, so I spend time on home visits and hosting meet up days. I go to the gym and spend considerable time trying to convince myself that I enjoy being there!

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4. What did you want to be when you were growing up?

What I wanted to be changed many times; I did want to be a Popstar/Model for a few years. As I got older, I thought more seriously about being a Paramedic, a Medic in the Army, or a Doctor.

Chloe Smith in data science picture

5. Who was your biggest influence growing up?… who were your role models?

I was extremely lucky to grow up with numerous extremely caring and strong women around me. However, my Nanny, Janet was and still is a real inspiration to me. She worked hard in her job within the NHS, yet was always there for everyone in her family. If people have a problem, she is the person they call, and she will always do her best to help.

6. What were your favourite subjects at school?

This is also something that changed throughout my time at school, I really struggled with the transition from Primary to High School. In Primary School, I enjoyed most subjects, particularly PE and History, whereas in High School I lost a lot of confidence and found it hard to engage initially. Things changed once it came to the final 2 years and I had to study for GSCEs. The realization came that this was the time to work towards the person I wanted to be. The more I applied myself, the more I seemed to enjoy school, particularly Maths and Biology.

7. How did you come to choose your current career path or were you led to it?

Well, the answer to that is not exactly straightforward…
I graduated from University with a BSc in Biology and a scholarship to do some research over my summer. Following that, I went to travel thinking I could spend some time planning out what my next steps were while gaining some life experience.

I worked in Australia and New Zealand in various jobs and started to research into careers that would utilize maths and data analysis as they were the aspects of my degree that I most enjoyed. By this point, I had worked in a lot of different work environments including private health, public health, hospitality and architecture, so I knew I wanted to work for a larger organisation, ideally in a corporate setting. I set my sights on becoming a Data Scientist and applied to Manchester Universities MSc in Data Science. Before I knew it I had completed my Master’s and was working at Zurich Insurance.

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 8. What are the biggest changes in the world of work (for women) that you are excited about?

There are three main changes I find exciting in the workplace.

The first is Flexible Working. I think business is starting to see the benefits associated with being able to facilitate flexible working. The pool of talent a business can acquire and maintain is broadened, along with the improved well-being of its current employees.

Furthermore, I feel this greatly reduces the burden of looking after children for primary caregivers. I consider Zurich’s current approach to this exceeds expectations and I hope more companies follow suit to make this the standard expectation.

I also think that changes regarding paternity leave can help improve the workplace, along with a sensitive approach to employees with children. Traditionally, only women stayed at home with children, whereas now we have started to evolve a fairer way for more men and women to spend time with children and get that important work-life balance.

We are seeing increasingly more women obtaining senior roles, even in more typically male-dominated sectors. I’m interested in seeing if this will encourage more women into these sectors and have the belief that it will.

One key factor that persuaded me to work for Zurich was the evidence that women in my part of the business had progressed, paving the way for myself and other ladies to follow.

9. Would you say having a degree is the only path to a successful career? Would you say there are opportunities for women entrepreneurs in your career?

Not at all! There are many ways to start your career and I think the opportunities are continually diversifying to include people from many backgrounds and past experiences. I particularly like the idea of apprenticeships, as this allows people to gain experience whilst working in a role. Plus, more companies are starting to upskill their workers whilst they work.

I certainly think that there are opportunities for entrepreneurs within Data Science as is evident by the considerable amount of successful startups in the past few years.

10. What advice would you give your younger self and school leavers today?

Explore all your options and don’t always think the standard path is your path. Believe it or not, your job role may not even exist yet. Although the particular topics you study may not always be used in your desired career, it is the skills that you gain alongside them that will stay with you throughout life.

Believe in yourself and do what you enjoy, don’t worry about what other people are doing.

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Make sure to follow this series on STEM Careers Guide. For more career-related and job search options, visit Rob Williams Assessment. 

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