Woman on Laptop

Get your tech skills ready for the future

Woman on LaptopAlthough most of us are complaining that the national wifi is groaning under the strain of millions more working from home, imagine how much worse this lockdown would be without the tech to communicate.

Just pause and think about it for a moment. We were already glued to our phones, but now we depend on them more than ever to keep in touch with friends and family. The internet and our home computers allow us to work remotely. Smart TVs help keep us entertained and up to date on the world outside. Health and fitness trackers feed data into the impact of our one-hour workouts so we can track our progress. Tech is saving us all.

Fintech is a big part of it too. Increased online shopping (and let us all clap our hands for the couriers and posties) especially for groceries, means a rise in online payments. In fact, some sources say that FinTech has experienced an upsurge of 72% in usage during the pandemic. Even on the high street, contactless has become the payment of preference with the upper limit now raised to £45 so that people can avoid using cash and keep the virus at bay.

Turns out the world owes a lot to all those unsung female tech heroines who – back in the day – invented and developed computer science.

Why fintech is the future

While pundits debate what sort of world we’ll be living in when this is all over, there’s one thing we know for certain: fintech will be playing a bigger role than ever.

It’s true that some of the fintechs – like many other businesses – are having a bumpy ride, but when you look at the way our behaviour’s changing you can see how the industry is going to bounce back.

Let’s look at some of the evidence.

Banks were already closing their branches, even though branch banking was still popular with some customers. With less footfall on the high street, those customers are either obliged, or more inclined, to choose online banking and mobile apps. Now that they’ve switched, many of them will stick with digital options for convenience.

In the same way, where some consumers might have been more wary or even not have trusted technology in the past, they will be more likely to embrace it after this crisis. They will be more open to open banking, for example.

Companies too have had to adopt fintech to get themselves through this. Some insurance companies are turning to block chain to verify medical data and, because banks are having to move more quickly to offer digital services, they need fintech consultants to help them upgrade.

Governments are supporting fintechs. The Australian senate has reopened its committee on FinTech and RegTech to support the industry and find new solutions that can be delivered by the government and private sector.

The China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission (CBIRC) is asking the country’s financial services sector to reinforce internal fintech capacity and invest in research and development. While in South Korea, new laws have been passed to regulate and legalise cryptocurrencies.

So if fintech is the future, what can you do to update your skills, networks and know-how so that you’re ready for when this crisis is over?

Develop your skills and knowledge

First, take a look online and you’ll find some excellent, even free, courses from world renowned universities like the Open University (OU) and Harvard.

The OU’s free courses include several on data analysis and interpretation, including Simple coding, which will teach you the basics of Python, and a course on Learn to code for analysis. You will be awarded a ‘certificate of completion’ for these when you finish. Harvard also runs several free online courses in programming, data science and computer science.

If your budget allows, both offer paid courses as well, but there’s plenty to keep you busy if you’d rather not splash out at this point.

On the banking side, things are moving quickly. You’d be wise not just to keep up to date with the news but to follow comment and analysis too. You might consider listening to podcasts of discussions with experts and thought-leaders, or extending your understanding of the sector through reading.

And while many events can’t run anymore, some of the best are going online and providing great opportunities to network and learn. Innovate Finance, for example, had to cancel their conference for UK Fintech Week (20-24 April) but they’re marking the week with a digital programme. And the Financial Alliance for Women are opening sessions in their Ask the Expert series to non-members for the first time.

At any stage of your career, it’s important to network, learn and develop your skills if you want to stay ahead of the curve. At this strange moment in history, it’s just as possible to do all of that as it was before the lockdown – and all because of tech.

Helene PanzarinoAbout the author

Helene Panzarino is an Associate Director at LIBF’s Centre for Digital Banking and Finance. A former banker turned entrepreneur, educator and investment readiness adviser in fintech, she’s helped over 15,000 small to medium enterprises access funding options. She’s listed as a Senior Leader on the Women in Fintech Powerlist 2019.

young woman looking out of window, sad, coronavirus, stress

Why a global crisis has made us all rethink wellness in tech

young woman looking out of window, sad, coronavirus, stress

By Kirsty Carter, chief of staff at cloud and technology services and solutions provider, Solutionize Global

Technology and people have consistently played a critical role in how a business operates – and whether it succeeds or fails.

For years leaders have been building teams that are equipped to be able to work side-by-side with advanced digital methods and smart machines.

But has the wellness surrounding this always been of the same paramount importance? Perhaps not for many organisations – until now. The wellbeing of staff and their workplace infrastructures have come to the fore during this pandemic as people continue to battle anxieties – and the complexities that come with working remotely and maintaining productivity during a devastating global health crisis.

Navigating the ability to ‘switch off’ has long been a question that many companies have tried to overcome – following the explosion of technology. With work-based apps such as email and messenger services at an employees’ fingertips, managing these whilst teams work remotely has presented HR and logistical nightmares for many enterprises.

But, the mass move to working from home has also delivered many positives. From getting to spend quality time with family, avoiding a lengthy commute and completing tasks with autonomy and flexibility, employees have felt empowered to take control of their roles, agile managers have helped their staff to adapt quickly to vast change and remain engaged.

However, with anything, there are always some downsides. According to Buffer’s 2019 State of Remote Work report, location flexibility has led to 49 per cent of remote workers saying their biggest struggle is wellness-related. The reasons being that 22 per cent feel like they can’t unplug after work, 19 per cent are lonely and eight per cent struggle to stay motivated.

So, when enterprises across the globe are experiencing a critical need to be swift, adaptable and operationally robust, why do only 29% of HR leaders have a health and well-being strategy (2020 Mercer Talent Trends study) in place? At a time when businesses need leaders the most, much more can be done – and there are lessons to be learnt throughout.

There’s much more to wellness than mental health initiatives

Overall, employees need to feel safe in their workplace environment – regardless of location. They want to know their company trusts and values their input but also have access to gaining the skills that they need, in order to complete their projects remotely. Managers must be empathetic to everyone’s struggles, including their own, if they’re to get the best out of their teams.

So, how can this be achieved? Forward-thinking leaders find themselves at a critical turning point where they need to act quickly and gauge the level of systems and IT infrastructure their organisation currently has in place. They should be strongly positioned, understanding how each staff member’s setting maintains operational, cultural and mental wellness. And, wellbeing needs are imperative throughout it all – and entirely individual to each employee battling their own mental recovery from an unprecedented crisis.

Additionally, the C-suite must be agile and adaptable when addressing the flexible nature of what a ‘life after lockdown’ challenge looks like. Setting a firm return to work date is out of the circle of influence for most but we can present options for a staggered approach to meet every requirement. Again, it’s important to factor in how people are still feeling during this time – many of which (88% according to mental health provider Ginger’s recent survey) have experienced ‘moderate to extreme’ stress over the past four to six weeks impacted by uncontrollable matters such as financial worries, home schooling or the health of family and friends.

So, there is a commitment to be made from managers – something they can demonstrate by providing a safe, working environment and being empathetic to how employees must be feeling in real-time. And throughout all this, technology has a vital part to play in team wellness.

Effectively adapting now can positively impact business continuity

Utilising digital apps to provide mental health programmes – such as licensed counsellors on call – or mindfulness and stress management platforms can assist, alongside helpful resources people can consume in their own time. Managers should be savvy in their approach when combining tech and wellness each day.

From online training and upskilling opportunities to helping staff members focus on their own personal development and simply providing tools to control workflows and interact with colleagues – each element can play a vital role when used correctly.

And for many organisations, these practices may already have been in place and running smoothly, but what this global crisis has done is driven all enterprises to truly prioritise these methods – and give wellness the attention it deserves. It should never be a ‘phase’ or tick-box exercise either because it is Mental Health Awareness Week in May, for example. These processes should be rolled-out each and every single day.

Uniting a team has never been more important and it has perhaps forced the hands of many organisations to ‘get it right’. But leaders who commit to evolving their wellbeing programmes, maintain a mental health focus and meet technological demands can put themselves in a stronger position to positively impact their firm’s long-term health throughout – and beyond – this pandemic.

Kirsty Carter, chief of staff, Solutionize GlobalAbout Kirsty Carter

As chief of staff at cloud and technology professional and managed service provider, Solutionize Global, Kirsty’s role focuses on company culture, employee engagement and organisational growth. As well as leading on evolving the team’s in-house training, hiring, professional development and performance management structures, Kirsty acts as an advisor to Solutionize Global’s CEO, David Bentley. First joining the forward-thinking firm in 2019, Kirsty has enjoyed a 12-year, people-focused career and is passionate about investing in people, future-proofing learning and development and creating an efficient HR function to help scale the business.

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COVID-19 is worse for tech women - here's how we change that

Article by Emel Mohammadally, SVP, Lucid

It is well known that gender bias exists in many aspects of the world and when it comes to women’s careers, those biases are hugely magnified.

In the wake of this continuing global pandemic, it is fair to say that everyone has been affected - whether that be financially, socially or emotionally. While no one situation is ideal, women have been disproportionately affected –  from working in the highly impacted services sector, being more likely to lose their jobs versus men in the same position, and because women are still responsible for the majority of care-giving and domestic duties.

Our Government has still failed to place gender equality at the heart of its economic strategy in response to COVID-19. In fact, I believe its response to COVID-19 exposes the roots of an already-flawed system that makes it more challenging for women to progress their careers.

I work in both the Tech and Market Research industries, which have historically afforded very different opportunities for women. Market Research has always attracted women and has produced many successful female leaders.Tech, conversely, has traditionally been an industry lacking in diversity of any sort.  Although, attitudes are starting to change and calling out a lack of diversity in business has become more commonplace, and acceptable. But a change in attitude does not diminish the need for a change in practice or policy.

The evidence is clear - businesses that have a more balanced gender split in senior positions perform better. So, what can be done now to create more, not fewer, opportunities for women in key positions across the Tech industry? There’s been much talk over the years about the practical reasons businesses do better when there is equitable and diverse representation in senior leadership positions.

However, the reality is that it takes time to create real, deep societal changes across the board.

Businesses must be held more accountable

Firstly, businesses need to be conscious of hiring practices. Are there gender imbalances in certain roles or functions across the organisation? If yes, then we need to ask why and be very honest with ourselves. Businesses can and should publish earnings differences and, importantly, they must provide women with real opportunities to progress, irrespective of whether they take time off to have children.

In addition, we all have a role to play in challenging established (and parochial) thinking with regard to women, race, sexual orientation, and beyond. Fortunately, younger generations simply don't accept outdated norms and have no compunction challenging them. It’s been a long road, but I feel we’re starting to see the beginnings of real change.

Last, but certainly not least, businesses need to make much more of a point of nurturing new hires, especially more junior colleagues. Words of encouragement from a more experienced colleague can make the world of difference to those just starting their career. We need to create positive environments that support and encourage female colleagues even if you see them impacted by unconscious bias. Similarly, cultural biases which might impact the value placed on ideas from women colleagues with different ethnic backgrounds need to be immediately challenged.

We’re not bossy, we’re fearless leaders

The gender gap starts earlier than many of us think - girls’ self-esteem is known to suffer 3.5 times more than boys between primary and secondary school. Girls are called on in class less frequently than boys, but are interrupted more - so it’s no real surprise that girls are twice as likely than boys to feel that leadership roles will make them come across as ‘bossy’.

I have experienced many gender specific career challenges first hand - I’ve been accused of being “bossy” and “difficult” so many times I’ve lost count. I’ve dealt with casual sexism from managers who either expected me to be more like a man, or more like the feminine ideal, in order to get ahead. And I’ve struggled with understanding what the underlying reason was when I wasn’t promoted even though I only received positive feedback in appraisals.

In one particular role, battling with these kinds of attitudes made it impossible for me to perform at a high standard. On the surface and to outsiders, it seemed like I had the perfect job and perfect life trying to overcome the sexist nature and resolve the toxic relationship with my boss left me burned out and deeply unhappy. I made the decision to leave the role (which I had previously loved), and whilst it didn’t sit 100% right with me initially, I knew my worth and believed I had the ability to find a company with the same values as me. Empowering women with strength and confidence to do what is right is so important to ensuring both career success and longevity for women - and, put simply, to make sure they don’t stay in bad jobs, with bad managers.

Mentorship and advice are critical 

A major factor in my personal career success has been the relationships I’ve had with some incredible mentors at critical points of my career, whose time and advice was invaluable. I made an unofficial mentor of a colleague in my first job, who I admire deeply and who always made time for me, even after I moved jobs and company. She still works in the industry and I will never forget the contribution she made to my career.

My advice to women wishing to fulfil a successful career in any industry is to trust your instincts, build a solid professional network and seek advice from those you admire. Don’t be afraid to show your vulnerabilities and humanness - leadership is not about power. Similarly, don’t be afraid of failure - these experiences shape us and failure is an innate part of success. Lastly, learn to truly understand your strengths and hone those skills. You will need to adapt and change throughout your career, but self-awareness is crucial to progressing quickly.

Still, be patient - it may take a village to create real and lasting change but remember that you are that change! And, don’t try and be someone you’re not - it will never lead to true success and happiness. Good luck!

Emel MohammadallyAbout the author

Emel Mohammadally is Senior Vice President at Lucid, and is responsible for the Sales teams across the company. She was an early joiner to Lucid’s London team and has been instrumental in building and managing the commercial operations from the start. Emel has also been a key player in leading initiatives that create balance and support success at all levels within the company, ensuring employees are hired, recognised and rewarded equally.

Emel was one of the early joiners to Lucid’s London team, working to build and manage our commercial operations from Year 1. Three years after joining, she was promoted to Senior Vice President, responsible for both the Sales and Post-sales teams.

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

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UK Ventilator Challenge to start production in the fight against COVID-19

hospital ward, coronavirus, ventilatorsOn 16 March 2020, the Prime Minister requested help from companies to manufacture, design and build a vast number of NHS ventilators to help in the fight against COVID-19.

The ventilator challenge aimed to increase the stock of vital breathing equipment to ensure that patients with impaired lung function had access to the support they needed.

After making an appeal to business across the UK, the response surpassed expectations, with more than 5000 companies offering to design, build and manufacture new, safe ventilators.

The challenge has been operating on a number of fronts, including the manufacture of existing ventilators, teaming up larger manufacturers with smaller bespoke ventilator makers to scale up production, as well as asking renowned engineers to design new ventilators.

On 13 March, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) published a revised specification, detailing the minimum clinical standards acceptable for ventilator use within UK hospitals throughout the pandemic.

As we continue to discover more about the virus and its nature, it is important that clinicians and engineers continue to work together closely to carry on supporting the patients and hospitals that are in desperate need of additional equipment.

In order to maintain safety and medical standards, all offers of support have been reviewed against the MRHA specification. From this, a shortlist of companies has been formed, all of whom are taking their designs to a Technical Design Authority, comprised of clinicians, regulators and engineers, to have their devices reviewed.

The manufacturing of prototypes, including new and modified existing designs, has commenced and once this is completed, further extensive testing will take place to ensure the ventilators are safe to use while also meeting clinical requirements.

Over the coming weeks, the production and distribution of ventilators across the UK is expected to increase significantly to meet the demand, with thousands of new ventilators making their way to hospitals across Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

If you have any queries relating to the ventilator challenge please email [email protected]

Mivy James featured

WeAreTechWomen talks to Mivy James, BAE about the impact of COVID-19

Mivy JamesCoronavirus has turned our lives upside down but that’s not all, says Mivy James. It’s also highlighted the plight of the digitally excluded, as well the systemic changes which should be made permanent, not temporary.

The last time I wrote a blog I was in the (relative) peace and quiet of our open plan office. Today, I’m writing this at home on my kitchen table, grabbing a few precious moments of peace and quiet while my five year old is busying himself with Lego. Quite the contrast but I’m hardly alone in adapting to a new reality.

There’s no doubt that the Covid-19 global health emergency is uprooting how we all used to live and work. From our daily routines to our shopping habits, our socialising to our travel plans, life – as we knew it – has changed, and almost certainly for some time to come.

But while we’re all going to be living with the consequences of the virus for the foreseeable future, one immediate outcome is how it’s shone a light on the fundamental societal importance of technology. We’ve been talking about digital transformation for a while but, as a result of the virus, it’s taken on a whole new meaning and urgency – along with associated cultural implications.

Rising to the corporate challenge

Firstly, there’s the obvious immediate increase in remote working and finding new ways to collaborate without relying on face to face interactions. Many corporate IT networks are on their knees trying to cope with the additional demands and have reduced or blocked network hungry streaming services. Although this had led to enterprising ways of working around corporate IT, the perennial issue of cyber security is never far away.

The crisis has also tested our ability to rapidly disseminate urgent information, such as how the British government sent SMS messages to every citizen via mobile network providers. And there are also abundant (and uplifting) examples of corporate agility around the world. Luxury goods conglomerate LVMH is producing hand sanitiser at its Dior and Givenchy perfume plants, while Spanish-owned Zara has pledged to produce surgical masks and Sweden’s H&M Group said it would be rearranging its supply chain to produce protective equipment. And closer to home I was proud to see that BAE Systems is part of the consortium, Ventilator Challenge UK, which is working on an order of 10,000 ventilators from the UK Government.

While saluting the ability of these firms to rapidly retrain employees and switch production lines – I wonder whether they had designed this flexibility in from the outset – data scientists are also making remarkable strides. Thanks to their efforts, data science is being redirected into predictive analytics, modelling of contagion and immunity scenarios – all of which are helping inform decision making.

It’s a team game

But it’s not just about the ability of machines and technology to change direction. The crisis has also made crystal clear the importance of highly responsive decision making across all levels of leadership. With the situation evolving so rapidly, organisations simply cannot afford to wait for the board to filter decisions through many hierarchical layers.

We’re also seeing examples of organisations displaying previously unseen levels of empathy and support for their employees and suppliers. Unfortunately, there have been examples of less impressive social responsibility. Those organisations seen to be *not* behaving well will be remembered after the crisis has passed – by consumers and prospective employees alike.

We’re all now highly conscious of the wellbeing and personal circumstances of others. Up until now most of us leave our home and personal lives behind when we step through the door of the office. Now we don’t have that separation. I can’t help feeling I’m connecting with my colleagues in a different way to before – even if it’s just a glimpse into their family lives and homes.

Here at BAE Systems Applied Intelligence, we’re proud of how quickly we moved to keep our employees safe and the level of trust we have in our teams whilst they work from home. Certainly their working hours are changing, taking into account things like home-schooling and the need to support friends and relations. Personally, I now tend to start work at lunchtime and work late – it’s not like I’ve got any social events or fitness classes on in the evening!

So, what’s next?

Firstly, my hope is that these cultural changes aren’t just temporary and have a longer term benefit to society – a potential silver lining to the current crisis, along with the potential healing that our precious planet is undergoing whilst we all live quieter lives with reduced consumerism and travel.

And secondly, we need to take urgent heed of those who don’t have access to the technology many of us are so reliant on. I can’t imagine how hard this experience would be without the internet but as of last March, more than 5 million Britons were in this position.

Let us hope that when we emerge from the pandemic, along with elevating doctors and health care workers to their rightful pantheon in society, we can redouble our efforts towards making digital technology available to *everyone*.

This is no time to leave anyone behind.

elderly couple with a tablet, coronavirus, technology

Can you help FutureDotNow support the most vulnerable online during COVID-19?

elderly couple with a tablet, coronavirus, technology

FutureDotNow has launched an initiative to support the most vulnerable online during the COVID-19 pandemic.

FutureDotNow are coordinating industry action through a new initiative, DevicesDotNow, targeting the 1.7 million households who don’t have access to the internet and are digitally excluded as we face a socially distanced world gripped by COVID-19.

Supported by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, the DevicesDotNow campaign is asking businesses to donate tablets, smartphones and laptops, as well as connectivity in the form of sims, dongles and mobile hotspots.

As the government works to address the challenges of COVID-19, many elderly and vulnerable people may find themselves isolated in their homes with limited means of communicating with the outside world, or getting access to vital services such as health, food or banking.

Frontline community organisations are in desperate need of digital devices to be able to mobilise into the community. With your help, we can power them up so they can support households facing self-isolation – alleviating the strain on the NHS, while ensuring that vulnerable people aren’t cut off from their loved ones and the outside world.

There are number of ways to get involved and support the #DevicesDotNow campaign:

  • Donate devices - tablets or smartphones are a first choice, but laptops are also required.
  • Donate SIM cards, portable hotspots, dongles or other connectivity.
  • Make a financial donation - £10,000 would fund the purchase of tablets and smartphones for around 100 vulnerable individuals and families.
  • Spread the word - Share the #DevicesDotNow mission with a least five business leaders in your network who could be in a position to help.

Find out more about the campaign here.

Science, coronavirus, virus

Are you part of the scientific modelling community? The Royal Society needs your help

Science, coronavirus, virus

Are you part of the scientific modelling community?

The Royal Society is calling for urgent action for those in the scientific modelling community, and is a scheme to allow those with modelling skills (including data science) to contribute to current UK efforts in modelling the COVID-19 pandemic.

The UK has a small but highly effective community of academic experts in pandemic modelling. These skilled researchers are currently at full stretch, not only doing their own research on the evolving COVID-19 pandemic, but also providing evidence to inform Government policy, through channels such as SPI-M, the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Modelling Group, which reports to SAGE, the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies.

Many in the wider scientific community have valuable skills in computer modelling but no direct expertise in pandemic models. For example, some existing epidemic models, called IBMs (individual based models) are closely related to Agent Based Models used in research fields ranging from urban traffic planning, financial market modelling, dataflow optimization across communications networks, and individualized marketing on social media. In some of these fields there is valuable expertise in developing very large scale models and integrating them with data-science toolsets.

This is a nationwide call for rapid assistance in modelling the pandemic (RAMP), addressed to specialists in any or all of the above areas, and indeed to the scientific modelling community more widely. Possible assistance could include advice on importing modelling elements from other research domains; undertaking the software engineering needed to port vastly enlarged datasets into existing pandemic models; data analytics to create predictive empirical models from real-world data; offering new perspectives on existing modelling strategies; and adding to human and computing resources more generally. Another role could be to review and filter the numerous COVID-relating modelling efforts from scientists in other fields that are already starting to appear online, feeding through to SPI-M and/or other bodies, contributions that might have substantial impact on planning.

This call for assistance is addressed to the wider modelling community (including data analytics) in academia and industry. Our initial focus is on the UK community but this is an international emergency and we welcome contributions from non-UK based scientists, while realizing that they might wish to prioritize any similar initiative in their own countries.

A willingness to work on specified tasks, and to deadlines, is needed. However, no previous experience in epidemic modelling, as such, is required of RAMP participants.

For full details of the scheme and an online form to volunteer on behalf of your research group, click here.

The online survey form should be filled out as soon as practicable and, if at all possible, by 5pm on Thursday 2 April (BST). The survey form will cease to operate completely a day or two after that.