A career in coding | Catherine Bowden

woman coding, code

I actually fell into coding by accident, as it happens.

At school, I was always strongest in maths and science. I quickly realised that I wanted a career in something technical, so when it came to choosing my degree, I applied to study Bioengineering at Imperial College London. Excitingly I was accepted, and off I went.

Bioengineering is as broad a subject as they come, and it was only by doing a bit of compulsory coding in one module that I completely fell in love with it. My remaining years at university were increasingly occupied by coding and by the time I graduated in 2017, it seemed a natural fit to apply to Luminance. I stumbled across the company by chance, knowing only that they were a fast-growing artificial intelligence platform for the legal sector. Intrigued to see where I could slot in at such an innovative scale-up, I applied for a role on the tech team, based at the company’s headquarters in Cambridge.

Cambridge was the birthplace of Luminance, where the technology was developed by mathematicians from the university. The city is a fast-growing hub for innovation and this feeds into the appeal of working there. Another hugely attractive aspect is the team. Being the first female coder has never set me apart in any way from my team mates. Luminance has a merit-based culture; we are assessed on our ability, creativity and persistence, all skills vital to succeeding in a technical role where things are often complex and require the ability to come up with cutting-edge solutions which set our technology apart.

The company is growing so fast that things are always changing. I enjoy the challenge of thinking up new ways to adapt the technology and keep it both innovative and reactive to wider industry challenges. The tech itself has also come a long way in its capabilities since I joined just over a year ago, and knowing that I have been an instrumental part of that journey is hugely motivating. We’re reaching a pivotal point in the company’s trajectory, with the technology now deployed in 40 countries across six continents after launching just two years ago. To be a coder in a company at the forefront of UK tech, with thousands of lawyers using the technology on a daily basis, is an incredibly exciting position to be in. I am very much looking forward to seeing what the next year has in store for Luminance, and to being able to play a lead role in contributing to this development at such a young age!

If I’m to share any parting advice with any fellow young girls wanting to go into coding, it’s to not be put off by the idea of being the only girl, or by the fact that it is a typically male-dominated field. I came up against all sorts of confused and outright discouraging responses throughout university when I told teachers and peers what I planned to do with my career. 14 months down the line at Luminance, I can safely say that my gender has not held me back in any way! Be tenacious, hard-working and daring and you will be well-equipped to tackle anything, whether in the field of technology or beyond.

About the author

Catherine Bowden is a Cambridge-based software developer now working at Luminance, the leading AI platform for the legal profession. With a keen interest in machine learning and natural language processing, Catherine has been instrumental in advancing the sophisticated pattern-recognition algorithms at Luminance’s core, as well as developing new algorithms for one of the company’s latest products, Luminance Corporate. Having graduated from Imperial College London with a master’s degree in Biomedical Engineering, Catherine pursued a career in coding due to the creative nature of the profession and its ability to ‘constantly provide new problems to solve’.

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