Victoria McKay

Victoria McKay appointed CEO of #techmums to reach more digitally excluded mums in post COVID-19 age

Victoria McKayVictoria McKay has been appointed CEO of #techmums to help reach more digitally excluded mums in post COVID-19 age.

Victoria McKay founded and ran the Women's Jewellery Network, a global community of women in the jewellery industry. She was also Chief Operating Officer of the highly respected, London Diamond Bourse.  Victoria also serves as Clerk to The Worshipful Company of Lightmongers.

Victoria succeeds Lauren Allison, who served as CEO of #techmums since 2019. Lauren successfully transformed #techmums into the organisation it is today, launching popular national clubs and launching a new online offer.

Speaking about her appointment, Victoria said, "Ensuring mums have great digital skills is the best way to tackle poverty, reduce inequality and build a fairer and more inclusive society."

"My own professional success started with someone giving me a computer, dial up and an opportunity."

"Digital literacy is vital to communities and my aim is to scale our ability to make a difference to reduce the digital skills gap."

"We need to ignite the potential in even more mums, who in turn can then become tech role models for their children."

"We need to invest more, so that mums are better represented in the tech sector."

"I look forward to advocating for that."

#techmums was created by Professor Sue Black OBE in 2012 as a direct response to the noticeable lack of  female representation in the Technology Industry, which still only sits at around 17% in 2019.

#techmums works with partners to train mothers in key areas including social media, The Cloud, staying safe online, right through to the basics of app design, web design, and coding.

Black said, "We recruited Victoria not only for her professional expertise in growing an organisation, whilst being a champion for female inclusion but also, because she identifies with those we seek to help."

"At 20, having had a disadvantaged upbringing  she was single with a baby, living in poor temporary accommodation."

"She’s now risen to become an established business leader."

"Learning tech skills helped her do that. We are delighted to have recruited someone who understands challenge and transformative opportunity.”

Kate Platonova, #techmums Chair and herself a #techmum added, "Victoria brings considerable experience and shares the vision of the #techmums board."

"This year, we have revitalised our board with two new additions including me and we have spent the summer working with Victoria to define our future growth strategy."

"We all very much look forward to working with her to deliver support to #techmums in raising awareness of the need for greater digital inclusion, particularly for people from hard to reach communities."


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.

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woman working on laptop featured

Kickstart your career in tech from the comfort of your own home

Article by Shan Beerstecher, Club Executive at AND Digital

We’ve all seen the stats. Despite a decade-long push to try and encourage women into tech roles, females still only represent around 19% of the digital workforce. It’s time to make a change. 

As the events of Covid-19 encourage us to chase new talents and pick up new skills, we now have a unique opportunity to kickstart a career in tech. And thanks to the shift to digital, this can all be done from the comfort of our own home. Here are a few of my tips.

Expand your network

It really is true that empowered women, empower women. Joining online forums and attending virtual meetups is a great way to meet people with a mutual interest in learning about tech, to trade tips and boost confidence in those early stages. This is also a great way to build your network within the industry. You don’t know which new connection might be working in the company of your dreams, have the intel on the next big hiring spree or be able to guide you into your ideal role.

It’s also very important to remain inspired while pursuing your new career in tech. Find motivating female role models on LinkedIn or listen to their Ted Talks. If you come across someone that really strikes a chord with you; follow them, listen to them, and if you can, connect with them.

Sign up for online courses

The most obvious way to test the water of your tech career – just give it a try. There are a lot of great online courses out there, many of which are free to encourage interest in the sector. When you can give coding a go without parting with your pennies (or leaving your sofa), there really is nothing to lose.

For example, Code First Girls (CFG), an online community dedicated to empowering women in tech, has created a range of great free courses to develop your skills in the programming world. Its eight-week Coding Kickstarter course will launch on September 7th, offering an introduction to frontend development, JavaScript, and equipping you with all of the skills you need to try building your own website from scratch. The fantastic team at CFG have worked hard to create courses that cater to different interests in tech, so if Coding Kickstarter isn’t quite what you are looking for, you can browse the rest of their sessions here.

Focus on your soft skills

One of the biggest myths I encounter in the industry is that you need a tech degree to work in tech. It just isn’t the case. I’m not technical and my tech career has spanned nine years. On top of there being an abundance of non-technical roles within the digital industry, from owning and understanding products, to driving delivery, designing, and leading teams; soft skills can be a lot more important than what you have written down on paper. What you need is a passion for what technology can give you, your community, our society and a willingness to learn.

Can you collaborate effectively within a team? Are you a great listener? If you can showcase soft skills such as empathy, respect and creativity, you’re already halfway there in securing your new tech role. Remember, technical skills can always be learnt.

A great way to showcase soft skills is through your own pet projects – side hustles if you will. Taking time out of your personal schedule to pursue a new hobby shows genuine interest in the topic, an ability to prioritise your time, and most importantly, spotlights your personality. Another popular myth to bust is that we are not all robots working in tech. We all have interests outside of work, and this is the side of you your new employer wants to see.

This is something we are big on at AND Digital. Even our job descriptions are double-barrelled. For instance, while my official role is Club Executive AND Proudly South African – a testament to my home country and obsession with Nelson Mandela leadership styles - my team consists of fitness fanatics, amateur bakers and body poppers, to name just a few! It adds a personal touch to our email signatures but also makes for a great conversation starter - who really enjoys small talk anyway?

Have confidence

Pursuing a career in tech is not as daunting as it may seem. I’ve actually found it to be one of the most inclusive and supportive fields I have had the pleasure of working in. Digital is virtually limitless, attracts some of the best minds of our generation and is guaranteed to continue going from strength to strength in coming years. Tech is booming across the world, but there will always be the need for a strong digital workforce to drive it forward. Why shouldn’t you be one of them?

If we continue taking steps to support each other, make use of online resources and accentuate the brilliant qualities of our ‘non-work’ selves, I’m confident we can overcome gender misrepresentation in digital and encourage many more women into tech.

Shan BeerstecherAbout the author

Shan is an innovative and collaborative digital leader with experience across diverse industries and geographies. Bringing a balance of business, people/culture, digital and agile delivery into all of her work, Shan has led digital transformation projects for a number of large financial services organisations and created value for global brands such as Johnnie Walker, Smirnoff and Guinness.


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


Nina Ma

TechWomen100: What happened next for Nina Ma

Nina Ma

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

Now in their fourth 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 Nina Ma, who won a TechWomen100 Award in 2019.

Nina is a Technology, Data & Analytics (TDA) Senior Associate at PwC based in Birmingham. She specialises in PMO for digital transformation programmes and is trained in advanced analytics. She is very active in the space of Diversity & Inclusion and is a Midlands' People Network Coordinator. She is passionate about gender equality in the workplace, especially in the technology sector. She sits on the committee of the Gender Balance Network (GBN) and is a core member of Women in TDA.

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

I submitted my self-nomination without much expectation as I thought I would be too junior and inexperienced for the award so I was shocked when I found out I was shortlisted as the 10 other amazing finalists from PwC were all much more senior than me. Winning the award was an absolute honour. I was over the moon as I did not expect to get that far, and it really encouraged me to trust in my capability and empowered me to make more contributions to the Women in Tech community.

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

I shared my winning in our internal Currents communities as well as external social media platforms such as LinkedIn where I received overwhelming praises from colleagues and became somewhat well-known in my business unit because of this. Everyone was congratulating me on my achievement which has given me a lot of motivation and confidence. I had the chance to share my experience at the PwC National Tech Risk (now Technology, Data & Analytics) meeting last year in front of more than 500 staff and partners. I was featured on the monthly GBN newsletter to share my journey of winning the award. I was promoted from Associate to Senior Associate in July this year and since then I've been shortlisted for Digital Technology Leader Awards as Digital Hero of the Year which the winner will be announced next month. I'm also featured on HERoes Women Future Leaders Role Model List 2020.  I have shared my career journey at several conferences including Generation Success City Careers Week as part of the Technology panel and Diverse Technology LIVE to speak about working as a woman in tech as well as social mobility events such as Aspire, Sutton Trust Hearing Experience and Insight Virtual Session, and Females of the Future, etc. I am also featured as part of the Work It campaign by the Careers & Enterprise Company to have career conversations with young people.

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

My biggest advice would be to never be afraid to put yourself forward. To be honest, I was hesitant at first to self-nominate because part of me felt like it would be immodest or overbearing to do so but then I recalled what I learned from the #IAmRemarkable workshop by Google - there is nothing wrong with self-promotion. If anything, women and other disadvantaged groups should do it more so that our voices are heard, and our achievements are celebrated. Nobody knows all the work you've done better than you do so definitely get yourself recognised!

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

My biggest tip would be to go for opportunities even if you don't necessarily think you are qualified enough because if you don't ask, you don't get. I would also encourage everyone to get involved in "extracurricular activities" outside your day-to-day job to support those around you and pave ways for the next generation. Whether it's employee resource groups at work or community groups outside of work, I believe it is so important to give back and pay it forward using these platforms.


The 2020 TechWomen100 Awards shortlist will be announced on 26 October 2020. Our awards focus solely on women working in tech below director level. We hope that by highlighting the accolades of up-and-coming inspirational female tech talent, we can help to create a new generation of female role models for the industry, and a pipeline of future leaders.


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


female data scientist, woman leading team

Good data science requires diverse data scientists

Article by Justine O’Neill, director, Analytic Partners

female data scientist, woman leading teamAsk someone to picture a data scientist and what do you think they are most likely to conjure in their minds?

Somewhat depressingly, I’d hazard a guess that they would imagine a man, and quite possibly a ‘geeky’ man. In some ways they wouldn’t be wrong – most data scientists are men.

According to the Boston Consulting Group’s (BCG) research carried out earlier this year, only 15% – 22% of data scientists are women. It doesn’t have to be this way, but it will take concerted effort on many people’s part to change it. About 55% of university graduates are women, but from that point onwards the funnel narrows. Only about 35% of STEM degrees are held by women and that drops in the workplace with around 25% STEM jobs being done by women.

So, how to unpick this challenge? Firstly, there is a distinct image problem for data science, algorithms and artificial intelligence (AI) in general. There has been plenty of hype around AI and how it will quickly answer so many of society’s problems and automate mundane and labour-intensive roles – but the media is also full of stories about its limitations and the problems that have arisen when too much weight is placed on algorithms at the expense of human insight.

Most recently we’ve had Ofqual’s disastrous algorithm for A level and GCSE exam results which tipped schools and universities into chaos and was met with derision from teachers and students alike before the government was forced to ditch it entirely. Oh, the irony as we try to make a case for improving data science’s image and appeal among this cohort of students.

But the other challenge centres on data science’s lack of appeal for women specifically. This seems to be partly because when assessing career options, female STEM students are looking for applied, impact-driven work – they want their jobs to have a tangible effect and don’t see data science as fulfilling that.

There is clearly a job to be done among all businesses looking to hire graduates to explain more clearly how data science solves business problems – to promote its demonstrable attributes. Everyone working in the industry should share their inspiring stories about the rigours and rewards that come from their jobs. Students want to hear specifics and get to grips with what the day-to-day expectations and experiences of this job would be – show why it’s not just the domain of the nerds.

Diversity in our sector is imperative. As the author Margaret Heffernan says, “algorithms are opinions encoded in numbers” – we need the broadest range of voices building and working on those algorithms to be alert to the bias that can be built into the data sets used to create them. If your team has genuine breadth of thought and experience, then it is more likely to identify biases and produce more accurate and balanced results.

The business case could not be clearer – ensuring a company has diverse teams is not just because gender balance is a ‘good to have’, it’s essential for strategy and success. It is why men should be championing diversity with the same enthusiasm as women.

No one says this is easy. It may require a root and branch rethink of how your organisation fills its roles. I suspect many people involved in hiring data scientists will bemoan the disproportionate number of men applying to women for every role. But even from this starting position, businesses can successfully achieve a better balance in their workforce.

Everyone needs to look at the wording of their job ads, the tone of voice used and where they are placing their adverts. If you use recruiters have you explicitly requested more diverse longlists of candidates? Look at who internally is involved in the interviewing; changes can be made at all points to help nudge toward a more balanced workforce.

I work for a global analytics consultancy where three of our senior team are women, starting with our president and CEO. This is not the case for many of our competitors, but it does show how diversity can be possible.

A shift is taking place – clients want to work with more diverse agency teams, conferences want better balanced panels and speakers, younger candidates want to be in organisations that better reflect the world outside of work. The business and moral argument are aligning, and everyone needs to get on board.


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


She Talks Tech Podcast - Martha Lane Fox in conversation with Jacqueline de Rojas

Listen to our latest She Talks Tech podcast episode - Martha Lane Fox in conversation with Jacqueline de Rojas

She Talks Tech Podcast - Martha Lane Fox in conversation with Jacqueline de Rojas

Today we hear from British businesswoman and co-founder of dotcom boom company ‘Last Minute’, Baroness Martha Lane Fox CBE.

She serves on the board of Twitter and Chanel and is Chancellor of the Open University and Chair of WeTransfer.

She’ll be in conversation with Jacqueline de Rojas CBE – the president of TechUK and chair of the board of Digital Leaders.

They will share their experience from the dot com era and discuss their last 25 years in tech – and what we can learn from those years now in light of the problems of 2020.

If you want to find out more about Martha Lane Fox – you can connect with her on twitter at @MarthaLaneFox, and if you’d like to connect with Jacqueline de Rojas, you can find out more about her on twitter @JdR_tech or on LinkedIn.

LISTEN HERE


‘She Talks Tech’ brings you stories, lessons and tips from some of the most inspirational women (and men!) in tech.

From robotics and drones, to fintech, neurodiversity and coronavirus apps; these incredible speakers are opening up to give us the latest information on tech in 2020.

Vanessa Valleley OBE, founder of WeAreTheCity and WeAreTechWomen brings you this latest resource to help you rise to the top of the tech industry. Women in tech make up just 17 per cent of the industry in the UK and we want to inspire that to change.

WeAreTechWomen are delighted to bring this very inspiring first series to wherever you normally listen to podcasts – and the first three episodes are now live!

So subscribe, rate the podcast and give it a 5-star review – and keep listening every Wednesday morning for a new episode of ‘She Talks Tech’.

Produced by Pineapple Audio Production.


Interested in a Career in Cybersecurity? Here’s How to Make a Meaningful Impact

Article by Meera Rao, Senior Director of Product Management, Synopsys Software Integrity Group

cyber securityI was a software developer and continuous integration practitioner for over 20 years before I accidentally was thrown into the security field.

When I initially joined this field, I had no clue about anything related to security, and was quite nervous when talking to my own colleagues let alone speaking to clients or at conferences, as I do now. Being able to speak intelligently about the field and sharing my knowledge at conferences helped me a lot in my career in the security field. Having a solid understanding of software development, end to end knowledge of the software development life cycle, and a deep understanding of software architectures was instrumental to my success in the security field.

From data breaches, to open source security issues, IoT devices vulnerable to cyber-attacks, and unsecured servers, we have seen it all and continue observing these security issues pop up almost every day. So, how can you be part of an industry which has a severe talent deficit, make a positive impact, grow your career, and be well compensated?

In all honesty, having advanced degrees in information security is not necessary to be a leader in this industry, and I am the prime example of this fact. Let me walk you through the job requirements for some of the latest AppSec focus areas, and offer some guidance around how to contribute and be part of the latest trends in the industry:

Cloud Security Practitioner: Cloud is the talk of the town these days. Every organization (big or small) wants to move to cloud. To work as a cloud security practitioner, you need to have experience in building, communicating, and managing cloud environments. You also need to have managed migration to the cloud, delivered a cloud native project, led and/or delivered cloud automation, and have a working knowledge of Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud platforms. Knowledge of RedHat / OpenStack would also be highly valuable.

DevSecOps Engineer: Who hasn’t heard of these industry buzz words: DevOps, DevSecOps, SecDevOps? If you are interested in being part of a great DevSecOps team as a DevSecOps engineer, then you should gain experience in containerization technology—preferably Docker and Kubernetes, have written enterprise Java applications using the JEE technology stack, have deep knowledge of build automation using tools like Jenkins, Bamboo, release automation (e.g., Jenkins, Puppet, etc.) and experience using scripting languages (e.g., Ruby, Python, etc.).

Security Champion: Security Champions are software developers. They allow for application security development and architecture to provide the first level of defense when it comes to providing application security guidance to development teams. If you are part of a development team, have good communication skills, and are curious to know more about security, you can be a security champion candidate.

The following roles require that you have a solid understanding of application architectures, frameworks, threat landscape, and some security background.

Threat Modeling SME: Threat modeling identifies the types of threat agents that cause harm and adopts the perspective of malicious hackers to see how much damage can be done to a system. Threat modeling subject matter expertise would require you to review the system’s major software components, security controls, assets, and trust boundaries, and then model those threats against existing countermeasures. You would then need to evaluate the potential outcomes.

Threat modeling requires an experienced security architect with knowledge in three fundamental areas: architecture and design patterns, enterprise application technologies, and security controls and best practices. Performing threat modeling is a difficult and an expensive undertaking for most organizations. Finding skilled resources is oftentimes a challenge.

Security Consultant: Do you like traveling (a requirement under traditional circumstances)? How about working within different industry verticals such as multinational media corporations, healthcare companies, financial institutions, pharmaceutical companies, and so on? Do you like the idea of parachuting in wherever software insecurity invades and work to stomp out bugs and flaws wherever they hide? Then you would enjoy life as a security consultant. In this role you will be able to perform source code analysis, software penetration testing, secure software design and architecture, and will become an indispensable advisor to customers.

I want to leave you with a final word. What I’ve shared with you today presents a teaser of all the exciting career options you can have in the AppSec industry. However, the key to being successful is constantly learning about new attacks, threats, and above all, helping customers exterminate bugs and untangle the flaws that make their systems insecure.


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


desk-with-laptop-promoted-promotion-featured

AI isn’t biased, society is

desk-with-laptopNatalie Cramp, CEO of data science company Profusion discusses how bias found in AI-driven initiatives is a symptom of larger problems.

Over the last few years we’ve heard many stories of AI-driven systems being inherently discriminatory. From Amazon’s sexist recruitment algorithms to Nazi-sympathising chatbots, there is growing evidence that all is not quite right within the world of AI. The recent BLM protests have placed renewed focus on issues of diversity and inclusion. This has naturally led to fears that, unless something is done, there could be a wave of AI tech that perpetuates inequality. However, identifying the issue is a far cry from solving or even understanding the problem. The reality is that tackling bias in AI is a much more complex and difficult challenge than most people realise.

The first thing to understand is AI - or more accurately, machine learning algorithms - is not a sentient being. We are many decades away from that level of AI. What is currently used is essentially a series of algorithms, designed by data scientists, that analyze datasets and ‘learns’ as it goes to become more accurate. The outputs from AI are a reflection of the data it ingests. Therefore, if the data itself is biased then so too is the AI.

So how do we make the data less biased? Sadly, there is no quick fix. Data will always have some form of bias. Even if you were to erase potentially morally objectionable variables from a dataset such as gender and race so that an AI algorithm cannot use them as predictors, there are likely to be other variables in the data that correlate with these factors. The algorithm will then make predictions based on these data points and end up producing answers that are influenced by factors that people may find deeply uncomfortable.

This is not to say that AI is in any way a lost cause. We just need to think of the problem in both the short and long term. We can start by recognising that AI is at the start of its journey and approach the results with a degree of scepticism. Just because it was produced by fancy algorithms does not mean it should override human judgement. Knowing that the way an AI behaves could be discriminatory will enable those that action its outputs to tread with caution.

In some cases we can also lessen the chance of sampling bias. Often, organisations rely solely on their own customer data to fuel their algorithms. The data collected is naturally limited to a representation of that organisation’s customer base. In certain circumstances this sampling bias can lead to groups of people being misrepresented and subsequent analysis - including the outputs of an AI algorithm - becoming discriminatory. By supplementing data with information collected from more diverse sources at a much wider level, a more representative sample of the population at large can be gathered and, as a result, the chance of bias outputs can be reduced.

Next, we can look at the people who create the algorithms that underpin AI tools. As is the case in most parts of the tech sector, data science is dominated by white men. Through no fault of their own, they can inadvertently design tools or create models that are inherently discriminatory. This is simply down to a lack of different perspectives and experiences. By diversifying data teams we can bring in more views that will help to identify applications of AI that could be problematic before they leave the drawing board.

Of course, both these approaches will only help us go so far in eradicating biased AI. Long term, AI will only be free from these problems if society itself is less discriminatory. AI is, after all, a reflection of the data and the data is a representation of society. We cannot have ‘moral’ AI until society itself is fair and just.


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

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Authentic communication in a new world

Telecoms, TelecommunicationsIt’s safe to say that 2020 hasn’t been a walk in the park, except of course for the brief moment when that’s all we were allowed to do.

Lockdown was difficult for all of us, and unfortunately, the effects and changing guidelines remain as 2021 draws closer.

We’ve been subject to change like never before – from the way we work to the way we live – and perhaps the most impactful change we’ve all experienced has been the way we communicate. Video calls, previously reserved for the boardroom, are how we speak to colleagues, clients and family in place of being in their presence. Getting answers to those quick questions is a slack message away, and who doesn’t feel like they’re one quiz away from being a potential mastermind winner?

However, communication, particularly in the tech sector, has become even more significant and an increasingly important aspect of day-to-day business life. Tech is one of the few industries which, dare we say it, has been successful over the last six months. In fact, the entire globe is backing one of the most extensive digital transformation efforts ever seen, and whilst it hasn’t been smooth sailing, it’s certainly been rapid. Pre-COVID big tech was at a crossroads - there was an enormous debate on the role technology organisations should be allowed to play in the running of society. At the heart of this debate was the notion of transparency and trust.

These two aspects are transactional - in exchange for being transparent, customers will trust you and the last few months have been sink or swim. When correctly implemented, business transparency is an excellent way of nurturing and cultivating loyalty and trust in your clients and customers. An essential component of transparent communications lies in empathy. Knowing what your customer wants is the foundation of a good business model but being able to supply this while empathising with how they’re feeling will set you apart from the rest. From the major disruptions caused by the pandemic, to the everyday frustrations of woeful WiFi and burnout, it’s crucial to know that your audience is likely to be feeling fraught. Communicating transparently will help cut through the murk and leave people feeling relieved and perhaps grateful.

Take Zoom as a prime example of a business holding their hands up and saying they got it wrong. Primarily used as a video conferencing tool, suddenly the product was being used by millions of people to connect with loved ones. Zoom admirably scaled up to offer a service that could help join us during isolation. But with all great technological leaps, come hackers. It wasn’t long before headlines were detailing the rate in zoom bombs. Potentially harmless if you’re on a call with your grandma, but potentially dire if you were on a ‘private’ business call. Rather than get defensive, Zoom released one of the most impressive pieces of communications I have ever seen. It was a detailed FAQ outlining what had happened, where it went wrong and what it was doing to improve things. By owning the fact that its product wasn’t faultless and positioning it in the right way users were able to rest easy, and able trust that Zoom ultimately had their back.

When attempting to release a statement or update, it’s clear when a business is pandering to what they think clients want to hear. At best, this can be a bit of a turn-off, but at worst, it’s a reputational crisis – neither outcome is desirable, and both can be detrimental. After all, when something is transparent, it’s easier to see the red flag. Businesses must make sure everything they externally communicate with customers and clients is what they’re communicating internally. Ultimately, this impacts the trust of both your employees and customers both of which make a business.

It's key to remember that just because you’re an expert in tech doesn’t mean you’re an expert in communicating tech. Even Jeff Bezos struggled to communicate via Webex during the senate hearings. If he can struggle to articulate, so can you, so lean on your communications experts and seek their expertise.

While it can seem like a minefield at times, maintaining strong communications is essential. My top three suggestions to maintain and uphold transparency in how you communicate with clients, customers, and employees are three-fold. Be honest and stick to the facts, be clear and concise, so people aren’t weighed down in jargon, and be considerate; you should avoid knee jerk responses and take the time to think through what you need to say and how best to deliver it.

Lucy BaileyAbout the author

Leading the tech practice for the UK at KWT Global, Lucy Bailey is an experienced industry communicator has worked with a number of enterprise technology businesses to navigate innovative and integrated comms strategies. With clients specialising in everything from AI, to CPaaS and from Cloud to RPA, Lucy is passionate about emerging technologies and their role in growing businesses at a global and local level.


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coding

Why now is the perfect time to learn to code…

codingThe COVID-19 pandemic has taken its toll on businesses and people across the globe. People are working from home, have been furloughed or have lost their jobs, which, for some, has led to more free time than ever before.

Although this is an incredibly challenging time, it provides the opportunity to learn new skills, which can help provide a sense of empowerment, build confidence, and can set you up for future success.

Coding is an especially great skill to work on at home – whether you are starting from scratch or want to advance in your current role.  Coding is the way in which you give instructions to a computer to get it to perform one or more tasks. Just in the same way that you can use French or Spanish to communicate directions to people from either country, there are different coding languages suited to different applications, such as JavaScript (website generation), C# (computer games development) and Python (data mining/machine learning).

My career in coding

I first got into coding in my early 20’s, as a master’s student in Bioinformatics. During those times, it was a rarity to see women in coding, the overwhelming majority of people on my course were men. Although there are more female coders today than twenty years ago, the field of coding desperately needs more girls and women – they are half of all tech users and make 85 per cent of shopping decisions.

Throughout my career, I have used coding to solve problems that would be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve without it. In the biomedical sector, I have used it to predict which molecules would make the best candidates for a drug development program, to automatically identify and characterise tumours from nuclear medicine imaging. I get a real buzz from translating my ideas into code which helps solve a real-world problem.

Being a female coder

As a woman in working in science, technology, engineering, and manufacturing (STEM) for over 20 years, I have rarely experienced negative attitudes towards female coders. From my perspective, it has become an inclusive industry that understands the need for a diverse range of people to help prevent issues like implicit bias in coding and foster innovation and empathy in artificial intelligence and machine-learning. Although I do remember one person telling me at a business conference that he “didn’t know that blonde girls could code.” But times are changing…

I joined leading med-tech company, Perspectum, in 2014, to help develop a prototype for a new liver imaging technology. Women make up 56 per cent of the workforce at Perspectum which, for a med-tech firm, is ahead of the curve. However, that percentage drops within the software engineering team to 24 per cent which, despite being in line with the number of applicants who come to interview, highlights that there’s still a lot to be done to encourage women into the field.

Speaking to my coding friends in other sectors, I have heard of women feeling side-lined in software teams comprised predominantly of testosterone-fuelled ‘brogrammers,’ but I think that attitudes are changing for the better, and more and more women are pursuing careers in coding.

There is no time like the present

I would advise women who are deciding whether or not to start a career in coding to just do it – don’t wait, start today even! The good news is that there are plenty of varied – and even free – options for learning the basics online, using sites such as Code Academy or Treehouse. There are also many friendly forums (some women-only) where you can share ideas and ask for help from the coding community. If you have been thinking about taking the plunge, take advantage of the free time you may have at the moment as a result of the pandemic, and start developing the foundational coding skills you need to build websites, programmes, or even medical diagnostic devices like me!

About the author

Dr Cat Kelly is the Director of Clinical Informatics and Services, and co-leads Perspectum’s Clinical Services Business Unit.

Cat has 20 years of industrial and academic experience in the biomedical space. Joining Perspectum in 2014, Cat developed Perspectum’s flagship product LiverMultiScan, before founding the Quantitative Analysis Service. Prior to Perspectum, she developed imaging methods to quantify drug-induced changes in tumours at the University of Oxford and served as Associate Director of the Life Sciences Interface Doctoral Training Centre. Cat holds degrees in Biology and Bioinformatics from the University of York and obtained her DPhil in Medical Imaging from the Department of Engineering at the University of Oxford.


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