Jamal Niaz feature
Roma Das knew from a young age that she wanted a career that involved problem solving. Now aged 54, she’s more than 30 years’ experience in programming and software development, with jobs in industries such as aerospace, telecoms, housing and, most recently, for ITV.
She puts her successful career down to an early love of maths, and a dedication to stick to her passion – even if it wasn’t a stereotypical path for a young girl.
"I’m very good at maths – it’s logical and involves problem solving and that’s what I excel at. I knew I wanted to take it further and move into software and programming, but it wasn’t a huge area at the time. I found an O-Level in computing and decided to go for it because I thought it would be similar to maths. It turned out to be very different but still tapped into my love of puzzles and trying to find solutions to challenges. I continued my studies, doing courses in maths and computer science and did a module on Oracle SQL. It taught me the basics in programming, and I learnt even more at the University of Salford where I studied for three years, which enabled me to start a career in IT.”
Living with dwarfism, Roma had reservations about how she would be treated in the workplace – not just as someone with a disability, but as a female in her field. However, every team she’s worked in has given her the support she needed to thrive.
“When I started applying for jobs in IT, I was worried that my dwarfism would be a problem. My view was that, as I’m not customer facing, it wouldn’t be a problem. But I absolutely love talking to customers and I wanted to do more of it.
Thankfully, I’ve been lucky enough to work with employers who don’t see my disability – or me being a female – as an issue and who have given me the opportunity to be public facing as and when I want to be. What I’ve learnt is that often, the issue is more of a personal one, and it centres on your own apprehension about how you might be perceived. Whereas, in reality, people are accepting and treat you fairly.
That’s not to say that other women don’t face challenges or barriers in this industry – they absolutely do. I’ve not experienced it myself, but I have witnessed it, especially for women aiming for senior positions. It’s troubling that it still happens in this day and age when there has been so much progression.”
Roma has experience working for companies such as Cable & Wireless, Akcros Chemicals and CSC where she supported such clients as BAE Systems, BNFL to name just two. She has also worked with some of the world’s most innovating software platforms.
“I enjoy being given a problem to solve, and either helping to build a new system from scratch or improving an existing system by making it work better, harder or faster. I’ve been integral to some amazing projects for software that’s used around the world, such as a bespoke screening system for flight information that’s used currently in Panama. There’s no satisfaction like seeing your own invention work in the way you wanted it to and making a difference to the way a place functions.
“I recently joined ITV where I am currently supporting existing applications and databases that hold a variety of information about ITV programmes – it’s extremely interesting as I can relate my work to the programmes I watch. I’ll also be involved in any future application or database development too.”
As she continues to progress in her new role, she wants to share advice with other young women considering a future in a typically male-dominated industry.
“Don’t think that because a sector is traditionally male-orientated, that you can’t be part of it. And when you make yourself part of it, stay true to yourself. Many women start thinking like a man in order to become part of the team, but we have such fantastic qualities just as we are, there is no need to change.
“I’m a softly spoken person, but I don’t sit back; I approach people as my equal, just as I would expect them to treat me. It’s not a man’s world – it’s anyone’s world, so be yourself and simply by excelling in your job, you’ll play your part to create change for future women who come along after you.”