A Google pixel 3XL showing Covid-19 information from the Google News app

Looking back at 2021: Our top tech news stories of the year

In the second installment of our series of looking back at the past year, we delve into some of our favourite and most important tech news stories of 2021.

While this year’s main focus was once again the COVID-19 pandemic, 2021 has still seen Wally Funk make history and become the oldest person in space; Dame Stephanie Shirley and Ray Ozzie receiving a distinguished fellowship from the Chartered Institue for IT; as well as many diversity and gender initiatives launched to help women into tech and STEM.

We look forward to bringing you all the latest news, debates and thought-provoking articles in 2022!


Glassdoor Best Places to Work 2021January

In January, it was announced that Salesforce, Google Apple and Microsoft were among the best places to work.

Glassdoor, the worldwide leader on insights about jobs and companies, announced the winners of its 13th annual Employees’ Choice Awards, honouring the Best Places to Work in 2021 across the UK and four other countries. Unlike other workplace awards, the Glassdoor Employees’ Choice Awards are based on the input of employees who voluntarily provide anonymous feedback by completing a company review about their job, work environment and employer over the past year.

The Glassdoor Employees’ Choice Awards highlight Best Places to Work across the UK, France, Germany the U.S. and Canada. Winners are ranked based on their overall rating achieved during the past year.

BT & Code First Girls partnershipFebruary

In February, BT launched a partnership with Code First Girls to help close the UK gender skills gap in tech.

The partnership, which included funding from BT, helps enable Code First Girls, to provide £10,000 worth of free education to every woman undertaking a course with them and to upskill upwards of 900 women. Participating women will also benefit from the expertise of BT’s world class technologists who have helped to shape the Code First Girls courses, ensuring the next generation of women in technology are equipped with the skills they need to succeed.

We also reported that Dragon’s Den star, Piers Linney had joined a campaign to help increase diversity in tech roles.

Former Dragon’s Den star, tech entrepreneur and diversity champion, Piers Linney, called for more to be done to raise awareness of tech careers after new research has revealed that a lack of awareness is preventing young people from entering the technology industry.

Promisingly, the research, conducted by global emerging talent and reskill training provider, mthree, found that despite rising levels of youth unemployment, 78% of Financial services, insurance, pharmaceuticals and life sciences businesses continued hiring for entry level and graduate tech roles throughout the pandemic in 2020, while 92% are planning to do so in 2021.

March

March saw us celebrating International Women’s Day – with a number of tech companies launching initiative to support women in tech.

Entain, the leading global sports betting and gaming entertainment operator, were one such company, launching a series of international initiatives to support girls and young women interested in building careers in technology.

Entain partnered with Girls Who Code, an international non-profit organisation working to close the gender gap in technology; and The Tech Girls Movement in Australia.

School of Code also launched a new part-time bootcamp to help transform lives and diversify tech during the COVID-19 pandemic.

School of Code is on a mission to get more and different types of people into Tech. They are closing the digital skills gap by turning diverse cohorts of people into work-ready full stack developers suited to remote, Agile teams. The bonus: It’s free to attend. Funding from the West Midlands Combined Authority, corporate sponsors, and employer partners levels the playing field and eliminates barriers to entry.

April

In April, we celebrated International Girls in ICT Day!

Girls in ICT Days aims to encourage and empower girls and young women to consider studies and car​eers in the growing field of ICTs,​ enabling both girls and technology companies to reap the benefits of greater female participation in the ICT sector.

International Girls in ICT Day is celebrated every year on the fourth Thursday of April.

woman wearing a white lab coat working on an engineering project, International Women in Engineering DayJune

June marked International Women in Engineering Day – with it being reported that female engineers are more likely to be victims of recruitment bias.

Women trying to return to the engineering industry after a career break are more likely to experience recruitment bias than men, according to a survey by STEM Returners.

The survey, published on International Women in Engineering Day, showed 27% of women feel they have personally experienced bias in recruitment processes due to their gender, compared to 8% of men. Furthermore, 30% of women said they feel they have personally experienced bias in recruitment processes due to childcare responsibilities compared to 6% of men.

Blue Origin First Human Flight Wally FunkJuly

In July, Wally Funk became the oldest person to go into space!

Wally Funk made history by becoming the oldest person to go into space, and finally realised her dream of being an astronaut.

Thanks to Jeff Bezos, Funk was finally able to go into space on Blue Origin’s New Shepard first crewed flight to space. The journey was New Shepard’s 16th flight to space.

Wally is an American aviator, commercial astronaut, and Goodwill Ambassador.

She was the first female air safety investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board, the first female civilian flight instructor at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and the first female Federal Aviation Agency inspector.

Wally is also one of the Mercury 13. The Mercury 13 Women in Space Program was a privately-funded program to see how women would cope with space training.

The women were put through the same rigorous physical and mental testing as male astronauts. Wally passed her tests and was qualified to go into space. Her score was the third best in the Mercury 13 program.

However, despite completing their training, the program was cancelled, and none of the thirteen flew.

Wally never gave up her dream of going into space and  when NASA finally began accepting women in the late 1970s, Funk applied three times. Despite her impressive credentials, she was turned down for not having an engineering degree or a background as a test pilot.

September

In September, it was reported that women and BAME indivduals are disproportionally affected by cybercrime.

The ‘Demographics of Cybercrime’ report, conducted by Malwarebytes, a global leader in real-time cyberprotection, and US-based non-profit partners, Digitunity and Cybercrime Support Network, found that uncovered that certain demographic groups are disproportionally impacted by cybercrime.

The report, which polled more than 5,000 people across the United States, United Kingdom and Germany, details how consumers experience cybercrime worldwide, demonstrating cybercrime does not impact everyone equally. In fact, the report illustrates that demographics impact how often individuals are targeted, as well as their emotional response to becoming a victim.

Overall analysis of data suggests disadvantaged groups facing barriers in society feel less safe about their online experiences, are more likely to fall victim to an attack, and at times report experiencing a heavier emotional burden when responding to cyberattacks.

On a more positive note, Tech She Can became a charity – inspiring more young girls and women into technology careers.

As a charity, Tech She Can, working together with its board of Trustees and member organisations will be able to extend its reach and impact.

Tech She Can was created in 2018 with 18 founding organisations following a research initiative into why girls and young women are less likely to study technology-based subjects, and pursue tech careers

October

October saw Supermums launch a new campaign to help mothers bounce back from the pandemic.

The campaign will help to shine a light on the career opportunities that exist for women (and beyond) that can give them flexible, well paid, resilient careers and financial independence. They will also be sharing positive new stories and sharing educational stories and information to help mums bounce back.

Supermums was founded on a mission to help mums secure a flexible well paid resilient career. The idea originated from our founder Heather Black when she personally experienced the trauma of losing a business and career when new economic and political changes were imposed beyond her control in 2011 which proved to be a turning point in her life. She had to find a way to bounce back and to launch a new career path.

Dame Stephanie Shirley & Ray OzzieNovember

In November, Dame Stephanie Shirley and Ray Ozzie received a distinguished fellowship from the Chartered Institue for IT.

Global IT entrepreneur and workplace revolutionary turned ardent philanthropist, Dame Stephanie Shirley CH, and software industry pioneer Ray Ozzie were awarded Distinguished Fellowships from BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT.

The awards are given to individuals whose contribution to computing is seen in terms of major importance to the overall development of computing, with substantial personal recognition through peer review over a substantial and sustained career.

Dame Stephanie arrived in Britain as an unaccompanied child refugee in 1939. In 1962, she founded an all-woman software company that pioneered remote working, upending the expectations of the time. It was ultimately valued at almost $3 billion and made 70 of her staff millionaires. Since ‘retiring’, her focus has been on philanthropy, and she has given away almost £70m to fund strategic projects in autism and IT. She joined the BCS as a student member on its foundation in 1957 and was its first woman President in 1989-90.

Ray Ozzie was formerly best known for his role in creating Lotus Notes. He received his bachelor’s degree in computer science in 1979 from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he worked on the PLATO system. He began his career at Data General Corporation where he worked for Jonathan Sachs. Ozzie then worked at Software Arts and was later recruited by Sachs and Mitch Kapor to work for Lotus Development to develop what became Lotus Symphony.


Give people what they need to perform at their best in 2022

Happy New Year, wooden blocks, 2021, 2022

December is usually the time of year when HR departments across the country send the annual ‘employee satisfaction survey’. And, while this attempt to establish staff’s likes and dislikes from the past 12 months is bound to uncover much more than usual this time around – it always leaves business owners with something to think about.

But for Lorna Stellakis, managing director of managed IT support firm, Q2Q, she regularly asks her clients and their colleagues: “Does your company give you the tools and technologies you need to do your job well? Because try as you might, without those, performance will only ever be lacklustre.”

Although business owners might be fearful of the barrage – or complete lack of – feedback when employees are asked to evaluate the suitability of their tech stack, the question is so much more pertinent as we head into a new year – and one where many workspaces morph from a traditional office environment to either a home set-up, or a combination of the two.

As the owner of a technical business, I would use HR departments, company owners, and technical leads to expand that question even further to ask: “Does your team have the necessary equipment and environment that are conducive to providing both a suitable workspace and the tools they need, in order to work smarter and at maximum efficiency?”

From my experience, it can often be a culmination of lots of little things that cause the most frustrations – ultimately leading to disengagement and low morale.

Once such example would be access to the relevant IT systems. It shouldn’t seem like too much to ask, but from a technical perspective, something as simple as having an old laptop that is a little slow to load files and webpages can have a massive impact on productivity.

Team members who begin each day with the frustration of having to wait for a slow machine to fire up – pressing the ‘power’ button and having enough time to make tea and toast – can be compounded by missing deadlines because they didn’t plan the extra ‘loading’ time, or the added stress that a slow machine brings, when being pressed for information quickly.

Meanwhile, from a working environment perspective, consideration should extend far beyond whether a chair, monitor and desk are at optimal working height – but also consider other contributing factors such as space, light, noise, and temperature.

As a business leader, it’s important to put yourself in the shoes of your team and ask whether they’re likely to feel motivated if they are constantly frustrated with their equipment and/or environment?

Like many of our peers, a shift to hybrid working has meant we needed to conduct a complete inventory of all the technical infrastructure we have available in the office to establish a hot desking set-up. While this concept is nothing new, for our techies – who have a lot of hardware – they have previously kept all their work-related collateral in one place. So, lugging it between home and HQ was not an option.

But, by investing in additional items, such as desk phones and monitors, staff can ‘borrow’ whatever they need when working from the office, and leave it behind for their colleagues, the following day.

This small investment means that the team’s day to day isn’t littered with distractions from not being able to function as seamlessly as they would normally. And the return on investment when it comes to our staff satisfaction levels makes it totally worth the cost – I am sure this will pay dividends in the long-run.

While returning to a shared space following eight months of relative isolation can be unnerving, removing the disruption of not having the right kit can make a significant difference. Colleagues feel valued, listened to, and cared for, and this pays back in droves in terms of their dedication and work ethic, and of course, efficiency.

As we all transition to whatever the new version of the working day looks like, a new year is the ideal time to identify where there are any gaps, ask – and answer – the question: “is there something missing that you can easily resolve and would it make a major change to team morale?”

About the author

Lorna Stellakis, MD of Q2Q ITMy role is to provide the overall direction and “eye on the compass” as to where we, as a team are heading, setting the overall business strategy and financial budgeting. Whilst always having been involved with systems implementation throughout my career, I have an operational background and no specific IT experience. However, if anything, I believe this makes me more qualified to ensure the team deliver great service, drawing from my operations experience, and having been on the wrong side of poor IT support in the past. I can relate to how crippling this can be to a business, making it paramount that we ensure that IT issues are as invisible as possible, leaving the customers to get on with running their businesses smoothly.


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2021 WeAreTechWomen - Looking back

Looking back at 2021: A WeAreTechWomen round-up

2021 WeAreTechWomen - Looking back

2021 is nearly over and to celebrate the year gone by, WeAreTechWomen is taking a look back at our top moments.

Due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, we’ve had to once again continue to adapt and innovate to host our events, conferences and awards virtually.

This year, we have published over 2,000 articles on WeAreTheCity and WeAreTechWomen; promoted over 500 learning events; profiled over 500 women and men who shared their stories and experiences; collaborated on 35 new partnerships with other organisations; and supported 30 difference campaigns and 15 charities. Our WeAreVirtual webinar series delivered 45 webinars from leading speakers, experts and coaches to a global audience of 25,000.

We wouldn’t have been able to achieve this without our supporters. We would like to extend our sincere thanks to everyone who has supported us this year. A huge thank you to our clients, sponsors, speakers, judges, partners, champions, advocates and above all, our community. We look forward to supporting you and your progression in 2022.

Check out what happened during our 2021 below:

Rising Star alumni & 3MJanuary

We started the New Year with a bang at WeAreTechWomen. January saw some of our Rising Star alumni and sponsors helping inspire students into STEM.

WeAreTheCity’s 2020 Rising Stars in Science and Engineering alumni helped inspire Year 9 students in Leicestershire, through 3M’s STEM careers Q&A.

3M sponsors the Science and Engineering category of the Rising Star Awards programme, championing females working in the industry who help to highlight the wide range of STEM careers available.

The Q&A session was attended by teachers from Soar Valley College, the Jameah Girls Academy and South Charnwood High School who put forward questions to the panel on behalf of their students. In addition, questions from students attending Orchard Mead Academy and Lancaster Academy were invited.

Amber O’Connor, Hannah Ratcliffe, Katie Burnell and Rebecca Cocklin were joined on the panel by 3M’s Sarah Chapman, EMEA market segment Application Engineering manager for the Industrial Adhesives and Tapes Division and a Science and Engineering Rising Star in 2016.

We also launched Season 2 of our She Talks Tech podcast.

‘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 2021.

LISTEN TO OUR PODCAST

February

In February, we invited you to attend the most exciting virtual women in tech conference of 2021!

Our 2021 One Tech World conference brought you the very best global virtual learning experience. Our conference provided ample opportunities to learn about emerging technologies and what is innovating and disrupting the industry. We were blessed to be given time from some of the world’s finest speakers who joined us to share their wisdom and knowledge. We delivered innovative sessions on over 50 different areas of tech, with a side order of career development and ample networking opportunities.

JOIN US IN 2022

Tickets for our 2022 conference are on sale now!

BOOK YOUR TICKET

March

In March, we celebrated Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day.

Each year International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated on March 8, with the first day being held in 1911. Thousands of events occur to mark the economic, political and social achievements of women. Organisations, governments, charities, educational institutions, women’s groups, corporations and the media celebrate the day.

This year’s theme was #ChooseToChallenge – which looked to celebrate women’s achievements, raise awareness against bias and take action for equality.

We marked the occasion by creating our #ChooseToChallenge100 campaign, asking 100 women and the public to share their stories as to how and why they choose to challenge for gender equality.

Our campaign included stories of challenge from Helen Pankhurst CBE, Women’s Rights Campaigner and Senior Advisor, Care International; Jess Phillips, Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley; June Angelides CBE, Early Stage Investor, Entrepreneur, Speaker and Advocate for the Rights of Working Mothers; Jacqueline Gold CBE, CEO, Ann Summers; Catherine Mayer, Author & Co-Founder, Women’s Equality Party and Primadonna Festival; Deborah Francis-White, Comedian, Writer, Podcaster, The Guilty Feminist; Claire Cohen, Women’s Editor, The Telegraph; and Liv Cooke, Freestyle Football World Champion, plus so many more incredible women.

One Tech World AuditoriumMay

WeAreTechWomen hosted its first three-day virtual conference for female technologists, One Tech World, in May.

The conference, proudly sponsored by BAE Systems and supported by Accenture, CMS, Credit Suisse, Discovery+, Goldman Sachs, Huawei, MarketAxess, Morgan Stanley, Northern Trust, Oliver Wyman, OpenFin, PwC, Robert Walters, Royal Air Force, Royal Bank of Canada, Sage, Sky, Societe Generale, and SUSE; saw over 1,500 delegates log on around the globe, from across the technology sector and a range of companies including Bank of England, Mastercard, UBS, EY, Nationwide, National Grid, BT, Mettle, Dell, Vodafone, Schroders, Ipsos, Atos, Santander, and many more.

The three-day conference consisted of two stages, Let’s Talk Tech and Career Development, with 197 speakers, held over 20 Q&A panels and shared over 130 webinars, which have been watched over 15,000 times. Delegates could shape their own learning as well as revisiting sessions they may have missed, with a 30-day playback.

Across the three days, delegates enjoyed listening to high-profile speakers including Georgie Barrat, Technology Journalist & TV Broadcaster, The Gadget Show; June Sarpong OBE, TV Presenter, Diversity Expert & Award Winning Author; Air Marshal Sue Gray CB OBE MSc CEng FIET FREng, Director General Defence Safety Authority, Royal Air Force; Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE, Founder, Stemettes; Professor Margaret Heffernan, Entrepreneur, TED Speaker, Business Author & Former CEO; Caroline Dinenage, Minister of State for Digital and Culture, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport; Tracy Edwards MBE, Founder, The Maiden Factor; and Shellye Archambeau, CEO, Silicon Valley leader, Author & Board member for Verizon, Nordstrom, Roper Technologies and Okta Inc., plus many more.

June

In June, we gave you another chance to join our One Tech World conference – with our Digital Pass.

The digital pass was for individuals who didn’t manage to secure a ticket the first time around. With the ticket, you could access the platform for 14 days in order to gain a deeper understanding of over 25 different areas of tech. Thanks to the help of over 197 global speakers we covered everything from Technology Trends, AI, Cyber, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Robotics, Drones, Internet of Things, Wearables, Agile, DevOps, Fintech, Payments, Sustainability, Entrepreneurship, HealthTech and Diversity & Inclusion, Neurodiversity, Mental Health in Tech, Returnships and Flexible Working.

July

July saw us announce that Goldman Sachs were our headline sponsors for our 2021 TechWomen100 Awards!

We were also proud to announce that the awards were supported by Accenture, BAE Systems, Bank of America, Credit Suisse, Ipsos Mori, Oliver Wyman, and OpenFin.

We are extremely proud to receive the support of so many individuals and organisations for this years TechWomen100 Awards. We would like to extend our sincere thanks for their words of encouragement and for helping us to celebrate the achievements of the amazing women.

TechWomen100 Nominations, 400x300August

Nominations for our TechWomen100 Awards opened in August.

It is no secret that the technology industry lacks female representation at all levels. Women make up just 17 per cent of the industry. There are some fantastic awards for women working in tech, however, most of these focus on senior women.

Whilst we feel it is extremely necessary to highlight senior and influential women, we also believe the pipeline of female technologists need a platform to shine.

This is why the TechWomen100 Awards were created. 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.

August also saw us launch our new Women in Tech job board platform.

Our new revamped job board for women in tech won’t solve world peace, but it may help you find the job of your dreams at an employer that will truly support you and your career. We won’t be working with every company, just those that can demonstrate they are on the journey towards gender equality and that they are putting in place programmes or support systems to progress women in the workplace.

If you are looking to change roles and feel you are ready for an exciting new career change, please explore the jobs on the new job board. We are featuring full-time, part-time, flexible, work for home roles, as well as many other opportunities, such as return to work programmes.

If you are an immediate job seeker, you can also upload your CV to the portal, sign up for job alerts and read about some of the companies who are recruiting via our company site pages.

September

In September, we announced our partnership with Speakers for Schools to inspire the next generation of technologists.

Speakers for Schools help young people access the top opportunities through free inspiring school talks and eye-opening onsite and virtual work experience.

October

October saw us announce the shortlist for our 2021 TechWomen100 Awards!

The shortlist showcases remarkable women within the technology and STEM sector, including Hana Bird, a Spacecraft Operations Engineer for In-Space Missions, who worked on their first mission, Faraday Phoenix; and Priyanka Mittal, who led the Cloud-based architecture of two national programmes at NHS Digital, which have been the backbone of the government’s response to COVID-19; Esther Akpovi, also known as the Gen Z Cheerleader, who is an award-winning Youth and Education activist.

The awards also recognise Champions, Networks and Companies, who are all actively supporting the progression of women in tech and STEM. The TechWomen100 awards also celebrate women in tech from outside the UK, in the Global Award for Achievement category.

November

We unveiled the winners of the TechWomen100 Awards in November.

The winners of these awards showcase remarkable women within the technology and STEM sector including Manisha Ganguly, who is a multi-award-winning independent conflict journalist & filmmaker using open-source techniques to investigate human rights abuses under conditions of war; Alice Hendy, who founded the app, R;pple Suicide Prevention, after the tragic loss of her brother, Josh, in 2020; Priyanka Mittal, who led the Cloud-based architecture of two national programmes at NHS Digital, which have been the backbone of the government’s response to COVID-19; and Krystina Pearson-Rampeearee, a Senior Flight Systems Engineer, working on a next generation fast jet, the Tempest project.

The winners include individuals from leading firms such as Ford Motor Company, Microsoft, The British Army, NHS Digital, BT, Transport for London, Vodafone, BBC World Service, Google, Mastercard, London Stock Exchange and many more.

DISCOVER ALL OUR WINNERS

TechWomen100 Awards Ceremony 2021-1December

In December, we celebrated the winners of the 2021 TechWomen100 Awards via a virtual award’s ceremony.

Given the circumstances, the team at WeAreTechWomen had to do things a little differently, once again, with our awards this year.

Over the course of the night, our attendees were congratulated by our sponsors and special guests and we heard from inspirational speakers and entertainers, who all endeavoured to create a truly magically experience.

The event was attended by winners, judges, sponsors and special guests and our winners had the opportunity to network with each other in our interactive breakout rooms. Each winner received a goodie box with their award, complete with champagne, chocolates, books and other treats.

The virtual award’s ceremony was hosted by Julia Streets, CEO, Streets Consulting. Throughout the evening, we were joined by our special guests, award-winning Entrepreneur, Personal Brand Expert, Speaker & Author, Bianca Miller-Cole;  Singer-Songwriter, Shae Universe; and Award-Winning Spoken Word Artist and Writer, Jaspreet Kaur.

Watch the highlights from the night below:


For language learning, technology helps us do more with less

young Asian woman looking at laptop, watchin a webinar

The global pandemic has changed our relationship to technology, and this is especially true for language learning. In the first weeks of the pandemic, more than 30 million new learners joined Duolingo to learn a language.

For many, language learning used to be just a box to tick on the way to a diploma, but today technology has made language learning more accessible, fun, and relevant to learners of all ages.

The reality is that interest in learning languages increases after graduation: in a 2021 survey conducted by Duolingo and The Romans, 81% of Britons admitted that they wish they’d paid more attention in language classes in school. As adults, we meet new people, travel to new places, and binge watch new TV shows – but there hasn’t always been affordable, accessible, on-demand ways for adults to learn languages. Today, technology is changing how both students and teachers approach language learning by increasing access to personalized, high-quality instruction.

In the past, language study was largely restricted to those with time and resources. Adult learners had to seek out in-person classes at local universities or community centers, commit to set schedules and deadlines, and often pay considerable sums of money for registration and materials. But even in-person language learning isn’t without its own challenges, as teachers are forced to manage growing class sizes and accommodate the diverse needs and goals of dozens of students. Getting the right language content to learners at the right time, and then providing them sufficient interaction and feedback, can be a struggle for learners and teachers in all contexts.

It is here where technology excels: it can deliver personalized curricula and tailored feedback on demand, and thus give learners more control over what they learn, how much, and when. Adapting the pace of class and giving students individual attention can be especially challenging in large classes, and technology can help language teachers maximize their impact by taking care of the tasks that are the most difficult to scale (like marking and providing targeted practice).

Technology can present specific, automated feedback to every learner, instantly, and thus maximize opportunities for learners to notice and learn from mistakes. The frequency of feedback can also be tested and optimized to find the cadence that leads to the most improvement with the least frustration for learners. Feedback is crucial for allowing learners to test their guesses about the grammatical patterns and new vocabulary they are acquiring and get confirmation about what works and what doesn’t.

Technology can also provide additional, targeted instruction on exactly the topics learners need the most help with. An algorithm can pay equal attention to every learner and their performance across myriad grammar and vocabulary topics – and then change the curriculum, in real time, individually for hundreds of millions of learners. Technology makes it possible to adapt lessons to make some content harder and some easier, depending on a learner’s own progress and pain points.

That’s why Duolingo’s approach to language teaching has been to harness the expertise of language teachers, learning scientists, and machine learning engineers to create courses that are maximally adaptable for learners of all ages, motivations, and schedules. We have shown that technology-delivered courses can teach effectively, in half the time as traditional classes, and this union of research-backed pedagogy and artificial intelligence is helping us make high-quality language teaching universally available.

People of all ages seek to learn languages for reasons as varied as travel, to stay engaged and cognitively healthy, and to connect with family and other cultures, and technology and machine learning tools in particular are allowing people around the world – even those of us who have long since left the classroom – to maximize how we spend our study time.

Dr CIndy BlancoAbout the author

Dr. Cindy Blanco is a senior learning scientist at Duolingo. Dr. Blanco earned a master’s in Spanish linguistics and a PhD in linguistics, and she later worked as a postdoctoral researcher in cognitive psychology. Her academic research focused on language learning and speech perception in infants, children, and adults. At Duolingo, Dr. Blanco works to develop effective teaching products and communication strategies informed by learning science research. Her recent projects have included a report on global language-learning trends and communicating about linguistics through the Duolingo blog and social media.


Career change, Building a career featured

Choose your ladder

Article by Soumaya Hamzaoui, co-founder and COO and RedCloud Technologies

Career change, Building a career featuredAs women, our adult life is measured by permanent determinant choices; compromises, that are either imposed on us by biology or by society.

I am speaking of every woman in every country, regardless of origin, colour, culture, or religion. As a 37-year-old female entrepreneur, unmarried and with no kids, I want to share how I deal with the doubts and the pressure to make decisions.

Moving forward in life is like going up on a ladder, you have to take each step carefully if you want to go higher. From my point of view the first three steps are the most important, because if we get those right, then the rest is just about experience.

First step: Choose your ladder carefully

As young women we are thrown into life very early with a path that says you’re supposed to race as fast as you can, graduate quickly, get your first job, get married, have kids, and then you are ‘settled’. Most women do not even have the time to think and consider what their options are and what they want to do with their lives. I think taking the first year of our adult life to figure out what it is we really want and why we want it is a fundamental step, as if we fail in this step we will never reach the second.

Second step: Cancel the noise

If you get step one right, step two should be fairly easy, as once you choose your path this step is about making it happen. Regardless of your choice, one thing is sure, you will have to make compromises and sacrifices to achieve it. Every decision you make will be questioned. Whether it is a personal decision or a professional one, there will always be someone telling you ‘this is not how others do it’, or ‘this is something you will regret in five years’ etc. That why it is very important to be sure of where you are going and why you want to get there. The truth is you will make loads of bad decisions, but if you make them for the right reasons, you will always feel more confident in yourself.

Third step: Stay focused on the essential

As you start going up, you will become more comfortable and gain confidence as you are achieving your objectives. At this point it is very easy to lose yourself and get distracted from your end goals. It is also possible that what you had in your plan turns out to make you feel unhappy and unfulfilled. Say you wanted to be a tech entrepreneur and you managed to achieve it! You have 200 people working in your company. But you are not enjoying it. The question you should ask yourself is ‘why did I want to do this in the first place, what exactly was I trying to achieve and what is preventing me from enjoying it?’. Once you get the answers to these questions, you can make the necessary adjustments.

Also please keep in mind that plans are there to be changed. Changing your plan to adapt it to reality is not failure, it is part of the journey. Embrace it!  Live every pain, every failure, every success and every happy day with the same intensity, because that is what will make you who you want to be – an authentic person.

About the author

Soumaya HamzaouiSoumaya is an entrepreneur and technical and product strategist. She has a strong track record of developing internet and mobile products across enterprises focused on the global fintech industry.

She has deep sector expertise built over the last seven years across Africa, Asia and EMEA in mobile money, digital financial services and fintech launches.

She is currently an executive at RedCloud Technologies and has been responsible for directing the release of its next generation open commerce platform built for global markets.


Kate Bingham

Inspirational Woman: Dame Kate Bingham DBE | Former Chair of the COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force

Kate Bingham

Dame Kate Bingham DBE is the former chair of the COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force.

In her role as chair of the task force, she helped steer the procurement of vaccines and the strategy for their deployment during the COVID-19 pandemic.

She was recently awarded a Damehood in the 2021 Queen’s Birthday Honours List, for her services to to the procurement, manufacture and distribution of Covid-19 vaccines.

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

I am a biochemistry-trained biotech company builder and venture capital investor, mother to three very tall young adults and married to the [very tall] MP for Herefordshire who was one of the founders of NMITE (New Model Institute of Technology and Engineering). As a Managing Partner at SV Health Investors, we develop breaking science and emerging biological understanding of diseases to develop new drugs to address unmet clinical needs. Last year I spent 7 months chairing the UK Vaccine Taskforce to help secure vaccines for the UK and internationally in the fight back against the COVID19 pandemic.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No. I followed the areas that I enjoyed and thought would make a difference and would be fun.

One thing I can say about my own career, is that I got really excited about biochemistry when I was thinking about how you can actually translate that knowledge, for example about genetic mutations, into thinking about how you develop drugs for patients.  Suddenly you could see the practical application of what you were studying in the textbooks in terms of actually changing somebody’s life.

My career is a good example of the need to take a wide view, to collaborate with professionals from other disciplines and that you become good at something by practicing it. You learn by doing.  Which is why I am such a supporter of NMITE which really understands this and has been set up to change the way engineering is taught. It is a very interesting new way of teaching because its focus is on the practical, working in small teams and working very closely with industry.  It will ensure that these important principles are incorporated into its programmes and that will mean that its graduates will be uniquely well placed to enjoy a successful career, from day one.

You recently led the COVID-19 vaccine task force – can you tell us more about this, how you managed teams remotely, the challenges etc?

I was appointed as Chair of the VTF in May 2020 and within weeks had assembled the core team who developed the strategy and plans to secure vaccines for the UK. By July we had signed Heads of Terms agreements with BioNTech/Pfizer, Valneva, Oxford/AZ, followed shortly by GSK, Janssen, Novavax and Moderna. Remote working was actually easier as we lost no time in travel or unproductive chitchat. On December 8 2020, the UK was the first western country to start vaccinating its citizens.

Many of the challenges I faced, and the Task Force team faced, reflected those of any major project or highly complex scientific and engineering undertaking. We needed to work as a team, we needed to make decisions quickly and understand the degree of certainty we could count on when making those decisions. We needed to hone our communication skills as we were working remotely and at pace. Science and engineering, in the real world, are team sports. You need these skills to succeed.

This wasn’t about finding the perfect vaccine. It was about getting vaccines quickly. So, we had that very clear motivation to work quickly. We had the authority to build a team that had the right expertise and we were working in an industry that already was a collaborative industry.  The manufacturing companies had already got together early last year before the Vaccine Task Force was even conceived because they knew they were the ones who were going to have to scale up.

I think there’s a massive lesson about combining industrial expertise with the excellence from the Civil Service, so that we were able to build the team, which covered the vaccine selection, manufacturing clinical trials, and then the pandemic preparedness.  That was a core aspect: to make sure we would be better prepared for next time. Because of course we knew viruses mutate, so variants were expected and of course new pandemics were also expected.  We were able to combine industrial expertise with the expertise from the civil servants in procurement negotiation, in project management and actually in international diplomacy. We were very dependent on working with other countries for supply chains and for thinking about how to work cooperatively to get vaccines to those countries that needed them. I think the lessons about combining the best from industry and the best from government are ones that should be taken forward.

In my view, most of society’s big challenges will only be solved by the integrated work of a wide range of disciplines. The vaccine programme was only possible because of this integrated thinking and the teamwork of a brilliant team of professionals.  Likewise NMITE, because it is teaching “integrated engineering”, will be bringing together the various engineering disciplines and the softer skills that are so important in the real world.

Congratulations on your recent Damehood – how did you feel when you discovered you’d been awarded the Honour?

I am proud but also humbled to be recognised in a year when NHS workers have risked their health and their lives in fighting Covid, and have been at the heart of the vaccine roll out.

The development of vaccines has been a triumph of scientific and industrial collaboration. Just a year ago we were assembling an unproven portfolio of vaccines for the UK. Yet in the last seven months,  over 80m vaccine doses have provided unprecedented protection and saved thousands of lives.

It has been an extraordinary privilege to lead the brilliant Vaccine Taskforce team, and to secure doses for the UK, but which can also be shared with other countries. I am particularly proud of the NHS Registry, which helped the UK to run the vaccine clinical trials quickly. Its hundreds of thousands of volunteers will be essential for us to test pandemic vaccines in the future.

Finally, I am thrilled that so many women have made such enormous contributions to science, healthcare, manufacturing and technology during the pandemic. I hope this encourages more girls to pursue careers in these sectors

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

My unwavering view that you should act as if what do you makes a difference. Because it does. So don’t let hurdles get in your way.

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

STEM disciplines are so important to the economy, the country and to the well-being and quality of life for us all.  My first piece of advice would be that you should be aware that you are thinking about a career in a field that is very important – STEM disciplines will equip you to make a real positive difference to the world.

Try not to constrain your thinking.  You might think STEM is not for you, perhaps because you feel uncomfortable about the maths involved, or you feel you are better at the arts and creative subjects. Please think again! Good engineers are creative thinkers and imaginative problem solvers.

NMITE’s engineering programme has been designed to include those creative and communication skills which are so important to today’s engineering challenges. If you lack the formal qualifications in maths or physics then don’t worry, because NMITE will bring you up to speed as part of its course to ensure you succeed.

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

I do think women face different challenges and speaking for myself, I know I don’t have the same brash confidence as a man. So if I’m asked to do something, I tend to look at the reasons why I can’t do it rather than the reasons I can. I think that is something that we just need to get over.

I think you can be exceptionally good as a woman going into traditionally male dominated industries. Because I think our insight enables us to look at things in different ways and to find different solutions in ways that may not be so obvious.

NMITE is one important measure in the fight to remove these barriers to success that many women face. For a start, it is led by an accomplished female engineer and educator, it aims to achieve a fully gender balanced student population and its approach to recruiting its students, from its admissions processes to the way its programme is delivered – in teams, learning from hands on engineering work and working with real engineering employers. There will be less room for ego and much more for collaboration and communication.

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

Companies certainly need to ensure they have more women around their Board tables and in senior roles. In my experience, women in the C-suite and on boards are pragmatic and  solution focused.  I don’t think we would have had the same collapse if it had been Lehman Sisters.

NMITE will play a role in this, as it will produce the sort of work-ready engineers that employers need so employers should support NMITE by recommending it to their own work-force or by helping as a partner providing engineering challenges for students to tackle. In the short term, employers could help by supporting NMITE’s ambitious bursary plans to enable it to provide financial support to students who might not otherwise be able to go to University.

There are currently only 17 per cent 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 triple the pace at which NMITE grows from its launch this year! As that will make a massive difference to the opportunities available to thousands of young people, including women, who might be considering a career in engineering but haven’t to date had access to an innovative Higher Education provider. This would also benefit us all, we’d have more engineers which the country needs; more importantly, we’d have more female engineers and more engineers who are skilled and ready to tackle the great national challenges we face.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech, eg Podcasts, networking events, books, conferences, websites etc?

Join networking groups in the STEM/tech sectors you are interested in. In my field, the BioIndustry Association has great events, conferences, training and leadership events for women.

Find a mentor who can share their experiences to help shape your career and life.

Do look at NMITE, even if you don’t plan to become a student. They run events and seminars for everyone and focus very much on the sort of topics we’ve covered in this interview. They’ll give you a taste of the current debates in engineering and the work they are doing to help increase the number of female engineers.

Dame Kate Bingham DBE was recently interviewed for NMITE where she talked about her experience chairing the Vaccine Task Force (VTF); the similarities she sees between that and the way NMITE will be working; the need for more women in engineering and the impact she thinks NMITE will achieve in the future.


She Talks Tech - The Future is Here- Today’s Realities, and Tomorrow’s Trends' with Emma Kendrew, Accenture

Listen to our latest She Talks Tech podcast on 'The Future is Here: Today’s Realities, and Tomorrow’s Trends' with Emma Kendrew, Accenture

She Talks Tech - The Future is Here- Today’s Realities, and Tomorrow’s Trends' with Emma Kendrew, Accenture

Today, we hear from Emma Kendrew, Cloud, Infrastructure & Engineering Lead at Accenture Technology UKI.

Emma will take a look at how the COVID-19 pandemic has propelled years worth of technological transformation, catapulting us into the future. As we now emerge from the crisis, Emma considers the new set of realities we face during this extraordinary moment of change.

Exploring what this change will mean to our future, Emma will discuss how the democratisation of technology can empower all of us to be agents of innovation and change, shaping our world for the better.

If you want to find out more about Emma, you can connect with her 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 2021.

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!

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.

Discover more from our
She Talks Tech podcast

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How to start afresh in the new year and put yourself forward for opportunities

Happy New Year, wooden blocks, 2021, 2022

With 2022 on the horizon many people have already started thinking about what they want to accomplish in the forthcoming year, whether that’s personal or professional.

So when the clock strikes twelve on New Year’s Eve it marks a fresh start for all of us.

Recruitment companies claim that between 25% to 50% of us look for jobs in the New Year. What we can be certain of though is that because many businesses have adopted hybrid or remote working, location is less of a factor than it used to be. Today, there has never been such an array of accessible opportunities out there.

With that in mind, we sat down with Jo Shannon, Director of Technology and Design at Ordnance Survey, to discuss the New Year, starting afresh and putting yourself forward for opportunities.

New Year is definitely a reflective time of year for people, which no doubt leads them towards a ‘new year, new you’ job hunt, but Jo believes there is never a perfect time to pursue a career change: “I think that women can be guilty of analysis paralysis and think that everything needs to be perfect. But in reality there is never a perfect time to change industry or start a new job.

“I’m aware this is a bit of a cliché, but I think it’s particularly pertinent in this case: It’s very rare that you regret the things you do do, rather than the things you don’t do. So if you’re looking for a change just do it, no matter what time of year it is!” comments Jo.

With women making up only 17% of the tech workforce, Jo would love to see more of her compatriots move into the tech industry. “I strongly believe tech is an accessible industry that doesn’t have as many barriers as other professions, and there are so many opportunities for women.”

Jo continued, “If you have a curious mind and are willing to problem solve then you already possess the fundamentals.

“It’s also not age limited or qualification dependant, you don’t need a degree for example, you just have to know yourself.

“We’re always looking for talented individuals at OS and people have come to us from various backgrounds with no tech experience, like the Police or the military.

“One of our most talented engineers at OS had never written a line of code in her life before joining our training programme.”

When it comes to new opportunities, Jo believes you should take time to consider what ladder you want to climb, whether that’s a leadership route or a technical route.

Jo adds, “As a leader you don’t always need to be smartest person in the room, and you certainly don’t have to have all the answers. Be vulnerable and be human, because if you are, this will help build better connections with your team which will lead to better results. I think this is a strength that many women hold already.

“If you’re pursuing a technical route immerse yourself in it and let everyone know that that is the area you are focussed on.

“These are two completely different tracks, and you don’t have to be good at both to succeed in this industry.”

There is never a perfect time to look for a new role, tech is an accessible industry for women and you can’t climb any old ladder, but what sort of organisation should you aspire to join? “I would of course urge them to join OS! But in all seriousness, look to join a company that shares the same values as you.

“If you join one that values aptitude, gives you room to grow and develop as well as supporting you, then it will be hard to think of a more fruitful New Year’s resolution,” concluded Jo.


The cybersecurity industry skills gap

By Nitzan Yaakov, Data Security Analyst at Aqua Security

While there is undeniably a technology skills shortage that we’re facing across the world, there are things we can be doing better as an industry to help close that gap and recruit and retain young talent.

These range from changes in job descriptions, recruitment efforts, and increasing diversity.

The challenges often begin at the university level. Many computer science students will spend their studies focused on coding languages and the software development lifecycle. While those working toward computer engineering degrees will probably focus on designing solutions for digital systems and building components. In the working world, these roles are typically less siloed. Another challenge is that emerging security tools, such as cloud native security, are difficult to teach because their dynamic nature makes it challenging for university curriculums to keep up.

Upon graduation, these students too often find job postings for roles that may require more advanced experience than they can bring. Or they may simply be unclear if a job is right for them based on a narrow job description. On top of that, junior technology positions are less common, and when they do exist, competition is fierce which makes the process even more challenging. The universities try to answer this gap by holding job fairs, inviting leading companies from the industry to suggest their open positions to the enthusiastic students. Companies should recognise the benefits of junior positions and create more opportunities for recent grads. Onboarding a young, energetic workforce can be invaluable to a company’s innovation and culture.

Improving gender representation within the sector is another hurdle to overcome. Cybersecurity is currently a very male dominated industry which can be off-putting for women looking to start their careers. Learning programmes, female led industry events, and better female representation at the c-suite level are steps toward bridging the gender gap and encouraging more young women to consider roles that they may otherwise think are too male dominated.

There are benefits to exploring a wider career path and finding the right role in cybersecurity. Indeed, if more students are encouraged to do this, and helped by the companies themselves, it would go some way towards solving the skills gap in the cybersecurity industry.

About the author

Nitzan YaakovNitzan Yaakov has over seven years of experience in cybersecurity as well as a BS in Information Systems and Cyber Security from The Academic College of Tel-Aviv.

Her career began in the Israel Defense Forces, where she first started as a QA Tester, cross checking software and web applications for issues, as well as evaluating IT/digital programmes for military operations. Since then, she has worked at Citadel Cyber Security, an consulting and managed services specialist as a cyber security analyst, and at Applied Materials as a data system analyst. Before finally joining Aqua, earlier this year.


Got an idea that could shape the future? If you’re aged 16-25, enter Samsung UK's Solve for Tomorrow Competition for the chance to bring it to life

Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Competition

Got an idea that could shape the future? If you’re aged 16-25, enter Samsung UK’s Solve for Tomorrow Competition for the chance to bring it to life with expert mentorship and support delivered in partnership with Digital Catapult.

Driven by the global CSR vision, ‘Together for Tomorrow, Enabling People’, Samsung are on a mission to empower future generations to pioneer positive social change and build a better world for all.

The Solve for Tomorrow Competition is a chance to make your ideas a reality. You don’t need to be a coder or a tech expert, you just need passion. If you’re between 16 and 25 years old and you have an idea that could help build a better future, Samsung want to hear from you. You can enter either as an individual or a team up to five.

Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Competition 2

Shortlisted applicants will be matched with mentors from Samsung and the UK’s leading advanced technology innovation centre, Digital Catapult, to learn new skills and develop their idea at each stage of the competition through a range of workshops, coaching sessions, and one-to-ones support, before the final winner is chosen.

Samsung and Digital Catapult will help you get under the skin of your idea, share invaluable experiences and give you all the encouragement you’ll need to build it out, make it better and get it ready for the real world.

Come design the future with Samsung. No qualifications needed.

FIND OUT MORE & APPLY