One Tech World Speaker Spotlight - Sarah Chapman

One Tech World Conference Speaker Spotlight: Sarah Chapman, 3M

OTW - Speaker Spotlight, Sarah Chapman

WeAreTechWomen speaks to Sarah Chapman, Technical Manager & North Europe STEM Champion, 3M, about her career.

Sarah is also one of our speakers at our upcoming One Tech World conference on 01 April 2022. Sarah will be discussing how stars and streetlights can illuminate diverse STEM careers

In her talk, Sarah shares the latest findings from 3M’s State of Science Index, showing that science is giving people hope for the future, and says that there has never been a better time to encourage more women and girls into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths). She believes that the key to this lies in diverse, authentic role models who tell stories that relate science and technology to our everyday lives, creating a spark in a young person’s mind that lasts a lifetime. She also explores the representation of women in the STEM industry and, by sharing her own career story, explains how skills such as creativity, communication and collaboration are just as important as technical qualifications.

A technical manager at global science company 3M and corporation board member at Farnborough College of Technology, Sarah was described as a natural dancer growing up and initially pursued a career in ballet.  Injury and an inspirational chemistry teacher led to a change of direction and she went on to pursue a career in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths).  Since graduating from the University of Southampton, with a first-class degree in Chemistry, and joining 3M as an application engineer, she has won multiple awards for her work as a STEM volunteer and diversity role model. She enjoys using her scientific skills in a collaborative, commercial environment and has held a variety of technical roles at 3M including approvals administrator, technical service engineer, regulatory specialist and build project manager for a multi-million-pound Customer Innovation Centre.  She currently leads an international team of application engineers within the Industrial Tapes and Adhesives Division.  As a mum of young children, Sarah is a passionate champion and role model for flexible working.  She is a gold level #IamRemarkable trainer and speaks publicly on the importance of diversity to drive innovation.  Sarah chairs the 3M EMEA Technical Women’s Leadership Forum and is the STEM Champion for 3M North Europe.  Globally, 3M has pledged to create five million unique STEM and Skilled Trades learning experiences for underrepresented individuals by the end of 2025.

This year, we are going to be bringing you the very best global virtual learning experience on a state-of-the-art conferencing platform. Our conference will provide ample opportunities to learn about emerging technologies and what is innovating and disrupting the industry. We are blessed to be given time from some of the world’s finest speakers who will be joining us to share their wisdom and knowledge. We will deliver innovative sessions on a variety of different areas of tech, with a side order of career development, fireside chats and ample networking opportunities, both on the day and through our global virtual networking world.

One Tech World Virtual Conference 2022

01 APRIL 2022

Join us for keynotes, panels, fireside chats, networking opportunities and much more. Supported by 18 corporate sponsors, with over 120 sessions and 160+ speakers across 6 stages – plus watch it on-demand for 30 days!

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Can you tell us a little about your background? Where you’ve come from, where you’ve worked, how you got to where you are today?  

Growing up I was told I was a natural dancer; no one ever told me I was a natural scientist! I took chemistry because my dad said it was a difficult subject and I wanted to prove I could do something different.  It was only when a teacher who had worked in industry explained how she had used chemistry to keep the taste consistent in a well-known fruit drink, despite differences in the harvest, that science became relatable to me, and applied technology has been a passion ever since.   

Before moving into technical management, I worked as an application engineer, regulatory specialist, and project manager so I have done a variety of roles but always technical – I love the problem solving but have found softer skills like collaboration and communication, are just as important as the technical ones.  

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

To a certain extent – but rather than planning detailed career steps, a mentor once gave me a simple one-page template which I have used ever since and share with all my mentees.  It documents what you love to do, what you dislike, what your verified strengths are and what you are looking to do more of.  It’s a useful tool to refer to when opportunities present and helps you better communicate your aspirations to people who can help you in your career.     

What inspired you to get involved with motivational speaking?

Diversity drives innovation and innovation gives us hope for the future – that is why I am a passionate advocate for diversity in STEM and take any opportunity to encourage women and girls to pursue careers in tech.    

Do you have a favourite experience from your career?

Managing the design and build of the 3M Customer Innovation Centre – it brings science and technology to life and is a very inspirational space.   

What do you think WeAreTechWomen guests will gain from your talk?

At the conference I’ll share results from 3M’s State of Science Index, showing that science is giving people hope for the future.  I will also talk about the importance of diverse, authentic role models who tell stories that relate science and technology to our everyday lives. Role models can be stars that shine brightly overhead and give us something to aspire to. But, just as important, are the streetlights – those role models and mentors closer to home who hold our hands and help us take the next small step. I hope that the audience will find the insights from the State of Science survey interesting and that it will inspire them to be stars or streetlights for others.  

Find out more:

What are your top 3 tips for success? 

  1. Have more than one mentor – they can all teach you different things  
  2. Be visible and different – look for opportunities to stand out 
  3. Write up how you will cite something on your CV/appraisal/Ta-Dah list – before you have done it – it will help you to prioritise and gain clarity 

What has been your biggest challenge during your career?  

Confidence – I have Imposter Syndrome every time I start something new, especially given my unusual journey into science.  The #IamRemarkable workshop really helped me to understand why I feel like that and why it’s important that women don’t let it hold us back.  In fact, I was so inspired that I trained as a facilitator.   

Which female role models are you most inspired by?

I have a pretty long list of inspirational mentors, sponsors and role models collected over a fifteen-year career but one of the public figures that inspires me is Maggie Aderin-Pocock MBE.  This is not because she is an amazing space scientist (I am a chemist and generally more interested in zooming in on things than big picture space stuff) but for her work in STEM outreach. I love how she makes science accessible and relatable.  She presents the BBC programme Sky at Night and talks to schools about the power of dreams.  She describes herself as “a dyslexic black kid from a council estate” and she is not afraid to be herself.  Whilst on mat leave, I watched a talk online that she did whilst cuddling her baby daughter – it was a refreshing antidote to the endless images of stressed-out working parents.    

In your opinion, what is the biggest obstacle for women at work and how can it be overcome?

Lack of visibility and access to relatable role models and sponsors.  I believe that everyone needs stars and streetlights – stars to inspire us and show us what is possible – and streetlights to guide us and help us find a path through the everyday challenges, like balancing work and home, speaking up with confidence, preparing for promotion and finding sponsors.   

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Parity, what would it be?

Wider access to affordable, flexible, high-quality childcare.   

What piece of advice would you give to your younger self?

I remember Claire Vyvan from Dell gave a talk to our tech forum around the time I was returning from my first maternity.  Something she said stayed with me: “Have no regrets”.  Change things if you need to or can but don’t waste time or energy on regret.  Make the best of your situation and enjoy the journey.   

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Cheryl Stevens MBE - Speaker Spotlight

One Tech World Conference Speaker Spotlight: Cheryl Stevens MBE, DWP Digital

Speaker Spotlight - Cheryl Stevens MBE

WeAreTechWomen speaks to Cheryl Stevens MBE, Digital Director of Shared Channels Experience, DWP Digital, about her career.

Cheryl is also one of our speakers at our upcoming One Tech World conference on 01 April 2022. Cheryl will be discussing enabling an improved customer and colleague experience through better use of technology.

As a career civil servant Cheryl has held a variety of leadership posts; gaining operational insight, spearheading transformational change and developing an in depth knowledge of customers. Cheryl holds the vision of simplified experiences for colleagues and customers driven by life events and other user needs, regardless of channel or service line. Enabling safe, efficient, inclusive and consistent journeys across DWP. Enabling those services to operate securely with proportionate, tailored Identity and Trust solutions that meet both customer and service needs, whilst ensuring that the person, the data and the transaction are protected. Cheryl is passionate about lifting other Women in Digital & Identity.

This year, we are going to be bringing you the very best global virtual learning experience on a state-of-the-art conferencing platform. Our conference will provide ample opportunities to learn about emerging technologies and what is innovating and disrupting the industry. We are blessed to be given time from some of the world’s finest speakers who will be joining us to share their wisdom and knowledge. We will deliver innovative sessions on a variety of different areas of tech, with a side order of career development, fireside chats and ample networking opportunities, both on the day and through our global virtual networking world.

One Tech World Virtual Conference 2022

01 APRIL 2022

Book your place now to what is becoming the largest virtual conference for women in technology in 2022

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Can you tell us a little about your background? Where you’ve come from, where you’ve worked, how you got to where you are today?

I grew up in a small village near Preston in Lancashire to working class parents. As a result we had to make difficult choices and one of those choices was that I couldn’t go to uni. That set me on a path of roles in hospitality before I joined the Civil Service at 19.  I worked my way through the grades and undertaken a variety of roles but with the same theme – improving customer experience.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I genuinely didn’t until about 10 years ago when I realised only 3 things were really important to me 1) I was bought into and felt an attachment to the purpose of the organisation and team that I would work with. 2) That it was a leader of people role, having large teams really motivates me; I like making a difference if I can. 3) That I can use my specialism in Identity & Trust.  That has led me to where I am, and I can honestly say my current role as Director of Shared Channels Experience in DWP fits those 3 things perfectly.

What inspired you to get involved with motivational speaking?

I think I have an interesting take on things as I have had a varied career and background and often people really relate to my upbringing and hurdles along the way but can see that positive outcomes are possible.

Do you have a favourite experience from your career?

I was awarded an MBE when I was just 30 years old for the part I played in a large transformation that really did change customer experience for the better.

What do you think WeAreTechWomen guests will gain from your talk?

Hopefully some tips or even confidence that despite a seemingly different path that I have taken, I got there.

Find out more:

What are your top 3 tips for success?

  • Understand what is important to you in terms of role satisfaction and don’t compromise on that
  • Get a good mentor who can help you navigate the day to day and a sponsor who is your cheerleader and always looking for opportunities for you
  • Authenticity – be true to who you are and be your authentic self, always

What has been your biggest challenge during your career?

I came back to work after a long time off with a serious illness and I felt lost. I wasn’t sure where I fit in or what I wanted to do or even if I could do the role anymore.  My vast network and my mentor were critical at that time and really helped me find my feet again.

Which female role models are you most inspired by?

There are so many as I’m lucky to work with truly inspirational women every day in DWP Digital and those outside that are making a true difference to lives of millions of people.  I am most inspired by people I can relate to.

In your opinion, what is the biggest obstacle for women at work and how can it be overcome?

Confidence.  I know that it has held me back in the past and it is still something I’m better at but still working on.  Having the right people around me that have nurtured and coached has definitely made a massive difference and I try to be that person back.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Parity, what would it be?

I would have to say pay and flexible working

What piece of advice would you give to your younger self?

Have confidence, stay true to yourself and it will all be ok in the end.

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Yewande Akinola featured

Inspirational Woman: Yewande Akinola MBE | Chartered Engineer, Innovator & Speaker

Yewande AkinolaYewande is a chartered engineer, innovator and speaker. Her engineering experience includes the design and construction, innovation and manufacture of buildings and systems in the built environment.

She has worked on projects in the UK, Africa, the Middle East and East Asia and has been named the UK Young Woman Engineer of the Year by the Institution of Engineering & Technology. She has also been awarded the Exceptional Achiever Award from the Association for BAME Engineers and the Association of Consultancy and Engineering, U.K. (ACE). She is a Visiting Professor at the University of Westminster. She is passionate about STEM communication and has presented Engineering programmes for Television. In the 2020 New Year Honours list, Yewande was awarded an MBE for services to engineering innovation and diversity in STEM.

She has recently been appointed the UK’s Innovation agency (Innovate UK) Ambassador for Clean Growth and Infrastructure.

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

I am a chartered engineer, innovator and speaker. I am passionate about the role of innovation, creativity and engineering in our world today. My engineering experience includes the design and construction, innovation and manufacture of buildings and systems in the built environment. I have worked on projects in the UK, Africa, the Middle East and East Asia and have been named the UK Young Woman Engineer of the Year by the Institution of Engineering & Technology. I have also been awarded the Exceptional Achiever Award from the Association for BAME Engineers and the Association of Consultancy and Engineering, U.K. (ACE). I am a Visiting Professor at the University of Westminster. I’m passionate about STEM communication and have presented Engineering programmes for Television. In the 2020 New Year Honours list, I was awarded an MBE for services to engineering innovation and diversity in STEM. I have recently been appointed the UK’s Innovation agency (Innovate UK) Ambassador for Clean Growth and Infrastructure.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Growing up in Ibadan, Nigeria, I spent my time building models of my ideal home with whatever materials I could find. But it wasn’t until my mother, an artist, made a suggestion about my university studies that I considered pursuing a career in engineering over one in architecture. Also crucial in my decision was finding an engineering degree at Warwick University in the U.K. that focused on developing countries—using little resources and lots of creativity. As I soon discovered, engineering is indeed the practical tool for creating a better world.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

As I have progressed in my career, it has sometimes been a challenge being black and female, but I have found ways of navigating it. I’ve learned to feel comfortable as myself and stay true to who I am. It’s a work in progress.

What is more frustrating for me is seeing other young people like myself come up against these same challenges – challenges of not finding as many opportunities in the industry; not progressing up through the ranks as quickly as they should because of issues around unconscious bias. It’s a shame that when young people speak to me, it’s one of their worries. I wish for them that they could just enjoy being engineers.

As a result, the industry has lost out on a lot of talent, whether gender or diversity based.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I have had some amazing opportunities in my career so far. I still feel there is a very long way to go still but I am very, very excited about the future. The highlights range from the design of iconic buildings in London to the design of a huge hotel and waterpark resort in Asia. The last couple of years have been very humbling. Winning the IET’s Young Woman Engineer of the year, AFBE’s Exceptional Achiever Award and Management Today’s 35 under 35 awards have inspired me to continue to ‘raise the game’. Daring to dream, having tons of fun and challenging myself help keep my engineering interests alive. So whether it is a primary school in the countryside or a 300m tower in East Asia or water supply scheme for a remote village, it is always my hope that my contributions have a positive inspiring impact.

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

I believe in huge possibilities, and I’ve discovered that there is no lack of possibilities and opportunities out there. Yes, whatever challenge you’re faced with may seem difficult, impossible even, but remember that, as the saying goes, “difficult does not mean impossible”. Take a deep breath and remind yourself that the very fact it is not impossible is all you need in terms of a mandate to be able to solve it. It’s a question of taking the challenge to bits and then dividing it up into manageable chunks.

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

First, I tell my mentees to focus on learning as much as they possibly can. I want them to enjoy their experience in industry. I don’t want their early years in this profession to be scarred by challenges of being in a minority.

I think they should find ways to enjoy and learn, be creative, meet new people, express oneself and obtain the global perspective that engineering offers. One should never compromise on what is good for others.

How do we encourage more diversity in engineering and STEM?

There is nothing more terrible than feeling as though you are only there because you ticked boxes. Having the knowledge and qualification to back yourself up immediately puts you in a strong position with everybody around the table.

Engineering is collaborative, so it is essential to have fair representation of the people you’re designing for. Bringing expertise, experience and learning to the drawing board inevitably leads to better solutions.

The next generation of engineers will be change-makers. They will want to create progress. They will want a better, more sustainable planet, where we consume less energy, live better, eat more nutritiously and generate less waste. To them I say, continue to stay true to that dream and passion.

It’s my hope that organisations see the role they also need to play in a more sustainable planet, and they give these change-makers the support they need.

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

University – business collaboration is very important. There are lot of things that seemingly get in the way of such collaborations. Organisations are sometimes worried about the financial implications and as such unwilling to take on ‘risks’. Businesses are however in the advantageous position of making long term potentially very profitable investments by attracting females into STEM courses. Schemes such as shadowing experiences, sponsorships, internships go a long way. They help sow the seed of STEM courses in students and help them see the practical day to day aspects of STEM professions. We live in an extremely visual age where real time interactions go a long way.

There is currently only 17 per cent of women working in STEM, 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?

Organisations – educational through to industry – need to fully support and empower the next generation of female engineers. These engineers will want a better, more sustainable planet, where we consume less energy, live better, eat more nutritiously and generate less waste. To them I say, continue to stay true to that dream and passion. It’s my hope that organisations see the role they also need to play in a more sustainable planet, and they give these change-makers the support they need.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I go wherever there are inspiring Women. I follow Dame Stephanie Shirely on instagram and she is a wonderful source of inspiration. Some of my favourite ‘go to places’ are the Women Tech Charge Podcast- hosted by Anne- Marie Imafidon, How to Own the Room Podcast by Viv Groskop, and Create the Future Podcast- hosted by Sue Nelson. I feel very fortunate to be able to look up to some brilliant women-a few of whom are Dame Anne Richards, Hayaatun Sillem CBE, Dervilla Mitchell CBE. It is super important to find someone you can be inspired by. I would also recommend AccelerateHER! They run absolutely fantastic events!

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Debbie Forster featured

WeAreTechWomen Virtual Conference Speaker Spotlight: Debbie Forster MBE | CEO, Tech Talent Charter

WeAreTechWomen speaks to Debbie Forster MBE, CEO, Tech Talent Charter about her career.

Debbie is also one of our speakers at our upcoming virtual tech conference, Disrupt. Innovate. Lead. on 26 June. Debbie is holding a session on why we must all work together to foster diversity in tech.

Debbie Forster is a recognised figure in the areas of diversity, tech, innovation and education, first as the UK CEO of Apps for Good and now as CEO for the Tech Talent Charter, an industry collective which aims to deliver greater gender diversity in the UK tech workforce.

Signatories of the charter make several pledges in relation to their approach to recruitment and retention. Debbie was awarded an MBE in January 2017 for “Services to Digital Technology and Tech Development” and Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) named her Woman of the Year for 2016, describing her as “an exceptional and inspirational woman… an extraordinary role model.” She has also been named on Computer Weekly’s list of “25 Most Inspirational Women in UK IT” in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017.

WeAreTechWomen, the Technology arm of WeAreTheCity is excited to introduce its first ever global virtual conference, Disrupt. Innovate. Lead. This unique learning experience is aimed at individuals working in technology who would like broaden their industry knowledge, learn new skills and benefit from the thought leadership of some of the brightest minds in the tech industry.

Can you tell us a little about your background? Where you’ve come from, where you’ve worked, how you got to where you are today?

I’m originally from the US but lived in the UK for 30 years.  I have worked in education, public, private and third sector—so I’m a professional foreigner or newcomer and thrive in working across different contexts and finding how they can fit, work and thrive together.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not even remotely; what’s taken me from job to job and sector to sector is seeing a great idea I want to make work or a great problem I want to help fix.  Like many people, I now see my career as a series of connected chapters rather than 1 focused career plan.

What inspired you to get involved with motivational speaking?

My first talk in front of a large audience (about 800 people) was when I was 18. I was terrified then but loved the buzz and connection with people and I suppose I’ve been hooked ever since.

Do you have a favourite experience from your career?

I now do a lot of coaching and mentoring as part of my portfolio of work. I absolutely love being on the journey with women and watching them make real breakthroughs in their confidence, their choices, in their place in the world.  It’s a privilege and so energising for my wider work.

What do you think WeAreTechWomen guests will gain from your talk?

Big issues like diversity and inclusion are things we believe in but are so big, it is hard to think what we can do to make a difference. I’ll try to leave everyone with a sense of how they can be a part of an exciting whole.

What are your top 3 tips for success?

  • Work to silence (or at least turn down the volume) of your imposter syndrome—it doesn’t just rob you of opportunity, it is sucking the joy from your successes.
  • Know you will make mistakes and that’s a good thing.
  • Don’t wait to feel brave enough to do something. Do it while you are terrified, that is where all the fun is.

What has been your biggest challenge during your career?

Learning to ignore the imposter syndrome.

Which female role models are you most inspired by?

You know, I’ve stopped listing the amazing famous women for this question.  To be inspired means “fill (someone) with the urge or ability to do or feel something”  and I get that from the women I coach, them women I call friends and my 22 year old daughter.  Knowing their inner fears and how they face them keeps me filled with the urge to do something.

In your opinion, what is the biggest obstacle for women at work and how can it be overcome?

We are often internally waiting for “permission” to do things, to be things, to ask for things and we are too often afraid of getting it wrong. We need to walk through that uncertainty, find and draw on mentors, and allies and champions from the women and men around us.  And we need to offer that same support to those around us.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Parity, what would it be?

Cementing the current breakthroughs on virtual and remote working and then pressing for the growth of meaningful part time work for all.

What piece of advice would you give to your younger self?

Relax, you can do this and remember this is a marathon, not a spring.


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Nancy Doyle featured

WeAreTechWomen Virtual Conference Speaker Spotlight: Dr Nancy Doyle | Occupational Psychologist & CEO, Genius Within

Nancy Doyle headshotWeAreTechWomen speaks to Dr Nancy Doyle, Occupational Psychologist & CEO, Genius Within about her career.

Nancy is also one of our speakers at our upcoming virtual tech conference, Disrupt. Innovate. Lead. on 26 June. Nancy is holding a session on neurodiversity in tech, which will look at the full range of talents associated with neurodiversity and how considering competencies could open up untapped talent within an organisation.

Dr Nancy Doyle is a Registered Occupational Psychologist and the CEO of Genius Within CIC, a non-profit who specialize in neurodiversity inclusion at work. Genius Within works with thousands of businesses each year, many in tech and finance, exploring inclusion at the individual and company wide levels, advising on the legal, human and relational aspects of inclusion. Nancy was the driving force and lead presenter for Employable Me/The Employables, a now worldwide documentary on the BBC/A&E exploring the hidden talents of individuals with autism, Tourette Syndrome and a wide range of disabilities. Nancy undertakes many voluntary advisory committee roles, including with the British Psychological Society, UK government bodies and international labor events and is a leading researcher in neurodiversity, a Fellow of the University of London (Birkbeck).

WeAreTechWomen, the Technology arm of WeAreTheCity is excited to introduce its first ever global virtual conference, Disrupt. Innovate. Lead. This unique learning experience is aimed at individuals working in technology who would like broaden their industry knowledge, learn new skills and benefit from the thought leadership of some of the brightest minds in the tech industry.

Can you tell us a little about your background? Where you’ve come from, where you’ve worked, how you got to where you are today?

I am a Registered Occupational Psychology, PhD specialising in neurodiversity at work.  I’ve worked in social inclusion all my life – disability support, unemployment – I’ve always been a geek about people working at their best, how we all have abilities and value, and that when we are in the right context, when it ‘fits’ you get ‘flow’.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No, but I’ve always thought it was important to do due diligence to your craft. Many early personal and professional experiences led me to question traditional psychology approaches, but in order to understand how to fix the problem I studied psychology. I can now advocate for the talent aspects of neurodiversity competently and from a position of expertise as opposed to shouting from the sidelines. The science of neurodiversity is changing and evolving, I am happy to be part of that within a well-regulated profession, developing the right evidence based and applying rigor and integrity to this niche field.

What inspired you to get involved with motivational speaking?

I’m not really interested in motivational speaking, I’m interest in engaging people into my area of interest and my passion! Our society has become inefficient and is missing the opportunity to benefit from neurodiverse thinking, as a result too many people are cast aside and are devalued. Its annoying and we are changing it. Giving talks is one part of that process.

Do you have a favourite experience from your career?

Passing my PhD Viva with no corrections from my examiners. It’s up there with becoming a parent and marrying the love of my life. It was the culmination of so much hard work and energy, the icing on the cake, the validation of what I had spent 20 years experiencing, exploring, researching. It felt like getting to the top of the mountain and discovering a bright sunny day where I could see the whole landscape, and just breathing the fresh air.

What do you think WeAreTechWomen guests will gain from your talk?

Hopefully some ideas about how to move forward with the neurodiversity paradigm. Neurodiversity has become a buzzword, a token, a compelling idea that people want to understand more about. We’re seeing pilot projects here and there but we’re yet to see systematic changes to the way we incorporate neurodiversity, and we’re missing a lot of “how to” information. There’s a lot of amateurism in the field, which is legally risky as neurominority individuals are eligible for disability protection in most advanced economies. I’d like people to come away feeling inspired to embrace a more diverse talent pool, understanding the intersectional implications and the professional expertise required to make the shiny ideas into serious organizational strategies.

What are your top 3 tips for success?

  • Always meet your deadlines and when you occasionally err, apologize profusely – no matter who you are engaging with (customers, boss, staff).
  • Follow what engages your heart but lead with training your mind – if your next career move is worth it, then having the right qualifications, supervision and expertise will edify you.
  • Never discount the worth of any job, no matter how seemingly irrelevant. Working as a personal care worker for adults with physical and learning disabilities may not seem grand in the context of my career, but it was pivotal to inspiring my drive for systemic inclusion and I have spent 20 years learning how to improve workplaces such that a wider range of humans can take part in our economy.

What has been your biggest challenge during your career?

Learning to self-reference and chose my advisors. Many women are inculcated into people pleasing stereotypes, we often need the approval of others to make decisions and feel confident. This is not the same as seeking consensus which is a strength, it’s more toxic than that, and involves being submissive to rejection or disagreement, and not being able to hold a line. This can be compounded by intersectional experiences of disability, race, sexuality. My journey to CEO was accidental – my business was originally an extension of private consultative practice – so being continually overpromoted as it grew was a steep learning curve. I had to learn the hard way that not everyone is authentic and that you can give your power away by capitulating to people who are projecting their failures onto you. Confidence grows by seeing solid results, as well as choosing wise counsel and steady mentors who are not engaged for their own egos.

Which female role models are you most inspired by?

Debbie Harry, Reese Witherspoon, Hillary Clinton, Dr Virginia Schein, Professor Denise Rousseau, Professor Almuth McDowall. Bold women who believe that ambition is not a dirty word.

In your opinion, what is the biggest obstacle for women at work and how can it be overcome?

Pseudoscientific quackery about female and male brains. Read Prof. Gina Rippon’s book the Gendered Brain. As long as we are believing ourselves to be passengers in a brain that will dampen ambition, courage, boldness, directness or assign these traits to “behaving like men” we will lessen our trajectories. Compassion doesn’t have to be the expense of strength, you can be decisive at the same time as empathetic. There’s no such thing as ‘male leadership’ or ‘female leadership’, there’s just the skills required for the job and a whole bunch of gendered cheese about women who self-advocate and men who would prefer to be present at their kids’ bedtime.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Parity, what would it be?

So many things! Too hard to stick to one! I guess in a work context I would encourage male parents to be visible, talk about their kids, role model leaving work on time and being vocal about that to inspire each other.

What piece of advice would you give to your younger self?

You are more right than you give yourself credit for, but you are wise to diligently keep challenging and checking your assumptions. Choose your advisors for their deeds and track records, not their flattery and words.


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Emma Griffin

WeAreTechWomen Conference Speaker Spotlight: Emma Griffin, Sky

Emma Griffin

WeAreTechWomen speaks to Emma Griffin, Director, Group Deputy Chief Information Security Officer, Sky, about her career.

Emma is also one of our speakers at our upcoming WeAreTechWomen: The Future World of Work conference on 22 November. Emma is holding a session on her journey from ambulance dispatcher to security chief.

Emma is Group Deputy Chief Information Security Officer at Sky with responsibilities across all aspects of cyber security, including information security strategy, governance, risk and compliance.

With over 20 years of experience in security and technology infrastructure, Emma has worked across a variety of sectors including financial services, insurance and management consultancies. Prior to Sky, Emma has held numerous roles at Worldpay and Goldman Sachs leading and managing global cyber programmes.

Emma has a Master’s degree in Information Security from Royal Holloway.

WeAreTechWomen, the Technology arm of WeAreTheCity, is hosting its fourth full-day conference in London, aimed at over 400 women who are wanting to broaden their technology horizons, learn new skills and build their tech networks.

Our unique conference will include the opportunity for our delegates to learn about a variety of technical topics and get involved in Q&A’s, hands-on activities and interactive workshops. Our aim is to provide an environment where our delegates can upskill and grow their skills/networks for the future.

Can you tell us a little about your background? Where you’ve come from, where you’ve worked, how you got to where you are today?

I started my working life working for the London Ambulance Service. Covering North West London, including Heathrow airport and Wembley Stadium, I was responsible for managing normal 999 calls alongside hotels on fire, train accidents, emergencies with large crowds and aeroplanes landing with mechanical problems. It was both exciting and stressful and taught me the fundamentals of incident management that I still use today. I then embarked on a career in technology, spending most of my time in the financial sector and now work at Sky as their Deputy Group CISO responsible for everything cyber security.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

For many years I just bumbled along, working hard and hoping I would be rewarded and something good would come along. But I then realised I needed to own and drive my career and so literally sat down worked out what I wanted to do, formalised a plan and even wrote a script of how to have ‘the conversation’ with my manager.

What inspired you to get involved with in motivational speaking?

The important changes in my life and career have been helped by guidance and support from mentors and role models, I realise that not everybody has them, do think it is important to encourage and inspire the person next to you.

Do you have a favourite experience from your career?

The feeling of empowerment when I convinced my boss to help me change role when no role existed. I was terrified I would be out of a job, but so proud of my bravery and wish I had done it years before.

What do you think WeAreTechWomen guests will gain from your talk?

Hopefully they will feel inspired to take charge of their career, form a plan and act on it.

What are your top three tips for success?

  • Never stop learning / studying – life is changing around you all the time.
  • Take ownership of your career and drive it – don’t expect someone else to do it.
  • Build a great team – success is not a solo achievement, you need good company.

What has been your biggest challenge during your career?

I wanted to change role, but didn’t know what I wanted to do next, just that I wanted something different. Building up the courage to take a leap of faith, and just try something new, that may not be successful.

What piece of advice would you give to your younger self?

Don’t be shy - Learn to promote your skills and successes, it’s not boasting.


Lopa Ghosha

WeAreTechWomen Conference Speaker Spotlight: Lopa Ghosh, EY

Lopa Ghosha

WeAreTechWomen speaks to Lopa Ghosh, Associate Partner, UKI Cyber Leader, People and Culture Lead, EY, about her career.

Lopa is also one of our speakers at our upcoming WeAreTechWomen: The Future World of Work conference on 22 November. Lopa will be discussing cyber security and how to make it a habit, not a hassle.

Lopa is a leader in UKI EYs Cybersecurity practice, with a particular passion for the human centric behaviours and culture around cybersecurity. Lopa regularly advices clients on how to enhance security through their corporate culture and talent base, by thinking differently in engaging their organisation. Lopa is a strong advocate for diversity of all types in cybersecurity and leads EY UKI Diversity in Cybersecurity network.

WeAreTechWomen, the Technology arm of WeAreTheCity, is hosting its fourth full-day conference in London, aimed at over 400 women who are wanting to broaden their technology horizons, learn new skills and build their tech networks.

Our unique conference will include the opportunity for our delegates to learn about a variety of technical topics and get involved in Q&A’s, hands-on activities and interactive workshops. Our aim is to provide an environment where our delegates can upskill and grow their skills/networks for the future.

Can you tell us a little about your background? Where you’ve come from, where you’ve worked, how you got to where you are today?

I started in the civil service as a performance analyst and data scientist for the Legal Aid Board and unbeknownst to me, kicked off an going career in technology and defence. Whether it was legal, border, military or cyber.  Despite having a varied career path, through public and private avenues, working in cyber seems a perfect fit.  I drifted into in  cyber in my time in the US when I brought in to work on a large scale regulatory Cyber transformation, it was clear that technology and process alone were not enough to deal with the Cyber threat, people and culture were as important too.  This has lead to my current work in leading cyber culture and transformation for EY.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

All the time.  I used to be focussed on promotion and the “next step” and that got quite stressful.  Through a lot of challenging experiences, both work and personal, I’ve shifted my focus to outcomes.  What is it I want to be doing etc, that always comes first, and I’ve found the rest follows quite naturally alongside.

What inspired you to get involved with in motivational speaking?

As a female and a BAME female, I naturally found myself in a position of mentor.  As I have progressed through my organisation, I am still in the minority and people of all types, colours and gender have sought me out for guidance.  As I have done in the past, looking for people who look and talk like me, to learn from (there weren’t that many when I was coming up!).  It’s important to be visible and authentic.

Do you have a favourite experience from your career?

I don’t think I have one single favourite experience, but I do have a favourite aspect.  I’m lucky to be in a career where meeting a lot of people is normal and expected.  That’s my favourite part of the job, I learn new things everyday and meet all types of people, which if I had different career, I would not be able to do.

What do you think WeAreTechWomen guests will gain from your talk?

That there is a different way into working in technology.  Whilst I have worked on large scale tech and, now most recently, Cyber transformations, you don’t have to have a STEM background to work in the field.  Capability, culture, social engineering all have places in the tech world.

What are your top three tips for success?

  1. Ask for help, you don’t know everything.
  2. Be yourself, trying to be someone else is exhausting!
  3. Find your tribe, find the people you want to have around as success comes, you need friends.

What has been your biggest challenge during your career?

Getting through the door.  Until now, I had underestimated how hard I worked to get through the door and the effort it has taken to stay there.  There are many doors!

Which female role models are you most inspired by?

Floella Benjamin – growing up in the 80’s she was one for the few BAME personalities that was not sterotyped on TV, she just had a job to entertain children and didn’t have to put on an act to do it.

Queen – she has remained exactly who she wants to be throughout everything, she also knows when to take advice in order and doesn’t claim to have all the answers.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Parity, what would it be?

Allies.  It’s wonderful that there are so many programmes to developing women, but when we segregate out the issues into gender, we don’t provide the opportunity to educate others.  It should be a shared responsibility.

What piece of advice would you give to your younger self?

You’re doing ok


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Yuna Lee and Ruth Garcia featured

WeAreTechWomen Conference Speaker Spotlight: Yuna Lee & Ruth Garcia, Spotify

Yuna Lee and Ruth Garcia featured

WeAreTechWomen speaks to Yuna Lee and Ruth Garcia, both Data Scientists at Spotify, about their careers.

Yuna and Ruth are also two of our speakers at our upcoming WeAreTechWomen: The Future World of Work conference on 22 November. They will be discussing life as a data scientists, narrating their journeys, covering the challenges involved, common pitfalls, as well as some practical lessons from the field as women in tech.

Yuna is a Data Scientist at Spotify in the Premium Business unit in London. Yuna is part of Product Insights team in which she collaborates with User Researchers and other Data Scientists to identify opportunities to improve Spotify user journey. Having a business degree as her background and with hands on experience in Data Science in the tech industry, Yuna provides insights that translate to diverse audience in business. A published co-author in Korea, she continues to explore the opportunities to reach out to people with the drive for learning and development. 

Ruth is a Data Scientist at Spotify in London focusing on user engagement and metric setting. Previously, she was a data scientist at Skyscanner and a computational social science researcher at the Oxford Internet Institute (University of Oxford). She obtained her PhD at Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona and developed her thesis at Yahoo Labs Barcelona. Her work has been exposed in several international conferences. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, cooking and salsa dancing.

WeAreTechWomen, the Technology arm of WeAreTheCity, is hosting its fourth full-day conference in London, aimed at over 400 women who are wanting to broaden their technology horizons, learn new skills and build their tech networks.

Our unique conference will include the opportunity for our delegates to learn about a variety of technical topics and get involved in Q&A’s, hands-on activities and interactive workshops. Our aim is to provide an environment where our delegates can upskill and grow their skills/networks for the future.

Can you tell us a little about your background? Where you’ve come from, where you’ve worked, how you got to where you are today?

Ruth: I am from Ecuador (South America). My undergraduate degree was in Computer Science but never really worked on this field in my country. After two years of graduation and working on different fields, I was accepted into a Master in IT in Barcelona which led me to a PhD in the same city. After my PhD, I received an offer to work as a Post-doc in a field called “Computational Social Science” at the Oxford Internet Institute which belongs to Oxford University. After that, I left Academia and joined Skyscanner as a Data Scientist. Recently, I just joined Spotify also as a data scientist.

Yuna: I am originally from South Korea. I left Korea alone one year into high school. Since then, I have been living abroad. I received an undergraduate degree from a business college in Massachusetts US, where I explored the options for a career in business. Soon after starting the business study and starting my first job in the international compensation survey, I realised that behind the case studies, the principles, and operations of successful businesses the key to success is not the instinct of executives acquired from a crystal ball, but always there are data behind which bring the business closer to the goal. That is how my journey in data began.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Ruth: In my case, I did plan what field to “study.” Soon I realized I liked and was good at programming and numbers so I tried to focus my efforts on a technical field. However, I never really planned to pursue a PhD, enter into academia and much less be a data scientist. Those opportunities came as I moved on.

Yuna: It was the opposite of sitting down but I was always on foot for a constant exploration for the right fit for me through various experiences. One can sit down and start writing down steps she or he could take, however, as we all know learning and opportunities come when we realise the gap in the expectation we have and the reality we face. Advice and support from those who are close to me also helped me shape my career. Beside my professors and friends who were already in the business world, I also seek advice from my dad who had a very successful career as an engineer turn CEO.

What inspired you to get involved with in motivational speaking?

Ruth: The encouragement of people at Spotify. I have been inspired by many motivational speakers but I have not been one myself. I still do not see me as a motivational speaker. I just plan to share my story hoping someone feels identified and finds it useful.

Yuna: A few months ago I attended a women working in technology conference in London where Spotify was participating as a sponsor. With such a great opportunity to be a part, I was able to feel and experience many talented and curious women who were so enthusiastic about the tech world and the career in tech. For those who are seeking to become Data Scientists, I wanted to share my experience with the audience where it all started and how my journey has been. Through this talk, I hope I can motivate and help to visualise the exciting career ahead for the audience interested in becoming Data Scientists.

Do you have a favourite experience from your career?

Ruth: There were many unforgettable events, my favorites perhaps are when I got my first paper published in a conference, my first travel for a conference and when I left academia to join industry.

Yuna: I would not say the favourite per se, but the worst experience I encountered so far in my career became one of the most valuable experiences because the drive it created in me to recognise and to promote the need for the fair and harmonised work culture. In my previous job, I had a chance of working with a team of all male engineers and I used to hear the comments of the team not wanting women in “the engineer’s room”. The comment was inconsiderate and very wrong to say and it very much reflected how unfriendly the working environment was for women in the company. I took more initiatives in projects, put more hours, paid more attention to the work, and the ways I could collaborate with the team. It was the moment when I learnt that there will be many challenges ahead as a woman in the career in tech but through those challenges I also learnt that we can grow and proactively shape the culture around us.

What do you think WeAreTechWomen guests will gain from your talk?

Ruth: I hope they will learn about the different ways one can become a data scientist, some of the skills needed and the different ways of working.

Yuna: We need to find what sparks us and continue pursuing it. It is not a straight road and there will be unexpected turns and opportunities on the way. To embrace everything that comes and learn from those experiences and that is how we become a unique talent. There are so many fun and exciting opportunities for women in tech and Data Science.

What are your top three tips for success?

Ruth: Do not let fear stop your actions towards your dreams, do not let others dictate what they think you are (you know yourself better),  take advantage of the opportunities or privileges you have to gain experience, get involved with people who inspire you, ask for feedback and identify constructive feedback, be thankful.

Yuna: Resilience in the face of failure and disappointment. Consistency in our efforts to get to where we want to be. Love and understanding for the people who are in the journey together.

What has been your biggest challenge during your career?

Ruth: To have research papers published, to teach in front of smart students, to leave academia and join Industry, to move countries to pursue a Master

Yuna: English being a second language and being an introvert have been the biggest challenges. As a person who did not grow up as bilingual, adopting another language as the main language at a workplace was challenging. Even after 16 years of studying and working abroad, still there are times when I cannot understand or elaborate as quick and there have been times when I had to push myself hard to speak up but failed and made everyone confused. However I have not given up and through these challenges I have learnt how to listen to others and notice ways a team of such diverse individuals can collaborate together and come up with unique and amazing insights.

Which female role models are you most inspired by?

Ruth: Angela Merkel, Michele Obama, Sheryl Sandberg, Isabelle Allende, Fei-fei Li

Yuna: Women who challenge and overcome prejudices and obstacles we face everyday and women who give back to the society. I find them everyday through the achievements in athletics such as the professional Triathlete, Katie Zaferes and in politics such as the Foreign Minister of South Korea, Kang Kyung-wha.

In your opinion, what is the biggest obstacle for women at work and how can it be overcome?

Ruth: In tech I think the major obstacle is that sometimes women are assigned tasks that are less technically challenging. Without experience, it is hard to learn and become expert in complex technical tasks. Men tend to step into more technical complex tasks than women. Second, I think that the effort of many women to be promoted is considerably higher than men. I feel women still have to prove more to get promoted. How to overcome these problems? It is very challenging but one way is companies to evangelize the importance of unbiased thinking for gender and race when assessing skills and competence. Show people the harmful effects of these biases at work.

Yuna: Gender inequality that is presented by the parity in the gender distribution in the industry is the biggest obstacle for women. In most cases, much of discrimination and unfairness I faced was the byproduct of the structural parity. In my opinion, hiring more women in tech could help overcome this obstacle. The environment we are in influences us. It limits us to how we act, how we feel, and how much we see. For us to thrive as professionals, the place we work should enable us to act, to speak, and to see the potential of what we could become which will benefit us all as a community. We cannot do it alone and we should work together as a community. This involves participating in talks and conferences like women in tech and encouraging our colleagues and our friends to share their challenges to help each other.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Parity, what would it be?

Ruth: Award companies (tax cuts or honor awards) with gender and racial balance in every level of the company. This would generate scholarships to young girls who have potential and low resources and that come from different backgrounds and cultures.

Yuna: The change starts from an early age. Reaching out to students in their early education to show the diverse options that are out there in their career and possibilities they can achieve. I attended all female middle and high school in Korea and I did not have much chance to know the opportunities in the tech world until later and I am the only person in my group of friends from childhood who has a job in tech. I truly believe being exposed to these options earlier on makes a difference in which path we take later on.

What piece of advice would you give to your younger self?

Ruth: To my undergraduate self: surround yourself with good and smart friends and trust your own research even if you are not 100 per cent sure. Value yourself above everything, do not let  other people's opinions dictate your life. Do not give up your professional dreams for any guy and do not waste your precious time with men who do not value and respect you above all even if you are wrong. The best cure for a heartbreak is to work out and keep busy. To my graduate self: it´s ok to fail, keep trying, devote more time to think about the methodology you will use, make a plan and then execute. Try not to execute without having a plan. Do not fear to ask and get feedback, ask for help and express with confidence your thoughts when you think something is wrong. Be good at time management, practice it over and over again.

Yuna: To dream in colour and to express it without the fear of judgement. To remind myself that it is okay to fail. That success does not mean not failing but it means not giving up on what we believe in despite. How we overcome defines who we are and failures are many parts of our journey to reach our goal.


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WeAreTechWomen Conference Speaker Spotlight: Mivy James, BAE Systems

WeAreTechWomen speaks to Mivy James, Head of Consulting, BAE Systems, about her career.

Mivy is also one of our speakers at our upcoming WeAreTechWomen: The Future World of Work conference on 22 November. Mivy will be discussing transforming technology leadership and systems engineering.

Mivy James has been an IT professional for 25 years. Having started her career as an analyst / programmer she is now Head of Consulting at BAE Systems were she is responsible for around 200 technical consultants. Her current areas of interest include supporting government departments on their digital transformation journeys and adoption of agile ways of working. She is also a passionate advocate for STEM careers and is the founder of her organisation’s gender balance network.

WeAreTechWomen, the Technology arm of WeAreTheCity, is hosting its fourth full-day conference in London, aimed at over 400 women who are wanting to broaden their technology horizons, learn new skills and build their tech networks.

Our unique conference will include the opportunity for our delegates to learn about a variety of technical topics and get involved in Q&A’s, hands-on activities and interactive workshops. Our aim is to provide an environment where our delegates can upskill and grow their skills/networks for the future.

Can you tell us a little about your background? Where you’ve come from, where you’ve worked, how you got to where you are today?

I started my career as an analyst / programmer after graduating in Computer Science & Maths 25 years ago. I really enjoyed the system engineering and design aspects of building IT systems so have gradually got involved in larger and larger challenges whilst slowly reducing the focus on coding. I really got into system design and architecture whilst working on an air traffic control system and having to create lots of analytical models to check that everything behaved as expected.

I then became more aware of the necessity for technology solutions to align with business vision – prompted by having witnessed some major programmes run away with themselves and forget this. This led me into enterprise architecture which is what I do these days, along with being the Head of Consulting for part of BAE Systems.

I work with UK government departments to support them on their digital transformation journeys.

And I am also the founder and chair of our gender balance network.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Far from it, or certainly not a long term plan. I have always followed what is interesting, what is useful and stepped up to pick up responsibility where I think it’s needed. Roles often change in the tech industry anyway so the interesting jobs in five years’ time probably don’t exist today.

But that said, I regularly revisit my strengths and interests to check that I am making the most of those in whatever I am doing as it’s so easy to slip into being generally busy but without a focus.

What inspired you to get involved with in motivational speaking?

We can all learn from each other and everyone has it in them to be a role model. I can’t ask others to step up to do public speaking if I’m not prepared to do it myself.

The process of having to prepare something actually helps me cement a lot of my own thoughts.

Do you have a favourite experience from your career?

A few years ago I was involved in defining the strategy and technical aspects of a business case for a large government digital transformation programme. There were some press releases about it and I saw some of my own work on the front pages of every single national paper. I was quite far removed from the parliamentary team so didn’t know it would be published. Imagine my surprise when I saw all the newspaper headlines at the station newsagent during my early morning commute.

What do you think WeAreTechWomen guests will gain from your talk?

The topic that I’ve chosen is relevant to most organisations today, and not just for technology programmes. Digital transformation is a major shift in the way organisations manage themselves. We’ve heard a lot about some angles but I plan to share some food for thought on what it really means for leadership culture.

What are your top three tips for success?

  • Grasp the opportunities in front of you. Often unexpected opportunities arise – with hindsight I know that the roles I was least sure about are the ones which have provided the biggest leaps forward in my career development.
  • Build transferable skills. The skills that we need to develop ourselves aren’t just the obvious technical ones. I did a stint as a project manager and soon realised that it wasn’t for me. However, my time in that role was really elevated by people management and stakeholder engagement skills – both of which hare really key to my current role.
  • Never stop learning. Continuous learning doesn’t have to be daunting nor does it always require attendance of intense training courses. There are so many different ways to learn and online resources break things up into manageable bite-size chunks.

What has been your biggest challenge during your career?

To keep focussed on what really motivates me. It’s easy to slip into being terribly busy and to lose that focus on what’s most interesting, plays to your strengths and is your niche contribution to the business. As I said earlier, I have taken to regularly reviewing what I am doing and checking how it aligns to avoid falling into the trap of just being busy all the time.

And actually, stepping up to do this talk is actually an outcome of my most recent career review as developing and sharing expertise is one of the things I enjoy most at work.

Which female role models are you most inspired by?

Of course there are the many women of history who shaped Computer Science. Their names need to be as synonymous with the field of technology as the many male tech entrepreneurs who are so greatly admired. Special mentions need to go to:

  • Ada Lovelace – needs no introduction!
  • Joan Clarke – who worked alongside Turing but, unlike her male peers, none of her methods or algorithms are named after her
  • Hedy Lamarr
  • The ENIAC 6 : Meltzer, Holberton, Antoneli, Teitelbam, Batik, Spenc
  • And, of course, Grace Hopper

Today we still need to do more to elevate the visibility of women in tech. In the UK alone we have Dame Stephanie Shirley, Dr Jan Peters and Professor Dame Wendy Hall to celebrate.

In your opinion, what is the biggest obstacle for women at work and how can it be overcome?

The potential of women is greatly underestimated, particularly when it comes to leadership.

There’s a strange reluctance to put women in leadership roles despite men being just as capable of messing up as they are of succeeding! This leadership-readiness perception really needs to be challenged. If there was a single way of overcoming it that would already have been resolved. There is no silver-bullet to fixing chauvinism.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Parity, what would it be?

To stop asking the women to pay an additional gender tax by making us solely responsible for the problem. Women don’t need fixing – I abhor initiatives aimed at fixing the alleged confidence gap. Instead, look at the root causes as to why women may be less confident when it comes to speaking up or progressing their careers and fix that.

What piece of advice would you give to your younger self?

Don’t let other people take credit for your ideas and hard work. Self-promote more.


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WeAreTechWomen Conference Speaker Spotlight: Deborah O'Neill, Oliver Wyman

Deborah O'Neill

WeAreTechWomen speaks to Deborah O'Neill, Head of UK Digital, Partner, Oliver Wyman, about her career.

Deborah is also one of our speakers at our upcoming WeAreTechWomen: The Future World of Work conference on 22 November. Deborah will be discussing how to prevent big data anarchy in the UK.

Deborah O’Neill is UK Head of Digital and a partner at Oliver Wyman, where she leads complex digital transformations at the world’s largest companies. She helps her clients build out their engineering and delivery capability, making them self-sufficient and able to make changes more rapidly.

An expert in untethering businesses from technology systems and approaches no longer fit for purpose, Deborah has recently worked on the build and launch of several Greenfield businesses.

She is widely published on issues relating to how financial services companies can free themselves from legacy IT infrastructure, use data to strengthen connections to customers and better use analytics to prepare for AI.

Deborah’s work as a female leader has been recognised with numerous accolades. She is a committed advocate for gender equality who seeks to create mentoring and sponsorship opportunities for future female technologists both within Oliver Wyman and the industries she operates.

WeAreTechWomen, the Technology arm of WeAreTheCity, is hosting its fourth full-day conference in London, aimed at over 400 women who are wanting to broaden their technology horizons, learn new skills and build their tech networks.

Our unique conference will include the opportunity for our delegates to learn about a variety of technical topics and get involved in Q&A’s, hands-on activities and interactive workshops. Our aim is to provide an environment where our delegates can upskill and grow their skills/networks for the future.

Can you tell us a little about your background? Where you’ve come from, where you’ve worked, how you got to where you are today?

At the beginning of 2019 I was appointed the first Head of Digital for the UK and Ireland at Oliver Wyman, a global management consultancy.

I lead complex digital transformations at some of the world’s largest companies. This means designing and assembling future-proof technology capabilities that make their business processes faster, smarter, and more agile at adapting to change.
Being a practical, no-nonsense northerner helps me tremendously in my role. I cut through jargon, translate complex technology processes into plain English, and bring together diverse teams to solve complicated problems.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

When I think about career progression, mine has been like a level of Chuckie Egg – there are long ladders, but also places to hop off and sidestep onto another route. In my case, this was moving from working exclusively with financial services companies for six years into helping businesses across all industries deliver technology transformations.

What inspired you to get involved with in motivational speaking?

I started late in technology, but this has not hampered my move into such an exciting and growing sector. I’m now keen to show others – women, non-binary, BAME, LGBTQ+, or any combination of minorities - how they can develop into technology leadership positions.

Do you have a favourite experience from your career?

In 2018 my team helped start a new digital bank from scratch for RBS. During that year I served as interim Chief Technology Officer responsible for overseeing the design and build of the new technology platform, as well as recruiting a new team of experts to run the platform after the Oliver Wyman team finished.

What I really enjoyed about this temporary role was the opportunity to fully immerse myself in a ground-breaking project and lead a large, diverse team towards a single goal.

What do you think WeAreTechWomen guests will gain from your talk?

My talk will remind people about the positive impact big data has made in both business and society, and I’ll help the audience appreciate why tackling unethical use of personal data is so difficult, both nationally and globally. As a practical take away, attendees will be shown an ethical baseline for how they process personal data, and I’ll discuss with them what else governments and companies could be doing. In addition, I’ll show how actions by governments and companies will not enough to prevent further unethical data use unless each of us takes a greater responsibility for what we share digitally, from credit cards to birthdays to advertising preferences.

What are your top three tips for success?

  1. When you come to manage others, stay focused on leadership and empathy, not developing your individual skills to an expert level in all areas. Think of your team as a car with many moving parts and you are the driver behind the wheel. In this analogy, you don’t have to be a mechanic to set the direction and speed. It’s useful if you can learn how to change a tyre, but you must trust the experts on your team to corner balance the suspension or change the transmission fluid.
  2. Do everything you can to keep talented people on your team. To keep women in our teams, I make it my business to find out if our policies on issues such as parental leave and flexible working meet the industry standards and there is no stigma attached to taking advantage of them.
  3. Set up mentoring relationships for others – and be available as a mentor yourself – and showcase role models who those in minority groups can identify with. Don’t underestimate the power you have as a leader to act as a sponsor. Use your connections to advance the careers of those on your team through their endorsement and guidance.

What has been your biggest challenge during your career?

Balancing the development of my technical and content skills with getting more exposure to experiences such as presentation and client management skills. I was always very fearful of being “found out” for not knowing everything so I would try to learn everything before putting myself out there but I have found over the years that actually the ability to connect dots and structure the problem were almost more important. My tip would be to try and find safe spaces to practice presenting your ideas – either within internal team meetings or even just to take one segment within a larger presentation.

Which female role models are you most inspired by?

I studied physics at university, a field that has many female innovators hidden from mainstream history. While many will know that Marie Curie was the first woman to win the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1903, fewer can name the other two women who subsequently won it: Maria Goeppert Mayer in 1963 and Donna Strickland in 2018.

In your opinion, what is the biggest obstacle for women at work and how can it be overcome?

Oliver Wyman research shows that while women begin their careers with ambitions equal to those of men, between the ages of 30–50 they become less willing than men to make sacrifices in their personal lives, and between 40 and 50 the proportion of women with ambitions to reach senior management drops below that for men.

To overcome this, businesses need to set an Executive Committee talent pipeline strategy. They need to develop bolder structural solutions by providing more flexible working options at all levels and finding ways to remove the stigma associated with using them. All genders should be encouraged to take parental leave and companies should have robust return-to-work programmes to support them back into the business. Address the promotion and pay gap, understanding that this is likely to be driven by invisible cultural factors.

Cultural change is also required: offices should endeavour to build an inclusive culture that a) recognises and promotes the value of diversity along all dimensions and b) is free from unconscious bias and therefore supports gender balance. This means putting practice ahead of theory, supporting men to support women and seeking enlightened leadership.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Parity, what would it be?

We’ve all heard about the statistic showing how competent women are getting bypassed by overconfident men. Men apply for a job when they meet only 60 per cent of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100 per cent of them. Clearly, this means we need to empower women to apply for more roles. Part of this is establishing and communicating a new approach to recruitment. For example, hiring managers should make it clearer that a job specification is more of a ‘wish list’ than a ‘check list’ and that the individual they want to hire can have a mix of these qualifications plus other valued skills and experiences.

What piece of advice would you give to your younger self?

I would remind myself to say ‘no’ more. So much of the work we deliver for clients has a technology component, and I am frequently being asked to join project calls and steering groups. I now empower people to hold these meetings without me and ask for help when they need a fresh perspective or a second opinion on the way forwards.


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