Development & Alumni Relations Office 



DIVERSITY CHAMPION NAMED 2019 FIRST TRUST BANK QUEEN’S GRADUATE OF THE YEAR  

01 October 2019

Sheree Atcheson, BEng Computer Science 2013, a Deloitte UK diversity and inclusion champion and an award-winning global change maker in pushing for equality in the tech industry, has been announced as the 2019/20 First Trust Bank Queen’s Graduate of the Year.

Revealing this year’s winner, Queen's Graduates' Association (QGA) President Victoria Denoon, said: “I am delighted to announce that the winner of the First Trust Bank Queen’s Graduate of the Year is Sheree Atcheson, an exemplary alumna and an inspiring role model for so many young women in tech and business.

“Sheree, who was named in the Top 35 of Computer Weekly’s Most Influential Women in UK Technology in 2017, short-listed for the Young Business Woman of the Year the same year and who has won numerous awards since, follows in the footsteps of last year’s winner – another impressive female recipient – Lisa McGee of Derry Girls fame.

“I look forward to welcoming Sheree to this year’s Charter Day Dinner on 22 November to collect her Award in person,” added Victoria.

The annual award is presented by the Association, with the support of First Trust Bank, to an ‘outstanding graduate, who has made a significant impact’.

Speaking about winning this year’s award Sheree said: “It is very exciting! I am honoured to represent Queen’s in this way, as attending the University was a big thing for me when I arrived there back in 2009.

“Many people have graduated from Queen’s and it feels very special to be the person to win this prestigious award for 2019.”

Born in Sri Lanka, Sheree was adopted when she was three weeks old and raised in County Tyrone. From 2002-09 she attended St Patrick's Academy, Dungannon before coming up to Queen’s to study Computer Science.

Having undertaken a placement at University spinout company Kainos while a student, she joined the firm after graduating with a BEng in 2013 as a Software Engineer.  

From early in her career, Sheree noticed how few women were recognised in the UK tech industry, which led to her to launch the UK wing of Women Who Code in Belfast, where she is now their Global Ambassador. Women Who Code aims to eradicate the gender bias in the IT industry by creating local havens for tech women through monthly hack nights, tech talks and career trainings.

“I became aware of the importance of having underrepresented groups represented in technology because there were not many women on my course.

“It is the same issue we see in society as a whole. I did start helping out with inclusion related pieces through the SWAN network at Queen’s and appeared in various campaigns because I was acutely aware of how important relatable role models are in showcasing that this industry doesn't just want, but very much needs you,” added Sheree.

Among selected career and personal highlights are:

  • ‘30 under 30’ Sunday Business Post (2019)
  • Ai Publishing's Most Inspirational Woman in Technology (2019)
  • International Woman Leadership Gold Award – Top 50 Professional & Career Women Awards, Sri Lanka & Maldives (2019)
  • Investing In Ethnicity – Top 10 BAME Workplace Hero (2019)
  • Women In Tech – Employee of the Year (2019)
  • Participated in BBC Northern Ireland studio/online seminar called Make it: Super Assembly with Sheree Atcheson (2019)
  • Contributor to Forbes on the need and business of diversity, inclusion and belonging in industry (from 2018)
  • Presentation of ‘Women in STEM: All Sorted Now?’ at Inspirefest (2018 )
  • Nominated for Northern Ireland Young business Woman of the Year (2017)
  • Founded I Am Lanka to highlight Sri Lanka’s local and international role models who have accomplished great things in their lives and careers (2017)
  • Blogger HuffPost (2015-18)

UK Consulting Inclusion Lead at Deloitte since June 2019, Sheree joined the company in 2016, initially as a Consultant (2016-18), then as Technology Respect & Inclusion Manager (2018-19). Her job at present is ‘owning, managing and leading the inclusion strategy across the Deloitte UK’.

As a champion for women and diversity and inclusion, Sheree knows her winning the Graduate of the Year Award has the potential to inspire others. “I am the first woman of colour to ever win the Graduate of the Year Award. The last, and only other person of colour, Dr Cecil Cyrus, was over 10 years ago.

“Northern Ireland has 2% Black, Asian and Ethnic minority representation – so people of colour are not the majority, obviously. However, being the first woman of colour to win this is incredibly humbling and hopefully, inspiring for future graduates to stand up, make noise and put their stamp on their industry.”

Commenting on the announcement, First Trust Bank University Road Branch Manager, Charlotte Maguire said: “First Trust Bank is very proud to have been sponsoring the prestigious Graduate and Student of the Year Awards at Queen’s since 1999.

“This year’s winner, Sheree Atcheson, is an inspirational exemplar and mentor, both for women in technology and for equality, diversity and inclusion.

“A change maker and outstanding leader, Sheree is helping to transform not just her workplace but everyone she comes in contact with in the world around her – through her talent and endeavours.” 

Previous Graduate of the Year Award winners include Johann Muldoon MBE, who was Best Woman Architect in Europe winner (2017); Jonny Bramley, BAFTA award-winning BBC Sport Executive producer (2016); and Ramona Nicholas, entrepreneur and former RTÉ Dragons’ Den panel member (2013).

Tickets for the QGA ‘black tie’ 2019 Charter Day Dinner, at which Sheree will be presented, takes place on Friday 22 November in the Great Hall at Queen’s, and can be booked here.

Visit Queen's Graduates' Association for further information on the QGA and the 2019 Charter Day Dinner. For enquiries on the Graduate of the Year Award contact Queen’s Alumni Officer, Natasha Sharma, Development and Alumni Relations Office for enquiries about the Award ; tel: +44 (0)28 9097 3135.

For general media enquiries or to submit graduate news stories, please contact Gerry Power, Communications Officer, Development and Alumni Relations Office (DARO), tel: +44 (0)28 9097 5321.

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