Rachel Clancy featured

Catching Up With: Rachel Clancy | Co-Founder & Creative Director, Tea Creature Designs

Rachel Clancy Rachel left her job as an advertising art director to develop a game she has made called ‘Get Closer’, where players open dialogue with a forest creature who needs their help.

The game teaches young people how to talk about emotions and support themselves and others through mental health issues.

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

My name is Rachel Clancy and I am a game designer and mental health advocate. In 2019 I received the Sky Women In Tech Scholarship to set up an independent game design studio with my partner Aida Sancho-Lopez. Tea Creature Studios is an indie game company that publishes educational mobile games tackling themes of mental health and emotional literacy. We are currently developing our first commercial product, an interactive narrative game called A Hero's Guide To Gardening.

How did you feel when you were chosen for Sky’s Women in Tech Scholarship?

After the second round of interviews, I spent the days waiting and hoping to hear good news from Sky. The review process took about a month and by the end I was trying to console myself that it hadn’t happened for us. So when I got the call from Nishy Lall (Head of Young People at Sky) I was just stunned for a few hours after convincing myself I didn’t get it! I’m so proud to have been chosen by Sky, it’s such a powerful endorsement of our work to have their support. They’ve been a household name I grew up with and it’s amazing to be able to tell people I’m working with the leading media and entertainment company in Europe.

What has happened since you won the scholarship? How has the initiative helped?

The funding has been a huge part of it. When I applied for the Scholarship I had to present off a laptop with a cracked screen and no letter H on the keyboard because I couldn’t afford to replace it! We’ve used the £25,000 to purchase hardware (like a replacement laptop for me!), to pay for development software and licenses, and to bring new team mates on board to refine and develop the game. As well as financial support, Sky has provided me with mentors and workshops in things like PR and communication training to equip us to promote and run our businesses. I’ve really benefited from this training - I’m quite a shy person so being able to work on my public speaking and presenting skills has greatly improved my confidence.

There is currently only 17% of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

When we look at the stats for young women considering a career in technology, the numbers are pretty disappointing. 20% of 16-18-year-old girls will be advised to consider a career in technology in comparison to 45% of boys. Almost half of girls (48%) aged 16 - 18 have discounted a career in technology compared to only a quarter (26%) of boys the same age. Sky started the Women In Tech scholarship as a way of addressing this gender imbalance, their aim is to create visible female role models in the tech sector so that young women can see themselves reflected in this industry. Another figure from research by Sky is that girls are three times more likely to think the technology sector is sexist than boys. I think the industry needs to take a critical look at itself and its practices to find out why young women feel this way, and use that as the basis for reform.

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

I’m a fan of the phrase “you make your own luck”. I know I work very hard and that definitely helps, but I also will take a shot at any interesting opportunity that comes my way, even if I feel like I might not be ready for it yet. I’ve been turned down for way more jobs and funding opportunities than I’ve ever received them, but I kept going and tried to learn something from every rejection. I think something that can happen to talented people is that they get knocked back and they take it as an indication of their value - rather than a bit of bad luck on the day. Two more useful sayings - You miss all the shots you don’t take and hard work trumps talent.

Have you faced any personal battles? How did you overcome them?

The biggest ongoing challenge I currently face is balancing my job with developing our game. I think a lot of independent game designers go through this experience where they still need their day job to support the launch of their first project. It’s extremely demanding, I work as an advertising creative during the week and I develop Hero’s Guide with Aida over the weekend. At first we had to learn how to manage our workload and our stress levels, some weeks are more taxing than others. Now we have a better sense of our needs for breaks and taking a rest. We’ve realised we don’t do good work when we’re burnt out and so we will make time for getting out of the house or going on dates to make sure we have energy to keep going.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I think getting connected with different communities in tech was really helpful for me. There is an organisation called Code Liberation and they offer free coding lessons to female identifying/non binary people and they’ve been a great support network ever since. There are networking groups like Ada’s List for female tech executives/professionals who we’ve tapped into while we were looking to hire a developer for Hero’s Guide. There are specific groups for game designers, for women in games, for LGBT technologists, both online and as meetup groups, and I’ve found them really helpful for getting advice and support with our project.


Rebecca Saw featured

Catching Up With: Rebecca Saw | Freelance Developer & XR Designer

Rebecca SawRebecca is looking to create never-before-seen interactive story-telling that will mix linear television and gaming to provide viewers with a dynamic blended reality. 

She recently worked on Traitor, a VR-live theatre thriller that premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival.

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

I’m a freelance developer - I code Virtual Reality experiences as well as Android and iOS apps.

With the Sky Women in Tech Scholarship I’m creating a proof of concept for a piece of Interactive Television. I’m using emerging technology to create a new form of storytelling, that encourages rewatchability, increases engagement and sparks discussion after viewing.

Without revealing too much, it’s a piece that the viewer watches on their TV, interacting with their remote control. It’s not ‘Choose A or B’, instead it’s something which is designed to feel a lot more natural to the traditional TV viewing experience.

 How did you feel when you were chosen for Sky’s Women in Tech Scholarship?

Completely over the moon! I couldn’t quite believe it for a little while, I had to keep checking my phone to double check I hadn’t imagined the phone call.

What has happened since you won the scholarship? How has the initiative helped?

I’m a much more confident person than I was a year ago. One of my friends remarked recently that she could hear a change in the way I spoke about my projects and myself.

The Scholarship includes mentoring and training, both of which have been invaluable. I’ve got some great advice on presenting technical concepts with clarity, as well as project management training and public speaking opportunities.

How do you think initiatives like Sky’s Women in Tech Scholarship helps open doors for women and ensure greater diversity in tech?

It’s a great opportunity to specifically show women they belong in the tech space. I’ve been really privileged to speak to women from all different backgrounds about their goals and dreams. It’s really special to have people tell you that they have been inspired by the tech scholars to continue chasing their passions.

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

Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know it all - often in tech circles there’s pressure to seem like you can do everything, but that’s really not necessary.

Have you faced any personal battles? How did you overcome them?

I’ve struggled with imposter syndrome. One of my first jobs after uni was in an office where everyone was male and older than me. It felt like what I was working on was easy compared to what they were doing. I found the best way to overcome imposter syndrome is to talk about it - those negative thoughts lose a lot of their power when you take them out of your brain, and can see them for what they are.

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

There’s loads of companies that do this really well. Mentorships schemes where younger women can learn from people of all genders in senior roles can be incredibly valuable. Encouraging creativity and development opportunities is also great for everyone.

There is currently only 17% of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

Media representation of the tech industry tends to be skewed very young, white and male. I’d love to see more TV shows or other media showing a more diverse range of people represented.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Code First: Girls do great work in increasing the number of women in tech. They offer free coding lessons for women and non-binary people at Universities across the UK. If you’re already in tech, they have a range of volunteering roles which is a great way to support other women and build a network of contacts.


Colleen Wong featured

Catching Up With: Colleen Wong | Founder, My Gator Watch

Colleen Wong With no technical experience Colleen set-up the successful My Gator Watch for children and seniors.

Now, the inspirational mother of two plans to evolve the product from a tracker for kids, to a wearable mobile device for seniors that can track location and detect falls, to help the elderly maintain independence

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

Before starting Techsixtyfour, I was a stay at home mum for 18 months (hardest job in the world) and before that, I was a VP in sales in investment banking.

My idea for My Gator Watch came to me almost four years ago when I was with my two babies, then aged 4 months and 18 months old. I saw a fellow mum running around looking for her young child and my first thought was ‘how can we be more connected to our younger children so we don’t lose their minds.’ A few weeks later, Techsixtyfour was born.

My Gator Watch is a mobile phone and GPS/WIFI tracker made for children between the ages of 5-11. It does not have access to the Internet, social media or games. The watch is designed to offer peace of mind to parents who have a child too young for a smartphone but old enough to want some independence. My Gator watch is pre-installed with a sim, mic and speaker and can be used almost anywhere in the world.

I raised £200k in July 2017 through crowdfunding which allowed me to build a team and focus on marketing. I now have a team of 13 flexible working staff, most of whom are mums of young children. I strongly believe in the flexible work culture because so many mums and dads just want to put their children first but can’t or feel guilty doing it. I tell my team to put their family and health above work and the productivity is the best I have ever seen. I hope to build the first technology brand which hires only flexible working staff.

I have now put together a world class team to build a wearable for the ageing and dementia market. We are building Freedom G, a wearable tracker and mobile phone that has the world’s most accurate location tracking (sub 1m) both indoors and outdoors. We have focused on making it extremely simple, useful and affordable.

We have listened to hundreds of people tell their stories about living with dementia and we believe we have a revolutionary solution that can track, protect and communicate with our loved ones while giving us peace of mind.

How did you feel when you were chosen for Sky’s Women in Tech Scholarship?

I was speechless. I really didn’t expect them to choose an ‘older’ Scholar as there were age restrictions in the past but it was confirmation that I have been doing something amazing for the last five years. Working alone sometimes makes you forget about your own achievements as it seems more like a battle every day so being chosen by a group of experts and by such a large well known organisation was a wonderful validation.

What has happened since you won the scholarship? How has the initiative helped?

I have met with many people both at Sky and at other companies and all of whom have been very supportive in my work. I have done many talks to encourage other career changers, mums and women to start a career in tech. I have also been invited to speak about diversity and inclusion.

The £25k grant has allowed me to start building my next wearable which is one for the ageing/dementia market. I have also been given two mentors and the one who I speak to monthly has really helped me get through a lot of hardships. Being an entrepreneur is lonely and you do need someone to talk to who is not a friend or family member but who you can share every detail with.

How do you think initiatives like Sky’s Women in Tech Scholarship helps open doors for women and ensure greater diversity in tech?

Most definitely. The PR around the campaign is spread far and wide and I think the Scholars really do inspire women to think about tech in different ways. I am so pleased that Sky increased the age limit for the Scholars as women of any age can get into tech. I started at 40!

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

Listen and learn from people who know more than you. Be humble. Have some fun! Being serious and focused all the time doesn’t build long lasting relationships!

Have you faced any personal battles? How did you overcome them?

My biggest personal battle was trying to start a tech business while taking care of two babies. Everyone thought I was crazy…and I mean everyone. No one really supported what I was doing merely because they were worried about my lack of sleep and ability to think with everything that was going on. But I know myself and when I have an idea, it will take more than two babies to stop me. I overcame the hardships just by having so much adrenaline that I just powered through.

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

Offer courses not just in technology but in other subject areas such as finance and marketing as it is important to always see the bigger picture in anything that we do. I also think that companies should be supportive of women who need a career break to have children and who want to return with a flexible role. When a working mother can put her children first without feeling guilty, this leads to productivity and loyalty.

There is currently only 17% of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

I would use my magic wand to make more TV shows which show women doing amazing things in technology and not just programmers or computer scientists but roles which people can relate to which involve technology. I would also use the same wand to remove reality shows as I find a lot of those shows don't encourage young women in positive ways.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I am a big fan of networking events as I love talking to people and learning from them. I think building long lasting relationships is key to success and so any resources that allows you to meet new and amazing people.