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WeAreTech: Women Conference 2016 | In Words

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WeAreTechnology, the technology arm of WeAreTheCity, hosted its first full-day WeAreTech: Women conference for female technologist at Barclays, One Churchill Place, Canary Wharf yesterday.

Facilitator Kate Russell, BBC click presenter and author, kicked off the day and welcomed all the delegates. She encouraged the audience, saying, “We don’t want anything just because we’ve got ovaries. We want to stand loud and proud and encourage the next generation of female technologists.”

Being brave was also a theme of the morning with Head of Functions Technology & Business Performance, CIO at Barclays, Nigel Walder telling attendees, “Be braver – don’t hide in the periphery.” WeAreTheCity’s Managing Director, Vanessa Vallely also told delegates to “be brave and put yourself forward.”

Across the day, delegates enjoyed listening to a number of high-profile speakers including Jacqueline de Rojas, Executive Vice President (Europe) at Sage and President of techUK; Agata Cooper, Senior Manager, Digital/Mobile Strategy at Accenture; Anne-Marie Imafidon, Founder of STEMettes; Michelle Moody, Engagement Director, Insights and Data at Capgemini UK; and Abigail Wilson, Senior Associate, IT Risk Assurance and Cyber Security, PwC.

Addressing the audience, Jacqueline de Rojas said, “You are the technology glitterati in the making, I feel.” She also advised attendees to “always look for a miracle – because there is always a miracle.”

Agata Cooper also inspired delegates to “change the world and change it for the good. It’s in our hands.”

Throughout the day, attendees heard about the latest in digital, mobile and apps; big data; and cyber security. Attendees were also invited to put their questions to speakers via the sli.do app or in person, during a number of Q&A sessions. Topics ranged from career advice, how to get more women into tech and STEM, why should we dumb tech down, how to generate the right balance and closing the skills gap.

q&a panel at WeAreTech: Women conference

Over lunch, delegates were treated to light refreshments and meet author and Government Digital Advisor, Dr Sue Black during a book signing of Saving Bletchley Park.

Throughout the afternoon, delegates attended their chosen elective sessions to partake in hands-on activities and interactive workshops. Python coding, Fintech, the Internet of Things, disruptive technologies and the application economy were just some of the topics covered within the sessions.

During an elective session about innovation in technology Liz Goulding, Head of Digital Products at Sky Sports, said: “It is an exciting environment to work, as three things can never give – time, budget and scope

“The challenge of being a woman in sport is that there are never a lot of women running around, however this has never been a problem for me. I realised quickly that I don’t have to be a mad football fan to build a good product.”

Golding said innovation has changed her job in several ways and that it come with several challenges: “The volume of people visiting us means that the cool and agile stuff we would like to do can be limited. The challenge is how to cope with the volume, but still do something fun and funky.

“During the Ashes we build a timeline, that runs as the bottom of the screen to show when a wicket flew, when a century was achieved, etc. We had to find a way to make this work for that particular sport.”

She noted that people want to watch sport live and that there is not a lot of turn around time: “For some sports you know you have next season to improve or change something, but for the Olympics for example you don’t have that luxury. Many of the sports are over in seconds and are watched live.”

Reinu Kanda, Scrum Master from Sky, added: “If someone had asked me eight years ago if I wanted to work in tech, I would’ve said no as I knew nothing about it. I didn’t even know what a URL was, what Javascript was or Python.

Kanda said improving morale on her team was a challenge that she decided to face head on by introducing ‘Fun Fridays’.

“We ensure we keep up to date with new technologies, so we invest in our staffs learnings. For example, we came up with the idea of using voice recognition as part of our Fun Friday ideas. It was something that has been regularly elsewhere, but we had not embraced it ourselves.”

q&a panel at WeAreTech: Women conference

The conference continued with a Women Lighting the Way career advice panel featuring Maggie van’T Hoff, CIO, Shell; Christina Scott, CTO, News UK; Jane Bell, Programme Manager, Barclays; Michael Keegan, Chairman, UK & Ireland Region, Fujitsu; Naheed Afzal, Co-Founder, Contracts IT Recruitment Consulting; Sheila Flavell, COO, FDM Group; Donna Herdsman, Client Director, ex-HP and Margarete McGrath, Disruption Director, EY.

Describing the panel, Russell told the audience, “we are so lucky to have so many people at the top of their game here, so I hope you make the most of it.” The panel covered numerous topics including flexible working, mentors, closing the skills gap and advancing your career.

Advising those who were looking for a mentor, Christina Scott said, “Really be clear about why you want to be mentored and what you want to get out of it.”

Maggie van’T Hoff continued, saying, “The best way to go about finding a mentor is to just ask.”

“We’re not really scary.”

Speaking about how to get more girls interested in tech, Michael Keegan of Fujitsu said, “We have to work as an industry because not one single company can do this.”

“We need to go back into schools, inspire and create role models for young girls.”

Education was a major vocal point of the panel, with Sheila Flavell saying, “Lots of organisations are now reaching out to kids, but they are not joined up.”

“I think the government needs to do something to join the dots.”

Concluding the event, delegates and speakers alike took part in a speed mentoring session, opened by Fiona Capstick, Partner, UKI (Non-FS) Digital at EY. Speakers and senior individuals joined the delegate tables for an hour of mentoring to discuss career goals and ask specific questions.

Attendees were also given the opportunity to network with sponsors, browse tables and stands of tech related products, as well as connect with a number of not-for-profit organisations including Women of Wearables, Apps for Good, Tech Mums, Your Future and STEMettes.

The conference saw over 200 attendees from across the technology sector and a range of companies including Financial Times, Fujitsu, Credit Suisse, Computer Weekly, JP Morgan, IBM, Shell, National Grid and Brother UK.

The conference was aimed at women in the tech sector who were looking to broaden their technology horizons, learn new skills and build their technology networks.

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