Looking back at 2019: Our top Inspirational Women in Tech interviews

We delve into our favourite and fascinating Inspirational Women & HeForShe interviews of the year.

Our Inspirational Women series of interviews aims to highlight amazing women across the globe, showcase their achievements and raise their profiles.

Discover our editor's pick of inspirational tech interviews for 2019 below:

Anisah Osman Britton featuredInspirational Woman: Anisah Osman Britton | Founder & CEO, 23 Code Street

Anisah Osman Britton runs 23 Code Street.

In 2012 Anisah won the Young Entrepreneur Festival in London, which brought together 150 of the best young minds in the country.

Since leaving school, Anisah has pursued internships around the world, learnt to code, worked as ops director for a corporate accelerator and started 23 Code Street.

Anisah believes there are multiple routes to success, and that students need to be shown all possibilities.

Read Anisah's full interview here.

Jacqueline de Rojas featuredInspirational Woman: Jacqueline de Rojas CBE | President, techUK

Jacqueline is the President of techUK and the President of the Digital Leaders board.

She sits as a Non-Executive Director on the board of UK technology business Rightmove plc; on the board of Costain plc, which is committed to solving the nation’s Infrastructure problems; and is also on the board of the online retailer AO World plc. An advisor to fast moving tech businesses and a business mentor at Merryck offering board and executive level coaching. She is the co-chair at the Institute of Coding, advises the board of Accelerate-Her and is especially delighted to lend her support to the Girlguiding Association for technology transformation. Passionate about diversity and inclusion which informs where she places her support.

In 2016 she entered the @Computerweekly Hall of Fame after being voted Computer Weekly’s Most Influential Woman in IT 2015; she was listed on Debretts 2016 500 People of Influence – Digital & Social and named in Europe’s Inspiring Fifty most inspiring female role models for 2017. She was presented with the 2017 Catherine Variety award for Science and Technology and the 2018 Women in Tech Award for Advocate of the Year acknowledging her contribution to diversity. 2018 brought a nugget of acknowledgements including @womenoffuture Fifty #KindLeaders; 2018 @Inclusiveboards 100 BAME Leaders; 2018 Faces of Vibrant Digital Economy; 2018 @Computerweekly Most Influential People in UK IT.

Jacqueline was awarded CBE for Services to International Trade in Technology in the Queen’s New Year Honours list 2018.

Happily married to Roger Andrews, they have three children and a new baby grandson.

Read Jacqueline's full interview here.

Inspirational Woman: Olivia Sweeney | Aroma Chemicals Creative, Lush

Olivia, from Reading, has always been interested in sustainability and wanted to work for a company passionate about the environment.

Working for Lush and sourcing and creating their chemicals in a sustainable way has given Olivia the power to make a difference. Olivia is now an Aroma Chemicals Creative Buyer, sourcing and creating the natural and synthetic chemicals for fragrances of Lush’s soaps, bath bombs, shampoo bars… and everything else! She still gets to travel abroad, across Europe, Brazil and the USA to find the best materials and ingredients.

One of Olivia’s projects is figuring out the best way to process waste banana skins, not only getting the perfect banana smell, but in a sustainable and responsible way. She has helped to created a banana facial cleanser that will now be on shelves worldwide! She looks for ways to save energy and water in the making process while also making sure that the ingredients she works with are ethically sourced and cruelty free. For Olivia, chemical engineering means you can end up creating anything based on your own curiosity. Engineers are part of the modern world and help make dreams become reality with their problem-solving skills.

Read Olivia's full interview here.

Didem Un AtesInspirational Woman: Didem Un Ates | Senior Director, AI Customer & Partner Engagement, Microsoft

Following her Electrical Engineering and Management studies at the University of Pennsylvania, Didem started her career with management consulting at CapGemini and Motorola.

After graduating from Columbia Business School (CBS) in 2005, Didem continued her career at Greenwich Consulting (now part of EY) and British Telecom in London, UK.

Her passion for technology led her to join Microsoft’s Information & Content Experiences Group where she and her team signed c. 1,500 partnerships across 60 markets. She held other business development and partner management roles as part of Microsoft Accelerators and the Business AI teams. In her current role, Didem is focusing on scaling Microsoft’s SaaS AI solutions such as Dynamics Customer Service Insights and Virtual Agent.

Didem has 20+ years of multinational leadership experience in business development, management consulting, and product management in executing international roll outs, implementing new market entries, and building new revenue streams from disruptive technologies in EMEA, APAC, and LatAm.

Read Didem's full interview here.

Professor Sue Black featueredInspirational Woman: Professor Sue Black OBE | Professor of Computer Science and Technology Evangelist, UK Government Strategic Advisor, Women's Equality Party candidate for London Mayor 2020, Professional Speaker & Author

Sue Black is a leading academic, campaigner, and advisor to the UK Government.

Black is a Professor of Computer Science and Technology Evangelist at Durham University with more than 40 publications behind her as well as a PhD in software engineering.

Her academic career has seen her hold leadership posts at London South Bank University, University of Westminster and University College London.

A champion for women in computing, Black founded BCSWomen, the UK’s first online network for women in tech, and #techmums, a social enterprise which empowers mums and their families through technology. The activist is also widely known for her successful campaign to save Bletchley Park, the wartime campus where more than 5,000 women served as codebreakers.

A figurehead on numerous boards, Black is a Comic Relief Trustee and a mentor at Google Campus for Mums. She has previously been a L’Oréal UNESCO prize judge, an expert evaluator for the European Commission and a Nesta Crucible fellow.

Black was awarded an OBE for “services to technology” in 2016.

She today sits as a Women’s Equality Party candidate for London Mayor 2020.

Black is a self-confessed social media-holic. She is a mum of four and a grandmother of four.

Read Sue's full interview here.

Lea von Bidder featuredInspirational Woman: Lea von Bidder | Co-Founder & CEO, Ava

Lea von Bidder is Co-Founder; VP Marketing and President of Ava Science Inc.

The idea for the Ava bracelet came from Pascal Koenig, Philipp Tholen, Peter Stein and I (Lea) around five years ago when we were confronted with our own reproductive choices in the modern world. We almost immediately started consulting with several gynaecologists from around the world, mainly in Europe and the US, asking what is important for women’s reproductive health needs. When Pascal, Philipp, Peter and I founded Ava in 2014, it was with the mission to advance women’s reproductive health by bringing together artificial intelligence and clinical research. And I’m proud to share that we’ve just achieved a major milestone: Our clinical research has just been made public in a scientific paper published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Medical Internet Research. The paper demonstrates that five physiological signals change throughout the menstrual cycle, and that by tracking these signals, we can identify the fertile window of a woman’s cycle in real time. Our flagship product, the Ava fertility tracker, is the only fertility-tracking method available that measures all five of these signs.

We have around 120 employees worldwide distributed among Zurich, San Francisco, Belgrade, Makati and Hong Kong. Around 80 of these sit in our Headquarters in Zurich and work in various departments such as Clinical Team, Data Science Team, Product Team, Marketing as well as Customer Success.

We are proud to count over 20,000 pregnancies worldwide and 50 new pregnancies a day among our users

The tracking of a woman’s cycle, fertility, and pregnancy is just the start of many exciting possibilities. Ava continues to conduct clinical studies to improve its accuracy and increase its capabilities. Ava and the University Hospital of Zurich are conducting a new large cohort study with several sub-studies that will address topics such as irregular cycles and pregnancy complications. We are also working with several thought leaders to conduct studies in assisted reproduction and gestational hypertensive populations.

Our vision of wanting to be a long-term companion for women, providing data-driven and scientifically proven insights along all stages of their reproductive lives, as well as our mission, wanting to advance women’s reproductive health by bringing together artificial intelligence and clinical research, are our biggest drivers.

Read Lea's full interview here.

Kerrine Bryan featuredInspirational Woman: Kerrine Bryan | Award-winning engineer & founder of Butterfly Books

Kerrine Bryan – an award winning black female engineer and founder of Butterfly Books.

Kerrine has gone on to smash many glass ceilings to become respected in her field.

She was shortlisted in Management Today’s 35 Women Under 35 for notable women in business and, in 2015, she won the Precious Award for outstanding woman in STEM. Kerrine is a volunteer mentor for the Institute of Engineering & Technology (IET) and is an avid STEM Ambassador. It was while she was undertaking talks at various schools across the country for children about engineering and what her job entails that she became inspired to set up her independent publishing house, Butterfly Books.

In response to this, Kerrine published a series of books (My Mummy Is A Scientist, My Mummy Is An Engineer and My Mummy Is A Plumber) as a means of communicating to children a positive message about all kinds of professions, especially STEM careers, that are suffering skill gaps and diversity issues. The fourth book in the series, My Mummy Is A Farmer, launched last month – August 2018.

Read Kerrine's full interview here.

young woman on her phone commuting, career advice

Looking back at 2019: Our top tech career advice articles

young woman on her phone commuting, career advice

In our first installment of looking back at 2019, we delve into our favourite and inspiring career advice articles of the year.

WeAreTechWomen prides itself on having the answers you need to take the next step in your career. Our careers advice section offers the latest and most relevant tips on networking, legal advice, CV advice, interview advice and much more.

Job seeking

WeAreTechWomen has a plethora of articles focusing on job seeking – including interview advice, applying for jobs and improving your CV.

Below are just a few of our top articles to get you started:

Using social media to advance your career

How to find the right professional mentor

Five hacks for women to get ahead in STEM

Tackling the digital skills gap

How to gain free digital experience before you have a job

Tips for women in digital by women in digital

Bitesize Career Development

WeAreTechWomen also offers bitesize career development with short, easy to watch videos.

Click here to start watching our career videos.

Returning to work and returnships

Returnships and helping women return to work after taking a career break has been at the forefront of careers advice in 2019.

Whether you are a maternity returner or someone who has taken a career break, there are now a myriad of options which will enable you to return to work. These programmes include training, a chance to refresh skills and meet other women who are in a similar position.

We have a dedicated page for all our returnship programmes, flexible working advice and advice on returning to work.

Discover our returnships here.


WeAreTechWomen has its own dedicated section for our tech entrepreneurs. Here you can discover the latest resources and campaigns open to entrepreneurs, as well as helpful advice articles to get you started.

Click here to discover our entrepreneurs section.


WeAreTechWomen has lots of advice and tips for productive networking sessions.

We also have a networking directory, which allows you to search for networks in your area and even coaches to gain one-to-one advice and mentoring.

You can find this directory here.

Careers Club

Don’t forget, we have a number of handy tools so that you can progress your career further. WeAreTheCity’s Careers Club provides online access to career development tools, alongside giving our members the ability to grow their personal networks.

If you are interested in taking your career to the next level and are self motivated and looking to meet like minded individuals, then this is the club for you.

We welcome women and men, of all backgrounds, at all levels, from all industries.

You can find out more and join here.

WeAreTechWomen Jobs

WeAreTechWomen Jobs was created to encourage more talented women to pursue their career aspirations and to connect job seekers with companies who are proactively recruiting women and supporting the development of more inclusive working environments.

You can discover a variety of different job roles from top companies such as Airbnb, PwC, Charlotte Tilbury, EY, Groupon, Secret Escapes and many more.

Click here to find your next role.

diversity, boys club featured

What are the key challenges for diversity in tech in 2020?

diversity, boys club

Article provided by Rachel McElroy, chief marketing officer cloud and technology-focused managed service provider Solutionize Global

With emerging trends firmly focused on Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and the increased use of tech in vital sectors such as healthcare, building a diverse workforce in this evolving landscape is now more pertinent than ever before.

It’s imperative for enterprises to build solutions encompassing many voices and reflect the input of the talented individuals throughout their teams – to prevent inherent bias in the innovation they bring to the marketplace.

Digital developments introduced by organisations must be truly representative of their end users’ wants, needs and interests. But what does that mean when tackling the immense diversity challenges within the sector that exists and how that will impact on what lies ahead?

To understand the best way to approach this is by reviewing the cool, hard facts on diversity. Yes, times are changing in the technology world – and more importance is being placed on building a diverse and inclusive workforce – but top, diverse talent is still battling to break through into an industry that has innovation and disruption at its heart.

Delving into the data

For example, in 2014 key Silicon Valley companies – including Apple, Google, Microsoft and Facebook published their diversity numbers for the first time – revealing how their teams were predominantly white or Asian men.

Five years on, Apple’s diversity figures still make for grim reading. The phone giant employs the same amount of black technical workers (six per cent), despite 13 per cent of the US population being black.

Meanwhile, delving into Facebook’s released data, 23 per cent of its technical workforce is female – which has seen an increase of 15% since 2014 – and Google reported similar numbers too. And although Amazon don’t publish their numbers concerning the split between technical, distribution and other employees, the e-commerce firm reports that 42 per cent of its workers are women.

When some of the most well-known US tech giants are struggling to make a substantial difference to the overall demographic of their staff list, how can other enterprises realistically make a difference? And how does that translate when thinking about the UK tech landscape?

Analysing the nation’s digital workforces

According to the most recent Tech Nation Report on diversity and inclusion – which analysed 12.5 million UK businesses registered with Companies House – only 19% of UK tech workers are female and 15 per cent are from BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) backgrounds.

In addition, when it comes to leadership roles, 22 per cent of tech directors are women. Comparatively, in the wider business community, such figures are only a little different – with a 71/29 per centsplit between the male and female sexes.

Although things are improving, albeit at a slow pace, it can still make for depressing reading – especially when considering how the last two decades of data show that the proportion of women in tech boardrooms has simply plateaued. And this all comes off the back of many high-profile campaigns and a renewed awareness of how a diverse directorship or senior leadership team can directly, and positively, impact a company’s bottom line.

As the UK tech evolution grows three-times faster than the overall economy – contributing an impressive £200 billion a year – it shows how much it is revolutionising enterprises and providing the exciting, myriad of roles now available to the motivated and digital savvy staff member.

So, why is diversity still such a challenge?

Perhaps something can be said with regards to the lengthy, historical backdrop of poor representation that technology has played when being viewed as a viable career choice for women.

Additionally, education has an important role throughout, as it possesses the opportunity to empower the workforces of tomorrow and showcase the incredible force that digital disruption embodies. For example, ICT has typically been viewed as a sector working in silos and only suited to men with analytical minds. However, it should be highlighted as an exciting, collaborative and innovative career that can truly change the face of how companies now operate.

It’s time to challenge recent research that reveals how 48 per cent of women feel that a lack of mentors was a blocker towards a technology career. This needs to be tackled as an industry and by those working in it.

These are the statistics that really matter to analyse and truly affect change. The Bank of England’s recent analysis shockingly revealed that ethnic minorities in the UK earn around 10 per cent less than white workers.

Could 2020 be the year when enterprises truly focus on recruiting a diverse mix of top tech talent from a range of backgrounds and providing them with a workplace that is inclusive and rewarding to all? Let’s hope so.

It all comes back to one simple question – how can the right digital products and services be built to provide a viable solution for everyone if we all have the same voice?

female data scientist, woman leading team

What is an agile workforce and why should your tech firm care?

female data scientist, woman leading teamArticle provided by Rae Evans, marketing executive for managed and professional services cloud tech consultancy, Solutionize Global

Agile development methodology is evolving swiftly – and it’s proving to be more difficult for some enterprises than others, as every organisation does its utmost to remain relevant and competitive.

There’s often not a week that passes by without a company adopting a ‘fresh and agile’ approach, tweak, or innovation. But why is it becoming more pertinent to transform an organisation this way, especially within the tech sector?

Perhaps the answer lies at the very heart of innovation. For companies exploring a digital-first process, it must be understood that they not only have to possess the capability to respond to any change in an agile way – but ensure it’s done rapidly too.

That’s because disruption in the tech sector is often significant and constant. Therefore, savvy enterprises – with the correct infrastructure in place to deal with transformation swiftly – are in a much stronger position to deliver compelling value propositions.

It’s something many businesses are currently focusing on too, in order to stay ahead of the curve. According to a recent KPMG study – which surveyed professionals across Europe, Asia and US – 81 per cent of organisations have delivered at least one agile transformation project within the last three years. The study also found 63 per cent of leaders see agility as a strategic priority for both the entire firm and the IT infrastructure it has in place.

With an agile workforce comes a greater, more enriched, responsive experience that’s efficient, embraces change positively and adapts to capitalise upon emerging trends. Overall, it’s about being agile rather than doing agile.

But how can tech leaders help their employees embody such a cultural mindset? And what does an ‘agile team’ look like?

Having the ability to adopt a flexible approach

Top tech teams work flexibly, invest in learning, drive evolution – instead of responding to it – and are consistently motivated by change. They typically know when their firms should undergo transformation, and take proactive steps long before the project or strategy has even been launched.

Maintaining a competitive edge

Shifting market trends and changing project requirements often create a moving target that can drain resources and hinder project success. Therefore, it’s up to an agile workforce to understand how revolutionary a business model can be – and its importance when providing a commercial advantage.

With any strategy, the end goal is always achieving the optimum customer experience – and enterprises showcasing nimble and adaptable traits can evolve their plans to maintain a killer instinct.

Rolling out swift decisions

Technology provides businesses with the ability to analyse data so they can make key commercially driven judgements and think on their feet – and both are critical if they are to become an agile organisation.

Forward-thinking firms should also already have adopted a flatter hierarchy which encourages teams to be self-managing and provide them with the necessary tools so that they don’t have to go through countless phases of approvals, in order to enforce a decision.

Possessing the willingness to upskill

There has never been a greater time for tech organisations to motivate their existing workforces – thanks to the extensive development opportunities now available online.

With teams expected to deliver value at speed, every colleague has a pivotal role to play in making every project a success. That often means growing and learning together from one iteration to the next, motivating everyone to all pull in the same direction.

Following Randstad’s recent Workplace study – which found 68 per cent of employers believe the majority of their organisations will have an agile work arrangement by 2025 – this shift means business leaders are rethinking their office needs and roles. Therefore, a modern-day culture has become an incredibly important asset when attracting, and retaining, top talent.

Embracing a diverse environment

No revolutionary company even begin to be agility-focused without having a workforce that boasts a variety of technical and soft skills, perspectives and backgrounds. Quite simply, diversity provides a fresh and dynamic approach to digital disruption.

Having such a range of skills is not only crucial for a digitally savvy atmosphere to survive and thrive in a challenging marketplace, but it should enable organisations to bring something different to the table – so it maintains a competitive, disruptive edge.

Agile adoption will prove to be an easier concept for some organisations over others, but it’s no longer enough to rely on harnessing the best technology. Enterprises must delve deeper and foster a culture that encourages innovation and creative output – whilst attracting the right people who can deliver strategic, commercially driven and transformational goals.

female leader, women leading the way featured

Addressing the imbalance, how can we get more female-led startups funded?

female leader, women leading the way

While the UK is leading the way in the startup and tech world, the under-representation of women is even more marked in this sector of the economy than others.

Research from the British Business Bank shows that all female founding startup teams get just 1p for every £1 of investment.

We would all benefit from having more female entrepreneurs and business founders. It’s not just about doing the right thing morally, important as it is. Recent research from the Boston Consulting Group found that diverse teams produce 19% more revenue. Diageo has been ranked 1st in the UK in Equileap’s Gender Equality Ranking. It has also been rated one of the most dynamic companies in polls by competitors, while seeing impressive profitability. So we can all agree having more women making decisions makes great commercial sense.

Therefore it is vital to get seed funding to women in the most dynamic part of the economy - the startup sector. In supporting more female-led businesses we can create more role models and provide a pathway for others to follow. Here are four steps that need to be taken to start to change the picture.

  1. Develop networking: The oldest cliche in business is it’s not about what you know, it's about who you know. It’s a truism that has actively disadvantaged women, with men having more networks to tap into than women. It starts with education, boys’ schools have a lot more old networks than girls’ schools, and this is reinforced throughout our lives. Women need to build their own networks to redress the balance. The great news is that there are more organisations than ever dedicated to addressing this with opportunities to meet like-minded and connected people who can take your business idea to the next level. It is something my organisation SeedTribe is actively looking to do in showcasing a curated list of the best events for people involved in working in, or wanting to support, impactful start-ups.
  2. Attract more female investors: One of the biggest challenges for women looking for funding is the lack of women as investors. Angel investment is the lifeblood of early stage start-ups and a greater flow of capital into female start-ups at this stage would have a game-changing impact. However the investor community on Angel Investment Network in the UK has less than 10% women and is something we are determined to change. Although men can back female businesses, the evidence shows women investors will have an added insight and empathy for businesses led by women. If we look at products designed around financial inclusion, they will bring a fresh perspective on how women may think about investment compared to men, and so enable access to the largest under-served market in the world: women. This includes products like Tumelo, SmartPurse or Bippit. It’s not just financial investment. Finding the right female angel who has led a business themselves, who can help support, advise and back your business can be invaluable.
  3. Be more confident in pitching There are a number of tweaks women can make to their pitch, in order to increase their chances of investment. Sometimes it's just a question of being bold and putting ourselves in the shoes of the listener. Learning to switch perspective to put the most pertinent argument forward is one of the simple steps we can do to increase our chances of investment if fundraising for a start-up. My experience of launching my old start-up GrubClub was critical in helping me understand how important it is to think of different angles, adapting my pitch according to the investor I was speaking to, so I would research each investor carefully and highlight a different reason for them to invest, based on their background and interests - while always making sure I was staying true to the soul and values of GrubClub. It's important to be flexible and open to other approaches, but never to the detriment of what is fundamental to your company.
  4. Give other women a hand up I’m a big believer in paying it forward. Women can challenge an entrenched system by ensuring they offer a hand up to other women who are looking to develop their own business. Having launched and sold my own business, I dedicate my time to supporting impactful entrepreneurs to grow in more holistic, sustainable ways. This involves not just fundraising but also opportunities to connect with professionals who can collaborate with them to help them grow along the way. The individual power we all have is immense and far greater than we perhaps realise. Let’s use it meaningfully.

Olivia SibonyAbout the author

Liv is an award-winning entrepreneur (Awarded Top 10 UK Women Entrepreneurs 2019 -- Wise100 Top Women in Social Business) and trailblazing ethical investment champion who left a career at Goldman Sachs to launch her foodtech startup, GrubClub, which she sold to Eatwith in 2017. She joined Angel Investment Network (having raised money for Grub Club through them) to launch and grow SeedTribe, a spinoff platform focused specifically on connecting “impactful” businesses with investors.

Most recently she has launched a 'Female Founders' community on the platform to champion female start ups and encourage female investors. This was in response to discovering just 10% of investors on the AIN platform are women, something she is determined to change.She is also a Board member of UCL's Fast Forward 2030, which aims to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs to launch businesses that address the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Tech Future Female Leaders Programme featured

Applications are now open for Tech Returners' Tech Future Female Leaders

Tech Future Female Leaders Programme

Just five per cent of senior roles in tech are held by women, that’s probably not a surprising statistic to most people but it’s one that Tech Returners CEO Beckie Taylor is passionate about changing and so she set out to develop a programme which would work with women in technology to develop the skills they needed to progress in their careers and inspire others to do the same. 

The lack of diversity and missing skills in the tech industry is a reality and Beckie found she was consistently asked:

“How do I hire more women into tech leadership roles?”

There is no magic answer, but rather it’s about fresh thinking, about creating environments where women in tech teams can develop themselves for success and inspire others to do the same and so in 2018, the Tech Future Female Leaders programme was born.

A four part programme focused on understanding and building an individuals’ own unique journey into leadership, identifying natural strengths and how to communicate effectively.  Building confidence and empowering individuals to develop a personal brand internally and externally alongside building technical leadership for themselves and their teams, all of which are underpinned by creating and developing a support network to aid ongoing development.

Since then the programme has worked with more than 40 female technology leaders from globally recognised organisations committed to developing their talent and is focused delivering real results with graduates from the programme going on to win industry awards and speak at events and conferences and even taking to the stage at TEDx. In 2019 the programme has developed to provide an ‘in house’ offering working with businesses like The Co-Op to deliver the programme across entire teams.

How to get involved

Tech Future Female Leaders works with business to invest in their talent and to create a business where people develop and grow, assisting your retention efforts and helping your business attract new talent. The programme is open to individuals either as part of their training provision from their employer or self-funded and to businesses looking to develop teams or groups of individuals in the house.

The next cohort kicks off January 2020, to learn more and apply please click here.

Technology Trends

The biggest technology trends of 2019

tech woman hands

In the last year, we saw the rise of new customer offerings and interfaces.

These are exciting times, and it’s clear that the battle for the relationship with the customers is really on. Here are some of the biggest trends I will personally remember most of 2019:

Money 2.0: neo-banks & blockchain

The pressure on traditional banks kept growing the past year. We’ve seen the rise of the very popular Neobanks like UK’s Monzo (3 million users), Germany’s N26 (3,5 million users) and Revolut (3,7 million users). Now, hot as these may be, their numbers are obviously still nothing in compared to the big banks. Not just when it comes to the number of users, but especially not in the amount of money that users have on their Neobank accounts, which on average is less than with traditional banks. Users are still experimenting with them, while their monthly paycheck and savings accounts are still coupled to the traditional players.

There’s a full-blown battle going on to control our money and it’s clear that both traditional banks and governments will do everything in their power to keep the status quo. There are HUGE cultural differences over here and in the US when compared to China or Singapore, which have virtually become cashless societies. Yet in the US, the ‘cashierless’ Amazon Go stores have been obliged to accept cash and the city of Philadelphia, too, has banned cashless stores.

Game of Streaming

I’m very curious as to how the cutthroat competition between Netflix and Disney+ will pan out. Though Netflix has made a lot of really successful own series and films the past years, it can’t hold a candle to the strength of Disney’s Marvel, Star Wars and Pixar brands and their merchandising. The quality and convenience of Netflix are fantastic, but Disney+ owns the true power brands. It’s going to be a thrilling show-off. It was impressive to see how Disney+ reached more than 10 million subscribers in the first 48 hours after their launch. Disney will, in my opinion, become the second largest streaming player together with Netflix.

But it’s not just video streaming, music streaming too, might go through some serious shifts, with Bytedance announcing that it will enter the market, probably causing some sleepless nights at the Spotify HQ. The battle for our eyes and ears is on.

Augmented Reality (AR) is gearing up

We’ve seen time and time again in 2019 how companies dabbled in AR to augment the convenience of their customers. Youtube’s AR ads, for instance, let viewers try on virtual makeup alongside beauty vloggers. Warby Parker launched this really cool app that combines AR and face mapping so customers can try on virtual glasses. Amazon is testing out the use of 3D body scanners to allow customers to virtually try on clothes and shop for styles that are better fitted to their body. Apple announced earlier this year that it is planning AR glasses in 2020 to come alongside an updated 5G iPhone. Lego launched eight new AR-focused sets, part of Hidden Side, a new series of sets designed to skirt the line between the physical and virtual.

Augmented Reality is in its early stage, we are at the beginning of its evolution. However, once it matures, this will become a killer new interface in customer interactions. Image the possibilities of on the go personalised content, augmented promotions, how digital reviews could become part of the offline world and so on.

The West is now the copycat

We’ve known for a while now that China has overcome its copycat years and is now one of the world’s forerunners in (technological) innovation, especially in artificial intelligence. But the last year has shown us that China is no longer content to keep to its boundaries and is steadily entering the Western market as well. Out of ‘nowhere’, Meituan Dianping, for instance, topped the FastCompany’s most innovative companies list. We can learn a lot from the company’s uncompromising obsession with convenience. Western companies often still expect customers to adapt to their delivery schedule while Meituan Dianping completely adapts delivery to its B2B and B2C customers, as it should be. And then there’s the unending victory march of Bytedance’s TikTok which by now has 500 million active users worldwide, 41% of which are aged between 16 and 24 and they spend an average of 52 minutes per day on the app. That’s one big bite out of Facebook’s audience.

Professor Steven Van BelleghemAbout the author

Prof. Steven Van Belleghem is an expert in customer focus in the digital world. He’s is an award-winning author, and his book Customers The Day After Tomorrow is out now. Follow him on Twitter @StevenVBe, subscribe to his videos at or visit

women only cyber security course

Women-only cyber security course aims to tackle startling inequality

women only cyber security course

British cyber security experts have created the ‘Academy of Cyber Security’ with the intention of re-training women

It’s 2001. Lorna Armitage, a fledgling IT professional, is about to sit her exam in cyber security. Upon entering the exam hall, she finds herself the only woman in attendance, surrounded by over 200 men.

Fast forward to 2019 and Lorna, now a cyber security expert working on behalf of the UK government, enters London Olympia to attend the ‘InfoSec UK’ conference. It’s a packed event, and as she navigates her way through the crowds, she has a moment of realisation.

Cyber security still has a problem… a major problem. At this event, 90 per cent of delegates were male. The facts are, only ten per cent of UK cyber professionals are female, and the severity of this ratio increases when senior positions or deeply technical roles are isolated.

Following this moment of realisation, Lorna and several colleagues wanted to take a radical approach to solving this imbalance, which has persisted since the turn of the Millennium.

In September 2019, the Academy of Cyber Security was incorporated and the founding team of nine agreed that a women-only re-training course would be a priority.

Speaking about the course, Lorna said, "Alongside the clear problem of gender inequality, cyber in general has an urgent skills shortage."

"In the UK, we’re missing around 100,000 professionals and as a result, cybercrime is costing the British economy £27 Billion per year."

"It’s a problem of national security.”

"We’re seeing amazing initiatives at the early stage of education, but a clear lack of initiatives which target the current UK workforce and underrepresented demographics, such as women."

"Women who might be facing redundancy, returning to work, or those who simply want to change their career."

"These demographics can significantly contribute to the cyber security skills shortage.”

Interest in the Academy of Cyber Security has been exceptionally high, but even with dedicated marketing campaigns aimed at women, 80 per cent of applicants have still been male.

“We’ve seen a lot of push back against women-only initiatives."

"We see current industry leaders calling them ‘exclusionary’ and saying, “we just need more people”. If we don’t do anything, then more people just equals more men."

"Something must be done.”

“It’s paramount we normalise the cyber career path for women."

"We need more role models, and if we can unlock this demographic, then it will go a long way to solving the UKs cyber skills gap”.

The Academy of Cyber Security is 16-week re-training programme with the inaugural women-only cohort kicking off in Spring 2020. Applications are now open for aspiring women.

To find out more about the Academy of Cyber Security’s women-only initiatives, or to apply, you can go to:


Women supporting women: creating a more diverse tech workforce

Hanna Stacey, Business Manager at Rackspace

gender equality, gender balanceIt’s no secret that the technology industry has a significant gender gap, with women comprising only 22 per cent of those in STEM core occupations.

There are a number of societal and cultural barriers that have contributed to this under-representation of women in technology. That said, we do know that the problem starts from an early age: by school age just 27 per cent of female students say they would consider a career in technology, compared to 61 per cent of males – and only three per cent say it would be their first choice.

As an industry we understand that the issue needs to be tackled from a young age. However, while this can help us encourage more girls to pursue a career in tech, it’s not a silver bullet. US studies have shown that more than half of women in tech will leave the industry by the mid-point of their career – double the rate of men. For the STEM industry to become truly diverse, we must look at how we’re supporting women throughout their tech journey – not just when they’re starting it.

Launching women into technology careers

From my own time in education, I understand how difficult it can be in a heavily male-dominated field. Having studied human biology at university and being one of only two women in my class, comments were often made about how unusual it was to see a woman in the labs. However, I was able to use this to motivate me. For this reason, I have made it my mission to motivate others to consider a career in an industry they have a passion for, but may have concerns about entering.

While there have been a number of fantastic STEM initiatives in recent years, there is still more that those of us working in the tech sector can be doing to make this shift. For example, we can be getting involved with girls in technology programmes at local schools to ensure that they have opportunities to meet female role models from industry and understand the exciting opportunities of a career in tech. This can help change their perceptions of what many recognise as a stereotypically male-dominated sector.

For example, Harlington School’s sixth form was recently welcomed to Rackspace’s offices for a ‘Women in Tech’ session. This involved an immersive tour into the world of cloud computing through interactive presentations and workshops. As part of this, the students built their own servers and cloud environments for online games using traditional hardware and cloud infrastructure. They also heard about the range of career opportunities in the tech sector.

We are seeing a growing appetite from girls to pursue a career in STEM - and I believe that this is in part due to the increased investment and focus in schools. Indeed, Harlington School attributes the increased number of females taking IT to A-Level directly to the ongoing relationship and involvement it has with the industry. It’s therefore key that we ensure that girls across the entire country have the same opportunities to understand the advantages of a career in tech and dispel the ‘boys club’ myth. 

Support throughout their technology journey

Nonetheless, it is not enough just to encourage more women into a tech career. Fifty-six per cent of women working in the technology industry leave their job halfway through their career journey. It’s therefore important that we consider their needs in the business and support them with taking advantage of all the opportunities available. This needs to be embedded in the company culture. It is for this reason that I helped set up the POWER group in EMEA (the Professional Organisation for Women’s Empowerment at Rackspace).

POWER launched at the beginning of the year, and in April the team agreed on three focus areas: attracting; developing; and retaining women to create better balance in the workforce. For each, we workshopped initiatives and shortlisted those we felt achievable in year one. This included increased visibility and influence for women in the workplace, as well as initiatives around reviewing the maternity leave process and launching a ‘parents at work’ group.

The group has helped us create a sense of community, which I believe is important if we want to retain more female talent in the technology industry. There’s a clear positive intent with the group as we are working towards providing equality in the workplace whilst also empowering women in tech. As a group, we’ve already delivered great outcomes and aim to continue to challenge the status quo, to ensure we are retaining women in STEM careers.

Be part of the technology revolution

We know that the technology industry has some of the greatest career opportunities as we enter the fourth – then fifth – industrial revolution. So, we must ensure that the traditional ‘boys club’ image is dispelled and that women feel increasingly inspired, confident and supported to pursue tech roles.

We all have our part to play in making a more diverse workforce in technology a reality. As we have seen, this means using our position in the industry to improve the future experience of women in technology firms, and highlighting its benefits to the next generation to inspire them to take part.

Hanna Stacey About the author

Hanna Stacey is a Business Manager at Rackspace, to the EMEA Managing Director, Darren Norfolk. She works alongside the leadership team to facilitate strategic planning, creation of scorecards and governance of projects whilst keeping the team focused on business priorities.

In the last year at Rackspace, Hanna has influenced the start-up of POWER, a professional network for Women’s empowerment at Rackspace and has been recognised at the Rising Star Awards as a winner in her field.

With a STEM background, Hanna has always been interested in the sciences and the future, and has found her niche working in the Technology industry.

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TechWomen100 Awards | Proud to announce our education partner, Durham University

Winners Banner with logo featuredWeAreTechWomen are committed to supporting the on going personal development of our TechWomen100 winners. This year, in partnership with Durham University, each winner will receive the opportunity to attend a complementary full day seminar with Professor Sue Black OBE, Professor of Computer Science & Technology Evangelist, Speaker & Author.

Vanessa Vallely OBE, Managing Director, WeAreTheCity said “I am ecstatic to be working alongside Durham University as education partners for our TechWomen100 awards this year. This will provide an fantastic opportunity for all of our winners to grow their networks and be inspired by one of the best professors in the UK.  I am very grateful to Professor Black and Professor Love for their support and look forward to working with them in the future.”

Black said “I am very proud to be able to support the TechWomen100 award winners in my role as Professor of Computer Science and Technology Evangelist at Durham University.  20 years after setting up the UK’s first online network for women in tech BCSWomen women in tech still only represent 17% of the industry, and that needs to change! We will only see progression by continuing to make a conscious effort to invest in these women and by putting programmes and initiatives in place to support their careers.  I am really looking forward to supporting this year’s winners by hosting them at Durham University in June, I am sure it will be a hugely inspiring day for all of us.”

Love said “Durham University is really proud to able to work with WeAreTechWomen as an Educational Partner. We share common goals of increasing diversity in Tech, and we really are excited to host and meet the TechWomen100 winners”.

Durham University have launched a number of initiatives to support women in tech during 2019. This year, in partnership with 16 companies and three universities TechUPWomen was launched. TechUPWomen is a six month training programme focussed in the north, that will enable 100 women to retrain in the technology sector. This new programme aims to address the shortage in the tech industry by recruiting women who want to start a career in the tech sector, particularly from Black, Asian and other minority or under-represented communities. The programme was created by Durham Professors, Alexandra Cristea and Professor Sue Black OBE.

Further details of the TechWomen100 seminar will be shared at the start of next year.

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