Physics graduate and indie-folk performer Georgia Gage explains how her musical background benefits every aspect of her role and why she’s passionate about breaking the bias to help women thrive in software engineering.
After graduating from Manchester University in 2017 with a physics degree, Georgia spent the next 18 months teaching and performing music. Longer term, however, she needed more job security – and she missed the intellectual challenge of her “super difficult but very rewarding” physics course.
Having done some coding at university, Georgia started thinking about software engineering. Then she met Dave Postle (Client Services Lead, Manchester) and Jason Ouston (part of the Talent Acquisition team) from Infinity Works at a Manchester Digital careers fair. “I told them I didn’t really know very much, but I could solve problems and learn quickly,” she explains. “They asked me in for an interview and I started at Infinity Works in April 2019.”
Georgia almost didn’t accept the job offer. “When I came for my interview, there weren’t many people in the office, and they didn’t look anything like me. They were older than me and they were all male.” She changed her mind, however, after having lunch with a friend who already worked at Infinity Works and shared why they loved it. Three years later and Georgia doesn’t regret her decision one bit.
It's a really great place to work. Part of that is because of the wonderful people here, and the down-to-earth atmosphere and the energy. I soon felt like I belonged at Infinity Works.
A lack of industry experience made Georgia “a bit of a novelty” at first in the Manchester office but she was keen to develop the skills she needed. Georgia decided to build an app for making cocktails, helped by another new hire and experienced engineer, James Stephenson. The app took a couple of weeks to make and gave her the opportunity to tackle source control, serverless technology – the app was hosted on AWS Lambda – and the complexities of the dependency injection function in .NET Core.
Above all, she was introduced to the agile principles that Infinity Works employs so effectively. Georgia explains: “It was about a style of coding but also an attitude. It’s about keeping things simple. Build something now, something small like a minimum viable product (MVP), rather than overthinking it.”
Georgia’s musical background has also helped. As a producer for her band, she was an experienced software user. But the most important advantage is that both music and technology demand a lot of creativity.
Whether you’re writing a song or creating a technical solution, you’re trying to imagine something that’s invisible, an answer that doesn’t exist. You have a lot of different instruments or tech tools, but you have to choose the right ones and find a solution to harmoniously bring them together.
Georgia also thinks her artistic side helps her collaborate in a team. “I do a lot of visualisation. I like to come up with lots of ideas and really think out of the box. I do colourful drawings and I tend to get quite excited, which I hope triggers other people’s thoughts and ideas.”
The benefits don’t all flow in one direction. Her work with Infinity Works has also helped Georgia with her music. As she’s become more experienced with developing complex technical solutions her confidence in using music technology has grown – allowing her to be a lot more ambitious when she’s composing and producing.
Diversity in action
Soon after joining Infinity Works, Georgia flexed her creative muscles to start up a diversity and inclusion (D&I) initiative in the office and teamed up with colleagues in Leeds who were taking a similar approach. When the Manchester practice hired two women from Tech Returners, a local training programme that helps people return to or get into tech after a career break, Georgia and a colleague were tasked with onboarding them. It was a rewarding experience, and one that may well inspire Georgia to volunteer as an Academy instructor in the future.
She also organised and hosted work experience for three female high school students through Digital Her, another excellent not-for-profit organisation in Manchester. “With our guidance, they built a moisture detector for plants that will tell you when to water your plants, and it was great. I think that was one of the best things I’ve done at Infinity Works, and I’d love to do it again,” she says.
A sense of purpose
After an initial period of intensive upskilling while not being on a client account, Georgia’s first assignment was in the transport industry, for one of the region’s biggest employers. It was sometimes stressful, mainly because she was conscious of being a raw recruit. “I was trying to compensate for the fact that I didn’t feel very helpful to the client,” she says. “But on the upside, I was working with a great team. They made me feel really at home, challenged me, and taught me a lot of things. I was definitely out of my comfort zone, but not in an unhealthy way. It was great by the end, but I found the first few months mildly terrifying despite the support available.”
Georgia has some sure-fire ways of coping with stress. She always reminds herself that her physics degree was incredibly tough and, after that, everything else seems more manageable. She finds exercise is a good stress-buster. And she appreciates the way that Infinity Works promotes experimentation (whether it fails or succeeds): “When I was working on my first client engagement, I learned about the concept of psychological safety, which I’d never heard before but it’s stuck with me since,” she explains. “This idea that ours is an environment where you can make mistakes and get things wrong – and then fix them. That’s part of the learning process and it’s a safe space to do that.”
This resilience stands her in good stead in the fast-moving Infinity Works environment: “I’m quite an emotional person but, if I’m given a challenge, I’m going to feel like there’s no option other than to overcome it.”
After her first client engagement, Georgia joined a team in Leeds to work with a national parcel delivery company, in a similar role but with a different tech stack, and she already felt confident enough to be more hands-on. In September 2020, she started work on a landmark project for NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT), building a new app for blood donors. Following its successful implementation she has moved onto another project for NHSBT to increase plasma donation. Georgia explains: “Plasma is like liquid gold and the UK usually imports it, but now we want to collect it ourselves because it’s expensive – it’s also really important.”
Helping to deliver a project with such a serious purpose matters to Georgia.
Over the last year, I've learned a lot about what motivates me. Having a project that feels important is high on the list.
Creating a sense of belonging
Like many people, Georgia found it hard to stay fully engaged during lockdown, and she benefited from the online activities and support provided by Infinity Works. The Wellbeing Works channel on Slack remains a favourite: “It always lifts my mood, just to see the photos that are posted and to know that other people are there.”
Unexpectedly, lockdown also gave a new direction to the D&I activities. With everyone working at home, the company was no longer limited to regionally based groups or initiatives. Instead, a cross-office D&I group came up with the idea to establish networks that people could set up and run under their own steam, with the help of an explanatory video and other materials.
Georgia is part of the cross-office D&I group. Their first challenge was to connect people in an entirely virtual world. “We asked people to set up a network if they wanted to – and if there was a need,” she explains. The idea took off, and there are now several strong groups that meet regularly. Georgia continues: “We can’t take any credit; it’s the networks themselves that have built something amazing. They’ve provided a place and a family for a lot of people who might have felt like an outsider.”
The networks include:
- Mental Health Community
- Women In Tech network
- Non-Technical network
- Schools Outreach network
- Neurodiverse Families network
- ByteSize (an educational outreach network)
- Pride network
- Women’s Wellness
- Men’s Wellness
“When I see the lack of women in the software engineering industry, that fills me with the fire and desire to challenge the status quo, to prove that women can have a place at this table,” she says.
It’s important for Georgia that Infinity Works is right behind the women that work there and is committed to addressing the gender balance: “I have found great mentoring and coaching from colleagues and there is a lot of support for initiatives like the ‘Women in Tech’ network and International Women’s Day celebrations. However, at the end of the day everyone at Infinity Works is treated as an individual. No matter what your background and personal situation is, Infinity Works provides the support and flexibility you need. That is important to me, and it’s one of the things I really like about Infinity Works.”
Work life balance
Georgia’s passion for breaking the bias isn’t exclusive to technology, as part of an all female band, she is doing the same in music.
After recently moving to a four-day working week, Georgia now has more time to devote to her music. A classically trained violinist, pianist and singer, she’s a seasoned performer. Her new indie-folk band, The Deep Blue, has a busy recording schedule and, after two years without performing, has several live gigs lined up around the country. Infinity Works has a great community spirit and team members are always there to support each other, professionally and personally. Many of Georgia’s colleagues have become friends and committed fans of her band: “They buy tickets to my gigs. They’re really supportive,” she says.
Music and tech might seem quite different on the surface, but in fact a lot of consultants across Infinity Works are musicians. Georgia explains: “I think there’s a lot of creativity in tech and a lot of logic in music, so there’s a huge crossover.”
Striving for inclusion and equity
Georgia was seriously lacking in confidence at the start of her career, as many people do. But during her time at Infinity Works, through working with and learning from others, she’s been able to build a resilience and fearlessness that she feels is important for people who work in the tech industry. Today, she strives to share these lessons and what she has learned with the women she meets and mentors. Georgia comments: “I’m passionate about helping bring as many women along the journey and for them to then go on and pave the way for other women.”