An Interview with Ruth Mills

Current Job: Lead Java Developerruth-avatar

Scientific Discipline/Field: Information Technology

Country: UK

Pick some letters (L,G,B,T,Q etc.): B, T

What does your job involve?

As a Lead Developer, I mentor and advise a team of Java software developers at a company in Birmingham, where we work on the websites for a major car manufacturer. I also regularly do talks and workshops at local tech meetup groups in Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Stafford.

How did you get to this job (education etc.)?

I graduated from Oxford with a Masters degree in Chemistry. My fourth year research project was in Computational Chemistry and involved programming simulations of fluid dynamics in C on a UNIX system. When I graduated, I found a local job in software development close to where I lived back then, in Wiltshire, at a firm which specialised in engineering software for the transport industry. A few years later, I moved into Java web development for a company specialising in e-commerce in the South East. I have worked primarily with Java web development ever since.

Do you feel being LGBT has affected your career decisions?

Yes, it has. Specifically, I spent 10 months between IT contracts around 5 or 6 years ago, where I developed my own content management system for beauty salon websites, and was looking to go into business full-time doing freelance web design for the beauty industry, this seeming an easier path to transition than to do so in an office environment. However, I ended up returning to IT contract work when the website business did not bring in as much money as planned, and transitioned in the summer of 2012, while on an IT contract for a small firm in Wolverhampton. When that contract finished, I then looked for my first IT contract as a woman, and was successful getting work with the firm I am with now, who offered me a permanent role last year, which I was happy to accept.

Have you had any reactions from colleagues about being LGBT, either good or bad?

I don’t make a big deal of being transgender at work, and have only told a few colleagues about being trans, all of whom have been overwhelmingly positive and supportive.

Did you have any role models growing up (LGBT, STEM, totally unrelated…)?

A friend of my father’s, who was a Unitarian minister, was always very much into technology and helped inspire me with maths and computing while I was in primary school. When I was 11, he gave me a Mattel Aquarius computer – this was absolutely key to sparking my love of computers – and especially programming. I used to spend days working out how to get every last drop of performance out of that little computer – including writing programs in machine code.

It was my uncle who inspired my love of chemistry; knowing I was interested in science (and particularly chemistry), he gave me some chemistry books to read, which fed my enthusiasm for the subject, and led to me choosing to study chemistry at university.

While at university, a friend gave me the confidence to come out as trans in my final year, where I subsequently lived full-time as a woman for 3 months at the start of 1996. Unfortunately my parents were devastated, and I sadly ended up de-transitioning before I left university (during those 3 months in 1996, I had not legally changed my name, nor undergone any medical interventions).

What are your plans for the future?

Complete my medical transition, and continue with my IT career, hopefully moving towards a Technical Architect role in due course. I have always been very technical and hands-on, so would prefer to be in a role where I can make best use of my technical skills, rather than focusing too heavily on management. I am also very keen to help with inspiring other LGBTQ people to consider a career in software development, by sharing my love of code, and am hoping to help found a local Trans*Code group in Birmingham.

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