Theresa Bercich featured

Inspirational Woman: Theresa Bercich | Principal Data Scientist, Lucinity

Theresa BercichI have had an affinity for technology my entire life. When I was a young girl, I was already the go-to person for all technology needs within my family and friends. Over the years this passion for technology served as a compass for my academic life and eventually my career.

Today I head Product at Lucinity, an anti-money laundering SaaS platform that uses Artificial Intelligence and its evolution Human AI to detect financial crime. I joined our CEO at the beginning of Lucinity’s journey around two years ago, and it has been an incredible experience to help grow a start-up through Seed and Series A into a 30-person team across 4 countries. Our mission is to stop the scourge of money laundering, which has an horrendous impact on our overall society and disproportionally women.

The journey towards my current role started at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) where I studied Business Management for my bachelor’s degree and obtained a CFA Level 1. This part of my education prepared me well to work with start-ups and eventually in FinTech because I have a good understanding of business principles and finance. I secured a job at a renowned asset management firm straight after my bachelor’s degree but, that was the year Brexit happened and the entire London office was dissolved. However, this did not deter me, and I saw it as an opportunity to pursue my passion in technology!

I taught myself how to code in several languages and did a master’s degree at University College London (UCL) with a focus on Machine Learning (ML). I wrote my master thesis in AI applications in Neuroscience. Afterwards I knew that I had found my calling and started to work with start-ups to integrate cutting-edge deep learning technologies into their businesses. I learnt a lot during this process, from scoping projects, working with engineering teams to implementing production-ready AI technology.

In late 2018 I decided to move to Iceland since the work I was doing could be done from anywhere in the world and Iceland was a fantastic place to escape the hectic London life for a bit. In Iceland, I was introduced to the CEO of Lucinity: the company I have been working for as Principal Data Scientist and now Product Manager for the last two years.

My journey into tech was not a very straightforward one but definitely a worthwhile one. I gained experience from business and finance and what it takes to work independently. There were obstacles and moments when getting to where I want to be seemed impossible, but perseverance and the mindset of taking opportunities got me into the incredible position I am in today. I love being a data scientist and product manager and am grateful that I was able to take this journey.

I have been mentoring students from both QMUL as well as UCL this past year to support them in the difficulties COVID-19 has posed to their careers and student lives. I believe that sharing our stories, and how journeys from the outside can look very different than when they are actually travelled, is key to helping ease some of the anxiety around careers today. Sometimes career paths are not straightforward, but if you trust yourself then you will eventually end up in a great position.

A very exciting initiative I am currently working on is our partnership with Neo4J, which will supercharge Lucinity’s insights both from a transaction monitoring and an investigative perspective through graph technology. Innovating in this area is of particular interest to me given my affiliation with neuroscience and leveraging graph technology to complete our holistic money laundering detection and compliance solution through data science in network graphs – a truly enjoyable endeavour!

Generally, working in a start-up that has a blue-sky approach to an “old problem” such as money laundering and fraud is invigorating. I was a significant part of the development of a patent pending homomorphic encryption algorithm, which we use within our system. It allows us to transform personal identifiable information (PII data) into a human unreadable format while still maintaining its information content and comparability to be used in data science and deep learning algorithms. Our Secure Lockbox, the name of the algorithm suite, enables Lucinity to be more than GDPR compliant and adds an extra layer of security to the system.

I already have big plans for this innovation in the future to make knowledge sharing, especially in delicate areas such as financial data or health data for research, possible.

Another patent pending concept we developed is around federated learning which allows us to use a form of ‘meta’ ML to share the learnings of AI models across our ecosystem without losing client specificity. This will enable us to continuously increase our customer’s defences without having to share any underlying data at all. Each participating client will benefit from what the AI models have learnt and thus all models are always becoming better while still considering the unique aspects of our financial institution clients.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No! When I was 18 I had completely different plans to where I am now. I believe it is important to regularly reflect upon one’s situation and determine whether there is passion, drive and a joy in what one is doing. Personally, doing something you love, for a purpose you are ardent about is the way to go for a successful career. It is also good to have a general idea of what you want and where you want to go but life happens as we make plans and thus, I am not planning my career other than at a very high level and through these periodic introspections.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

Transitioning from management into ML, neuroscience and product required a fundamental shift in how to approach problem solving. Management generally involves tackling problems from a higher level, allowing one to view problems more holistically and be content with ‘a solution’ to a problem that is optimal given numerous constraints. However, the technology domain requires more precision in problem solving, with small divergences in a system creating havoc down the chain. For example, when implementing a ML algorithm in production software the predictions or decisions produced by the model need to ‘generalise’ or be highly accurate when the model sees a new situation. When detecting money laundering at Lucinity, we need to build models that can find money laundering even when behaviour significantly changes, for example, during the volatile period of last year.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date? 

  • Driving Lucinity’s machine learning and product development forward, culminating in a fast-growing business and the Nordic Best Newcomer of 2020
  • Designing and implementing two patents in highly complex technology domains
  • Being involved in the AI For Good realm, especially through the United Nations (ITU)
  • Mentoring and inspiring young people in tech to be confident in themselves and their abilities

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

Perseverance through passion is an underlying current that guides me daily. Being a naturally excitable and aspirational character, I normally focus on the positives in life. However, there are periods when you must persevere through difficult situations, and having a passion for what you are doing, the people in your life and life in general is the compass that guides you to success. My passion for cutting-edge technology has also driven my desire to build unique solutions and algorithms that find innovative ways to tackle money laundering.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

Stay up to date with the latest technology, be confident in yourself and your projection to the outside world, find a passion and reach for the stars. The coming decade will be one where technology and humans will increasingly interact, perhaps even learn to be comfortable and understanding of one another. From this perspective, an important tip for people in this domain is to always ensure that technology is being used for good. This truly manifests through a project Lucinity and I have been involved in with the UN ITU agency - AI For Good - which shines a light on companies which employ AI to achieve one of the Sustainable Development Goals for 2030.

AI for Good embodies the notion that progress is good for everyone. Of course, progress means change and that is sometimes scary, but if we can use technology and especially AI to help solve problems from climate change and human trafficking to reduce hunger in the world then I believe we are going in the right direction. The world and the younger generations are waking up and slowly getting into the workforce and it is my firm belief that we all want to leave the world behind a bit better than how we found it. Given the incredible advancements in AI over the last couple of years there is a huge opportunity to build products that achieve exactly that, thus creating a win-win situation where wealth is created by actually helping to achieve good for the world.

AI for good is also a great opportunity to amplify women’s voices in the tech & AI community. Certain global issues are centred proportionally more around women and therefore we should be part of the technology that shapes the solutions. Diversity of thinking is crucial when trying to tackle global issues and women bring a unique perspective that is needed to develop these products.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

I feel the biggest barrier for women in tech is the perception that it is both a very masculine and mathematical field. From my experience and academic literature, men are more likely to apply for jobs even when they feel they only match about half the required skills; with women that number lies way above 90%. That means that by default more men than women apply to those huge scary job ads that tech companies post for which you have to seemingly know every single programming language and all the newest technological methodologies, and you need of course many years of experience!

Furthermore, men in the workplace generally speaking, exude more confidence, even when they are not necessarily the expert in the discussed field. Women tend to be harder on themselves, exhibit more imposter syndrome and do not back themselves as much as they should.

However, I do not believe that the sole problem for women lies in confidence but mainly in perception. When I used to look at job ads I wanted to tick at least 9 out of 10 checkboxes to apply because I felt that otherwise no one is even going to look at my application. The fact of the matter is that this is not how the game is played. Skills can be learnt and showcasing creative problem solving, the appetite to grow and learn new things is key to a good hiring decision – even if 100% of the required skills outlined in the ad are not met. This is a game changer in mentality towards job and promotion applications.

Furthermore, I believe we need to change the perception of the entire tech sector – it is definitely not inherently masculine, and it also needs much more talent than hard core mathematicians. We need to have a broader conversation of how important all aspects of tech are from product and design thinking, to innovation and creativity, management skills and marketing. Technology is a multi-layered inter-disciplinary industry that requires diversity of thought for it to be successful and that means talented women as well as men. We should also back ourselves more and trust in us. When we are hired, part of meetings or when we have responsibility, we were given so for a reason, because we deserve it. Trusting in oneself is a hard thing and there is no panacea but starting with the fact that the majority of people in this world are not geniuses but are simply trying their best is a good realization. We need to celebrate our achievements, always put our best foot forward, and at the same time be proud of what we do. Everyone’s success deserves to be acknowledged – it is easy to laud a co-worker for a job well done, so why not yourself? I believe that if we can change this mentality, if we encourage unique and diverse thinking in the workplace and if we play to our respective strengths, then the technology industry will thrive for decades to come!

One way to make this happen is to earnestly listen to employees, to support their growth and also give them responsibility. People thrive under these circumstances and their successes can then be rewarded with more responsibility. Creating a perpetual cycle of improvement. Good and constructive feedback is also vital. I feel like we should tell each other more when we do things right, and why a supervisor feels like it was done right as well as constructive criticism of areas that can be improved – this leads to real personal growth.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I would recommend shecancode as a website, they have very encouraging and informative content by women for women. Women Tech Charge by Dr. Anne- Marie Imafidon is a great and sincere podcast about women in tech.


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Women working with computer for design and coding program

Why we need to encourage more girls into coding and STEM

Women working with computer for design and coding program

Article by Elizabeth Tweedale, CEO and Founder, Cypher

Think Different. A great Apple ad campaign from 1997. The fact that we all think differently is at the very root of why girls - and everyone for that matter - should be encouraged to get into coding.

The reason we should encourage girls into coding is not just about feminism or equality, it’s not just about fairness or a ‘level playing field’, it’s not just about opening up glass ceilings and filling quotas. It’s far more important than that. It’s about solving problems for the future of our world.

Talking about the ‘female’ mind or ‘male’ mind is fraught with difficulty - so I’m not suggesting these are two different opposing gender-based options, but broadly painting a picture of a rich spectrum of the diversity of thought amongst individuals. A bit like we use ‘left brain’ and ‘right brain’ ways of thinking. It’s the combination of this diversity, facilitated through inclusivity, that leads to the ability to solve problems in new and unpredictable ways.

As a teacher I have observed children approaching tasks in different ways which reveal different mindsets. Early on in my experience of teaching children to learn to code, I taught a class of boys a lesson about making a space invaders game. The lesson taught concepts about coding and computational thinking. The boys picked up the concepts fast, were highly competitive, designed efficient invader killing programs and were totally goal orientated. Soon after I had the opportunity to teach the same lesson to a group of girls. I was fascinated by the alternative way of working that they displayed. This group took twice as long to complete the task. However, they were collaborative, discussed different options, considered the design and colour scheme of the game and even considered the wellbeing of the aliens - providing ways for them to get food. They completed the task differently.

This got me thinking about the value of different approaches to problem solving. And also the very evident fact that there are less women working in technology than men. Women make up just 17%  of IT specialists in the UK. While the concept of computer science was invented by a woman, once it was turned into an academic subject to fit into an educational system designed largely around how boys learn, it lost it’s connection with the ‘poetic science’ displayed by Ada Lovelace’s mind. Ada Lovelace, an English mathematician working with Charles Babbage in around 1843, first developed the idea that computers had the capability to go beyond mere number-crunching.

The benefit of learning computational thinking, the core concepts behind developing code and algorithms, is that it gives students the tools to both think around problems and promotes the idea that there are many ways to solve a problem. Thinking computationally isn’t just about the questions you answer, but about the questions you ask. What I might call a male approach might be to set the question ‘What is 2x2?’ We can all do that - 4. But what if we ask the question, ‘How do you make 4?’ Immediately the mind expands and starts thinking of different angles. How about  8÷2, 1+1+1+1, 22, 60÷15, √16……there are so many ways. With different people working together - different genders, different heritages, different social backgrounds - the approaches are instantly diversified. And women tend to bring together a range of approaches rather than stick to a straightforward path.

In my own career I have an example where my approach, bringing together two different principles, led to a new and exciting solution. With my background in both computer science and architecture, I have developed the code to create a space planning app to improve office space usage. It was also the result of a great partnership with my husband, Bruce. By putting together two types of algorithms, a particle based system and a graphical based system, I was able to create algorithms to solve the space problems faster. Bruce, interestingly, says that’s something he would never have done and credits my ‘female mind’ as being able to think in a more lateral, pick’n’mix way. When it came to getting the algorithms patented however, he was the one to drive that process through and get it registered. Teamwork.

So how have we managed to put off so many girls going into computer science? Just 9% of female graduates in 2018 studied a core Stem subject - science, technology, engineering and maths. Some girls are keen on computing and I’m the last one to stereotype anyone into a particular role. I was both the president of the Computer Science club at high school - and the Cheerleaders. I love gaming. But I love other things too. I’m a Mom, and I like being in charge of how my home is, what the kids do and getting to know their teachers and the other school Moms. It’s my choice to take on that role in our marriage (as well as being CTO of our company). We just don’t make computer science sound that attractive to most girls. What’s the point? How does it relate to me? I read an Instagram post only yesterday from a woman who’d just got a house to herself after being brought up with three brothers - doesn’t this just paint a picture of what life can be like for some girls?

“There has always been noise, there has always been things everywhere that were the possessions of others, that weren’t for me, and I wasn’t to touch…amps, wires, guitars, drum kits, video games and televisions that I was never interested in but wasn’t ever allowed to use anyway - the year PlayStation came out was really shit, just saying.”

It’s not encouraging!

Things have to change. Everyone needs to get to understand technology better. The 98% of people who don’t want to be computer programmers have to have an elevated level of understanding of technology to be able to function in today’s and especially tomorrow’s world. An understanding of how computing works, what computational thinking is, how algorithms work - takes away the fear of technology. Technophobia is only overcome when you have a go, you discover it’s not so clever, it’s just about giving a machine a few instructions. And wow, those instructions can make a real difference.

By broadening the understanding of technology we can also help increase the numbers of women working in and understanding technology. When I spoke at a conference for International Women’s Day last year I was impressed by the recognition of the breadth of what ‘women in tech’ means. The marketing team was proud to stand up and say, “We are women in tech’. No, they aren’t labelled CTO but they do run the Facebook campaigns and understand the algorithms, they do run the website, they do analyse the data from all the technological interactions with customers.

How do we encourage girls into coding and STEM? By creating environments that welcome women. By appreciating that not everyone thinks the same and that there are many ways to peel an orange. By showing that they can tap into their creativity when learning computational thinking. That it can help their creativity. I set up my company, Cypher, to inspire children to learn the language of the future - code. From the outset, I wanted to make it as girl friendly as possible. The whole premise of Cypher is that we teach through creative themes - we want to catch a kid’s imagination and curiosity with subjects that mean something to them - whatever their gender. Our themes range from exploring marine ecology and conservation, to a virtual world tour meeting robots and building pyramids, to making magic, to fashion shows and composing music. And whatever the theme, we connect it to technology, learning to code and developing computational thinking. STEM by stealth if you like. The greater the range of children we can excite about coding now, the greater the diversity of thinking and problem solving that will be in the next generation of leaders, designers, thinkers - bringing new and surprising solutions to the problems we face in the future. As we say at Cypher, getting the next generation future ready.

Elizabeth Tweedale, CEO CypherAbout the author

Elizabeth Tweedale is a computer scientist, has a master’s degree in architecture, has written six books for children explaining different coding languages and is the Founder and CEO of Cypher – an edtech startup inspiring children aged 5 to 12+ to learn and apply the language of coding through creative and interactive camps and clubs. She’s also a mother of three young digital natives.

While working for Foster & Partners’ Specialist Modelling Group in 2013, she spotted the educational potential of coding. She explains: “My team used computer coding to design buildings, including the Apple Campus and the Gherkin. I saw many colleagues teaching themselves how to code and hitting stumbling blocks because they didn’t have a basic understanding of computational thinking and had never learned how easily code fits together.”

Her experience sparked a question. Shouldn’t we be teaching our young children how to code? And so she set up a company to do just that.


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Dr Samantha Saunders featured

Inspirational Woman: Dr Samantha Saunders | Research Associate, PETA

 Dr Samantha SaundersDr Samantha Saunders is a research associate with PETA.

She is a veterinary surgeon and has a doctorate in coronavirology.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I work as a research associate with PETA’s science team. Each year in UK laboratories, around 3.5 million animals are drugged, infected, mutilated, or abused in other ways in the name of science. All my training and experience to date – first as a veterinarian, then as a scientist in a coronavirus research laboratory – has shown me that tests on animal not only are cruel but also impede scientific progress. My job involves working with government officials, companies, and scientists to communicate the weaknesses of tests on animals and promote modern, robust non-animal approaches to replace them. PETA’s Research Modernisation Deal is our plan for ushering in a new era of science without animals.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I never planned my career, but I always knew I wanted to help animals. After volunteering in an animal shelter as a teenager, I decided to go to veterinary school to learn how to heal animals and keep them healthy. During veterinary school, I did a research project in a laboratory that opened my eyes to the possibility of helping many more animals by bringing about scientific breakthroughs, such as new treatments for diseases. This led me to my doctoral research, which involved studying a coronavirus that infects cats to help develop better vaccines and treatments against that virus. Even though my research used cells rather than live animals, I worked alongside people who experimented on mice and rats, and I became disturbed by the futility of their efforts. They were not only harming and killing these sensitive animals but also failing to generate any useful information. This led me to my current role, in which I help prevent more animals from being used in pointless experiments.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

I have been an ethical vegan for many years now, and some aspects of veterinary school were very challenging from an ethical point of view – for example, working in an abattoir and on animal farms. It was difficult to witness animals undergoing surgery without pain relief, being killed in full sight of their companions, and being confined to cages too small to allow them to turn around – all routine practices on UK farms. Sometimes, knowing that I could do more good as a qualified veterinarian was the only thing that kept me going.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

My PhD involved using molecular biology techniques to study a feline coronavirus. Some time after I had graduated and started working at PETA, the pandemic emerged, and I was called upon to go back to the coronavirus laboratory where I’d done my doctoral research to develop testing methods for the virus that causes COVID-19. I felt very proud to be able to use my skills to help tackle such a real and urgent problem.

Since joining PETA, one of the projects I’ve been most excited about being involved in is our work to end cosmetics tests on animals in the EU. Although tests on animals for cosmetics ingredients have been banned in the EU under the Cosmetics Regulation since 2013, such tests are still being done under the pretext of chemical safety testing. We’re working hard to stop this practice, because we recognise that the life of an animal is worth more than a tube of toothpaste or sunscreen.

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

I’ve always let what I’m interested in and passionate about dictate what I do. This hasn’t led me on the most straightforward career path, but I’ve enjoyed and learned a lot from every step of it.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

Find that sweet spot where what you’re passionate about and what you’re good at meet, and do whatever you can to make that your job. For me, that’s using my science expertise and communication skills to promote approaches to research and testing that benefit society and keep animals out of laboratories.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

As the famous phrase goes, “If you can’t see it, you can’t be it.” Women have historically been seriously underrepresented in STEM fields, and that is still reflected in the lack of women in senior management positions in some organisations. This was very much the case in veterinary practice and academia, in which most of the junior positions were filled by women and most of the senior positions by men. I am very grateful I now work in an organisation that was founded by a pioneering woman and is led by an amazing group of kick-ass women – there’s no shortage of inspirational role models at PETA!

What do you think companies can do to support and progress the careers of women working in technology?

Universities need to equip women with the skills necessary to thrive in STEM fields. For life sciences students, that means comprehensive training in animal-free approaches to research and testing. As in vitro (cell-based) and in silico (computer-based) methods are growing massively in popularity, this is the only way to future-proof students’ skills.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

For scientists interested in working in the exciting, rapidly expanding fields of in vitro and in silico research and testing, the PETA Science Consortium International e.V. website contains a wealth of information. The European Commission’s Joint Research Centre offers a summer school for students and early-career scientists eager to learn about non-animal approaches in science. And, of course, you can’t miss the European Congress on Alternatives to Animal Testing – the most exciting animal-free science event on the calendar!


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habits, Q2Q IT - tech support - SME advice

Embracing the culture of evolving technology

By Laura Baldwin, President at O’Reilly

habits, Q2Q IT - tech support - SME adviceAt the start of 2020, little did we know the disruption that would take place in the business world.

We’ve had to adopt strategies for employees to work remotely, support mission-critical business systems, and enable customers to continue to successfully conduct business. There’s a palpable need to adopt and build cultures that rapidly embrace technological change. And that will change everything.

We’ll see an evolution of business models due to this period in time. Organisations that have thrived through the pandemic may not be operating solely in a digital business model, but all successful businesses will have a strong digital culture in common. That future needs to be faced moving forward. Businesses need to start thinking about how to create and implement a long-term digital business model, and there are plenty of new tools to help make that possible.

Three to five years ago—and really up until the pandemic—tech companies were riding the wave of a growing market. The wave has broken, and now we need to adapt, adjust, and do more with less. The big winners will likely be startups and smaller companies that were born digitally enabled or companies unafraid to change and adapt to our new realities. The losers will try to return to the old ways and find themselves swiftly left behind in the new normal.

It all comes from the top

Instead of moving into the future in fear, leaders need to think about all of this as opportunity. In order to rapidly adopt new technologies that will enable future business success, leaders need to embrace, drive, and support change throughout the organisation. This requires three essential elements.

First, leaders need to evaluate technologies as they emerge to determine which solutions address their business model, needs, and challenges. Because of the pace of technological change, what may be impactful today could easily be replaced by something far better in a year. But don’t let your big-picture vision be undermined by the newest sparkly tool. See holistically and understand the results you’re truly seeking from a tech solution.

Second, leaders need to build teams that are nimble and flexible enough to adapt to rapid change and provide them with the tools to develop skills and learn new technologies as they come to market. Change is often scary for employees—they don’t want to find themselves left behind as technologies evolve. They need to be supported with opportunities to learn. They need to get hands-on experience and build new skills to stay relevant and create career paths through your business. Invest in your employees as part of your tech investment, and in turn they’ll enable your business. You’ll never regret it.

Third, it’s important to admit when something has failed and be unafraid to change course. Continuing to drive a strategy or technology implementation that isn’t working or having the expected business impact doesn’t make any sense. Employees can see it. And they’ll have more respect for leaders who admit that something isn’t working and can reset. O’Reilly is about to undertake a major software rearchitecture that requires the hands and minds of all our developers, taking them away from new feature development while they complete the work. It’s a bold and expensive step, but we’re not afraid to admit something isn’t working, change course, and make the corrections needed to help ensure long-term success. Our employees get it and support it.

Start by building the right foundations

It’s becoming increasingly clear that systems architecture, clean and readily accessible data, and the cloud are enabling technologies that organisations need to focus on. With these layers in place, businesses can more successfully add new technologies that enable productivity, enhance digital connectivity to customers, and provide effective support for remote employees. These technologies also pave the way for broader adoption of artificial intelligence, whether it's increasing productivity by augmenting employees in their day-to-day roles, predicting customer behaviours, or enabling new and engaging customer experiences.

When it comes to the cloud, cost reduction will be a big driver of adoption—and that impetus to lower cost is going to have a huge impact on innovation. Investing in a multi-cloud strategy may also help businesses against potential disruption in the market, and it’s an approach many should consider in the current competitive environment. New capabilities are being enabled in the cloud each day. Make sure as a leader you stay on top of what’s being made possible.

Some of the biggest innovations happen after times of crisis; it’s been proven time and time again. Right now, we’re undergoing a huge reset, and that presents an opportunity for any company with the capacity and drive to think ahead.

AI and cloud adoption are definitely growing at a strong rate—it’s an area in which O’Reilly has done a lot of research. Our recent AI Adoption in the Enterprise 2020 report found that the vast majority of organisations (85%) are evaluating AI or already using it in production, and more than half of these folks identify as “mature adopters.” For these innovators, their focus is on supervised learning for ML. On the cloud side, 25% of those we surveyed reported that their organisations were planning to move applications fully into the cloud in the next year, and 17% of those from organisations with more than 10,000 employees reported they’ve already made the move.

The new normal

This new normal has taken a lot of us by surprise. And we all know it’s impossible for any company to get it all right from the first go. But by focusing on leading through change, supporting employees, and placing the right bets, companies will have a greater chance at successfully navigating this period of disruption and setting their business up for future success.

About the author

Laura Baldwin began working with O’Reilly Media in October 2001. She became the company’s first President in March 2011 and is currently responsible for O’Reilly’s businesses worldwide. Prior to O’Reilly, she was a consultant to the publishing industry through BMR Associates, and managed several large consulting engagements across all genres of publishing and media.

She attributes much of her success to the all-girls high school she attended, where she was taught that leadership is available to anyone who demonstrates initiative and drive regardless of their gender. She brings that philosophy to O’Reilly, where she helped to create a diversity scholarship program and continues to advocate for an inclusive and open workforce.


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woman in tech working on a laptop, online

Career advice for women looking to get into finance/fintech

Article by Rossana Thomas, Vice President, Product Management, Enterprise Payments Platform, Fiserv

woman in tech working on a laptop, onlineIt is an exciting time to be in the financial technology space. Now more than ever, we are witnessing a distinctive move towards a digital society, and it’s my job to help financial institutions and their customers find and establish their unique space.

The financial technology world can seem a very male dominated environment in which to work. However, we’re seeing many more women work their way up in organisations, being active members of senior management teams and sitting on various boards across the industry. With a push for diversity at all angles, and a flurry of new and exciting technologies, now is the perfect time to join this industry.

Below, are some top tips from what I have learnt over my thirty-year career, and hopefully it helps and inspires other women to be part of the dynamic financial services industry.

Step outside of your comfort zone

To me, the biggest piece of advice I can share is, don’t be afraid to go outside of your comfort zone.  That is often where the opportunity is. When looking for job opportunities, do your own investigation and research. Look for internships. Find people in this space and don’t be afraid to ask for advice (LinkedIn is your friend). You don’t always need to look for jobs related to your degree. I graduated with a liberal arts degree in psychology and I found my calling in the financial services industry. Look for jobs and opportunities that pique your interest. It’s good to remember that you may be in this career for a while, so make sure it is something you are passionate about.

Transferrable skills set you apart

Even if you are an expert in technology, you should also develop the skills needed for other business functions. For example, you may be a coder by profession with a strategic and team management role, which will require on the job learning. If you want your career to grow, become an expert in your discipline and then learn transferable skills. Skills such as leadership, business acumen and presentation abilities are as important as your core skills and will help your movement within verticals and industries.

Find a mentor

Internships and mentoring are a huge part of this industry. There are several programmes set up to help support women. Make sure you’re continually cultivating genuine relationships and build a solid network of people and good mentors across disciplines to support and guide you. These will ultimately help you succeed. For me, a good mentor is critical for career progression and success.


If you are a job seeker or someone looking to boost their career, then WeAreTechWomen has thousands of free career-related articles. From interview tips, CV advice to training and working from home, you can find all our career advice articles here


Woman learning to code featured

Entering the tech industry as a woman: 5 pieces of advice

Jutta Horstmann, Chief Operating Officer at eyeo

woman learning to codeIt's no secret we still have a long way to go before we can truly say we live in a gender equal society.

Whether it is the gender pay-gap or a lack of women in leadership positions, there are still so many areas where women experience setbacks in their career or in daily life based on gender.

The technology industry is a clear example of where women are still the minority. In fact, a recent report revealed only 27% of female students say they would consider a career in technology, compared to 61% of males, and only 3% say it is their first choice.

I first noticed the huge gender divide in the tech sector when I started working as a system administrator and database developer back in the 90’s and got involved in the open source community. For me, it goes without saying more needs to be done to get women interested in tech, but probably now, in a global pandemic, more than ever. In light of this, I want to share 5 pieces of advice for women looking to start a career in tech.

Own the room

Don’t let anybody tell you that tech isn’t for you. It is one of the most creative and innovative spaces to work in - and very well paid I have to add. How could this not be your cup of tea?

There will be lots of voices telling you otherwise: Family, teachers, and even the way you find women depicted in the media. But this is just not the truth.

I graduated in Computer Sciences and I went through a dozen different roles in tech. Believe me: It is fun, and you can totally do it.

Network

So now you feel confident - great! But I know that there will be times when being a minority by gender in your area of work will be exhausting. This is when you will need a network of other females in tech. Use it to exchange knowledge in your field, and to share experiences. Don’t fear that this will be a group of gruntled moaners. Your network will support you by sharing success stories, best practices, and learnings from failure. For any tech area, there are related groups of interest for females in that field. Google is your friend.

Additionally, I highly recommend attending conferences and local meetups. And as I am sure you will have something interesting to share from your experiences, make sure to also speak at them!

Be patient

To be clear: When I advise to be patient, I definitely do not advise to tolerate either misogyny or sexism. You might face both. But often they come from a lack of education and understanding of male privileges and are easily reversed as soon as you explain to the person how their action affects you.

Patience and always assuming best intentions first before proven otherwise will help you to pick your battles, and not wear out.

Be yourself

As a minority by gender, it might seem useful to adapt to your male peers' behaviour and preferences. You expect to blend in, and to find more acceptance.

First, this rarely works out. Second, it hurts you if you try to be somebody you are not.

But most important, it is proven that diversity in a team leads to best results.

So being your best self-will highly benefit the product or service you are building.

If the environment you are working in is not yet as up-to-date to appreciate this - change the environment! If this means to speak up at your current place or to change your employer - be ensured that the industry is looking for tech talent and you will easily find one that wants exactly your true self (hint: we are hiring as well!).

Enjoy the ride!

I cannot stress enough how happy I am about having chosen a career in tech.

I was and still am able to have an impact on one of the most important aspects of everybody's everyday life.

In any of the tech areas I have worked in throughout my career, I found my work to be highly satisfying, and have also found my work environment and colleagues inspiring and kind.

Being a minority in any area always comes with some difficulties. But rest assured that the benefits always outweigh the negatives.


If you are a job seeker or someone looking to boost their career, then WeAreTechWomen has thousands of free career-related articles. From interview tips, CV advice to training and working from home, you can find all our career advice articles here


Embracing inclusive leadership - three key principles

Article by Agata Nowakowska, Area Vice President, Skillsoft

DiversityWith diverse companies more likely to win top talent, improve customer orientation and employee satisfaction, the benefits of building inclusive workplaces are endless.

But how do leaders embed inclusivity into their thinking and behaviour, and by extension, the thoughts, words and deeds of their organisation as a whole?

The challenges are significant, but leaders can set out their approach to embracing inclusive leadership by adopting three important principles: 1) leveraging power and privilege to enable inclusion, 2) becoming a thoughtful and effective ally for underrepresented groups and 3) embedding inclusive behaviours as a way of doing everyday business.

  • Understanding power and privilege is crucial to enabling inclusion

Put simply, power and privilege are the rights, benefits, and advantages exclusively granted to particular people. They manifest themselves in every workplace, and in a wider sense, are part of a much larger system that exists to protect the majority systems and power across society.

The challenge leaders often face in relation to power and privilege is that they are unaware of the role it plays in their thinking, behaviour and in the management processes they establish - both formally and in ‘unwritten ground rules’. Equally important can be the negative reaction of those with power and privilege to the personal impact of change, even in the pursuit of equality. It’s an issue perhaps best summed up by the widely used phrase: “when you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression”.

But acknowledging power and privilege are vital points on the journey to inclusive leadership, and getting there is about self-awareness, growth, and empowerment. It’s only when leaders recognise its existence and impact — in the many ways it manifests itself — can they leverage it to truly empower others who are underrepresented, and deconstruct embedded and divisive norms.

  • Allyship means taking positive action for underrepresented groups

Allyship is the practice of promoting social justice, inclusion, and human rights by members of an ‘ingroup’, to advance the interests of an oppressed or marginalised ‘outgroup’. Everyone has the ability to be an ally, as privilege is intersectional. For example, white women can be allies to people of colour, men can be allies to women, and cis people can be allies to members of the LGBTQI+ community.

Becoming an ally requires active, consistent, and determined commitment to a process of unlearning and reevaluating, during which a person in a position of privilege and power seeks to operate in solidarity with a marginalised group. In practice, allyship requires those with power and privilege to engage at the systemic level to redefine policy. They must speak up about issues of inequality even when they feel uncomfortable, and then use their privilege to benefit underrepresented groups. And leaders should acknowledge that even though they might find change uncomfortable, the discussion is not about them - it’s about the holistic development that is part and parcel of building workplace equality and inclusion.

  • Enabling everyday inclusion is a permanent commitment

As we have seen, mindset and attitude play a central role in the emergence of inclusive leadership. Inclusion should not be addressed as a special interest or a side project - it needs to be embedded into every phase of the employee lifecycle: from recruitment to retirement, including training, rewards, and recognition. Only then can it become a ‘given’ - an automatic and natural part of working culture and interpersonal behaviour.

Those in leadership roles must set the tone for building an enduring and respected inclusive culture, and must drive the conversation. They can enable meaningful, everyday change by allocating adequate budget, personnel, and resources to increase inclusion and belonging across the organisation. Sponsoring an employee resource group (ERG) or Inclusion Council to proactively assess systemic policies and practices are proven ways to support the wider process.

Inclusive leadership requires genuine commitment and an open-minded approach that welcomes change. Lacklustre attempts face the very real risk of being judged as virtue signalling, and could justifiably be called out as such from people within the organisation or beyond. Instead, leaders must always have their eyes on the benefits, because building an open, honest and fair organisational culture where opportunity and reward don’t discriminate isn’t just good for every stakeholder, it’s also good for business.

About the author

Agata Nowakowska, SkillsoftAgata Nowakowska is Area Vice President at Skillsoft, where she leads a team of field based, enterprise-sales Regional Vice Presidents for UK, Benelux and DACH regions.  Before embarking on her 17 year career at Skillsoft, Nowakowska held leadership roles at SmartForce and Tulip Computers.


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Sharon Harris featured

Inspirational Woman: Sharon Harris | Chief Marketing Officer, Jellyfish

Sharon HarrisSharon Harris is the Chief Marketing Officer at Jellyfish, a digital partner to some of the world’s leading brands including Uber, eBay, Disney, Spotify, Nestlé, Ford, Aviva and ASOS.

As Jellyfish continues to expand its global footprint, Sharon oversees international marketing strategy across 30 offices. In her role, a key focus area is positioning Jellyfish as a true global partner in digital transformation. Her extensive experience leading teams and pioneering advertising innovation will help to accelerate the company’s global expansion.

Sharon Harris has over 20 years of experience leading teams and making an impact within the digital tech space. Prior to joining Jellyfish, Sharon served as VP, Alliance Relationships at Deloitte where she managed both the Google Cloud Alliance and the Google Marketing Platform Alliance, which comprised over 4,000 practitioners across 40 countries. Prior to Deloitte, Sharon exceeded global mobile advertising business revenue targets, launching advertising on Microsoft Windows 8 including Ads-in-Apps. Sharon has also managed substantial projects for companies including T-Mobile, Reuters, Sirius Satellite Radio, IAC and Discovery Networks.

A passionate champion for diversity, equity and inclusion, Sharon is involved in several professional mentorship organisations and is a frequent speaker on the topics of representation in tech, inclusion and allyship. She served as chair of the advisory board for the Marcus Graham Project where she continues to promote diversity in the industry. She is the board chair for Seattle’s Be Bold Now annual International Women’s Day celebration, and is also the Vice Chair of IGNITE National, a nonpartisan organisation that encourages young women to actively engage in the political process.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I’m Sharon Harris, I’m the new – and the first - global CMO for Jellyfish. I’ve spent a little over 20 years in the martech and adtech space, helping to build brands, drive sales, and supporting companies on their journeys in digital transformation.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I wouldn’t say I ever sat down to plan it, but I have always had goals that I wanted to achieve. I knew I wanted to have impact in the marketplace, I wanted to do something that had purpose and meaning, and I always knew it was important to work with great people. But I never sat and thought, I want this job or that job. I believe every experience I’ve had in my 20+ year career has been valuable. I’ve learned great lessons and it’s brought me to this point in my journey.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

Yes, I’ve faced career challenges, which shouldn’t come as a surprise. Being a black woman working in technology, you’re one of the few, if ever any. So, the idea that you’re always this unicorn in the room has been challenging. Not for me to be who I am, but for me to be in those spaces and be heard, be seen and be respected. Everyone is on their own journey around diversity, inclusion and equity, and representation matters so much. It’s had its moments - sometimes teachable, sometimes painful, but always about how we keep pushing forward.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

My biggest achievement is that I can say I helped launch a product that touches over a billion consumers around the world. I was the global product marketer at Microsoft for Windows 8 and Windows 10. Microsoft is a household name, and I couldn’t think of a better achievement than something a billion people use - that’s pretty remarkable.

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

I always tell people I live by three fundamental rules: be curious, always say thank you, and follow up.

No matter what you do in life, those three things will serve you well. They will earn you respect and offer you new opportunities. Most importantly, they will help you do your best work.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

Yes, there are still barriers for women working in tech. How we overcome that is by starting earlier. When we look at the education of little girls, starting in primary school, girls are not encouraged to go into the STEM fields. Until we shift our societal norms and perceptions about what girls and women can do, it will be harder for women to be in tech. In order to have the representation and the numbers, we need to build a better bench going in. It’s a difficult culture. Until women can be in a tech driven environment and feel comfortable and be embraced and welcomed, it’s always going to be a struggle. People will opt out. So, we need to shift that culture earlier on, so girls are interested in science, and so that this carries through to secondary school and university – then it will be natural to see those women in meetings, conferences and tech spaces. We’ve got to start earlier.

What do you think companies can do to support and progress the careers of women working in technology?

One, be intentional. You have to have a plan and dedicated resources and support. This isn’t something you do as a hobby. Second, you have to develop programmes that allow for mentorship, sponsorship and allyship. Those are three different things. Women coming into these spaces need support, they need someone - a line manager - who can champion for them in rooms that they’re not in.

Sponsorship is someone who will go to bat for you when you’re not around and put you in a position to take on new challenging projects. When people think, ‘oh this person doesn’t have the right skills’, you need someone who can counter that – ‘no, we’re going to give this person a try’. Companies need to have the people who have the audacity to nominate women for those challenges and stick by them.

There is currently only 17% of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

I would upend the profile of who we hire. We have made tech so utterly complicated and difficult, and we’ve set the bar so high that even if someone has seven of the 10 qualifications, we won’t hire them because they don’t fit the profile. And we’ve forgotten that tech is constantly evolving and changing, and we need people who are willing to embrace change, learn skills, and who are adaptable.  Women often bring amazing skills to jobs that are often overlooked or undervalued but can lead to new innovative ideas that appeal to broader audiences.  That’s a shift in mindset about what success looks like and what an ideal candidate is.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

One of the events I love and look forward to is Grace Hopper – it’s an annual convention that brings together women in STEM from all over the world. It is such a supportive environment of women just starting out in STEM right up to women who’ve achieved the pinnacle of success in their space. Conferences have all carved out spaces for women in tech, but Grace Hopper is my number one because of its inspiring and empowering focus and support.


WeAreTechWomen has a back catalogue of thousands of Inspirational Woman interviews, including Professor Sue Black OBE, Debbie Forster MBE, Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE and many more. You can read about all our amazing women here


female data scientist, woman leading team

Women in tech: How to progress to the c-suite

female data scientist, woman leading teamAli Palmer, Partner and Head of the Consumer and Telecommunications Practice at Odgers Interim, offers 5 top tips for female tech leaders looking to secure a c-suite position 

In 2017, PwC published their Women in Tech report. It found only 5% of leadership positions in the UK technology industry were held by women – a statistic that is unlikely to have changed much in the past three years.

For female technology professionals in senior management positions, it can mean having no female peers to turn to for support, suffering from a lack of role models and reporting into all male leadership teams. In short, the woeful underrepresentation of fellow leaders means breaking into the c-suite will be an uphill battle.

It is however, far from being unachievable. With the right approach, c-suite positions can be attained. Here are 5 key practices that successful female technology leaders use to progress their careers:

1. Join professional networks

Building relationships with technology leaders and influencers is a key step in generating career opportunities and developing your own knowledge of what is a rapidly evolving industry. This could be anything from a technology forum to a CIO network. It’s a simple move that will not only build your profile within the industry but will also lead to you becoming recognised within your own organisation as someone who works at bringing external relationships into the business. Make the effort to maintain this network and continuously make a note of who you do and do not know; your next opportunity could be one conversation away.

2. Break into workplace networks

As a senior manager in the technology industry, you’ll be working alongside, and managing, some highly technical individuals. If you’re a non-technical manager, then you’ll need to bridge the technical/non-technical divide that can often exist between management and the front-line. It’s a lesson in resilience made that much more difficult by the gender divide you’re likely to come up against. However, in overcoming this obstacle you will be able to break into the informal groups around the business and get key individuals on your side. This is an important step; securing the respect of the right people will make your transition to the top that much easier.

3. Work with a mentor

A mentor or executive coach is a guiding hand; there to steer you in the right direction and help you progress to the next stage of your career. Their position affords them an objective and more accurate perception of the colleagues and contacts around you; a perception they will share with you. It means they can connect you with the right people and point out colleagues you need to build relationships with, who you shouldn’t build relationships with and who you might need to manage differently. If you’re struggling to find your voice or contribute in senior management meetings, then a mentor that works in the same company can be a critical boost of confidence. They will also have their own networks and personal contacts and as a result will open doors to other opportunities.

4. Become a female role model

If you’re a senior female figure in a technology company then it’s likely you’ll quickly become a role model for other women in the organisation, and possibly the wider industry. This should be embraced; by supporting your female colleagues you will build your own relationships and gain a better understanding of the business you’re working in. Whenever you meet someone new, you should be thinking, “who do I know that it would be good for you to know?” Helping others build connections in this way is one of the best methods of building your own network as people tend to remember those who have created an opportunity for them. What’s more, when it comes to the technology industry there can often be an environment of isolation for female employees which only increases at the senior leadership level. Many successful female leaders have overcome this by championing women in the workplace, leading female leadership programmes and creating female only career groups.

5. Have a voice at the table

Senior management meetings are where you want to be recognised by your peers for the quality of your ideas and your vision for the company. However, you might be one of the only women in the room, putting you at risk of being outspoken by your male counterparts. It’s a challenge that can be overcome with preparation, ensuring you come armed with an opinion for at least one of the points on the agenda and that you’ve done enough prior research to offer an intelligent contribution. You should also cultivate your allies carefully; build a relationship with a fellow senior manager who you know will ask for your opinion or provide support for an idea you have.

In an industry dominated by men, career progression for women is a journey littered with hurdles. However, by adopting these practices, the transition to the c-suite can be made that much more possible. Yet the future of women in technology depends on more than just individuals; it requires an industry-wide effort to address the gender imbalance by encouraging more women to work in technology, championing women in the workplace and supporting more females to take on senior leadership roles.

Ali PalmerAbout the author

Ali Palmer is a Partner and Head of the Consumer and Telecommunications Practice at Odgers Interim – the UK’s largest interim executive headhunting firm. Ali works with tech industry giants including Avanade, Smiths Detection, Colt Technology Services and Nominet UK to place senior leaders across the c-suite and senior management levels.

Ali previously worked in retail banking, specialising in fund and risk management. Prior to joining Odgers Interim, she was a Vice President of a large European Investment Bank. Ali is just as successful outside of the working environment, being the Chairman of her school’s Old Girls’ Society and has recently been appointed as a School Governor at St. Paul’s Boys School.


Hire STEM Women featured

Network Spotlight: Hire STEM Women

Hire STEM Women logo

Tell us a bit about your network

Hire STEM Women (HSW) was founded by Tehreem Sheikh in November 2015 after realising a gap in the market for more female tech talent.  I especially found that firms did not have the time to give comprehensive feedback to students on where they were going wrong in the recruitment process, which is a crucial if you want to develop further in your career.

The challenges of a busy schedule coupled with lack of awareness & no network available for women in STEM at university level it was difficult for young women who wanted to progress in a technology career.

When you’re young you do not know what you want to do with your career and need direction. We have a network of 60,000+ STEM females (growing rapidly).  The team has a strong STEM background who partners with corporates such as Vodafone, Goldman Sachs, Microsoft and several other large corporates.

What is your network’s prime objective?

Our prime objective is to help the STEM industry obtain a gender diversity balance but also retain the balance to ensure we are challenging mindsets, breaking barriers and building a diverse workforce globally.

How is your network helping women to progress in the workplace?

We provide 1-1 bespoke coaching to females in the STEM industry. We have specialist skilled teams who work with corporate partners and start-ups to identify diversity needs. We provide undergraduate, graduate & professionals with STEM opportunities and support them on securing internships, placements, graduate schemes and roles with various leading industry partner firms.

Thousands of HIRE STEM Women job seekers have attended events or have been given the confidence to pursue a career within STEM with Hire STEM Women since January 2016, across the UK. We also have a strong training platform where we train individuals in specialist STEM areas.

Tell us about your events?

We host a number of events throughout the year these range from providing women with specialist STEM skills such as coding skills equipping and preparing the future female tech leader, we also coach women to become future leaders which is equally important.

Pre-Covid we were doing over 60+ events throughout the year but with the digital era we have shifted our focus virtually.

What should we expect if we join?

Immense amount of support and training equipping you to progress the corporate ladder in STEM fields. Our platform allows you to speak to a “STEM hero” who are our professional work coaches confidentially allowing you to openly discuss your career concerns and allowing to exchange ideas and obtain support. We are your friends as oppose to recruiters.

How do our members join your network, is there a fee?

Members join our network by registering as a candidate on www.hirestemwomen.co.uk, there is no fee associated for a candidate, if an employer wishes to be a corporate partner they can get in touch with us at [email protected]

What advice would you give to anyone who is joining a network for the first time?

Be pro-active and keep in touch with your “STEM hero” keep them updated about your situation and follow the guidance the team give you as this will help you in your career in STEM. The network is a safe place to be open and honest about your concerns. The below is to give you a brief insight on how we have supported people

“My name is Samantha Smith and I have secured a job at Capgemini as an SAP Functional Specialist. I have to thank HireStem Women for their efforts for helping me through the process of securing this job – especially my coach Mary. I first received a call-in which Mary clarified the role I applied to and wanted to understand my business background and why I had a passion for a STEM career.

The first stage Mary coached me on how to write the perfect responses to the questions asked by Capgemini; we went back and forth on a few drafts until we were both happy with it and submitted. From this I got invited to a Digital Interview; in which Mary then provided me with a few questions I should practice on – and if I wanted – I could send her a video of myself answering so she could assess my body language and eye contact. This was extremely useful as I was unaware how important body language can be during interviews and the prompted questions really helped me understand what to expect. From this I passed to the next phase which was psychometrics – and this was a stage I was extremely nervous about. Mary helped reassured me and provided me with the right tools to prepare such as mock psychometrics.

I succeeded at attended the Virtual Assessment Centre and before this Mary assured me and provided me with a briefing on what would happen and what to expect. She also gave me a choice whether I would want to send her a video of me presenting to help me get comfortable with some of the tasks within the VAC.

Mary was extremely effective and efficient. During the waiting process of getting the final answer, she was reassuring and comforting, and she truly became a mentor and a friend. She was honest with her feedback and assured me that she wanted to see me progress whilst also keeping me motivated. HireStem Women have really helped me throughout this process – especially when my morale was quite low because of the difficulties that came with Covid-19 and the job market. But nonetheless they were positive, reassuring, inspiring and amazing at empowering woman to go get their careers. “

Any top tips for new networkers? Why is building your network important?

Networking is crucial it allows you to share ideas and concerns with a group of like-minded people. According to Forbes it makes you more noticeable, provides you with an avenue of newer opportunities which will open new possibilities, it gives you a chance to re-assess your qualifications and improve creative intellect. Having a support network from high profile individuals can help you challenge effectively and provide the right financial support if needed, you will grow in self-confidence and most importantly develop long-lasting relationships to help you build your career.

Finally, what’s next for your network?

We continue to expand and will be expanding in the European & APAC market.


WeAreTechWomen covers the latest female centric news stories from around the world, focusing on women in technology, careers and current affairs. You can find all the latest gender news here