24 April 2023 Employee Spotlight, Tech Talks

Tech Talks: Q&A with Lead Software Developer, Rumyana Rumenova

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In the second series of Tech Talks, we chat with Lead Software Developer, Rumyana Rumenova, about her role within SMS and dive into her experiences working in the tech and energy sector. As a woman in tech, she shares advice for women entering the space and discusses how her path led her to where she is today.
Tell us about your role as Lead Software Developer

When I first joined SMS, I was the only software developer in the team. Now there are 12, and we are rapidly growing. As a team, we are ambitious with what we take on; we are currently working across various different projects and developing in-house, custom software such as our energy asset control software, FlexiGrid.

As a Lead Software Developer, I am responsible for looking after my team and supporting them anywhere I can. Other responsibilities include anything from getting ready for a new release, fixing a bug, or optimising performance, to eliciting requirements for a new component or setting up the infrastructure for it.

What I enjoy most about the role is knowing that I am putting my efforts towards the wider adoption of renewable energy. To successfully transition to renewable energy on a national scale, we need to develop smarter technology, not just talk about it. I want to use my skills and knowledge to support that mission. I’m hopeful that with the proper use of technology and innovation, we can make a real impact.

What first sparked your interest in tech?

Ever since I was a child, I’ve been fascinated by technology. My parents first bought a computer when I was 8, and it’s been my favourite toy ever since. When I first got the internet, I really wanted to make my own website, so I used the internet to learn how to do it.

I self-taught my way to building my own website at 12 years old. It was a drag-and-drop dress-up game called “DollzBG” which I built using pixel art images and JavaScript. It got a user base almost immediately, and it was almost exclusively female.

Do you have any advice for women entering the tech world?

To be honest, I think there is still a lot of work that needs to be done to encourage women to enter tech. Computing is not male-dominated by nature, and there’s no reason for it to be. Until sometime in the 1980s, computing was a female-dominated field.

I think a lot of the issue stems from early education. When I first got accepted into a STEM-heavy school at 14, the problem was already apparent. In Mathematics and Informatics about a quarter of the class were girls and in Physics it was around one-tenth. In my year, three girls got accepted into the Physics class, and none attended. I know at least one switched to Chemistry so that she would be in a class where girls and boys were about half and half. Even today, I think there is a lot of division between boys and girls in the education system. In my opinion, the way to encourage girls to pursue a route in tech is by breaking down the stereotypes associated with the subject at a young age.

I suppose to answer your question, my advice would be to stay confident in yourself and your abilities as a woman, despite any sexism you face.

Have you seen any big changes in the energy industry in the last 5 years?

The introduction of National Grid’s Demand Flexibility Service was certainly a step forward in the energy market. It highlighted the importance of flexibility and the need for smart technology for sustainable energy distribution. As an approved aggregator, we use algorithms created by our software, FlexiGrid, to predict demand and maintain a reliable energy supply to homes and businesses. Although this type of prototype project is a breakthrough in energy reduction, I believe we need to take even bigger steps to decarbonise the system.

When entering the energy industry, I came in thinking we’d work on decentralised peer-to-peer energy trading, where neighbours trade stored electricity when it is not needed, such as energy collected from home solar panels. The truth is we still have a long way to go to get to that point. Rooftop solar energy is instrumental in decarbonising the grid. If we are to reach the nation’s net-zero targets, we need to take advantage of the aggregated capacity of home batteries.

To summarise, the launch of Demand Flexibility Service has shown us that we are taking a step in the right direction, but it is still not enough to tackle the irreversible effects of climate change. What we need is more commitment from both policymakers and industry leaders to drive innovation. A little less conversation, a little more action!