International Women’s Day on 8th of March is a global event to commemorate achievements of women. We spoke to some of the women at Paragraf, about their backgrounds and accomplishments, what it is like to be a woman in a technology world and what they enjoy about working at Paragraf.
Natasha Conway, Research Manager
I manage a team of around 20 people, investigating how to grow the best quality graphene and demonstrate good performance in our products.
Working at Paragraf is extremely fast paced, with tight deadlines and more to do than there ever is time for. However, we work well together as a team, creating a supportive and collaborative environment to rise to these challenges and share our successes. I feel lucky to have the opportunity to be part of building a company from start up to viable business, to manage a talented team of individuals and work in a supportive and collaborative environment on cutting-edge technology.
Since joining Paragraf I have recruited talented individuals with the key skills needed to deliver our goals, doubling the current research team size. This has enabled us to speed up progress and deliver ground-breaking graphene devices, such as cryogenic Hall sensors, transistors and our biosensor devices. What I most enjoy is working with the team to solve the technical challenges and seeing their successes seed new graphene Hall effect sensor product lines and new collaborative projects on graphene biosensors and graphene solid state devices.
I believe we have the potential to grow Paragraf into a large, successful, global company, pioneering graphene electronic devices and making a valuable and positive impact to the world. I hope that while we grow, we will still maintain our values and that feeling of “extended family” which makes it a great place to work.
The world we live in today presents a lot more advantages for women in science than my mother had in her day and things are still going in the right direction. Paragraf recruits through ability, but with an approach that encourages diversity in applicants. This has resulted in a positive and inclusive work environment for its employees.
Rosie Baines, Scientist
I work on the research and development of our first commercially available product, a graphene Hall effect sensor. I have always enjoyed the challenge of a scientific path and the potential reward of being able to use it to improve real-world technology.
Working with graphene epitomises that idea because its properties and potential are incredible, but there are obstacles that must be considered to make it into usable devices. Having a role in overcoming these challenges to realise cutting-edge technology, is very exciting. The first time we made devices that were going to be used for testing at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, was a particular memorable time. This was very early in the company’s journey, and in my career, so felt like a huge step forward into the technology world for both.
I have already achieved a lot during my time here, including multiple patents – I was the first woman at Paragraf to have a patent granted. I was also the first female scientist at Paragraf but rather than feeling out of place, I immediately felt like a valued member of the team. Since then, it’s been great to see the growth of a diverse group. There is excellent support for career development and opportunities to collaborate externally and promote our company ethos. One of the aspects of my job I like most is communicating and promoting our work, both within the company at meetings or lunchtime lectures, and externally at conferences and outreach events. I hope this helps to encourage a wide audience in accessing science and technology.
Working in science is full of ups and downs, rewards, and frustrations so often your drive is a key strength. It’s also very collaborative work so if I had any advice for someone starting a similar path to mine it would be to embrace communication, seek a variety of expertise and drive teamwork. A lot of things come with experience, but motivation and communication go a long way.
Anne McAleer, IP & Innovation Manager
In my role as IP and Innovation Manager, I make sure that we identify and protect the company’s valuable inventions and intellectual creations. Since I joined Paragraf in 2020, our patent and trademark portfolio have grown significantly – from 7 to 35 granted patents today, with 91 pending applications.
Paragraf is working in the semiconductor space which already full of very large incumbents with huge IP portfolios of their own. If we are successful, and our graphene devices are in high demand, Paragraf’s IP will be critical to the company’s success so I feel I have a big responsibility.
The best part of my job is always the part where I get to spend time with inventors, discussing the new inventions they’re making. It’s such a buzz to be in the room when something entirely new to the world is being created. Of course, by definition, any patent from any company is novel and inventive. But since we’re working in graphene, that ratchets up a level, because the potential for graphene is still being understood by the world. That’s what makes it exciting.
I don’t think we can shy away from the fact that women are at a disadvantage in the technology workplace. This has been proven in countless reports and studies; however, I think that the situation has improved in the 25 years since I left university and started working in technology.
The see-saw is starting to move towards a farer position. However, we need to do much more in schools to encourage girls into STEM subjects, and we need to make parents conscious of the differences in their treatment of, and expectations for, their daughters compared to their sons. Certainly, we need to have many more women working in technology. Paragraf does recognise the problem and is working hard to ensure that it has a diverse workforce. We’re actively trying to recruit people of different backgrounds, capabilities, and ages, and we’re working with schools and universities on STEM outreach activities.