Words by Amy Fowler
Posted over 3 years ago

Keeping the Spirit of Ada Lovelace Alive

Ada Lovelace said “That brain of mine is something more than merely mortal; as time will show.” And time has shown her to be correct. She wrote the first computer programmes long before the computer came to be, she was an early pioneer of analytics, a mathematician with imagination who foresaw the ability to code for pretty much anything from math to music. The vision and intelligence it must have taken to write theoretical programming for a theoretical machine are astounding, but even more impressive when you consider that she did all of this at a time when women were not welcome voices in science (or really anywhere else for that matter).

Ada Lovelace did not care.  Her curiosity and creativity combined with her determination meant she would not conform and made her reviled in Victorian society for her unladylike behaviour. She was a pioneer, an explorer and 200 years later we are all the beneficiaries. At Ada, The National College for Digital Skills, we want to keep her spirit alive. We want to build on what she represented.

Ada Lovelace Day 2017 was a big day for us here at Ada. As an international day of celebration of women in STEM, we jumped at the chance to highlight exceptional women and what we are doing to promote more of them. Only 17% of UK digital jobs are filled by women. That’s got to change and at Ada we are actively changing it by striving to recruit 50% of our students as women and 50% from low income backgrounds.

The more diversity we see in this space the more our students will internalise that background has no bearing on talent, drive and the ability to be great. On Ada Lovelace Day we brought together tech women from industry partners Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Google, UsTwo, RS Components, IBM and King to mentor, network and represent. We were also joined by the incomparable and very cool Wendy Tan White, who spoke to us about her journey and the key values of innovation, diversity, representation and resilience.

The day also gave us a chance to show off. The college opened one year ago so we celebrated our first birthday by featuring what we are most proud of: our students. Our dynamic students and apprentices demonstrated projects and met partners from industry, government, education and the local community. It is not an exaggeration to say our visitors were blown away, as I am daily, with the enthusiasm, ambition, and knowledge of our students.

There is a deliberate link at Ada between students and the real world of work so that the talent being developed here feeds into real employers and likewise employers feed back into developing that talent in a virtuous circle that will make a real impact not just to the lives of our students, but in a much broader way. Ada Lovelace believed everything connected “together in one great and harmonious whole” and when I look at our students here I believe she may have been onto something. The future generations of Adas educated here will emerge with the talent and ability to shape and improve our world, perhaps even change it the way Ada herself did.

I wonder if Ada Lovelace could have imagined what would occur in her name, the countless future pioneers who would be inspired by her. Angel S., one of our year 12 students said, “I am proud to identify with Ada Lovelace” and I personally am proud to work at a place that encourages students to identify with a pioneering troublemaker; motivating them and giving them the academic and personal tools to challenge, explore, and build a future we might not even be able to imagine yet. 

Find out more about Ada Lovelace

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