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Can uni students studying disparate subjects solve the UK’s tech skills gap?

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Allowing students to study disparate subjects could turn the heads of the younger generation towards a career in technology, says Maria Ingold, Founder and CEO of mireality.

Born in New Mexico, close to where the atom bomb was drop-tested, Ingold was first exposed to the world of programming at the age of seven in the basement of a military installation.Maria ingold

With a passion for both design and technology she studied Computer Science and Fine Art at the University of New Mexico and later studied for a Masters in Fine Arts (MFA) in Computer Graphics at Florida Atlantic University.

Now a dual-national, living in London she founded technical consultancy mireality in 2012. Before she founded mireality, Ingold was the chief technology officer at FilmFlex Movies, a joint venture by Sony and Disney.

Speaking to WeAreTheCity recently about the UK’s tech skills gap Ingold said: “I took computer science and fine art because I’m interested in both. The UK narrows things down too much. If we were allowed to take disparate topics here would we have more students going into technology sooner? Probably yes.

“It’s important to find out what kids are actually passionate about and letting them go with it, instead of just ramming the tech side of things down their throats all the time.”

Ingold explained that through the opportunity to study both Computer Science and Fine Art it opened up a career for her in visual technology.

She said: “And it’s not just art. What if you love tech and music?” Ingold mentioned the Hanson Robotics project which recently created a robot that resembles author Philip K. Dick and uses his novels as a source for what it says.

She added: “That team created that because they have a love for both technology and literature.”

“If you can think laterally that creates innovation. People want to put me in a box, but I work across all areas of the business. They don’t really know what to make of me and my skills-set.”

Throughout a career spanning more than 25 years she has created complete end-to-end VOD solutions for cable (Virgin Media) and broadband (Channel 4’s Film4oD), and has globally changed standards and thinking around premium pay video on demand (VOD) and over-the-top (OTT) services through the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE) and the Digital Television Group (DTG). In addition she has globally advised start-ups to established companies and government.

Ingold started her PC-based multimedia career at IBM where she worked on early sound and video encoding and playback software. She later moved into gaming technology, working on a game development kit for IBM and then for Ocean Software (Atari).

Drawing on her own experiences of working in a male dominated environment she said communication and understanding is key to solving the gender imbalance within the tech industry: “We need better communication in the workplace. It’s not just about getting more women into senior positions but improving communication between both men and women at all levels.

“My dad was a physicist so I was taught to ask questions. Before you can come up with a solution you need to know what the questions are. My dad has been a big influence in my life so for father’s day I organised a trip for my dad to meet Elon Musk, the rocket scientist.”

Ingold was also part of BAFTA’s specialist Interactive Entertainment Committee and is now a full voting member of BAFTA for both film and TV. In addition she advises BAFTA’s Digital Strategy and Communications Committee.

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