The future of jobs; innovators in STEM & glass ceilings | WeAreTechWomen's take-aways from the 2019 WISE Conference

Written by Indigo Haze, Digital Marketing and Social Media Assistant at WeAreTheCity

Last week, the WeAreTechWomen team had the pleasure of attending the 2019 WISE Conference at the IET in London.

The conference was a full-packed day of debates, workshops and presentations on the future of working women in the technology industry. The speakers loaded each session with tips, tricks and research findings all delivered with a touch of humour. Here is a breakdown of what we learnt in the morning sessions.

Future Jobs and Women: Answers from the LinkedIn Platform

Lisa FinneganLisa Finnegan, Senior Director of HR, EMEA & LATAM at LinkedIn, presented our first session, where she shared the findings of a recent study on the future of jobs and women. From their own data of 630 million users, 26 million companies, 60 thousand schools and 20 million active jobs, LinkedIn found that while the percentage of women in STEM careers is on the rise, there is still a distinct lack of women working in the computer sciences industry.

This is due to the stereotype that has followed the computer science industry since the early 1990s, of a single lonely soul working away at their computer, frantically typing away at their keyboard, in a damp and dark room, coding by themselves. This stereotype is not one that attracts women to the industry and in reality, it isn't like this anymore. Computer science, programming and coding can be an exciting and creative career path. Lisa commented that this is the image that the industry needs to project, which can be achieved by giving more visibility to female role models already working and succeeding in the industry. This should encourage girls to consider choosing computer sciences as a subject at university and as an inspiring and viable career path.

LinkedIn’s research also shows a lack of women in the AI space, making up 22 per cent of the workforce. A large proportion of these women are working as teachers, rather than in AI. Lisa talked about how for the future of AI we need to make diversity in the workforce the norm, as without it our AI will end up with the developers' unconscious bias. She gave the example of facial recognition software. If we teach the software using only the faces of white men, then the software will be great at telling the difference between this racial group, but the software wouldn’t be able to perform the same task when shown images of women of colour. However, this issue wouldn’t arise if we developed the software using the skills and considering the opinions of a diverse group of developers.

Across all job sectors, LinkedIn’s findings showed that ‘soft skills’ such as HR, marketing and people management are the most sort after by employers and that there are large differences between how men and women approach a job search. Where men are more likely to ask for help in the form of recommendations or mentorship, women are 20 per cent less likely to ask for any help. Women are also 16 per cent less likely to apply for roles than men and hiring managers are 13 per cent less likely to open a female LinkedIn profile over a man’s profile. However, once they’ve set their minds to apply for a role, women are 16 per cent more likely to be successful in landing their chosen position. Moving forward Lisa says we need to move the focus in schools away from general ICT and develop more programmes around computer sciences. We also need to take the focus away from general STEM and put more training and resources into AI and to ensuring women know about the opportunities available to them.

Fiona McDonnellMaking a Difference—How Women can be Innovators in STEM

Fiona McDonnell, from Amazon, presented our second session of the day. She shared Amazon’s research on the barriers and enablers of women’s careers in STEM environments and how women are becoming innovators. Fiona revealed that there is a 23 per cent representation of women in STEM and that only 15 per cent of these are in senior management positions. If we increased this by just ten per cent, the research suggested that this would generate an extra £3bn in business for the UK. Amazon found that nine out of the ten women they spoke with in the STEM industry are facing barriers in their career progression. 84 per cent of women listed confidence as their biggest barrier, along with 75 per cent pointing towards a male majority environment and 72 per cent pointing to a lack of recognition from senior management. Fiona also showed that there are language barriers in how women talk about being innovators and that new roles in the industry are being advertised using bias language that attracts men but puts off women from applying. Amazon has recognised that we need to have a supportive culture in place to ensure that the STEM skills women have are being utilized. The bottom line is that we need more diversity in the STEM industry, and that ‘diversity drives innovation.’

From this research, Amazon launched its Amazon Amplify programme, which aims to increase the recruitment and retention of women in technology. Through this programme, Amazon offers more bias training for their managers and they have changed their interview questions and panel to be as gender neutral as possible. They have also launched an interactive UK wide training programme along with a back to work programme to boost retention in engineering. They have also increased their funding for women innovator programmes, including offering a mentoring scheme and having a STEM workshops for their employees’ children.

Women and Science - Why plastic brains aren’t breaking through glass ceilings

Gina RipponGina Rippon, from the Aston Brain Centre at Aston University in Birmingham, presented our third session of the day.  She spoke about the findings in her book “The Gendered Brain.” Gina explained that scientific research into understanding the brain has held the old-fashioned view that because there are two genders, there must be two types of brains, the male and the female brain. This traditional view holds the belief that men are superior to women, and that women are not suitable to study or work in the STEM industry because they have the wrong skills set, being more empathetic whereas men are better at spatial cognition. They have the wrong temperament, in the sense that women are too often caught up in their emotions to make rational decisions, and that it does not interest women to learn about science. They derived this old-fashioned view from the status quo of society at the time. This opinion is still rampant in the scientific community today. This viewpoint has held women back in the scientific community for generations and is still creating barriers for women who want to chase a career in STEM, despite recent research showing that there is no significant difference between the brains of women and men.

In fact, research shows that the brain is malleable and changing. Social activity is the most important factor when looking at the changing brain, as we all need to find a connection with people that hold the same morals, support and believe in us. Gina expressed how our brains are shaped by the attitude, opinions and expectations of those around us. For women in STEM, this means that a lack of appreciation, direction and inclusion from senior managers and colleagues can inhibit their self-development at work, lower their self-confidence and wear down their motivation. She concluded that men and women need to work together to rule out gender bias in the scientific community and lift each other up to achieve our greatest potential. Which would help us make greater strides in our understanding of gender and open up more opportunities in STEM for women.

Discussion Panel

Following these sessions, we were introduced to Dr Hayaatun Sillem from the Royal Academy of Engineering hosting a discussion panel between Lisa Finnegan from LinkedIn, Fiona McDonnell from Amazon, Gina Rippon from Aston University and Poppy Gustafsson, the CEO of Darktrace. They discussed the gender pay gap and intersectionality in STEM, how women can cause disruption to the system and the future of jobs in STEM.

panel discussion, WISE conference

Poppy started the discussion on gender and intersectionality saying that ‘gender is irrelevant’ regarding hiring for roles in STEM, with 40 per cent of her workforce at Darktrace being made-up of women. Lisa added that LinkedIn recognises that there is a diverse range of women working in the industry that need the support of a community to achieve their potential and to feel valued in their sector. To help this, they have been introducing groups such as LGBT and ethnic minority networks that bring women together across the globe. Gina commented on how important groups like these are, as social inclusion is the most important factor in our self-esteem. She also noted that with the STEM academic industry there are still large barriers to women, as there is not the same level of demand for change in academia as there is in the business world. All members of the panel agreed that women have the power to change the system and that by banding together, we can cause enough disruption to demand change. However, they noted that this can be difficult for women in the workplace, depending on their position in the company and that if done incorrectly disruption to the system could, in fact, reinforce the bias that already exists.

The panel then moved on to discuss the future of jobs in STEM. Poppy started the debate saying it is unnecessary for women who want to work in the tech industry to have a background in STEM, as they often have transferable skills key to the industry. Lisa said that as 80 per cent of the 2030 workforce has already left full-time education, it is important to change the hiring process now. The language used in job descriptions needs changing as there is a gender bias in STEM job adverts, for example, labelling a job as having ‘heavy leadership’, deters women from applying. Lisa further mentioned that interviewing panels need changing, to ensure that there is a diverse range of interviewers in panels and that core skills should be at the forefront of employers’ requirements, rather than just a job title. Gina added that women are less likely to apply for internal promotions due to the male-majority culture. This is something that needs to change in order for us to move forward.

panel discussion, WISE conference

The panel then discussed the gender pay gap. Fiona started the conversation saying, if we want to close the gender pay gap in the STEM industry then we need to inspire more women to go into the sector. ‘Science is no longer just a bunsen burner on the table’, with subjects like computer sciences offering new career opportunities for women. Lisa added that LinkedIn is trying to end gender and social barriers in STEM by showing the future generation the importance of their parents’ work. They are doing this by allowing employees to bring their children into work and interact with technology innovatively, such as building their own LinkedIn profile out of Lego. To finish the discussion, all the women shared the key thing they wanted people to take away from the sessions. Gina wanted us to remember that our brains are flexible and that you can change your mind, Fiona wanted us to remain adaptable, Lisa wanted us to remember the importance of soft skills and their transferability in STEM and finally Poppy wanted us to drive out unconscious bias in the workplace.

Do you want more?

Do you want to know more about what we learnt in the afternoon sessions at the 2019 WISE Conference?

Keep your eyes peeled for our other articles on the event coming soon. You can find out more about WISE and the wonderful work they do here.


Remedying the Gender Pay Gap | techUK

techUK logo

From April 2018, all companies in the UK with 250 or more employees had to report their gender pay gap.

We are now just shy of six months away from the next set of reporting and techUK is launching its guide to writing a good Gender Pay report, ‘Remedying the Gender Pay Gap: How to write a good report’.

It is important to note that the guide is not a silver bullet for any company to dramatically improve their gender pay gap ahead of next year’s result. Instead the report should be read as a plan to writing a good report and a series of steps a tech company should consider to embed meaningful gender diversity into their company culture, for example by becoming a signatory of the Tech Talent Charter or establishing a Returners Programme or Returnship.

For techUK large member companies, this means that actions taken here will improve your diversity outcomes in the medium to long term meaning in your 2019 report you can flag your commitments and changes in the pipeline. For techUK SME members, taking these steps now will help a company improve its culture and in turn, ensure a company is on the best possible footing ahead of mandatory reporting as the company expands.

DOWNLOAD THE REPORT


Emma Taylor, Michelle de Vries and Roger Casale, Change UK featured

From TechWomen100 to emerging politician | Emma Taylor

Emma Taylor, Michelle de Vries and Roger Casale, Change UK

Dr Emma Taylor’s 30 year career started with BAE Space Systems’ sponsorship for her studies at Oxford.

Over the next seven years, she worked on space missions, including research on materials retrieved from the Hubble Space Telescope. Recruited from her PhD to the European Space Agency, she ran novel computer simulations for the International Space Station.

As a Principal Engineer, she led R&D on resilient spacecraft structures, and an ISO standards team of space agencies to protect Earth orbits. In parallel, Emma was a carer for eight years, leaving her university academic post for a career break. Retraining as a system safety engineer, winning a university scholarship and research prize, she then worked in O&G, including as Operations Manager.

A 2018 Telegraph Top 50 Woman Engineer, and a WISE Woman in Industry Finalist, Emma worked as Lead Systems Safety Engineer at RSSB, advising on safety, risk assessment and standards. She worked to enhance understanding and implementation of security and cybersecurity within transport, including data integrity of a mobile app and a cloud-based safety-related reporting system.

In this article, WeAreTechWomen sit down with Emma to discuss what happened since winning a TechWomen100 award and how she became involved in a career in politics.

I am proud to be one of the TechWomen100. This year in January, I listened to Vanessa Vallely, Jacqueline de Rojas and Chi Onwurah speak at the TechWomen100 awards dinner. To be honest, I felt a little overawed. Inspired too, but I definitely felt as if I was in the presence of superwomen.

And yet only a few months later, after a career of more than 25 years in science, technology and engineering, I have an emerging role as a politician. I am campaigning for election to the European Parliament on behalf of Change UK, our new UK political party. As the lead MEP candidate for the East of England, I’ve definitely had to put my own superwoman cape on.

Emma Taylor, Michelle de Vries and Roger Casale, Change UK

But what’s my story? How did I come to stand as a candidate for Change UK?

I think that, whatever your political beliefs, many of us have been concerned about what’s been happening in politics recently. It’s fair to say things haven’t been working as smoothly and efficiently as many of us would like - politics is clearly broken! It’s worrying people, including my French mother, who has lived here for 50 years.

So when the call came out from Change UK for people to apply and campaign become Members of the European Parliament (MEP), I did listen. I wondered whether I should stand up. I worried about all the online trolling and worse. Could I step up to the challenge? Was I brave enough to try?

But, as an engineer, I like fixing things to make them work better. And as someone who works in tech, I know that engagement with Europe is key in fighting the emerging threat of cybersecurity. I also wanted to find a way to reassure my mum, and this was certainly one way of doing it.

So, I wrote my application in one sitting at the computer, one Sunday afternoon. Less than a week later, I walked into the room and met Sarah Wollaston, one of the Change UK MPs interviewing me. By that point, I’d heard that there were more than 3700 applications so I was taking it one step at a time with no expectations.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget how I felt, sat on the sofa with my cup of tea, when I took that call from Sarah less than 48 hours later. What to do? And so I accepted the number one slot on the East of England list. I realised that this new party, with a call to change politics, offered me a once in a lifetime opportunity to stand up and see what I could to do to help fix politics.

Next day (!), the 23rd April, was the campaign launch, broadcast on national TV. The campaign started at full speed and has been at full throttle ever since. You’ve probably read about it in the national media, you can see my personal campaign story on my Twitter feed (@etaylorengineer).  One thing I am am 100 per cent sure about is that I couldn’t have taken this challenge on without the boost that my We Are The City Techwomen100 award gave me.

I don’t know when you’ll be reading this, if it’s before the election date on the 23rd May, or afterwards. I can’t predict the results, but I know that I’m proud to have taken the opportunity to stand up for what I believe in.  And maybe I’ve inspired others to take their own bold steps? Because if I can create this opportunity and take on this challenge, then you can too.

In a nutshell, if and when you are lucky enough to win a TechWomen100, Rising Star or other WATC award, you’ve got your own little piece of superwoman in your hand. Use it wisely, and the sky’s the limit.


Emma Taylor is part of a team of seven candidates standing for election as a Member of European Parliament; including Neil Carmichael, Bhavna Joshi, Michelle de Vries, Amanda Gummer, Thomas Graham, and Roger Casale.


Diversity

Promoting diversity and inclusion in STEM

Diversity

Article provided by Greenlight Digital

In the fight to diversify the workplace, STEM fields – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – have increasingly come under scrutiny.

In the US, engineering and the computer sciences make up 80 per cent of the STEM landscape. Yet women occupy a fraction of the jobs: 12 per cent and 26 per cent respectively. In the UK, the story is similar. The STEM workforce is estimated to be less than a quarter female.

Strangely, one solution might lie with a pursuit that, for a long time, was on the fringes of polite society: video gaming.

Video games and STEM are inexorably linked, according to study

An October 2018 report published in Big Think paints an interesting correlation between women who play games and women who go into STEM fields.

“The more girls play video games, the greater the chance they’ll pursue a STEM degree, regardless of what kind of game they play,” the report found, based on evidence collected in a longitudinal study surveying teenagers at seven different points in their life, from the ages of 13 to 20.

The study found that girls that played games were three times more likely to pursue a STEM degree at university than girls who didn’t play games.

No such correlation emerged with the teenage boys analysed.

Is it time we encouraged our daughters to get more actively involved in this booming, billion-dollar industry?

Well, as we discuss below, many girls are playing. The problem, in a twist of fate, is that the gaming industry has a diversity problem of its own.

The gaming industry’s diversity problem

The idea that playing video games is primarily the domain of boys is outdated. Women are increasingly playing too. In the United States, 41 per cent of players are female. In Canada, that rises to 49 per cent. In France, 53 per cent.

Yet representation in the gaming industry suffers in three key areas:

  1. Problem #1: the games themselves. As this list of the best-selling games of all time illustrates, the landscape is still dominated by machismo. The likes of Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty – even Pokemon – all ask that you play as a male character. In fact, not a single game on the list mandates that you play as a female character.
  2. Problem #2: the number of women working in the games industry is low.biz estimates that about 21% of the industry is female; however, dig deeper, and only 5% of coders are women. The nuts and bolts of these games are almost always assembled by men.
  3. Problem #3: expectation. Publishing houses invest millions in bringing games to market and are fixated on the idea that gaming is a male pursuit, or at the very least, that men are the more dependable market. But then, consider this: the heads of the ten biggest publishing houses are all male. Does bias come into play here?

Yet, change is coming to the gaming industry – slowly

But if gaming is symptomatic of a larger diversity epidemic, there’s also cause for quiet optimism, because the video game landscape is slowly changing.

Take The Last of Us 2. The sequel to one of the best-selling games of all time is set to star a young lesbian woman named Ellie when the game is released sometime in 2019 or 2020. Another franchise, Gears of War, has typically bristled with machismo. Its next entry, Gears 5, will feature a female protagonist for the first time.

What has precipitated this change? A few years ago, Sony went to one of their most reliable studios, Guerrilla Games, with a proposition. After years of good service, Guerrilla, who had been churning out games in the Call of Duty mould, would be given the chance to make anything they liked. Faced with a blank slate, the Amsterdam studio devised a story starring a young warrior named Aloy; an empowered female character tasked with saving her tribe. Horizon Zero Dawn was released in 2017 to glowing reviews and, crucially, sold well too. To date, more than 10 million copies have been sold.

Thanks to the commercial success of Horizon, publishers are starting to revaluate their blinkered approach to creativity.

Will STEM follow suit?

The STEM fields need to similarly break free of the rut they’re in. One way to do this would be to embark on a promotional drive that highlights the inventions female scientists have brought the world. At school-level, aptitude for sciences is shown to be even across the sexes. In fact, many girls outperform boys. What girls often lack, studies show, is the same conviction in their abilities.

Thus, girls need role models to look up to, especially when conventional thinking suggests that scientific enquiry is somehow the domain of men.

A drive to dispel this myth would go a long way to levelling the landscape. In the end, that’s an ideal we should strive for, because no industry should ever be dominated by a single gender. Uniformity only gives rise to echo chambers of thinking and a dearth of ideas.

Simply put, tackling inequality in STEM starts with telling a better story.


Sources:

https://www.globalpolicyjournal.com/blog/10/01/2019/women-stem-critical-innovation

https://bigthink.com/culture-religion/girl-gamers-pursue-stem-degrees

https://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2018-09-20-companies-really-need-to-ask-themselves-if-theyre-serious-about-diversity


Cloud computing featured

5 must-know job roles in the cloud sector - who do you need on your team?

Cloud computing

When it comes to securing the best people for your organisation, there needs to be considerable thought put into what is needed, which will vary depending on the size of the project.

Working in the cloud sector means employees require knowledge of advancing technologies, what role they play in a company, and the security features and cost involved. But there are also a range of soft skills needed, to run throughout a successful team which should not be overlooked.

To be part of a modern-day workforce in such an industry, staff members need a collaborative approach. They have to be open and embracing to change, understand DevOps, and be willing to upskill to remain relevant in an ever-changing tech arena. Organisations are increasingly working in flatter structures, meaning employees need to perform in an autonomous, agile way.  Adopting the mindset of lifelong learning is useful and people can fine tune through learning on the job – through mentoring, formal training and boosting qualities via cloud specific tooling skills, such as Amazon Web Services Training.

But what does it take to ensure a well-oiled machine operates in the cloud sector in today’s society? Elements covering infrastructure, security, storage, networking, and governance all have to be acknowledged. Rachel McElroy, sales and marketing director for cloud sector and DevOps specialist Cranford Group, underlines the five key roles every business needs, to be a success when using technology.

Product owner

Also known as a ‘project manager’ or ‘cloud project manager’, this person understands the commercial and governance sides of the firm. They’re the all-seeing eye, ensuring the team keeps in-line with the budget, and understands what’s needed – in relation to timings and resources – to complete the project. They usually work with other teams during the sales cycle, so they can outline a project’s delivery, and are adept at constructing high-level plans, delivering reports, and leading meetings. It’s a role which suits customer-facing people who can manage several projects at once, and have excellent communication and written skills.

Cloud architect

Usually an IT specialist, they oversee cloud strategy and are concerned with the design network, and the project’s infrastructure. They understand what the customer wants, and work on the best ways to achieve those needs, with a measured approach. They must possess the technical expertise to understand sysadmin, as well as have software development experience, and a good knowledge of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). It’s a position that’s very hands-on, so needs an innovative thinker, who can lead on cloud efficiency.

Developer

A strong background of specific skills such as streaming analytics, data integration, and knowledge of .NET, Java and AWS or Google Cloud Platform are a must for the strongest developers. They should be able to build cloud-compatible frameworks, evaluate emerging technologies, and ideally have DevOps experience. These kinds of positions suit those with a background in computer technology and often a qualification in computer science, or something related. There are also many soft skills involved, including leadership to plan and co-ordinate projects, an agile mind-set, and ability to adapt to lots of change within the cloud sector.

Security architect or analyst

Another highly important role within a team, this person keeps computer systems safe from cyber-attacks. They also need to translate security features to customers, so must be a strong communicator with stakeholders and colleagues. From a hard skills perspective, this is somebody who understands Windows, Cisco systems, VM (virtual machine) work, and testing, amongst other services. A security architect is likely to hold TOGAF, SABSA or CCP accreditations, and be familiar with cyber-attack pathologies, as well as cloud service models. There might also be a junior architect involved in the team, to support ongoing projects.

Service desk

Fully embraced in being customer-focused, those on the service desk completely understand their company. They have to be knowledgeable, approachable and personable with every side of an organisation’s cloud capacity – from the security aspects to the installation process, data and knowledge of the technology customers require. Strong in problem-solving, this position welcomes trouble-shooters and those with a calm attitude when the pressure is on.

It’s vital that, when putting a team together, each person has a key role to play in the delivery of a successful cloud project. A balance of soft skills and team ethic – alongside relevant qualifications – is crucial. And, those that are willing to upskill and fine tune their experience to keep up with ever-evolving industry trends, can keep an organisation ahead of the curve in a competitive sector.

Rachel McElroy, Sales and Marketing Director, Cascade Group 1About the author

Rachel McElroy is a director at Cranford Group – a cloud resourcing specialist – and passionate about a variety of tech topics including digital disruption, tech skills development, agile working, remote working, women in tech, talent on demand, and DevOps. She is currently penning a white paper which will take a comprehensive look at the effects of technology and cloud adoption on the workplace. Covering topics from AI to diversity, and change management to leadership, such contributors to her research include Microsoft, ServiceNow, Alibaba Cloud, Cloud Industry Forum, AutoTrader, Ensono, Cloud Gateway – to name just a few! An eloquent and well-respected industry commentator, Rachel spoke at Cloud Expo Europe in March 2019 and in February, was appointed as a judge at the UK Cloud Awards 2019.


Emily-Hyett

TechWomen100: What happened next for Emily Hyett

Emily Hyett

In this ongoing series, we speak to our winners about life after winning a TechWomen100 Award.

Now in their third year, the TechWomen100 Awards recognise and celebrate the achievements of women in tech – the emerging tech talent and role models for the future.

We spoke with Emily Hyett, who won a TechWomen100 Award in 2018.

I studied Physics and Astrophysics at University where I learnt to code and used Linux software for my project on extra-ordinary hydrogen emission of a galaxy, thought to contain a supermassive black hole. I found it facinating that I could infer the presence of a super massive black hole 600 milion light years away just by applying physics and technology to some measurements taken on Earth.

I started as a Graduate Technology Consultant at BAE Systems Applied Intelligence in 2014 and within a week of joining was visiting high security prisons on behalf of the Ministry of Justice to assess the security of their IT estates. I was quickly promoted to Senior Consultant during which time I authored a business case to secure £320k CapEx technology investment for a client, led a Government Data Analytics project worth £280k and worked with a Financial Services CTO to define their new Technology Strategy, estimated to cost £1.3 billion to implement.

After being promoted to Principal Consultant I decided to take a sabbatical to put my technical consulting skills to use in a developing country. I flew out to Nairobi to work as Product Manager in a technology social enterprise start up. Whilst in Kenya I led the development of a live prototype for a new platform which connects informal sector workers to job opportunities. The mobile app is now used by Site Managers across Nairobi to employ some of Kenyan’s poorest people.

Upon my return I started a new role as Account Manager, now solely responsible for the authoring, agreeing and securing a contract worth £2.6 million.

How did you feel when it was announced that you’d won a TechWomen100 award?

It was brilliant to be recognised externally for the work I’m doing, especially amongst so many exceptional women.

Please tell us what has happened in your career since winning the TechWomen100 award?

Claire Russell and I were both featured on BAE Systems Applied Intelligence website and also our intranet. I was nominated and shortlisted for the Women in IT awards this year too so I’ll definitely be nominating other inspirational women that I work with for next year’s awards.

What advice would you give to someone else going through the award’s process?

Don’t play down your achievements!

What tips would you give to our other members to enhance their careers?

If you stop learning then move on to something new. Worry less about what your ‘five year plan’ looks like and take opportunities that scare you.


Sharon Wyness

Inspirational Woman: Sharon Wyness | Co-Founder, AliveLab and the Mardles Platform

Sharon Wyness

I came from a recruitment background.

Becoming a single mum at 40, I retrained in 'homestyling'. I joined QVC in 2012 as freelance guest & met James (business partner in AliveLab) whilst in the guest lounge pondering over the many millions that we were making for vendors by selling their product for them on air.

We decided to find their own product range that we could sell (though they didn't know what)

I was still getting the trade press from various suppliers in styling and a magazine dropped on my doorstep with an article about - bringing a sofa to life in your room to see if it was a 'fit'.

I didn't know or understand the technology (it was 2014) but James (geek and techie) did and we knew that Augmented Reality was what they wanted to do.

Several months of planning, sourcing UK suppliers, registering trademarks etc followed and Mardles was born & launched on QVC within six months of the first idea. We had a small order to go to air with and by the time we were off air that had increased by 1000 per cent!

QVC USA and Canada followed. We went back to development for ideas - next came colouring, then dress up masks and finally stories.

After our first airing at London Toy Fair, Aardman & ITV came to us for Licensed product.

We were voted Top Five toys in The Sun, made Metro's Lust List, were featured on the Gadget Show and picked up by the DiT to follow a Passport to Export programme.

Up until 2017, we were totally self-funded until we went to equity raise with Seedrs and drew attention from all over Europe with investors from 32 countries and made target in 48 business hours.

In January 2019, we were one of only three companies in London to receive the Board of Trade award for Outstanding Contribution to International Trade & Investment presented by Dr Liam Fox at the Foreign Office.

We are partnering with companies all over the globe looking at adding AR to their promotions, products or experiences. We won a tender with a major Scottish Council to bring a tourism trail to life worth over £90k.

And throughout all of it - even though big business mentors have tried to steer us differently, we remain true to our morals.

Our app is what we call 100 per cent parent friendly:

  • No in-app purchases
  • No data capture - you don't have to register to use it
  • And once downloaded you don't need wi-fi or data to use it so no huge bills

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not at all, there was a point mid in the mid 80’s, I was working in estate agency I  was told  that I couldn’t have a company car or move up through the ranks, even though I had successfully turned around three failing branches. The reasoning? ‘I’d only go and get pregnant’.  There and then, I made a conscious decision to move into a female dominated industry – which is why I made the move into recruitment.

I gave a talk at my old school recently to Year 12 – I worked out that I’d had 37 different job titles in my career to date! That would take some planning….

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

Yes, but don’t we all?!  My challenges have been mainly personal though - marriage/divorce/being a single parent/medical issues. When I encounter career challenges and set-backs, it just made me come out fighting and more determined than ever to succeed.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Rather than picking one particular achievement (although I was very pleased to receive the export award in January) I would say that it’s my ability to re-invent myself and to be able to channel my skillset into any new challenge and to make it work.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

I would say that it’s my almost unlimited determination, and unmitigated desire to succeed, win and be the best I can.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

It makes perfect sense that when you have succeeded and worked through challenges, that you would want to share that knowledge – I would love to help someone.  I used to have a mentor myself - an older woman who was with me through some women’s health issues, marriage, divorce and then a very difficult pregnancy. She was an enormous help professionally & spiritually, Anji could adjust her focus onto me when I needed extra support and she could also help me deal with my team of 25 girls that in their early 20’s, had their own struggles to work around in a busy stressful sales environment.  I am a big fan of mentoring - both giving and receiving!

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Parity, what would it be?

Girls having the confidence to find their voice and use it.  Too often women keep quiet and don’t push to have their views heard - I think they are worried about being branded bossy or pushy (which they can be), but the more we speak out, confidence grows. Once it becomes the norm for women to be an integral part of senior management teams, girls will have more to aspire to and women in business will have natural mentors to learn from.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

Men don’t have to fall into one of these categories: Father, brother, boss or boyfriend! (I went to an all girls school)

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

I am busy growing our business to the next level and developing new markets around the world - working with people internationally is deeply interesting and there is always something new to learn from the different ways that business is done culturally. I want to change the shape and future of play and help children engage with technology through experience and fun


learning, digital experience

How to gain free digital experience before you have a job

learning, digital experience

Article provided by Jo Callwood

Digital marketing and technology is such a rewarding career.

It may be hard to get the first foot in the door, but once you’ve landed that first job, you’ll never look back.

It seems every employer wants experience… but how do you get that experience without actually having a job?

Although women are underrepresented in the tech and digital world, there is a silver lining for a woman striving to enter the field. We’ve reached a time where gender equality is continually hitting the headlines and employers and influencers in the industry want to make a change. With this, comes plenty of opportunities for women to take advantage of when they’re starting out in the digital world.

Whether these opportunities directly link to your desired career or not, taking part in these events or courses gives you plenty to talk about in interviews, provides you with experience in the field and displays your passion for the industry.

Below are some of the best, free courses and events for anyone wanting to start out in a digital career. Some are specifically for women and others, anyone can join.

Codebar.io - a fantastic not-for-profit who provide completely free workshops teaching women how to code.

The sessions are one-on-one with an expert mentor, focusing on either HTML, JavaScript or CSS. The courses are around the country including, London, Brighton, Kent, Peterborough, Cambridge, Edinburgh and many more locations.

Plus, if there isn’t a session locally to you, you can complete the free, online courses here.

This isn’t the only of its kind - check out a comprehensive list of ‘places where girls can learn how to code’ here.

Accenture Digital Skills - Online, free, interactive courses that help to prepare you for getting a job in digital. The courses focus on a variety of skills such as, social media, mobile, digital marketing, user experience, web analytics and more.

Unfold UK - a networking group powering diversity and inclusion in VR, AR and immersive technologies. Whether this is a hobby for you or a potential future career, they offer free dedicated workshops covering a breadth of skills, and exclusive access to conferences and job opportunities.

Sky’s Get Into Tech Initiative - for women with little or no previous experience in tech. This initiative provides a supportive environment for women to learn the necessary skills to start a new career in technology.

Google Digital Garage - Google are helping you to learn some of the most in-demand skills in the industry. You can learn online for free and they cover topics such as, ‘explore how websites work’, ‘create a long term social media plan’, ‘build a strong online strategy’ and more.

Joining any of these initiatives and courses looks fantastic on a CV and really stands out to employers in a competitive job market. It shows passion, a willingness to learn and will really help with answering those interview questions.

Take a look here at even more career tips on how to get into digital marketing from an agency marketing team.


Kusum-Trikha

TechWomen100: What happened next for Kusum Trikha

Kusum Trikha

In this ongoing series, we speak to our winners about life after winning a TechWomen100 Award.

Now in their third year, the TechWomen100 Awards recognise and celebrate the achievements of women in tech – the emerging tech talent and role models for the future.

We spoke with Kusum Trikha, who won a TechWomen100 Award in 2018.

I am a Senior Chartered Mechanical Engineer with seven years of experience in engineering, procurement and construction of large-scale energy generation projects in over 5 countries (UK, US, Senegal, Israel & India). I’ve been with WSP for five years, successfully undertaking the role of Design Engineer, Owner’s Engineer, Bid-Leader and Project-Manager for several multi-million-pound projects. I’ve a proven track record of leading high-profile project teams, delivering design solutions across conventional, renewable and ‘next-gen’ energy generation technologies. I’ve extensive experience in implementing sustainable energy processes such as Carbon Capture and Storage, Allam-Cycle, Biomass-Gasification, Energy-from-Waste, Combine Cycle Power Plant and Circulating Fluidized Bed Combustion. My day-to-day role involves implementation of my technical expertise in Due Diligence, Front End Engineering Design, Conceptual Studies and Detailed Design of low-carbon energy projects, managing a multi-disciplinary team.

In addition to my involvement in project work, I volunteer my personal time to support WSP’s CSR programme, the ‘WSP-Foundation’ in Manchester and have been the chair of the committee for five years.

I also passionately support the development of others; I am an active mentor and for many years have been an office representative for the Young Professionals Network. Outside of work, I am an active STEM Ambassador across the Trans-Pennine Hub.

From academic point of view, I hold B-Tech in Electronics and Communication Engineering, Post-Graduate Diploma in Thermal Power Plant Engineering and Masters in Applied Carbon Management. Since childhood I have strong inclination towards technology and I have been participating in the School Science Exhibitions long before I remember.

As an Indian national, I started my career at IHEL, India, as a Graduate Engineer and was promoted as an Engineer within two years. I decided to pursue my Masters and I was honoured with a Leadership Scholarship worth £10,000 based on my excellent academic track record.

How did you feel when it was announced that you’d won a TechWomen100 award?

I felt honoured with a pinch of excitement….. obviously not, the day results were announced I was over the moon.

The day it was announced I was with family and it was a very proud moment for all, the kind of which everyone wants to capture in a snowglobe. I couldn’t hold the excitement thus I did inform many friends and colleagues who supported me in this journey.

Please tell us what has happened in your career since winning the TechWomen100 award?

For me (OMG) TechWomen100 Award was just a start. Since then I have been included in Future List of Northern Power Women.

In March, during Northern Power Women Award Ceremony I was given chance to co-present award to the Transformation Leader, the CEO of Office of Nuclear Regulations.

Most recently I have made through Finals of European Women in Construction and Engineering awards under the category, Best Electrical & Mechanical Engineer.

Since the announcement of the awards, I have been featured on WSP’s internet webpage and newsletters numerous times. In February, I was interviewed for the WSP’ s magazine and my views on  ‘How to have good ideas’ will be featured in the next issue of Exchange.

HM office in North-West has also reached out to me to publish my photograph along with my statement on Northern Powerhouse Twitter page and soon a case study on me will be published on their official Instagram page, Humans of Science.

What advice would you give to someone else going through the award’s process?

Although, the path to success is always unique, I think the award's process is about self-realisation and realising your potential.

My career has taught me that women’s networks are crucial and to never underestimate the power of networking. Networking should be part of strategy for someone undergoing an award process. One needs to reach-out to people (may that be face to face or through social media) who have experience of participating in these processes.

My advice to someone else going through the award’s process is:

If for some reasons you don’t win, in the end during those dark times what we often forget is that “journey is more important than destination.”

Most importantly there is always next time, believe in yourself  just like poet Maya Angelou wrote in her poem, Still I Rise:

“Just like moons and like suns,

With the certainty of tides,

Just like hopes springing high,

Still I'll rise.”

What tips would you give to our other members to enhance their careers?

Continuous development should always be part of your career plan. In the fast-paced world, skills and knowledge often become obsolete. I think we should always keep our mind open and should remain open to new opportunities, which often involve taking risks; may that be new profile that needs adaption or acquisition of new skills and capability. Companies always want candidates who can agile to business requirements.

When you have vision to execute your work in particular way and you are told that is not standard practise, under these circumstances always look for logical explanation and if can’t find one then never take no for an answer. I always believed in the following words of Indian Freedom Fighter, Rabindranath  Tagore: “No-one heeds your call - then walk alone.”


Apps For Good featured

Get Involved: Apps For Good

Apps For Good

Inspire the next generation of technology problem solvers with Apps For Good.

Join Apps For Good industry expert community to:

  • Help young problem solvers to unleash their creative potential
  • Show students how skills from the classroom transfer into the real world
  • Be an inspiring role model for students from diverse backgrounds

Their Experts represent all areas of business and tech, forming a community of 1100+ volunteers who help young people bring their new product ideas to life.

What Experts do?

Industry Experts volunteer their time by dialing into classrooms for one-hour sessions to advise and support teams of students through the creation and development of their problem-solving apps, IoT and machine learning projects.

Expert volunteers advise on many areas of tech product development, including:

  • Idea screening
  • Target users and market insights
  • User experience
  • Marketing and social media
  • Pitching and public speaking
  • Technical and data feasibility
  • Coding and web development
  • Internet of Things
  • Machine learning algorithms

Most sessions are organised via Skype, so Experts can volunteer from anywhere!

What Apps For Good are looking for?

  • You don’t need to be ‘techie’ - so long as you have an understanding of how your expertise supports new product development
  • Ideally, you have some professional experience in one of the areas above
  • You can do one session per year or one per week – it’s up to you

FIND OUT MORE