Jacqueline O'Donovan: What I have learnt from being a female director in a male-dominated industry

Jacqueline O'Donovan, managing director, O’Donovan Waste Disposal

A few years ago, it was reported that women account for only 10 per cent of the construction workforce - a low, yet unsurprising number.

Jacqueline O'Donovan (F)I entered the industry at a young age, having to join in the running of the family business, O’Donovan Waste disposal, following the death of my father. My three siblings and I had to work together to keep the company going – it was certainly a challenging time. Entering an industry that was, and still is in some areas, predominately male at just 19 was not without its difficulties, but I quickly learnt to adapt and demonstrate that I didn’t just deserve to be there, but that I could flourish.

Having looked back over my 30 years at O’Donovan, there have been a number of key lessons that I have learnt from being a female director in a male dominated industry.

Not to under estimate my abilities

As I took on more responsibility within the company, I began to challenge myself to look beyond the business and to consider how to improve the industry as a whole. Today, the time I have committed to improving safety across the sector has seen me collaborate with CLOCS, the Construction Logistics and Cyclist Safety organisation, on the design of innovative lorries and safety features which are changing the face of transport policies across the UK.

To laugh not cry

I would often not be taken seriously when I answered the phone, with clients demanding to speak to one of the male senior members of staff. At first this frustrated me, but I just had to laugh at it and think of how I could tackle the problem head on– one way I managed this was to train some of the male staff on the phones, putting me in charge and having others report in to me.

To forgive their assumptions

When starting out, many of the men in the company presumed I wasn’t savvy about certain regulations or equipment. I would ultimately surprise them with my knowledge of safe working practices, which I have strived to enforce during my time here. A key achievement for me was when I took over the safety and training of O’Donovan’s HGV drivers, even creating my own driver Certificate of Professional Competence course - one of the first to be tailored specifically to the exact training needs of drivers working across the waste industry.

To listen and learn – every day is an education

When you make up such a small proportion of the workforce, the most important first step is to observe how the company operates – not just the professional working practices but the relationships and dialogue between team members, and how you can be involved in that. You can also learn a lot by trying out different roles – for instance even if you enter at a managerial level, I would suggest spending a day with the contact centre or sales team and immersing yourself in the environment. Ask questions about their role and understand their daily tasks.

That I can make a decision quicker than most males

When I’m in meetings, I’ve often found that while my co-workers are still discussing the ideas for innovation, for example, I would have already weighed up the options and decided which the better strategy is by the time the conversation is over. Everyone works differently, but I have noticed that I am more suited to multi-tasking, and when faced with a challenge, I am normally one of the first in the room to consider all of the angles and come to a conclusion.

That I have to shout louder to be heard – metaphorically

I’ve always believed that actions speak louder than words – and this certainly applies to my experience as a woman entering a male industry. Rather than battling to be heard through bravado and words for the sake of words, I gradually stamped my authority on the business by implementing my beliefs and making a noticeable difference to not just O’Donovan but the industry. That gained the respect of my male counterparts more than any talking would have done.

CA holds I’m a Girl & IT Counts female summer school as part of London Technology Week

CA recently held a summer school event as part of London Technology Week called ‘I’m a Girl & IT Counts’.

house of parliament london - London Technology WeekThe event was hosted by IT Counts & Queen Mary University and saw 50 Year 10 female students from Acton School in London experience a lecture, campus tour, ICT Workshop, lunch, career panel discussion and learnt about what it’s like to study IT.

IT Counts is a social enterprise started by a group of IT Management for Business (ITMB) students in 2014 from Manchester University. The group launched the initiative to inspire students to consider careers in technology.

CA became the first partner of IT Counts in June 2015 in a bid to help the group research and develop education materials, and form a teacher-training programme. The partnership was also formed to host five one-day workshop/summer school for students and a one-day summer school for teachers.

This week’s summer school event is IT Count’s first step in showing other universities how to run their own to engage with local secondary school students.

CA’s own intern Annabel Sunnucks took part in a career panel discussion at the event.

Sarah Atkinson, Vice President, Communications and Exec Sponsor Gender Diversity EMEA, said: “This program is a great example of paying it forward. The ITMB students will be great role models in inspiring the next generation to consider careers in STEM.”

This week marks London Technology Week which sees a variety of city based companies and enterprises working together to shine a light on the IT industry.

London Technology Week kicked off with an exhibition of the best British fashion technology.

Some of the UK’s leading fashion technology designers showcased their work, which included a 3D printed wearable garment designed by Modeclix; the world’s first holographic intelligent mannequin from Headworks; and a behind the scenes look at London Fashion Week using 360 degree video and content curated by creative communications agency Village.

Winners of TeenTech Awards 2016 announced with more female finalists than male

Winners of the TeenTech Awards 2016 were crowned during a ceremony at the Royal Society London this week.

TeenTech Awards (F)More than 120 teenagers were chosen as finalists out of 1,400 contenders across the UK. During the day the finalists presented their ideas to a judging panel of celebrity science presenters, journalists and academics.

Teams compete for a cash prize and the opportunity to pitch their ideas to industry experts who can make their product ideas a reality. Winning teams are also invited by TeenTech Patron HRH Duke of York KG to a reception at Buckingham Palace in the Autumn.

The 2016 awards challenged entrants aged 11-18 to develop scientific and technological solutions designed to make live “better, simpler or easier”. The TeenTech Awards encourages teenagers to use technology to solve real-world problems.

Each category for the event is sponsored by an industry partner, which in 2016 included: Maplin, National Grid, Airbus, JVCKenwood, Symantec, Atkins, Cranfield University, AQA, CILIP IL Group and Dell.
Co-founder of TeenTech and former BBC Tomorrow’s World presenter Maggie Philbin was joined by the likes of Professor Brian Cox, theoretical physicist and broadcaster Professor Jim Al-Khalili, Gemma Morris from SKY, Fran Scott, CBBC Science Presenter, Channel 4’s Dr Christian Jessen, BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones, Tech reporter for BBC Click LJ Rich, Channel 4 News’ Geoff White, science and tech reporter Dallas Campbell, and Jo Johnson MP.

This year there were more female finalist teams than male. Philbin said: “It’s gratifying to see 75 girls and 69 boys in the finalist teams. Students from all backgrounds come to our TeenTech events and begin to understand that working in tech is about finding real solutions for real needs.

“They work really hard on their own ideas with support from some brilliant mentors and surprise themselves as well as our judges when they see what they can achieve.”

TV’s Professor Brian Cox, said: “I always look forward seeing what the students at TeenTech come up with and I’m never disappointed. We are seeing the next generation of scientists and engineers, and it fills me with optimism. TeenTech’s great contribution is to re-enforce their enthusiasm and to provide them with both the inspiration and information they will need to build successful careers. Every finalist was a worthy finalist and as for the winners, I congratulate you. But the real prize is your future in science and engineering.”

Iona and Alice from James Allen’s Girls’ School in London, winners of the 2015 Consumer Innovation Award, brought a working prototype of their product ‘Indicate’ which was a winning project in 2015. Since their win they have been working with Maplin making their designs and concept a reality, with the end goal is selling it at Maplin stores. ‘Indicate’ is a high visibility jacket that allows cyclists to indicate using LED lights worn on their back.

Iona and Alice said: “For us TeenTech has been a really life changing experience that’s helped us see the world in a different way. It’s made us realise that if you have ideas you don’t have to wait to be 18 or wait until you graduate from university to make something of them. You can start whenever you want – coming up with ideas and designing products that can actually make a difference and people want to use”

Recently Philbin was presented with the Digital Leader of the Year for her work with TeenTech.

The Digital Leaders 100 Awards presented her with the award. The CEO of Lloyds Bank described her as having very special qualities as a leader.

On her award Philbin said: “It’s incredibly humbling to win something like this. There were some brilliant people nominated, and that’s the whole thing about the digital space. There are so many people doing such incredibly significant work.”

“By default digital has created this whole community because we know about each other and support each other. The award has come as the most wonderful surprise and is an absolute credit to the brilliant team of people across the UK and Ireland who make TeenTech the very special organisation it has grown to be.”

Winners of the TeenTech Awards 2016 were as follows:

Healthcare Category
Loughborough Grammar School – David, Sankha and Hari for Medivest
Wearable technology designed to combat cases of severe epilepsy, allowing patients to monitor and send their vital signs to their doctors.

Energy Category sponsored by National Grid
Westcliffe High School for Boys – Adwaith for “The Palat Engine”
Adwaith set about investigating different forms of fuels and alternate engine configurations. The result is the Palat Engine, the emission from which is almost pure water.

Transport Category sponsored by Airbus
Caterham School – Casper, David and Oliver for “Sensosafe”
A bike light that senses when a car is approaching and notifies the cyclist.

Education Category
Woldingham School – Milan, Imogen and Maria for “MyST App”
My School Trip is an app designed for teachers to find new and exciting school trips. Trips can be arranged for all age groups/Key stages with over 20 subjects included and 100+ excursions to choose from.

Wearable Technology Category sponsored by Maplin
Alton Convent School – Alexandria for “Bras with Benefits”
Bras with Benefits is a cancer detecting bra, designed to identify early stage breast cancer before outward signs are visible.

Music, Media & Entertainment Category sponsored by JVCKenwood
Gillingham School – Thomas and Sol for “Sabretooth Music”
An audio system that enables multi-room speaker from any device and any digital music collection.

Environment Category
James Allen’s Girls’ School – Isabelle and Kyoka for “GreenNet”
A biodegradable fishing net that will break down in water after only two weeks.

Safety & Security Category sponsored by Symantec
Welland Park Academy – Ted, James and Joshua for “Blue-Key”
BLUE-KEY can be connected to a central hub using the app provided on your smart phone to open or close selected doors remotely, helping a wide range of people including the elderly, disabled, and emergency services.

Retail & Finance Category
Notre Dame School – Eve, Zara, Tia and Niamh for ‘Trolley Knowledge”
A built-in tablet for your shopping trolley which helps make your weekly shop a whole lot easier.

Design & Construction category sponsored by ATKINS
Westminster Academy – Siana for “Emergency Necklace Bridge”
An emergency bridge that can be easily transported to and assembled at the site experiencing critical conditions such as damaged infrastructure.

Future of Food Category
Alton Convent School – Iona, Isabel and Lucy for “Natural Nutrients”
Natural Nutrients capitalises on the resources of a living rainforest, providing local people with the tools and skills to produce nutritious food supplements from edible bugs.

Digital Skills Category sponsored by DELL
The King Edward VI School – Alistair, William and Matthew for “NavBand”

Manufacturing Award sponsored by Cranfield University
Loughborough High School – Chloe, Lini and Ashley for “Steerclear”
An adaption of the modern steering wheel to make driving a more enjoyable, safer and interesting experience.

Research and Literacy Award sponsored by CILIP Information Literacy Group
Oakham School – Matthew, Oliver and Archie for “K-Charge”
A shoe integrated with a battery, which charges by converting the kinetic energy generated by walking into electrical energy.

Teacher of the Year Category
Natalie Radmore: Passmores Academy

Best Innovation – Concept category
Sandbach High School & 6th Form College – Amy for “Bluetooth Speakers”
A bluetooth speaker that is made from obsolete books and vinyl records.

Best Innovation – Model, Prototype or Product category
Oakham School – Harry for “Gust”
An ergonomically redesigned hairdryer that is cordless, heats using semi-conductors to minimise damage to the hair and is modular.

Best Research Project
Loughborough Grammar School – Sai for “Biosense”
Research into the detection of glucose in the urine of undiagnosed type 1 diabetes through a toilet block that causes a colour change in the toilet bowl signifying a positive result for a disease test.

Consumer Innovation Award sponsored by Maplin
Oakham School – Harry for “Gust”
An ergonomically redesigned hairdryer that is cordless, heats using semi-conductors to minimise damage to the hair and is modular.

People’s Choice Award
Impington Village College – Peter, Jim and Eddie for “Let’s Get Biking”
An app aimed at young children who like biking. Includes parental control to monitor bike travel to allow parents to select safe routes and traffic information.

Female founders of Outfittery win Digital Masters Awards

Founders of online style advisers Outfittery Anna Alex and Julia Bösch won the Women in Digital prize at the third annual Digital Masters Awards last night.

Digital Masters Awards (F)
Anna Alex and Julia Bösch collecting their award

The Digital Masters Awards took place at London’s Freemasons’ Hall, where 800 attendees gathered from global companies.

This year’s winners were judged by a panel of 20, including investors Robin Klein, Sonali De Rycker and Daniel Waterhouse. The event is organised by digital executive search and networking firm The Up Group.

On receiving the award, Alex and Bösch said: "We are happy and honoured to receive this award. It feels especially great since I still remember the times four years ago, when we started Outfittery in Julia's living room and no one in Europe knew what online personal shopping is. I am lucky to have such a great team who is giving its best every day to make our 300,000 men happy and well dressed.”

Robert Swerling, Co-CEO of The Up Group, said: “We’re proud to honour these outstanding individuals, and delighted to be able to bring together such a fantastic audience to celebrate their success”.

Alex Deplege and Jules Coleman from Hassle were also celebrated and named runner up.

The 2016 Digital Masters Awards winners were:

CEO of the Year
William Shu- Deliveroo

Excellence in Business Intelligence and Data
Vince Darley – King

Excellence in Commercial
Jesper Frederiksen – Docusign

Excellence in Digital Transformation
Ralph Rivera – BBC

Excellence in Finance
Hope Cochran – King

Excellence in General Management
Mark Logan – Skyscanner

Excellence in Marketing
Stephanie Horton – Farfetch

Excellence in Multichannel Retail
Dom McBrien – The White Company

Excellence in People and Talent
Lorraine Metcalf – Zoopla Property Group

Excellence in Product
Dave Price – Spotify

Excellence in Technology
Dan Teodosiu – Criteo

Women In Digital
Anna Alex and Julia Bosch – Outfittery

Father's Day - The Day my Dad met Elon Musk

Woman in technology Maria Ingold, Founder & CEO of mireality, shares the day her Dad met rocket scientist Elon Musk – a meeting she had organised as a Father’s Day gift.

Q: What do you get a rocket scientist for Father's Day?

A: Another rocket scientist!

On Invention

The idea started, festered really, over several years. Every time I read an article about something created by some guy named Elon Musk.

Festering is the mother of invention. It's the unconscious mind, collecting data, making sense of it, and then seeding an idea into the conscious mind until it takes hold. The trick is to be able to become aware of that idea – that magic "aha!" moment – and to make it real.

They had to meet.

The Day my Dad met Elon Musk (F) - Father's Day

On Rocket Science

My dad, Norm Ingold, is a genuine rocket scientist. Not just any old rocket scientist either. He has nearly 50 years' practical experience. He even worked on Apollo 13 for NASA – increasing the accuracy of the guidance systems of the Lunar Excursion Module (LEM) from 200 miles to 3 miles – an action that helped save the astronaut's lives.

That's his speciality. Testing and improving accuracy using a method he helped pioneer – the sled test – at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico. A rocket is placed on a sled and sent down a track at beyond the speed of sound. Its progress along the track is measured in minute detail to check for anomalies. Dad then extended the program to come up with the reverse velocity sled test.
I was very lucky as a child to witness some of the tests. He'd say, "Watch closely now, it's about to start." And we'd watch it take off, incredibly fast, racing along the track across the backdrop of the White Sands desert and the jagged volcanic dykes that formed the Organ Mountains. It would come to a dramatic halt as a water brake sent up a gigantic plume into the sky. Then the sonic boom would hit. The kind of sound that travels through you – and makes windows rattle in their frames. It was magical.

My dad eventually retired as Chief Scientist a few years before the millennium. But his work didn't end there. In 2009 the military invited him to a special dinner to honour the old scientists. They asked him what he remembered. He remembered everything. Out to the 21st decimal point. He'd even solved some of the problems they'd had decades before. Most importantly, he remembered ways of thinking and solving problems that they'd lost as the world shifted from a mix of analogue and digital to purely computer-based solutions. So thirteen years after he retired, they hired him back as a consultant.

My favourite story is how, after he returned, he increased the accuracy of a specific rocket component by 1000% using a printout, a ruler and a calculator. Back in '60s, '70s and '80s, Dad and his colleagues would print out the data as a graph on that old-style computer paper that had green and white lines on one side, sprocket holes along the edges and perforations between the pages, so you could print out a lot of code or a lot of graph data. They'd lay it out along the long corridors and "walk the graph" – looking for anomalies. As the human brain is an image processing beast, it's very good at looking at the whole picture and identifying regions that don't seem to fit. When they found an anomaly they zoomed in and looked more closely at the data. So Dad had them print out the data as a graph, which he then measured for distance with a ruler, and ran the matrix calculations by hand with a calculator. He ran the matrix calculations by hand because cumulative floating point calculations run on a computer can introduce a degree of error depending on the precision.

As Elon puts it, Dad applies "First Principles" thinking – i.e. going back to basics and core fundamentals – to solve problems to come up with better (in this case, more accurate) solutions.

But the similarity with Elon didn't end at rocket science.

On Cars

Dad now has 17 cars, including a selection of antiques he intends to restore. My favourite, and the most restored, is a 1930 V16 Cadillac. At nineteen feet long, it's the second one ever made, and sports a chrome goddess hood ornament on top a dual-tone green body with two banks of straight eight engines which can be run independently or together.

Dad also used to race cars. He always said he liked to hire engineers who were race car drivers because they understood how to take risks.

While Elon's cars don't even have an engine to restore as they're fully electric, there is a shared love of the beauty and the speed – Tesla’s P85D model has a Ludicrous Speed option that makes it a sedan that's faster than a Ferrari and "faster than falling" as Elon says.

On Solar

The Day my Dad met Elon Musk - Father's Day

I grew up in a cabin Dad built by hand on our 100 acres of land in the mountains of New Mexico. He designed it with a love of science – the bookshelves use the golden ratio, the steps pitter-patter at half heights to the second story – and he built it using a combination of physics, trigonometry and sheer strength. He mixed about 57,000 pounds of cement in a half-cut 50-gallon drum – by hand, with a shovel, and poured it onto bedrock.

The view from the deck of mountains 122 miles distant is amazing. As is the stripe of the Milky Way on a new moon when you lean back and look up at the night sky. And the sound of a New Mexico rainstorm on the tin roof is one of the most peaceful ways to spend a lazy afternoon.

He built the cabin off-grid. Back when solar was hippy. Not hip. And of course he also built a barn, by hand, to host all the solar panels (and keep the cars dry). He stores the solar power in a bank of golf cart batteries which he runs through an inverter to convert into house current.

On Lateral Innovation

Dad's second grade teacher said he’d never amount to anything, because he took longer than all the other students to do anything. He took longer because he was thinking. Thinking about what he was doing, rather than just "doing" because a teacher told him so.

He's been able to do all these things because he was interested in thinking about so many things. He studied geology, anthropology, physics (including both quantum mechanics and relativity), mathematics, linguistics and chemistry. He could do solar because he understood electricity. And he's used everything in rocket science.

He also studied seven languages, six of which he still speaks fluently. To solve problems he often flips between languages as that engages his brain differently. Language is a window through which we interpret the world. The words available to us say "how" we interpret. Different words and sentence structures bring different ways of understanding a problem to come up with a solution.

Dad always says, "Learn everything about everything." Regardless of whether it's in your field or not. His insight is that people who impose limits on you are working off their own limits, self-imposed or otherwise. So, don't limit. Be curious. Learn everything. And discover the true range of your potential by innovating laterally across everything that you learn.

On Making the Impossible Happen

The Day my Dad met Elon Musk -  Father’s Day

Just before Father's Day, 2015, a friend posted an article on Tesla Powerwall on Facebook. Powerwall is a very slim line way of storing solar power in a battery. Much more efficient space-wise than Dad's 28 golf-cart batteries, although several would need to be ganged together and hung on the walls. Elon had made a series of battery storage advancements because of his work on Tesla electric cars and Solar City and a desire to make their factories powered by solar, and completely off-grid. I had to admit it was pretty cool. And there was that name again. Elon Musk.

That unconscious nudge turned into a fairly sharp knock. Within 24 hours I'd published Father’s Day for Rocket Scientists – A Letter to Elon Musk, saying it would be marvellous if they met. Within another 24 hours I had a yes from Elon.

The date was set for Monday the 24th of August, 2015 at 6:15pm. We'd meet Elon at SpaceX in Hawthorne, California, near LAX airport and get a VIP tour. It would've been easy for me to fly from London to Los Angeles. But Dad wanted to drive his pickup truck from New Mexico to Los Angeles, a distance of nearly 900 miles. So I flew out to join him.

We packed up the pickup with luggage and lots of water and headed out, past Holloman Air Force Base and White Sands Missile Range and turned onto I-10 which would take us straight to LA.

Dad may be 81 now, but he's still the same person inside. He did the driving. I did the navigating. Just like our road trip to the Grand Canyon when I graduated high school. Except now I used my air miles to book us into a beautifully rustic ranch in the saguaro covered hills of Tanque Verde in Tucson. After all the driving, Dad was thrilled to discover they had a bar on site. We took refuge there, sipping Prickly Pear margaritas, when the summer thunderstorms hit and my phone notified me about local flood warnings.

After a wander through the saguaros in the morning, we loaded up the pick-up and headed through Tucson back to I-10. We drove past The University of Arizona on our way out. I discovered that's where Dad had been working on his Physics PhD, when he got the job offer at Holloman. Dad had already completed his Master's degree on the first non-surgical ear thermometer. So if you've ever used one, you can thank Dad for expanding on Benzinger’s research so that you don't have to have thermocouples surgically implanted into your eardrums first!

After crossing miles of empty desert we arrived at sunset into the chaos of LA.

We met that night with "the person who does not wish to be named". The one who, when I asked for help, asked Elon, and helped me make it happen. I am grateful for my courage to ask for the impossible. And I am forever thankful to those with the courage to respond.

Meeting Mr Musk

After months of waiting, a multitude of emails and phone calls and thousands of miles, it was finally the day. The day Dad would meet Elon Musk.

Dad worried if he should have a tie and a jacket. When he was assured it wasn't necessary, and that his khaki trousers and button down shirt were fine, he visibly relaxed. He could be himself – he always felt neckties cut off blood to the brain.

We drove to SpaceX. On arrival a security guard admitted us, slightly embarrassed that they hadn't quite prepared the parking space for us. We paused to take a few photos outside. I could see Dad's inner kid peeking through the adult rocket scientist demeanour, gleefully excited.

At reception we were given VIP passes. Before long our guide arrived and took us in through the doors. There was a rocket engine in the entrance hallway. We paused beside it and our guide began to explain how it worked. I mentioned that Dad had worked on Apollo 13. He laughed, and said Dad could probably tell him then! Dad asked if they had solved the issue of the broken strut on the SpaceX Falcon rocket in July. Dad had some theories, based on some of the things he'd seen. They'd gotten all of the things Dad had seen go wrong before, right. It was down to a single faulty bolt from an outsourced factory that did not have their same rigour of quality control.

As we spoke, Elon emerged from the doors leading to the interior lab area of SpaceX. He was dressed in dark blue jeans and a black button down shirt with no tie. Dad was pleased to discover he had indeed dressed correctly.

I introduced Dad and explained again about Father's Day for Rocket Scientists and why I was so inspired for them to meet. Then I left them to it. Elon graciously waited for questions. He and Dad spoke about the accident and quality control. It was a mixing of the generations of rocket scientists. The old learnings, the new learnings and the shared experiences. I think they would have had a great many more things to discuss, but like most busy executives, Elon had to move onwards. Elon walked out the doors behind us, and we walked into the bowels of SpaceX.

If my dad had been a little star-struck by Elon, he was galaxy-struck by SpaceX. On the right as you walk in are racks of servers behind glass, emblazoned with the name Skynet. On the left lurk two Terminators, red eyes glowing. The hall then opens up in every direction.

Our guide took us around, showing how they built a rocket in a day. Of course, they take a lot longer testing it. We were shown how they laid the carbon fibre covering by hand and where they 3D printed titanium parts. With 3D printing they are now able to print an incredibly strong mesh, so they could reduce the weight without sacrificing structural integrity. They mixed technological advances with old-fashioned human skill.

One of the staff passed us wearing an "Occupy Mars" t-shirt. "I want one of those," Dad whispered.

We made our way back out to the lobby. Dad stopped and said, "I've been asked to see a lot of facilities in my time. This one's the best I've ever seen." That's not said lightly. That's said by a rocket scientist with 50 years of experience. That's damn high praise indeed.

Elon reappeared from a side door in the lobby, smiling again. We waved goodbye as he crossed outside to get to his car. I wish he’d had a chance to hear what Dad said, but I’m glad I gave Dad an experience that allowed him to say that.

There's always things to learn from the minds of people who have done so much, and there is a reason why Elon's mind reminds me of Dad's. These are the minds of those who innovate laterally not just vertically.

Our guide disappeared, returning with two bags of swag. While he didn't get the t-shirt Dad did end up with a baseball cap that said "Occupy Mars" and a huge black SpaceX coffee mug.

Our little group of "those who make the impossible happen", walked out of SpaceX and back to the pickup truck, where they'd finally placed a VIP parking sign that said: SpaceX Ingold.

To Infinity and Beyond

The Day my Dad met Elon Musk - Father’s Day

SpaceX and Elon weren't the end of our trip. In a way, it was only the beginning.

I'd only planned to get us this far. The rest of the trip was left to spontaneity. Although Dad had spent a few years growing up in LA, he was restless to get back to the wilds.

We went to Joshua Tree, which he'd last been to 70 years earlier. We saw Skull Rock, which he'd loved as a kid. And we got caught in a flood. There's nothing as challenging to a man with a 4-wheel drive pickup as a flood, so Dad locked the hubs and we tore through it, gleefully splashing water in all directions.

Of course, now that I'm living in London, we had to see London Bridge as it's now in Arizona.

We then made our way across the old Route 66 to Flagstaff where we went to Lowell Observatory where Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto. I discovered Dad had known Tombaugh. Dad and a retired colonel used to run symposia, alternating between Alamogordo and Las Cruces, where Tombaugh worked. He remembers Tombaugh saying at a symposium, "Be careful what you bring back from Mars – it might contain a life form you don’t want to spread here."

Next up was Meteor Crater, which again Dad had last seen 70 years earlier, back when there was real debate as to whether it was a meteor or a volcano.

For our last stop, we drove down the old Route 666 as I was determined to get us to the Very Large Array (VLA). The VLA is a big open plain of 27 massive radio telescopes that paint a picture of space using different resolutions of radio waves.

Without planning, our 2000-mile round trip had become about not just space, but exploration, curiosity, invention, innovation and making the impossible happen. On Earth. In the distant reaches of our galaxy. At the edge of the known universe. And deeper into the unknown.

On that last stretch home, as we drove past the Trinity Site, where they'd exploded the world’s first atom bomb in 1945, Dad looked over and said, "This has been the most perfect visit ever." And I realised that this trip wasn't just about Elon Musk and space. It was about togetherness. And family. And precious father-daughter time. And fun.

Early in my life, that fun-filled father-daughter time inspired my passion for science and lateral innovation. Dad never treated me differently because I was a girl – he just shared what he loved about the scientific universe. If I'm recognised as a global leader in video on demand and emerging tech today, it's thanks to his initial inspiration.

I'm not entirely sure how I'm going to follow up for Father's Day in 2016. But so far I have a standing invitation from Bloodhound, who intend to set the 1000MPH land speed record, and Professor Brian Cox, CERN particle physicist and science show presenter, would love to talk about Apollo 13.

Dad once had a boss who ordered him not to solve a problem because it was impossible to solve. Of course, Dad solved it anyway. It took 1 ½ years. He delivered a symposium paper on the topic, citing his boss as his incentive. The boss said, "I'm ordering you not to solve these other problems on the basis you will, and cite me as your incentive, and we'll both look great."

In creating the impossible I've discovered there's a process to making the impossible happen. Firstly, know that festering is the mother of invention and become aware of the idea that your unconscious is bringing to you. Secondly, learn everything about everything so you can innovate vertically and laterally across all the possible ways you have to achieve that idea, going back to first principles if needed. Thirdly, have the courage to ask for it. Finally, have the courage to take it.

And then, find more impossible things to make happen.

This article was first published on mireality.co.uk.

Maria Ingold is a technical and strategic executive specialising in Video On Demand (VOD) and lateral innovation across video, Internet of Things (IoT), Smart Home and wearable tech. She has a 25-year track record delivering increased ROI and profitable film, TV, games and digital media products and services. She has spoken globally around 80 times and is also a TV and film judge for BAFTA, a writer, an artist and occasionally an actress.

Student Nannies launches to solve working parents' childcare nightmares

Working parents looking for an answer to childcare nightmares, your prayers have been answered in the form of a site that connects local students and parents with a twist.


The site, Student Nannies, aims to connect parents with students who are studying subjects that their child loves. The service enables parents to search for local students via the subject they study and students to search for parents based in the professional industry they would like to break into.

The company is not a nanny agency, but instead finds local matches which suit both student and parent.

Speaking to WeAreTheCity, Founder of Student Nannies, Tracey Blake, said: “It is a service created for working parents, by working parents. Students have a lot of spare time. Some may only have eight hours of lectures a week and some of the jobs available to them can be pretty miserable.”

Student Nannies was born out of Blake’s need for support with childcare for her daughter Minnie, 6, and son Monty, 4, due to her full-time role as a journalist on a national newspaper and as a children’s story book author.

She added: “My daughter Minnie, who is six, loves art and we have an art student called Louise who collects her from school every Wednesday and then they hang out and do really creative craft projects together - most recently making marbled paper using shaving foam and food colouring -  before Monty arrives and joins in. Students are smart and sensible, and they really can contribute positively to your child’s development - especially if you choose a student with a different skill set to your own as parents. The aim and goal is to create a community of parents and students who are helping each other.”

Tracey Blake, Minnie and Monty

“You can search via a variety of filters. You can search by times students are available to work, skills they have, whether they are happy to tutor too, do homework, be a pet nanny, can cook, will work in the school holidays, etc.”

It is free to register with a fee charged to exchange messages between matches as a VIP member. VIP Membership is just £10 a year for students while parents pay a monthly subscription of £15. Once a connection is made, the parent and student negotiate hours and rates.

Students Nannies launched last week and is currently focusing on growing its community to build up the amount of profiles available on the site.

“If we notice that there are lots of parents signing up in one area of the country, then we’ll go in there and market to local students to highlight that there are parents looking for childcare,” added Blake.


Student Nannies does not vet students, but offers parents a service so they can run a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) Check on potential Student Nannies for peace of mind, plus the company stresses the need for safety and offers advice on everything from where to hold your first meeting with a student nanny you have matched with, to how to keep your online identity safe and how to check a student’s ID and references.

Blake said: “We take safety seriously because we know that, for parents, their children are

Left to right: Kim Colley with her son Charlie, Sarah Brown with daughter Georgia Rose, James PInniger (Tracey's other half), Tracey Blake with Minnie and Monty

their most precious thing in the world.”

Entrepreneur mum

Blake said that starting her own business during her evenings and weekends has not been easy, however it has been very rewarding: “It is hard as we all have full-time jobs. I get the kids to bed and I’m back on my laptop to check copy and send emails.

“Don’t be naive about the amount of work that goes into starting a business - luckily the more challenging it is the more rewarding and satisfying your achievements become.”

Blake advised: “If you have an idea in the back of your mind, just do it. It’s better to do something than regret not doing it.

“Women are very resourceful, so a word to all the mums out there – if you’re sitting on a great idea just go ahead and do it.”

Sheryl Sandberg, of Facebook, takes women in tech pole position on Forbes’ 100 Most Powerful Women

Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg has been named the most powerful woman in technology for the fifth consecutive year, as part of the Forbes’ 100 Most Powerful Women list.

sheryl sandberg
Sheryl Sandberg

Sandberg placed seventh on the list overall, but was the top ranking woman in the tech sector to feature. She has a personal fortune to the tune of $1.4 billion and is a voice for female empowerment in the workplace and shared responsibilities at home. In June 2012, she was elected to Facebook’s board of directors by the existing board members, becoming the first woman to serve on Facebook's board.

Of the 100 women on the list 16 were from the technology sector. After Sandberg these included YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki (No. 8 overall), HP CEO Meg Whitman (No. 9), IBM CEO Virginia “Ginni” Rometty (No. 11), Apple Senior VP Angela Ahrendts (No. 15), Oracle Co-CEO Safra Catz (No. 20), Alphabet CFO Ruth Porat (No. 27) and Ursula Burns (No. 34), the CEO of Xerox since 2009. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer (No. 55).

In addition China’s Lucy Peng (No. 35) cofounder of Alibaba and CEO of affiliate Ant Financial Services Group also ranked in this year’s list. She was followed by Hong Kong billionaire-chair of Lens Technology Zhou Qunfei (No.61), Solina Chau (No. 81), cofounder of Hong Kong-based Horizon Ventures and Jenny Lee (No. 100), managing partner of Singapore’s GGV Capital.

Outside of the tech arena, Queen Elizabeth II and SNP leader, Nicola Sturgeon, also ranked on the Forbes World’s 100 Most Powerful Women for 2016.

German chancellor Angela Merkel topped the 100 list with Presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton coming in second place.

Other UK women on the list included Katherine Viner, editor-in-chief, Guardian News and Media (No. 68), Nemat Shafik, Deputy Governor, Bank of England (No. 59) and Eliza Manningham-Buller, Chair of Wellcome Trust (No. 88).

You can view the complete list of 100 women here.

WeAreTheCity and Huddle event | Imposter syndrome is normal and so are you

“Every person that comes out of every womb has imposter syndrome. It is normal and so are you,” said Deena Gornick, Executive and Board Level Coach at Penna, during a WeAreTheCity and Huddle event recently.

WeAreTheCity recently partnered with Huddle to hold an event entitled You are not an Imposter: How to Beat Imposter Syndrome. 100 ladies gathered at Huddle’s offices, in London, to overcome their own worries about feeling like a fake in the workplace.

During the event Deena Gornick, Executive and Board Level Coach at Penna, (pictured below) led an interactive workshop on how to overcome imposter syndrome.

Deena Gornick, Executive and Board Level Coach at Penna delivers her session on Imposter syndrome

She explained: “I was an actress in Los Angeles and I trained to become a psychotherapist and later became a coach to help businesses.

“I was sat in black wooly tights, Doc Martins and denim skirts and I sat with high up people during meetings and they’d lean over to me and say: ‘I’m frightened I’m going to get busted and found out.’ I was amazed that people so accomplished and earning so many zeros could feel that way.”

Gornick admitted that she still suffers from imposter syndrome herself: “After working with such companies and taking all those notes on the subject, I’m still suffering from it.

“I’ve read a lot and sat down and looked at my own imposter syndrome and I have experienced it through board members too, but I know the pain you feel and I know the talent I don’t own.”

She noted that many perfectionists are frightened of following through on plans, because they do not own their own talents: “Procrastination is down to perfection and architects live in crap houses because the one they designed in their head is a phenomenal.

“90% of success is showing up. Perfectionists forget to show up.”

Locus of Control

Gornick continued: “It was thought for a long time that only women suffered imposter syndrome, but men suffer it too. Locus of Control is where we feel Guest strike a power pose to overcome Imposter Syndrome

we have control over our lives and influence our own destiny.”

“Women have an external Locus of Control, which means if they want to apply for a role, internally in a company, and they think the role is great but they’ll get in early and leave late and will wait to be asked to apply. Whereas a man has an internal Locus of Control and will see the ad, will feel it’s not right for him but will apply anyway. Both places are terrifying if you’re not owning your talent.”

She stressed how it is important to own your talents and to know that when you succeed that it was not through good luck but through your own hard work: “Being in this world requires lots of courage and that means vulnerability. We think we achieve things with luck. Luck is what happened to Cinderella. Hard work leads to preparation and that leads to opportunity.”

“We don’t take our vitamins when we’re given praise. We deflect it instead of saying thank you and taking the vitamin.”

She finished her interactive workshop by saying: “Know that you’re normal. Stay present. Take your vitamins. Every person that comes out of every womb has imposter syndrome. It is normal and so are you.”

Panel of imposters

To finish the evening Huddle invited a panel of industry experts (pictured right) to share their own experiences of imposter syndrome.

On the panel Vanessa Vallely, Managing Director and CEO of WeAreTheCity, said: “I was in a job when I thought I was not worth my salary and that HR would come in one day and tell me that they had made a mistake.”

Ian Cooper, Head of Architecture at Huddle, said: “I have thought that other employees are better than me or have questioned why am I here. I reacted badly to this and overcompensated by coming across as too pushy and in your face.”

Vanesa Vallely, Managing Director of WeAreTheCity; Deena Gornick, Executive and Board Level Coach at Penna; Rosemary Cooper Clark, International Executive Coach and Management Consultant; Ian Cooper, Head of Architecture at Huddle discuss their own experiences of Imposter Syndrome

He advised: “Have a support system – someone that you know well enough and can say to them that you’re worried and you’re really not for this role. A support system can help silence those voices.”

Rosemary Cooper Clark, International Executive Coach and Management Consultant, said: “I was headhunted so I hadn’t been through an interview process for a while. I remember candidates talking about their degrees. I didn’t go to university until I was a mature student, so I used to wake up at 3am thinking they haven’t found me out yet.

“You should talk to yourself as if you would to your best friend. We talk terribly to ourselves sometimes.”

Vallely agreed and added: “I didn’t go to university so I feel out of my comfort zone when people are knowledgeable with a posh accent. But I know that is my problem not theirs.”

Gornick said: “After 32 years of coaching imposter syndrome and the only time I don’t suffer it is when I’m with the person I love. I am a trained actor so I know what to do with my body, to breath and to make eye contact. But I suffer it every day.”

“When you think or know that someone has imposter syndrome be open and warm to them.”

Vallely said: “Everyone has a persona that they’re trying to get across. When I think of imposter syndrome I think of someone that looks like a rabbit in the headlights, but they do not look like that because they are hiding it.

“If you never take praise or always say it wasn’t you then people will start to believe it. Just have a polka face and say thank you.”


WeAreTheCity and Huddle event | You are not an Imposter: How to Beat Imposter Syndrome | In Pictures

WeAreTheCity recently partnered with Huddle to hold an event entitled You are not an Imposter: How to Beat Imposter Syndrome.

Led by Executive and Board-level coach, Deena Gornick, and featuring a panel of business leaders, attendees learnt how to overcome Imposter Syndrome, how to increase confidence and better celebrate their successes. Guests left feeling empowered and able to properly take credit for and acknowledge their successes.

100 ladies gathered at Huddle's offices, in London, to overcome their own worries about feeling like a fake in the workplace.

To realise your full potential you not only need to have the skills, you need to be confident in them – to not only succeed, but to take ownership for this success. And yet, for the 70% of people that suffer from Imposter Syndrome this is much easier said than done.

“I am not a writer. I’ve been fooling myself and other people,” John Steinbeck wrote in his diary in 1938. 

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has said, "There are still days when I wake up feeling like a fraud."

Deena Gornick

Executive and Board-level coach Deena has over 20 years’ experience in coaching both men and women to help them with confidence, presence and communication. Deena will give a short introduction to the subject of the Impostor Syndrome, then she will run 3 sessions that have the aim of enabling attendees to stand by their achievements and to be able to articulate them to others clearly without feeling like a fraud.

You can find pictures from the  Imposter Syndrome event below.


Salesforce increases diversity through education and development of young people and returners

Salesforce is focusing its efforts on education and developing young people and returners to increase diversity within the technology sector, says Charlotte Finn, Vice President, Programs-EMEA at Salesforce.org.

Speaking to WeAreTheCity at the Salesforce World Tour 2016, which took place recently at the London Excel Centre, Finn said: “Salesforce has been focusing on workforce development and education.”Salesforce logo - increasing diversity

“We have been bringing kids into Salesforce tower to experience what working in technology is like and also we have invited the unemployed and those that wish to return to work after a break. Unemployed candidates and returners are being encouraged through Salesforce’s Trailhead path, which is a training course for developers to learn Salesforce at all levels.

“It’s about reminding them of the confidence and getting the Salesforce staff to tell them what’s possible,” Finn added.

“When they come in they get to meet all levels of Salesforce staff including the likes of Andy Lawson, SVP and UK Country Leader at Salesforce, to encourage them to believe that they can do it.”

Finn said there is not a shortage of volunteers at Salesforce willing to sign up for opportunities to support people visiting the Salesforce tower or taking part in programmes that the company supports.

“We have had a 85% take up rate for volunteering which has equated to 500,000 hours globally so far this year. Last year in June we celebrated one million hours of volunteering since the programme’s inception which was 15 years ago,” Finn added.

Salesforce employees have the flexibility to decide when, where and for what cause they volunteer. Employees receive seven days of Volunteer Time Off (VTO) per fiscal year a $1,000 Champion Grant to donate to the nonprofit of their choice once they reach seven days of VTO and access to Team Grants to support employee volunteer activities.

“Volunteers offer a range of skills such as interviewing and mentoring or they support not-for-profits who can’t afford an IT department by offering their expertise. There is a retention correlation of best places to work and opportunities to volunteer. Six out of ten millennials say they want to work for an organisation with a purpose and you are 2.3 times more like to retain an employee that feels engaged.”