I was fortunate enough to attend this year’s Women of Silicon Roundabout. Scott Logic had a booth, and I’d come along with a few of my female colleagues from across the UK to attend the talks and workshops. I was full of anticipation as I was walking into the venue at around 7 in the morning. Before I start delving into the details of the talks, I must say that I had the most enjoyable time. I can’t remember feeling so much inspired and encouraged to do better at what I do in a very long time, probably since I left school. Go girls!
The morning opened with a few words on Digital transformation, the impact of IOT and Cloud, championing girls and lifting each other. It was very brief and made way to an inspirational and gripping speech from Karren Brady. She talked about the challenges she faced on her path to becoming a successful Managing Director at a football club and went through the journey of Digital Transformation to make the club a huge business success. There were challenges not only in the archaic systems like manual payment methods, she had to motivate the whole team to work better together, handle sexism and lawsuits at the same time. It was thought provoking when she presented the question that you may have a young person earning £20,000/week and another young person earning £20,000/year in your team and they both come from similar backgrounds, how would you keep them both motivated? Respecting every member’s contribution towards the team’s success and encouraging people to enhance their skills and allowing opportunity to work across different areas are key. Another important message she put forward is that us working mothers often carry around guilt throughout our life for not giving enough time to the children while pursuing our career. We should focus on the fact that in working for our career, we are showing our children examples of independence, dedication and hard work which are invaluable life lessons. She also emphasized the importance of having core values of Determination, Integrity and Attitude. The ability to pick up yourself after a failure is of utmost importance as no one succeeds in everything.
The presentation was vivid. I came out of that auditorium feeling elevated. I will keep these words with me on my journey forward. Whatever her path was in her life, I completely agree when she said: “Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence”.
Data-driven decision making in Education – An introduction to R on PISA datasets
This was a beginner level talk on
R by Agnes Salanki. I already knew
R somewhat, but I was keen to attend some technical talks. Turned out it was not a bad decision at all. Agnes knew her stuff. She processed a data set step by step to verify some published reports. The reports included results identifying patterns such as male 15 year olds did better in certain subjects compared to females within the same age group. The data was sourced from countries across Europe. As we followed the workshop, we generated some basic graphs as well as calculating summary figures. Agnes talked about CRAN, communities and other great reasons which should inspire people to use
R. I picked up ideas for new tools and presentations that will come in handy.
From Photojournalism to Drone Journalism
Gail Orenstein was the first female civilian to drone in Kurdistan, Northern Iraq during the Mosul offensive in Iraq 2017. Referred to as “the pioneer of drone journalism”, she has droned in 84 countries often travelling alone. Listening to her talk was like reading excerpts from spy thrillers. I was in total awe. Guatemala, Iraq, Mozambique, Ukraine, Myanmar – everywhere she has captured conflicts and humanitarian issues working across borders often risking life, imprisonment and impounding of equipment. She emphasised that this area is still in infancy and if you are keen on getting out of your comfort zone, this might be for you. While the monetary rewards are great if you are agile and willing to go remote, the risks are not negligible at all. Indeed, she started her career as a photojournalist and was happy doing that, until companies started cutting costs and it was the female employees they were kicking out first. Gail is a role model in so many regards! She started her career even before I was born and still working with endless spirit while sharing her knowledge and feminist ideas. I am looking forward to reading her book that is coming out in October.
Creating your growth mindset to tackle imposter syndrome
Olivia Schofield did this really interesting talk on Imposter Syndrome. The room was bursting full of people. I was sitting on the floor. The doors were jammed with people who didn’t get a spot on the floor. It was heartbreaking. It was obvious that this is an issue that women in our field are undeniably suffering from. But as Olivia shared her journey through Imposter Syndrome and shared some useful insights, her impromptu style lightened up the room. There was a 30 seconds exercise when everyone had to reflect on their early memories that might have fuelled self-doubt and share that memory with the next person. I exchanged a few words with the girl sitting next to me. It is fascinating the things we carry around even after decades.
Auditing for Accessibility
Excellent talk on accessible design by our very own Elizabeth. She went through W3C rules for accessible designs to accommodate Visual, Oral, Motor function and Cognitive disabilities. Each set of rules was supported by an activity where the audience had to find breach of those rules in an example webpage / application. Presentation was lively and the whole thing went down really well. This being an emerging focus for many companies, there is lack of awareness about standards and tools both. A lot of the audience got excited when towards the end of talk, Elizabeth mentioned some of the tools she recommends. When the time was up, there was a general murmur of “great talk, really useful” as well as quite a few people coming up to talk to Elizabeth for further details.
What’s so smart about “Smart Contracts”?
Informative talk by Gintare Urbone from Thought Machine. Having worked on a cryptocurrency project of late and having attended a rather sales-y talk on Blockchain the day before, I was sceptic about going into this talk. But as it turned out, I was third time lucky! As I was walking into the room, Gintare was sharing a photo of herself at the Everest base camp. I was already biased towards her (come on, people!). Gintare explained the basics of Bitcoin and Blockchain just at the right level. Not too detailed to bore people who already used it and not too superficial that it only shows it as an all-curing panacea. It correctly portrayed how Bitcoin and Blockchain are energy inefficient, slow, unregulated and vulnerable to fraud. Some of these problems like the slowness and energy wastage are solved by Etherium. Etherium uses isolated Virtual Environments and uses a concept of “Gas” that is used in limiting how much computation is used in each mining calculation. In Thought Machine, they are combining the good virtues of traditional retail banking such as highly regulated, secured platform and performant banking network with the benefits of cryptocurrency such as Smart Contracts. Smart Contracts were introduced as part of Etherium as a way of implementing contracts that are immutable, event-driven and personalized. Used correctly, Smart Contracts can help banks get over slow pace in going forward with technology and providing more personalized service to their clients.
Great mix of talks. Some of them really made me think. Most of them exceeded my expectations. However, I would like to see a bigger percentage of technical talks. Overall it was a great experience teeming full of inspiration and empathy.