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.
Did you enjoy this post? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to commission me to write for your company’s blog.
This blog post was originally written and published on the We Rock Tech blog here by CF: G Community blogger Catherine Heath.
We hope you were able to make it to yet another fantastic conference by Code First: Girls. If not, we’ve got this awesome write up for you to find out what went on.
The mission of Code First: Girls is to inspire more women to enter into technology and entrepreneurship.
Whether you’re looking to become a developer, want to work in startups, a big tech company or just want to see whether it could be for you, the conference gave an insight into the amazing developments happening in technology, as well as information on how to break your way in.
In this spirit, the day featured a number of impressive industry speakers. There were also pitches from companies who are actively seeking to inspire more women into tech.
It was an action-packed day with motivational speeches, insightful panel discussions, illuminating tech talks, as well as networking and a chance to hear from tech companies about what they look for in candidates.
Many industry greats were there, including representatives from Twitter, Tesco, WorldPay, Shazam, Improbable, ThoughtWorks, News UK, PwC, among many others.
Luciana Carvalho, founder of SE Solutions, talked about narratives of self in Virtual Reality and how VR can change people’s lives outside of games. She touched on VR’s power to create empathy for others.
Heather Lauren of Founders & Coders talked to attendees about how to get their first job in tech.
Big players in finance discussed the future of money in relation to tech. Makis Otman & Daisy Molving from 8th Light gave a talk on "The Elixir of Joy", introducing beginners to Elixir as a great programming language to learn.
Technology - a Ticking Timebomb?
Several speakers, including Eleanor Harding from Twitter, Ben Aung from the Cabinet Office, Sophie Caley from Tesco Labs participated in a panel about "Technology - a Ticking Timebomb?". It was moderated by Kirsty Styles from Tech North.
Discussions included how the most shared story during the Trump/Clinton elections was a fake news article. This raised questions about the responsibility of technology companies to promote the truth.
The issue of consent and technology being so widespread means we could be doing more to ensure people have given their permission to become users. We’re so dependent on technology, that a power outage across the United States resulted in lots of people being unable to live their lives properly for a couple of days.
On the other hand, technology enables freedom of speech, and the better the technology becomes, the more invisible it feels. Technology will change how the government legislates, and is already enabling collaboration between civil servants across the country. This results in better laws and more efficiency.
Above all, “Let technology take you closer to where you want to be,” says Eleanor Harding from Twitter.
Jade Daubney from ThoughtWorks
Jade Daubney from ThoughtWorks advises everyone to develop their self belief. “This is your turn to do what you want to do, and learn how to be a woman in tech who’s brave enough and strong enough to follow her own path,” Jade says. “Every month, 36 new roles appear in technology.”
She talked in depth about how to start your career in tech. She recommends building your network by attending conferences and meetups like this one.
“Networking is not schmoozing. It’s finding a connection and someone you can trust. It’s not about you - it’s about them. The most important thing about networking is finding common interests.”
What’s holding you back
Good Girl Syndrome is where women are afraid to rock the boat at work. Now, with the gender pay gap, from now until the end of the year, women are working for free. Jade recommends speaking up at work if you think something should change.
When it comes to getting a job, don’t underestimate the power of the cover letter. It should add something different to your application to your CV and provide an insight into the type of person you are. If you’ve attended other tech-related activities, like hackathons, include these on your CV too!
Imposter Syndrome is also common in women. No matter how much you achieve, you still feel unqualified. Women are too apologetic about their achievements and they need to embrace bragging more.
To get over Imposter Syndrome, ask someone to look at your CV before you send it anywhere to check you’re not underselling yourself. If you’re invited to do something, remind yourself that you are good enough!
Actually talk about your fears to other people, which will lessen their power. Jade reminds us, “The best things happen outside your comfort zone.”
The day was hosted at Twitter Headquarters in London and supported by many kind sponsors,including Twitter, Tesco, WorldPay, Shazam, Improbable, ThoughtWorks, News UK, & PwC.
Don’t worry if you missed it an edited video of the entire conference will be added to the CF: G website shortly courtesy of our Media Partner Intelligent Crowd TV! Watch this space! In the meantime check out the #CFGConf16 hashtag from the day, and the Periscope live stream of the talks.
CF: G have loads of events on throughout the year which you can find listed here .
So this month the CF:G team and community got some very special freebies from the awesome team at DogWoof who are the distribution company for Werner Herzog and his new movie 'Lo and Behold'.
It's a pretty amazing movie, and looks at the good and potentially bad impact of tech on society (exactly the theme of our upcoming CF:G Annual conference opening keynote - we think Werner might have copied it from us, but we like him so it's cool).
As part of our activities with them, they gave us loads of cool freebies. These included special tickets to the online premiere and Q&A with Herzog itself, as well as invites for a special screening of the movie with House of Vans including a Q&A after with our very own CF:G CEO Amali de Alwis.
The movie itself covers loads of very current topics in tech from AI through to trolling and robotics. If you're interested in tech, it is definitely worth a watch (out in cinemas now), and some of our CF:G community (thanks Aseel and Kornelia!) who managed to nab some of those those freebie tickets have kindly written some short reviews of the film below as well. Hope you enjoy and happy viewing!
Review of : “Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World” by Kornelia Szabo.
I was extremely happy when I heard from Code First: Girls that I won tickets to watch Werner Herzog’s new movie to watch at home. Although I watched the trailer before the movie, I did not feel it spoilt it for me as so many trailers do. The film itself consisted of 10 parts, that turns out to be just how the story unfolded itself. Each part discussed a different era and perspective regarding our connected world where nowadays everything is Internet and technology based, meanwhile some people chooses to switch off on purpose.
It was very interesting to learn more about the history of the web, to see historical figures and places where it all started and to put all this into a bigger perspective. It was also very fascinating to see that during such a short period of time how much technology improved and what possibilities to future might hold. We might forget about how connected we are nowadays and how much we rely on technology and not longer than 50 years ago, the Internet, smartphones and all this was just a crazy sci-fi idea. The discussion at the end of the movie was very interesting too, especially to get a better insight what motivators and ideas were present when Werner Herzog created this excellent piece of work.
Review of : “Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World” by Aseel Mustafa.
The indelible impact that “Lo & Behold” had on me started the moment I sat down to watch the film streaming simultaneously as it premiered at the London Film Festival. I have streamed movies many a times but this was my first experience with an at home virtual ticket; therefore, I was already predisposed to a feeling of cheesy admiration to the web and what it can do for us, which was the perfect mindset for the screening.
The opening of the movie alludes back to October 1969 when the first host to host message was successfully sent, that opening was powerful enough to put into perspective how much we take a not-so-mature technological advancement for granted, translation: feeling less entitled to my melt down when my calendar didn’t sync properly across my Wi-Fi enabled devices and ended up messing my whole week!
“if we would burn CDs of the world wide data flow for one single day and stack them up in a pile it would reach up to Mars and back” that visual was overwhelming! The movie had a very emotional message; a very doom and gloom one and as I watched, I got more engrossed by all the issues that the internet and its extremities were causing: from bringing the worst in people by allowing bullying to have a much wider reach and protection, to internet addiction to “faraday cage” and super sense illness; and on a research level on radio astronomy and the ability to detect the sun activities and its implications. And mostly how dependent we are on the Internet to the point that only a few will survive if there was ever an apocalyptic Internet shutdown!
Being fully aware that this is an artistic piece (subjective documentary!) that it will definitely have some bias to it, that it never touched on how the internet and its applications such as cloud technologies have offered people in all areas of the world financial and medical services that better the lives of millions!
In the end: being lost in my own conviction, I hadn’t noticed that it triggered so much in me to go investigate about a plethora of topics from laws governing autonomous cars and A.I. in general, people’s privacy rights on the internet which I never knew dies upon a person’s passing away! How the laws need to be revised; to more scientific topics such as solar flares and radio frequency interference, even the law of large numbers! The film’s emotional treatment opened my eyes to all that comes with this life-altering technology that need to be addressed with more awareness…
Nugget for security enthusiasts: “people are the weakest link in security; people not the technology!”
Want to know what happened at our Code First: Girls Hack Your Career with Accenture event on Thursday 22nd September? 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 teamed up with Accenture and ran a great panel and speed networking event with Accenture experts working in technology, to help our community learn more about the many exciting career opportunities available at Accenture.
I was happy to make a flying visit to London last night to attend the latest instalment of the Code First: Girls event series, Hack your career with Accenture.
Previously, the events have focused on themes like fintech, travel tech, fashion tech and cyber security. This time, it was laser-focused on what it’s like to work at global technology consultancy, Accenture.
Aside from being perpetually confused about how to pronounce the name of this, well, behemoth, I really had no idea what they did until this evening. It turns out, technology consulting, so that means providing expert advice for their global clients on technological change.
My only brush with Accenture has previously been knowing a friend of a friend who works there, and indeed the event was focused a lot on recruiting for their grad scheme. I probably wouldn’t be a good fit for their scheme as a tech blogger, but their commitment to promoting diversity in technology was very inspiring.
We heard from a panel of about ten speakers of which the majority were women and everyone was universally positive about working there. Whilst this could well have been scripted, you can tell when enthusiasm is genuine and it certainly sounds like an amazing place to work.
Technology is becoming a bigger and bigger part of our lives and organisations need to embrace change or get left behind. There’s hardly anything worse than lagging along with outdated systems, risking all sorts of security breaches and hindering basic operations.
Accenture’s focus is on the teamwork of their people to innovate and find the best solutions for their clients – a model that is certainly working very well.
It was also good to hear about their piloting an apprenticeship scheme for workers in technology that doesn’t require a degree. I’m very passionate about inclusion, and making sure that alternative educational paths (other than higher education) are promoted more, especially in more hands-on careers such as software engineering.
Once again, it was lovely to see so many faces who had attended other Code First: Girls coding courses and who were dedicated to their professional development. Someone was even there who was due to start their undergraduate course at Warwick next week, which I consider extremely committed!
Like most grad schemes, places are of course very competitive with an online application, video interview and then assessment centre required before an offer is made, Accenture sounds like a wonderful place to work.
Accenture is hiring!
Ready for an adventure? Accenture are looking for future leaders. Idea generators. And strategic thinkers. Put your degree and skills to work. Accenture help you build the roadmap that’s right for your career – including a few twists and turns to keep things interesting. If you have passion, a brilliant mind and an appetite to grow every day, this is the place for you.
In addition to the roles on their website, Accenture also have more immediate starting roles in their Technology Architecture programme –see here.
Learn more about beginning your journey with Accenture here.
This month the CF: G team got to catch up with Martin Osborne, one of our amazing community Instructors from one of our leading sponsors, Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
Martin recently finished teaching on our Spring/Summer 2016 community courses, and has taught on a number of our London Community courses prior to this. We were keen to hear more about Martin's experience as an Instructor and his career in tech, read on for the full low down....
Hi Martin, thanks so much for joining us! You’ve got an impressive career trajectory in the technology sector. Could you tell us a bit more about your current role at Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BofAML)?
I’m working on Quartz, which is our firm-wide risk and pricing framework. Specifically on building out the core cross-asset risk functionality to calculate risk measures across our markets businesses.
Martin, what do you most enjoy in your job?
Working to design and build our next generation of trading and risk systems makes it a really exciting time to work at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Financial markets are evolving at a rapid pace and the regulatory landscape continues to shift. Our technology must work consistently and efficiently across diverse markets. We’re developing technology that streamlines the process for our clients and helps us compete and comply in the marketplace. I love solving problems and developing solutions that make a big impact for clients around the world.
How did you first hear about CF: G?
BofAML proudly sponsors CF:G and we have partnered on various events. We recommend CF:G courses to students interested in working in technology, who don’t yet have a technical degree. That’s how I got involved.
Why did you decide to become a volunteer instructor?
I wanted to support CF:G in increasing the number of women working in technology. We’re committed to influencing young women to pursue science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs and consider careers in technology.
Additionally, the topics covered on the web course are becoming increasingly important. Teaching them is a great motivator to further my own knowledge, and to learn from the other instructors.
What do you most enjoy about teaching on the courses?
Probably the most interesting part of the course is seeing what the students do with the technology they have been introduced to. The amount of time we’re able to spend actually teaching is pretty small compared to a more formal programming course. We encourage students to experiment outside of the classes, and to use existing APIs and frameworks to get things working quickly. It’s very rewarding seeing what they build after being pointed in the right direction.
Have you found transferable skills between being an instructor and the work you do at BofAML?
Definitely. I spend a lot of time at work either explaining concepts and ideas to colleagues, or working to understand their requirements. Communicating technical ideas, especially to those who are not developers themselves, crosses over to my role as an instructor.
One of the most interesting aspects of instructing is that students often bring designs they would like to implement. Frequently these are ideas for startups that have a technical component. The process of working with them to figure out what is possible, and in what timeframe, given the resources available, is very similar to how we work at BofAML.
What advice would you give to CF: G community who want to pursue careers in technology & entrepreneurship?
There’s no substitute for hands-on experience. We always encourage the students to find something ‘real’ they want to work on, as opposed to spending too long on artificial exercises. Good examples are a personal or society website, an app supporting a dissertation or coursework project, or a startup / business idea.
The process of working on something will force you to address technical problems, and can often be a catalyst for new ideas.
This month we caught up with Karisma Parkinson, project consultant on Global Markets Technology at one of our leading sponsors, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, on the skills she learnt on her first CF: G Beginners HTML/CSS course this Spring. Read on to hear more about Karisma's coding journey...
I work in Global Markets Technology at Bank of America Merrill Lynch as a project consultant. Over recent years, I have worked on several large scale programmes in the company’s Project Management office, providing project governance and business management support.
Bank of America Merrill Lynch places huge importance on being both a diverse and inclusive company – and in fact, was recently recognised by Euromoney as ‘The World’s Best Bank for Diversity’. Part of my role is to support Diversity and Inclusion initiatives for my team to help ensure a strong and diverse pipeline of talent. It’s really important that we do all we can to increase the number of women studying STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths) at degree level if we are to see a better gender balance. Despite there being more men working in Technology, it has never occurred to me that technology is a man’s world, and I happily share my experience with young women to help demystify this notion.
I love working in technology, I feel I have found my happy place working in a fast paced and exciting environment where no day is the same. I have been lucky in my career to work with great role models that have shown me that there are no barriers when you are doing something that you love. The project teams I have worked in have become like a second family to me, and everyone plays a part in the delivery of the project – it takes different skills sets, competencies and personalities to complete the team.
Confession time... up until January 2016 I had never coded, I would peer over the shoulders of developers to see them handle this strange language of commands and strings of text so I was excited to be invited by CF:G to the HTML / CSS beginners course to learn more about it.
The learning experience:
On a cold Monday in January I turned up at Thoughtworks eager to learn. The pre course preparation work made me feel confident and the first lesson sped by. I really wasn’t expecting to enjoy it as much as I did, and I could have happily sat there for another few hours practicing. It was great to be in a room with like minded people, enthusiastic and with a real passion for learning. The next few classes were challenging but hugely enjoyable, I was absorbed in the task and seeing what I was writing in Sublime Text come to life on screen.
Hannah, Jenny and Rob really brought the lessons to life – they simplified what, on paper, seemed complex and answered all my questions so that I understood the principles behind coding. After just three lessons, we managed to produce attractive and functioning web pages and we were ready to start working on our own projects!
I paired up with Emily who was like an encyclopaedia of Sherlock Holmes knowledge, her concept - a site to promote a tour of Sherlock’s London which could then spin off into other literary London tours - was inspiring.
It was fun to be creative and to put my newly learnt skills into practice. In the final class, the teams presented their sites, which were varied and fascinating.
I am missing my Monday classes and the bonding experience we shared as a group. I would recommend the CF:G Course to anyone who is curious about coding. There are challenges but when it falls into place it’s hugely rewarding.
I am going to continue coding, at the moment it’s like being on holiday and using google translate to ask for things on the menu, but with practice it’s starting to become easier. I will continue to encourage people to seek out tech learning opportunities – for me, coding is all about contributing to a conversation and finding ways to express yourself through this universal language.
This month the CF:G team got to speak to the awesome Michaela Jeffery-Morrison, who is the Co-founder and Head of Production at Maddox Events, but also the brains behind the amazing Women of Silicon Roundabout conference!
Read on to find out more about her, as well as the amazing Maddox Events and Women of Silicon Roundabout Conference taking place this October 2016.
*So, what’s your name?*
Michaela Jeffery-Morrison :)
*And what do you do?*
I am one of the co-founders of Maddox Events and the Head of Production. I am responsible for recruiting speakers, researching topic areas, creating the agendas and the organisation of the events we run. I also lead the events management services side of our business where I help other companies organise and host events.
*Can you tell us a bit about what Maddox Events is and how you founded the company?*
Certainly, so in short Maddox Events creates business to business conferences dedicated to technology, internationally. We host a number of events within software engineering, fintech, the sharing economy, martech, virtual reality and diversity in tech.
My business partners and I have always had a burning desire to be entrepreneurs! Together we have over 15 years of experience in event creation and management and with this we wanted to create a new type of conference experience in areas that we are passionate about. In our previous roles we felt we had reached a point where it was time to take the next step so we decided to compile a team of highly skilled tech savvy event professionals and it was from there that Maddox Events was created.
*Maddox Events has had an impressive amount of success in a short amount of time. Can you tell us more about being & entrepreneur & what advice would you give to someone considering founding their own company?*
Being an entrepreneur is a roller coaster; no matter your industry, skill set and motivation levels. Everyday is different and will bring with it challenges, highs, lows, successes and failures. Successful entrepreneurship is about how you deal with the aforementioned turbulence. It is essential to have an overarching goal or vision and to keep this objective at the forefront of your mind throughout the lifespan of your company, but particularly in its infancy when risk and uncertainty are at their most prominent.
In terms of advice, first of all it essential to have rock star Co-Founders, who have different skill sets to you. A complimenting range of experience across the founding partners is indispensable. Secondly, in the early days your entire existence should be focussed on reducing risk and uncertainty, the more you can predict and control, the better your company will do. Lastly, your clients are your oxygen; find them, develop a relationship with them and look after that relationship at all costs.
*Maddox Events launched the incredibly successful Women of Silicon Roundabout conference this year. Could you tell us more about this conference?*
Thank you! We held our first event in January this year and owing to the popularity have organised this as part of an event series. We have our London addition in October and the Amsterdam European Women in Tech Conference in November.
London will host 550+ attendees at Kings Place, in London on the 27th October, this one day, interactive multi-track conference is made up of presentations, panel sessions, deep dive sessions, workshops and networking opportunities. It’s an industry agnostic event with those in attendance from the tech, media, financial industry, gaming, e-commerce, gambling, telco and retail industries.
The event # is #WinTec16 and we also have a blog that produces content about the event and around the most current topics within tech.
*Why did you want to create this conference?*
Ultimately to create a platform to inspire and connect those working in technology. We want to encourage collaboration in this industry and tear down gender-based obstacles and hierarchies, and in-doing so reduce the gender gap in the tech industry.
*What can attendees expect to learn and hear about?*
The agenda offers thought leadership from influential senior women and men in the industry, female founders, pioneers and non-profit organisations. Through presentations, deep-dive panels and interactive workshops our attendees will learn and hear about the following:
- skills you need to move into a leadership/management role
- all aspects of entrepreneurship in tech including funding, mentorship, growth and scaling
- collaboration and conversation as measures for reducing the gender disparity we see in tech
- HR and talent attraction strategies / evolutions in management and team building
- roles and opportunities within tech that do not require a specific technical skill set
- how we can use relationships between businesses and education services as a means for opening the doors to girls from an early age
- technical focussed subjects - software development, data science, infrastructure
*Can you tell us about the themes of the conference: why you chose them and how they differ from January’s themes?*
In order to make sure that all of our conferences deliver on content, as well as researching the topic area thoroughly, we ask our community what they want. Before our event in January we spent a lot of time carrying out surveys and polls and collating all of that information to find out exactly where the information needs of women in tech lie. We also like to bring a little bit of controversy and debate to the conversation (to make it more interesting!). We did exactly the same for October however we were also able to consult the feedback from January’s event.
We have produced the following: Women in Tech Leadership, Female Founders, Non-Technical Women in Tech, Bridging the Gender Gap and Inspiring the Next Generation. We have also introduced deep dive sessions where we will have talks and workshops on software development, data science and infrastructure. Our recommended new tracks include female founders, HR strategies and deep dive sessions for technical focused presentations and industry trends / innovations. Our agenda is never closed to content however and depending on the speaker’s recruit we also take their experiences and passions into consideration.
*Who is Women of Silicon Roundabout aimed at? If I’ve just started coding in the past months should I still come along?*
Certainly! Anyone who works within the tech industry regardless of gender or level or experience is welcome and catered for at the event in terms of content and opportunities to connect with their peers. We have content for HR professionals looking to evolve their company culture, female founders, women in leadership roles and younger women looking to start or advance their career in this sphere.
*If you were to be totally biased (we won’t tell them), who are you most looking forward to hearing speak at the conference*
Everyone is so impressive, it’s an honour to work with them and I am incredibly humbled that they have agreed to be part of the agenda. I feel like this is something my nan would say - “I don’t have a favourite!”... but I am a massive fan of championing women in tech and as such I’m looking forward to hearing from Melissa Di Donato from Salesforce as well as innovation in attraction and retention so Jamahl McMurran from Seedcamp’s presentation is a must see for me.
*When is it taking place and how can I get a ticket (and can I be cheeky and get a discount)?*
Women of Silicon Roundabout 2016 is taking place on Thursday 27th October in London. Tickets vary in price depending on the type of pass you want to purchase (silver or gold) and whether you catch an early bird discount. They range from £179 upwards but if you are a member of any of our media partner communities you can get a generous discount! To buy a ticket and see the full list of speakers, go to our website: http://www.women-in-technology.com
Thanks so much Michaela! It's been great speaking with you.
Want to know what happened at our Travel Tech event? Now you can, thanks to our Community Blogger Catherine Heath. You can read more posts on tech and B2B on the Away with Words blog here.
During this Hack Your Career in Travel Tech event we heard from an illustrious panel of speakers who are all at the top of their game in the travel tech industry, kindly hosted by Huckletree.
WHAT IS TRAVEL TECH?
The moderator for the panel was Annabelle Blackburn, gender expert and coder. She joked that if you take any industry and add ‘tech’ to it, it instantly becomes more interesting. This is a slightly tongue-in-cheek comment that is none the less true.
In perhaps no other area of tech - other than perhaps fintech - is the word ‘disruptive’ more applicable. Very young companies like Uber are overturning whole industries - with much controversy - to provide a better service for those needing to travel across cities. People can order their own personal taxi driver, at the click of a button (or tap of a screen!).
Skyscanner, Expedia and others have transformed the international travel industry by providing accessibility to cheap flights. We no longer need to pay the fees of travel agencies offering packages and bundles, but we can create our own ‘dream holidays’. This can be done at relatively little cost and from the comfort of our own homes.
BIG THEMES IN TRAVEL TECH
Data is the most valuable commodity in the tech industry today, with the majority of tech companies getting rich off your data. In fact, as proposed by one of the speakers companies are collecting more data now than they know what to do with.
One possible future of tech is going to involve people becoming increasingly aware of the value of their personal data, how it is being used by businesses and taking a more active stance over its market value. One consequence of increased customer insight relates to the concerns people have about invasions of privacy. Companies must take responsibility for being open and honest about the data they collect, and for what purpose.
TfL and Crossrail are both public sector organisations. This means they are charge of spending money from the public purse and in an age where information is now easily accessible, people expect to know how their money is being spent.
Populations are increasing everywhere but particularly in cities, which creates additional pressure on public services to meet demand. Transport is extremely important to voters, who want to feel that their lives will get easier as technology increases the already frantic pace at which we live.
The ‘sharing economy’, in which people directly share resources and services with each other through the medium of technology, is threatening traditional industries that have previously functioned as ‘middle men’ or property owners. This has benefits for consumers but also consequences for workers and company owners, whose livelihoods have been threatened by disruptive technologies.
Another challenge in the travel industry is cheaper travel providing easier access to once remote and tranquil locations, with increased footfall ironically destroying the ‘product’.
Travel, as both a necessity and a luxury, is at the intersection between need and profit. The perhaps virtuous circle of a technological age giving rise to the need for more technology has reached a new apex, with smart cities, smart wearables, virtual reality, driverless cars and more.
One of the key messages of the event was that it's an incredibly exciting industry, and in need of more talented people to choose it as a career.
HOW TO BREAK INTO TRAVEL TECH
The speakers had a lot of advice for women and people in general who want to break into travel tech.
Eddie Jouade, Senior Developer at Crossrail, only learnt to code when he was 21. He works with people from all sorts of fields, and argues that you don’t need to come from a technical background to work in travel tech. He is passionate about improving diversity in tech, and really keen to work with more female developers.
Ashley Finlayson from Uber studied biology at university, and when she graduated was simply looking for a company where she could make a difference. Uber provides a simple solution to the problem of finding a taxi in a busy city - connecting drivers with riders at the click of a button. To kickstart your career, she says you need to help other people and gain valuable experience for yourself.
Denise Jones from Expedia has a history at Microsoft but says she ‘fell backwards’ into tech, after working in unrelated fields at a wireless company. Denise advises that if you are serious about pursuing a career in travel tech, then you should start telling people where exactly you want to go (excuse the pun!). By actively speaking your aspirations aloud, you are creating accountability and drawing the right people and experiences towards you.
David Lowe from Skyscanner used to be an accountant and is now Developer Advocate at Skyscanner, a role that was popularised by Google. He improves their products and finds other companies to partner with. Skyscanner actively releases its data about customers and their travel preferences to startups creating products and services in the travel industry, so don’t be shy about getting in touch!
A guest blog from our Community Blogger Catherine Heath. Originally posted on her personal blog Away with Words here.
I went to a screening at the Guardian offices in King’s Cross of CODE: Debugging the Gender Gap, a crowd-funded film released in 2015, directed by Robin Hauser Reynolds. This film laments the state of female software engineers in tech in the United States today, where computer science is not part of the national curriculum (although it is in the UK). It is also a celebration of those successful women already proudly leading the way in tech, and a manifesto outlining what we need to do.
It featured some of the most prominent women in tech today, but the resounding message was that there are not enough. The number of women majoring in computer science peaked in the 80s, with a gender split of almost 50:50, but numbers have been steadily declining ever since. Today, only 17% of computer science graduates are female, despite women holding 57% of all college degrees. And all this in a climate of a tech skills shortage – something needs to be done.
INNATE GENDER DIFFERENCES?
Even as films like CODE: Debugging the Gender Gap are raising awareness, stimulating conversations and making inroads to increased diversity in the tech industry, others still refuse to admit there is a problem.
The opening scenes of the film show a class of children who are asked to describe their idea of a computer scientist. Each one claimed they believed the scientist would be male.
Strong opinions still abound on the innate genetic differences between men and women, resulting in cultural stereotypes like women not being as ‘adventurous’, ‘technical’ or ‘hard-working’ as men. Some even go so far as to insist that women just aren’t ‘naturally’ drawn to technical subjects like software engineering. One of the reasons given for the lack of gender diversity in tech is that women have simply ‘chosen’ not to pursue those careers because they are ‘too hard’.
There can be a suggestion that your gender predisposes you to certain traits, but research shows that just because something is ‘innate’ does not mean it is not influenced by experience. According to neurologists, the human brain has equal potential across genders, and life experience is the greater determinant of ability – rather than genes.
WHAT WE CAN DO
The modern world is a technological one and code is in almost everything we interact with. The importance of everyone learning technical skills is critical, like learning to read and write.
We also need more women who are changing the course of history – the female Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates.
Women and other underrepresented groups need to become better represented in the tech industry to benefit all members of society. To achieve these goals, we must remove the barriers that are stopping girls from pursuing careers in tech.
OVERCOMING THE PROBLEMS
Many women in the film shared their experiences of subtle discouragement from friends and family when pursuing their computer science degrees, and others reported more open displays of hostility and aggression from professors and colleagues. Director of Photography at Pixar Danielle Feinberg talks about being the only woman in her computer science class, while the other male students refused to let her join their study groups – this was at college level.
Though totally on her own, Danielle’s unquenchable enthusiasm for coding – and, eventually, animation – led her to where she is today. She now gives inspiring talks to young female students, and says, “Role models are hugely important.” With this in mind, lots of amazing female-oriented initiatives were showcased in the film. They are aimed at improving diversity in the tech industry.
For example, Goldieblox is a toy company founded by Debbie Sterling, and creates awesome toys, games and entertainment for girls, designed to develop early interest in engineering and confidence in problem-solving. Goldieblox has gone from crowdfunded prototype on Kickstarter with more than $1m of pre-orders, to now being stocked by retail giants Toys ‘R’ Us and Amazon. Many amazing coding groups were also mentioned, including Black Girls Code, Code for Progress, and Kodable.
Men and women in the audience were both affected by the issues it raised. There was laughter and also palpable disapproval, as it raised some difficult issues. Women still face hostile behaviour in the workplace, or are singled out in their computer science classes for being female. Even if they do manage to forge successful careers in tech, hostility and subtle dismissive attitudes make the journey even harder.
The film is gaining traction and features in upcoming London Technology Week. It provides a focal point, telling the story of the struggles women are facing as they try to build their careers in the tech industry.
The problem is real, and it won’t away until we consistently do something about it. If you haven’t watched the film already, do it now. Some parts may make you feel angry but, male or female, you will also feel motivated to effect real change.
This film was a call-to-arms for everyone. Women must learn not only to consume technology – but to produce and create as well.
This is the mission of Code First: Girls, who teach coding classes for women all around the UK. Find out more about how to get involved.
Code First: Girls