This month the CF:G team got to speak to the awesome Sophie Caley of Tesco Labs. Read on to find out more about Tesco Labs and how a 100 year old company can evolve to keep up with huge changes taking place in technology.
So, what’s your name?
And what do you do?
Product Manager, Tesco Labs
Can you tell us a little about your career, and how you came to do what you do?
I’d class myself as a wildcard in the tech world, although I’ve worked in IT since leaving school at 15. Aged 21 I chose to completely change direction in my career, and pursued a BSc in Industrial Design. Just 4 days after my degree show I started as the first in-house industrial designer at Tesco - a position which focussed on producing industry leading equipment to transport and display stock. After 6 years as Lead Designer, I moved to Tesco Labs to begin an exciting product management position researching and developing concepts for connected homes, stores of the future and robots.
So Tesco Labs sounds exciting! Can you tell us more about Tesco Labs and the sort of projects you work on?
It is exciting! The work I do really looks at the part that technology will play for our customers in the future, considering how things such as online shopping, home delivery or even interactions with our colleagues may evolve. We’re always looking for ways in which we can help our colleagues and customers - as we say, every little helps!
You joined us for our awesome annual conference this year for a panel about the good and challenging impact tech has on society. What tech are you most currently excited and worried about?
I’m really excited about voice control and pre-empting daily tasks with smart services and devices. I believe we will see a boom in evolved smart hubs such as Amazon Echo and Google home, plus the natural adoption of services such as IFTTT to unlock manipulation of new devices within the home.
As for my concerns I’d have to say that people worry far too much about the changes that technology may bring about! It’s my opinion that in order to be able to use smart technology we need to be less fearful of people trying use disruptive technology against us. For example, people worry that connected door bells or cameras will highlight you are not at home and encourage more break ins. It’s my opinion that you can knock on somebody’s front door or watch their house to establish this and a smart device does not increase this but may actually act as a deterrent.
Can you tell us a bit about how Tesco Labs helps to keep Tesco on the cutting edge of retail?
Tesco Labs forms the research element of Tesco’s Technology division. Within our team, we aim to build a culture of innovation, inspiring and enabling colleagues from all over the business to think about new ways of doing things. We explore and experiment with the latest developments in technology to improve our customers’ experience, and ensure that our colleagues have the tools they need to do the best job they can.
What new innovations can we look forward to at Tesco?
We’re currently exploring the possibilities within the connected home space - one great example of this is our channel on If This Then That (IFTTT.com), which allows our customers to create triggers to assist with their online shop - for instance, if the price of milk drops, then add it to my basket.
If someone wanted to do what you do, what advice would you give them on how to get started?
There is no single “right” way to get into a job like this, but the one thing I would say is that if you feel passionately about technology, it’s never too early or too late to explore the opportunities available. Go along to events, network, meet others in a similar position to you, or even look for a mentor - technology is a very community-minded industry, and the best first step you can take is to make sure you’re part of it.
Tesco Labs also take on grads and have some great opportunities available in tech. Could you tell us a little more about these and how people can find out some more?
Tesco offers positions for school leavers, apprentices and graduates as well as summer internships. If you’d like to join us the best thing to do is check out www.tesco-earlycareers.com - but if you see us at an event, come and say hi too!
Thanks so much Sophie! It's been great speaking with you.
To celebrate Tesco's amazing support of CF:G and getting more women into tech, Sophie has kindly offered to meet one of our community and give then a VIP guided tour of Tesco labs and a mentor coffee session to help you bounce ideas on anything tech career related (how to get into tech, what it's like as an industry, what should you do to be spotted by recruiters etc.)!
To be in with a chance of winning this amazing prize, just tweet us @codefirstgirls with an answer to the question 'what question would you most want to ask Sophie about tech' including the text '@codefirstgirls @tescolabs' in the tweet.
Closing date for entries is Weds 21st Dec, and we'll be drawing the winner in the new year!
Want to know what happened at our Code First: Girls Hack Your Career in Media Tech event on Thursday 8th December? Now you can, thanks to our Community Blogger Catherine Heath, originally posted here. You can read more posts on tech and B2B on the Away with Words blog here.
CF: G were kindly hosted by ITV for this exciting panel event with guest speakers from The Guardian, Unruly, Tech Crunch, Global Radio and ITV to explore the many career opportunities available in MediaTech.
If you want a top up of confidence to help you on your way to becoming the next tech superstar, look no further than a Code First: Girls event.
Always super informal, they go out of their way to make everyone feel welcome and keep on growing their amazing network for women in tech.
Another fantastic evening from Code First: Girls, the event focused on how women can hack their career in media tech and featured a panel of incredible speakers.
Steve O’Hear, journalist at TechCrunch, shared his insights on how to become a tech journalist.
David Henderson, Director of Technology & Operations at Global Radio, described how he built his career in radio engineering.
Claire Roberts from advertising agency Unruly is Product Manager and she enlightened attendees on how she got to where she is today.
Jennifer Savapalan is Developer Manager at Guardian News & Media. She told us about their new digital talent programme and gave tips on how to become a developer.
The panel was moderated by Faz Aftab, Online Commercial Director, ITV.
ITV were the hosts of the evening, and very emphatic about their support for diversity in media tech.
DEFINITION OF MEDIA TECH
First, the panel discussed what media tech actually means.
The internet has revolutionised the news, and instead of newspapers, we now have news media.
“Tech has changed the way we tell stories,” says Steve, which makes sense considering he works at technology news site TechCrunch.
Stories are immediate, and no longer require as much planning and teamwork as they did in the heyday of print. Now, a story can be picked up and published online within the hour.
“It’s getting the right content on the right channel in front of the right audience,” says Claire, who works at online advertising agency Unruly.
CHALLENGES IN MEDIA TECH
One of the biggest issues in media tech today is how to monetize online content, and the closing of The Independent print newspaper in March underscores the difficulty that print media has in generating revenue.
However, Steve argues that news stories weren’t making money for a long time, and it was the listings pages in newspapers that attracted audiences. When they migrated online to the likes of Craigslist, Gumtree, and Autotrader, newspapers became less relevant.
Now, online news outlets must monetize themselves with ads, but this raises discussions about the tendency of audiences to want to avoid advertising. This makes no rational sense, as advertising is enabling the consumption of free content.
The answer is better advertising, and that is just what Unruly is working on. Their software shows consumers adverts based on their emotional responses rather than the typical demographic criteria used such as age, location or gender.
Media tech, as with all areas of tech, are constantly being disrupted, and the next big challenge to deal with is the way that algorithms determining social profiling are changing the way we consume news.
This means that social media sites like Facebook curate your news feed based on your past interactions, and the chronological timeline is no more.
Changes to Google’s search algorithms such as local listings, the increasing prominence of adverts over the organic search results, and rich results that mean users don’t even need to click through to websites, are threatening the traditional model of organic search traffic.
Media companies can no longer expect that users will visit their own websites. Social media sites on mobile host internal articles to prevent users from navigating away from the platforms to external websites.
HOW TO WORK IN MEDIA TECH
This means that all media companies have to be savvier and more adaptable than ever. If women are planning a career in media tech, they need to demonstrate their continual desire and willingness to learn.
“A modern online tech journalist must be multi-faceted,” says Steve.
Of course, women in tech is a much-discussed topic and the fact of the matter is that women are still underrepresented in the industry.
Dave says, “My tech team was 95% male, and it didn’t feel right. The best tech firms empower the right people to do their job. It’s hard to find the right tech talent, even in media.”
As well as discussing the Guardian Digital Fellowship, which encourages new developers to join the Guardian’s Digital department, Jennifer says, “You don’t have to have a computer science background.” You simply need to be interested in the user’s needs, and keep learning.
As well as encouraging more women to enter the tech industry, we also need to work hard to keep them there.
The answer is mentoring, says Faz. Women must seek both male and female mentors to help them build the confidence they need to succeed in the competitive tech industry.
CODE FIRST: GIRLS’S MISSION
And that’s exactly what Code First: Girls set out to do.
They encourage women to enter the tech industry by hosting free and paid coding courses and, in the process, give their students and alumni access to their impressive industry networks.
The influence of Code First: Girls is growing as they continue to collaborate with some of the most exciting businesses, in the UK including The Guardian and ITV, as well as companies like LinkedIn, Twitter and ASOS, to deliver amazing events and courses.
Check out the Code First: Girls Alumni Wall of Fame to see what some of their former students have gone on to achieve.
Or, have a browse of my curated list of free coding groups for women in the UK.
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Code First: Girls