Sara Gowen

BSc Physics with year in Computer Science, 2011
Lead Test Engineer, UK Hydrographic Office

The UKHO is a leading marine geospatial information agency which develops many diverse products and services used all over the globe. Testing is a critical part of ensuring that what we produce is fit (and safe) for use. I steer the organisation's tools and and techniques for testing which involves liaising with technical and non-technical audiences, sharing knowledge internally and across government and researching the latest relevant technologies. 

How has your career developed since graduating from the University of Birmingham and what is the best thing about what you're doing now?

I started as a junior software developer in Marston Green. My skills grew quickly and I developed new ones that I hadn't experienced in academia. I then moved around a few companies until I ended up in the UK Hydrographic Office as a mid range software developer in 2016. I soon graduated to senior developer and had the opportunity to develop my skills in many different directions such as in Data Science or Management. I decided to specialise in Testing and Quality Assurance and took the role of Lead Test Engineer in 2019. I enjoy the responsibility, trust and freedom that I have at my organisation.

Sara Gowen

What motivates you? Either in your personal or professional life?

I am chiefly motivated by a desire to improve things and make life easier for people. I also enjoy a good challenge (as long as I can find a solution!)

Why did you apply to the University of Birmingham and how did your time here help you start your career?

After visiting the University of Birmingham, I fell in love with the campus and the feel of the place and couldn't imagine going anywhere else. I started university by studying the things I was best at at A-Level as I didn't really know what I wanted to do, so I originally applied to do Natural Sciences, as it was one of the few places in the country that offered that course.  The flexibility and opportunities offered by the University of Birmingham allowed me to move from my original plan of doing Maths and Chemistry (as part of Natural Sciences) to realising that my passions were in the realm of Computer Science and Physics. Thanks to the grounding I had in programming in both Physics and Computer Science I've been successful in pursuing a career that I love.

What are your fondest memories of the University?

I loved that people were all over the place at any time of day or night and yet I could always find a quiet place to hide if I wanted one! Late night/early morning study sessions with my friends were awesome and involved just as much fun as braining hard to solve problems.

We Are (Third Width)

Did you get involved in any extracurricular activities as a student?

I was president of the Purple Mermaid Circus Society and website officer for the Wayfarers Hillwalking society, both of which I gave my all and enjoyed immensely. Aside from looking great on my CV (they still live there) I learnt some key life skills about team work and managing people that I'd never have gained otherwise. Also I learnt to firespin which is a great party trick!

What advice would you give to current students studying on your degree programme?

First year counts! Even if it doesn't count to your overall degree score and you start out-knowing everything on the syllabus, the knowledge that you acquire during your first year is fundamental to the rest of your degree. So go to every lecture and do your homework because if you don't you WILL regret it.