Violet Karla O'Brien | Smart Futures

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Violet Karla O’Brien
Violet Karla O'Brien is one of many from the LGBTQ+ Community working in STEM. As a recent graduate of computer science in UCD, Violet has since taken up writing, part time work in coding academies and public speaking.
Coding and Public Speaking

My name is Violet Karla O’Brien, I’m a recent graduate of computer science in UCD.  My thesis was in game development as I wanted to find a way to combine my skills in storytelling as well as programming. When I was in secondary school I knew virtually nothing about computers but loved any nerdy extra-curricular available. I did drama, debating and was captain of my school’s chess team


Has your opinion of STEM changed since you were a teenager?

I used to view STEM as a very isolated field, people in lab coats locking themselves away to work on something vague and scientific. Month’s later they’d return to civilisation with their new advancements for the rest of us. Now I see how tightly STEM is linked to every facet of our world today.


In your opinion, what is the biggest myth about STEM careers?

Unfortunately I would say the idea that it’s not something for girls, there were only 8 girls in my course, and we all had every right to be there.


Do you believe that there is enough being done to encourage girls and minorities to study STEM and pursue STEM careers?

I feel that there is a decent amount being done for girls who have already gotten into the room. Once I started in Computer science, there were clubs and festival invitations. But before I chose that there was very little encouragement to pursue that field.


Describe an interesting day in your current position.

As a recent graduate my current position, since finishing I’ve taken up writing, part time work in coding academies and public speaking


What do you love about your current role?

I love to reach people in any capacity, whether it’s teaching, writing or speaking. Getting someone’s brain working in new ways and about new topics always feels like a job well done.


What has been the most surprising element of your job?

The levels of empathy and kindness I’ve found in people.


What has been your most exciting career moment to date?

I would say speaking at Inspirefest in 2016, it was my first time speaking on a proper stage and the response was incredible.


Is your current job, and the work of the wider team, making a difference in the world?

Though my platform is still relatively small, I do all I can to spread my experiences as far as I can. I hope this makes a difference and that I continue to do so as I further my career.


What do you hope to achieve in the next year in your current position?

I hope to land a full-time job, and really start to effectively network in this industry.


Do you feel that you fit the stereotypical description of a person in your role?

While there is something of a stereotype and trans women being programmers, I most definitely wouldn’t say we fit the stereotype of a programmer yet, so no!


If a young person told you that they would like to get into your role, what advice would you give them?

 Start coding early, and code with the goal of making something you like. I think that’s the best way of making something someone else will like.


What do you want to see change in the industry in the next 10 years?

A proper commitment to diversity from every background (race, sexuality, identity, social class) instead of just ticking the obvious boxes.


What are your priorities for the year ahead in your role?

Improve my interviewing and people skills!


Did you complete any sort of placement or internship during your studies? If so, did it prepare you for what you do now?

I interned at Silicon republic last summer, where they allowed to me to hone some of my writing ability.


Do you feel secure in the fact that you can earn a living from a career in Stem?

Not at all, transphobia is still a massive barrier for trans people seeking jobs and I’ve seen enough of my friends struggle to find work to know that I can’t be complacent.


Name one thing on your bucket list.

Walk a red carpet.


What television series are you currently watching?

“When They See Us”, Ava DuVernay’s dramatized retelling of the story of the Central Park 5, a group of young black teenagers wrongly convicted of an assault for which they served twelve years in prison. It’s a heart-breaking story that shines a light on so much of the injustice faced by people of colour.


What living person do you most admire, and why?

While, not a spectacular answer, I’d say my grandmother. She’s 84, an ally, brutally honest, has a wicked sense of humour and a heart as big as they come.


Now I see how tightly STEM is linked to very facet of our world today.