Rising Star Awards: What happened next for Tanya Howden

Tanya Howard

WeAreTheCity’s Rising Star Awards are now in their eighth year.

The Rising Star awards were introduced to showcase the UK pipeline of female talent below management and to create female 100 role models across 25 different industries and professions.

Over the year’s, the awards have recognised over 700 women across the UK and India.

In this ongoing series, we speak to our winners about life after winning a Rising Star award.

We spoke to Tanya Howden, who won a Rising Star Award in Education & Academia in 2021.

Tanya Howden is a Computing Science Teacher in training in Scotland.

Originally from the Highlands, she is a Computer Science graduate from Heriot-Watt University where she took her first steps as a mentor for other women and girls in technology through lab helping and co-founding the Women@CS group at the university. Since graduating, she has stepped into STEM education, working to show young people from all backgrounds how exciting and creative these subjects are whilst breaking some of the stereotypes held by young people, especially girls, about these industries.

She joined Edinburgh based start-up, Robotical, who are the creators of Marty the Robot – an eye-brow wiggling, walking, and dancing robot that brings coding to life and supports students with exploring the world of technology. Meanwhile, Tanya was volunteering outside of work to run code clubs around Edinburgh to continue to spread the word to young people about how creative and exciting coding and engineering is. Through this voluntary work, she met the team at Heart of Midlothian FC who were looking to set up an Innovation Centre, that is the only one of its kind in the UK, with the aim to provide digital education classes for young people and families in the underprivileged community of Gorgie to learn vital skills for any future.

She joined the team full-time to manage the digital education classes using sport and football as a magnet to attract young people to try out coding for the first time and explore how they could use their interests to create using technology for good. As the pandemic hit, the focus at the HMFC Innovation Centre shifted to ensuring young people could still access opportunities to learn about technology from home through supporting initiatives like Connecting Scotland to reduce the digital poverty gap and running online clubs and classes for families. This experience led to Tanya taking the leap into formal education to train as a secondary computing science teacher with the aim to continue to make technology exciting and accessible for everyone.

How did you feel when it was announced that you’d won a Rising Star award?

I was so excited! I was working from home when the announcements came out and I don’t think I got very much work done for a few hours after that because I had to phone my family to let them know since there was nobody else in the house at the time that I could tell!! It was such an amazing feeling especially after living and working through the pandemic, it really got me to sit down and reflect on all the amazing work that we have managed to do through the HMFC Innovation Centre despite all the barriers in the way.

Please tell us what has happened in your career since winning the Rising Star award?

Quite a lot has happened since winning the award, it was a fantastic confidence boost and really gave us a chance to shout even more about the work that was being done at the Innovation Centre which helped to attract more support and mentors to help at our clubs and classes. But also, personally, it pushed me to keep trying different things outside of my comfort zone and I finally applied to train as a secondary computing teacher and I’m now almost halfway through my training year. It’s been a lot of work, but I am loving being in classes every day and trying to make that connection between formal education and the amazing work done by extra-curricular opportunities like the Innovation Centre.

What advice would you give to someone else going through the award’s process?

Believe in yourself, you deserve to be on that list or in that process. I think sometimes it can feel a little unnatural to compliment yourself and say you did a good job but reflecting on what you have achieved is so powerful to help build your confidence and keep pushing you to try different and sometimes scary things!

What tips would you give to our other members to enhance their careers? 

Never be afraid to ask for help or work with someone instead of doing it all yourself, keep trying new things and pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone and finally, be proud of your achievements and celebrate them!


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