Women in Tech- A creative twist to a technical profession

Infiltrating the tech industry as a creative…

Gender inclusivity is of vital importance to us, as is having a diversely skilled workforce.

As a team, we’re expert in a wide range of degree specialisms: Environmental Science, Journalism, Neuroscience, Philosophy, Art and Design and many more.

Technology is integrating into all fields and subjects, with emerging tech expected to grow by 104% in the next year, but how can an expert in a non-related subject integrate into a technological career?

Introducing our Woman in Tech- Anna

This week’s Women in Tech is Anna Goldson, who falls under the discipline of Art and Design, but has infiltrated the technology industry, combining her artistic skills with technical learning and a passion for all things virtual reality.

Anna has spent a year in her specially created role as our 3D/XR Designer, which she undertook after being a parttime team member as a 3D Content Creator Intern.

woman at a computer creating vr tech content
Our 3D city models are designed and produced by Anna.

A creative twist to a technical profession…

Could you explain your role within Slingshot?

As 3D/XR Designer I take on the role of creative design and visualisation in an industry that is not usually associated with traditional creativity. I co-design the user interface within the Compass: Engine platform, ensuring consistency among the applications, and working to grow our breadth of users (from students to industry). As well as working with the platform development, I also design and produce 3D content, usually city models, and VR to experience data visualisation in another dimension; these contribute to client projects and our frequent events, in and out of Leeds. I feel fortunate that Slingshot deem creative works as an important field to cover, and it’s refreshing for me to be able to work in multiple areas within the company.

Pushing the limits of what your degree ‘allows’ you to do…

Why did you decide to enter a technical profession?

As an Art and Design graduate, I always knew that I wanted to make use of my creative skills, but was never drawn to the traditional path of fine art practice. Having founded Leeds Extended Reality Society during my time as a student, and subsequently seeing the passion among students of all degrees grow, I wanted to push the boundaries of what my degree would ‘allow’ me to pursue. Working with technology, data and software has shown me that creative study has a place in every industry, including XR technology, data analytics and digital twins. I see this profession supporting me in a growing career over the coming years, and I’m excited to have the opportunity to shape the future of creative applications in emerging technology.

women with a VR headset on
Anna creates and demonstrates virtual reality applications for external events.

Turning a passion into a career…

Are there any websites, products or games that enabled your introduction to VR and XR?

I’d been to a few art exhibitions where virtual reality was used, but it didn’t quite live up to gaining unlimited access to an HTC Vive, a powerful PC-VR setup, during my A-levels and early years of my degree. The ability to paint in the space around me using application Tilt Bush unlocked the passion for exploring VR further. Google Earth VR demonstrated the incredible power of viewing cities in 3D on demand. When it came to learning to develop for VR, my go-tos were YouTube tutorials, Discord groups as well as the Oculus, Unreal Engine and Unity developer portals.

Did anything put you off wanting to begin a career in tech?

I think the fact that I didn’t have formal training or exposure to the tech industry was a worry. Not having a computer science background, or knowing how to code, but on the cusp of joining a tech start-up definitely put some hesitation in my thoughts. I’m glad it didn’t decide my future though, Slingshot couldn’t be more accepting of different backgrounds.

Why do you think there is a clear gender division within roles such as yours?

I think the gender gap is less evident in creative works than other technical roles, but being part of a tech company as a whole, I think the natural progression into such roles is not as obvious a path for women. Growing up, young women can be pushed more towards stereotypical roles through education and extracurricular activities. Any boy-girl separation, means that there is a natural capacity to compare abilities. I see this changing by the day with my generation, and I’m looking forward to seeing a growth in encouraged women of all ages.

virtual reality environment in leeds
A panoramic capture of a Leeds City Square 3D model, built by Anna in Unreal Engine and developed for VR viewing.

Do you have any advice for young people wanting to branch out into the tech industry?

Find ways to combine subjects that ‘do not belong together’; become an explorer of interdisciplinarity. Technology has a place in every subject area and vice versa. It waits to be shaped and influenced by passionate people with new ideas, and, with an ethical approach, can only bring positive outcomes.

What are you excited to see develop in your industry?

I’m particularly excited to see the development of the metaverse, and our influence of data analytics within that. With the excitement also comes hesitation – I think this is another area of technology that needs to be taken seriously, and quickly managed and monitored so as to prevent unethical and careless use.