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The National Physical Laboratory (NPL) in Park Road, Teddington is a trailblazer in its active promotion of diversity and inclusion.

As part of this policy and their D & I campaign called Stronger Together, Everyone Matters the NPL is celebrating the diversity behind a world-leading science organisation and some of the poignant and inspirational human stories behind them

A spokesperson said: “At NPL, we believe that diversity and inclusion is critical to our vision to deliver extraordinary impact, from our excellent science and engineering as an exemplary National Laboratory.

“We want to nurture a culture of inclusion where we can all be ourselves in a safe and supportive environment, while simultaneously ensuring that we are more representative of a diverse range of communities.

“We believe that by creating an inclusive environment, where all our staff are able to thrive, we can accelerate the creativity of our ideas, enhance our ability to innovate for the future and deliver solutions that meet the needs of all of our society.”

This is the story of Senior Data Insights Analyst, Maya Carlyle.

Maya says of the NPL: “They are such a strong community and in times of need have been a huge support.”


My career path is quite an unusual one. When I was growing up and looking around for inspiration, Section 28 had been introduced which prohibited the “promotion of homosexuality”. This meant that there weren’t any icons or role models that I related to or could follow throughout my career.

I ended up defining life myself and decided to set up a company in Vietnam which matched DNA sequences to drug responses, which later grew to encompass other areas of AI, including a tool to identify spoken accents and extract if the person was a native speaker or had learned the language.  

After 12 years I decided to sell my company and went into ethical investments using AI, which was interesting, however, after a while I began feeling that this was a lonely career option. I wanted people and colleagues around me. There is only so much one-sided conversation I can have with my cat. So, this spurred me back into the world of consultancy.

I took a role as a trouble shooter for a company that was having issues between their Vietnamese and UK teams.

The issue came down to a difference in cultures and miscommunications between the two parties. I think as a part of a community that sits on the edge of society, you gain alternative perspective and to adapt or compromise, in many ways the perspective is akin to when you learn second language, you suddenly realise how little you new about your native language. This perspective actually helped me a lot in this situation. We often observe differences and issues by not being in the mainstream.

After this role and a brief stint at OFGEM, a friend suggested to join NPL. I’d driven past the Teddington site plenty of times on my way to BP, so I thought, well, why not? I’ll come and have a look.

As Senior Data Analyst at NPL, my workday is usually split in two ways. I am often working through high volumes of data and pulling out information to look at trends. The second part is focussed on AI community practises, which included talking on committees and boards.

An important part of my life at NPL is leading the LGBTQ+ network where I get to meet so many amazing and inspirational people. They are such a strong community and in times of need have been a huge support. I like that we look out for the wellbeing of each other’s mental health, as well as providing a safe community space to talk and nurture.

I have always known I was transgender, from the age of 7, when I opened the Sunday Times newspaper to reveal yet another “outing” of an LGBT person. The only icons available to me were unfunny comedians on the TV. With no icons and the removal of all books from the library at school and a ban on talking about it, I lacked the language to describe my world. For a long time, there has been a demonisation of my community and we often go into stealth mode, causing me to feel that I was broken and embarrassed that I could not fix myself.

This need to bury a large part of my identity allowed me to hyperfocus on both work and sport, building companies and racing around the world in outriggers. It wasn’t all bad, few have had the opportunity to race around the Statue of Liberty in New York.

But it’s not always as simple as that. It takes its toll mentally to hide half your identity and there was a significant turning point for me in my career. After I sold my company, I visited my doctor and told them about suicidal thoughts. I didn’t want to see tomorrow. They told me “Maybe you could look at being yourself”. I remember thinking to myself, “ok maybe I can find the confidence to be me and to continue my career even though it’s going to be incredibly bumpy as a transgender woman.

I’ll always face career limitations, for instance there are countries I used to work in where it is now illegal for me to enter as a transgender woman.

Luckily the world is changing and embracing the unique perspective that communities outside the mainstream bring. Once you get over certain bumps, you suddenly realise that people are going to see you in two ways, as either the spokesperson for an entire community, or as an individual. So hopefully they see a confident or a friendly and supportive person. For me, being in a scientific community, I think people value each other first of all by their minds and their skill sets, I feel incredibly lucky to work in an intelligent and an open-minded community.

Being a part of the LGBTQ+ network at NPL is wonderful for a few reasons. The first is that it’s really lovely to be stopped in the corridors by members of the community for a chat or to get feedback from colleagues that someone in their team is happy that they’re able to bring their true self to work, or able to talk about a same sex partner at work.

Secondly, off the back of my work at NPL, I’ve had the opportunity to get involved in external projects. I was recently part of a book launch which was looking at gender reassignment surgery for transgender men and women and non-binary people, I am also next year being part of a statue for 2 years on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square to support female refugees.

Being part of a minority brings other benefits, like intercompany communities and I am meeting regularly with Google and Deepmind Ai specialists for Queer.AI to look at consciousness in societal context.

I often think about what advice I’d give to people who share similar experiences to me or who can relate to parts of my story. It might be really scary to be yourself but it’s better to live a life visible than a life in hiding. It has taken me the longest part of my life to learn that, and I wish I could tell my younger self to be more confident.

Finally find a support system. They are out there and they can help to remove anxiety. Break everything up into small steps so you can handle it.

You can read about the NPL’s pioneering work in this sector here:


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