Last Wednesday I attended another women-focused conference as part of the Leeds International Festival. Tejay and I managed to get some CF:G students to come with us too so it was another exciting #shefcodefirst squad trip. I’m really glad I got to share the experience with others who were just as enthusiastic about tech and gender equality as I am!
The day started off early. Once we arrived in Leeds, we got a little lost on the way to the venue but saw some pretty sights so it’s always worth getting lost 😉 It was my first time in Leeds and the city reminded me a lot of London, I will definitely be back to explore the city centre a bit more.
As soon as we arrived at the venue, it was already buzzing with excitement for the rest of the day from a room full of really amazing women. The venue was beautiful too – when you see a room filled with sparkles, balloons and more sparkles you know you’re at the right conference. 😆
Run down of the awesome speakers:
Anne-Marie Imafidon, Co-founder of Stemettes
Anne-Marie kicked off the event by giving us all a Herstory lesson on some leading women past and present who have made massive contributions in STEM. Some honourable mentions included:
- Marie Curie – a female scientist who conducted pioneering research in radioactivity
- Stephanie Kwolek – inventor of Kevlar and the bullet proof vest
- Hedy Lamarr – inventor behind WiFi and Bluetooth technology used today!
- …and a lot more!
Showcasing the rich history of amazing women was inspiring and now I want to talk to every young girl about these famous female scientists, inventors! Not everything is man-made.
Anne-Marie’s work on Stemettes is admirable. Similar schemes such as Code First: Girls make me super excited for the future. Although there are still gender gaps in STEM, I’m glad that influential women are actively embedding STEM as a norm to girls. Because it is. “The now is women-led start-ups”
I was left motivated to keep supporting schemes like Code First and to continue talking to younger girls about STEM.
Emmy Lovell, Vice President of Digital for Warner Music Group
It’s not thought of much but music and technology go hand in hand. Emmy talked about how music has driven technological innovations such as YouTube, Amazon Echo and Spotify. It was interesting to hear about her role in Warner Music Group, her journey of getting into music and then pairing it with her knowledge of tech then applying it to create some awesome things!
As tech is a continuous thing that is always moving forward, Emmy highlighted the importance of failing fast, learning from the lessons and moving forward to always stay on top of the game. This has many applications every day and inspired me to think about how I can apply that to my current projects.
Susie Bubble, Fashion Blogger
Susie shared her story of how StyleBubble first started – initially teaching herself simple HTML in 2006 for a fan site then moving onto sharing her love for fashion, crafts, manufacturing.
Being a blogger myself, with one of my first websites being a fansite (for High School Musical, lol embarrassing) and spending a lot of my time in my room, glued to the computer; creating and sharing, I related a lot to Susie’s talk. Susie spoke about being labelled, “jack of all traits, master of none” and how this isn’t necessarily negative especially in the digital space where it’s important to adopt all different skills to effectively make use of all the many online platforms.
Her talk encouraged me to continue taking that leap of faith and putting myself out there. Besides, “content is king”.
Debbie Wosskow, Founder of Love Home and Swap and Co-Founder of Allbright
It’s been said before but women are much more likely to want to tick every box when it comes to applying for jobs compared to men who send applications anyway. This perfectionist behaviour has drawbacks. As Debbie highlights the importance of being bold and brave (#BeBoldForChange) She encourages women, in particular, to take risks and just to go for it – whether that’s applying for a job or starting a business. Sure mistakes are bound to happen but you learn from them!
Debbie also talked about success and how it doesn’t happen overnight, it’s 10 years of founders working hard consistently.
She also spoke about her routine in the morning that had helped keep her on her successful track – waking up early and exercise without fail really showcased her ability to be disciplined which has ultimately contributed to part of her success. Her talk not only motivated me to continue with my 5 am grind (meditation, exercise and journaling) but reminded me to stop wanting to be perfect all the time because the reality is no one is going to be good at everything and sometimes, willingness to learn is much more important than ticking all the boxes.
Natasha Sayce Zelem, Head of Tech for Digital Trading at Sky
I had met Natasha before her talk and was really impressed with (and thankful) organising the event in the first place. She was a pleasure to talk to and was just as awesome during her talk.
Natasha spoke about her journey of getting into tech. She started in tech with just a genuine interest in learning to code, describing it as “empowering” (YES, IT IS!! 💪🏼) and that she felt like a little hacker 😆 However at that time, there wasn’t a lot of information on how to get into the industry at all so, from this, she sort of fell out of the tech world despite being very passionate about it from a young age. After many drawbacks from people who had not believed in her, she continued to push her boundaries, overcame the imposter syndrome (as difficult as it is), and believed in herself.
“You can get there if you focus on what you learnt rather than focusing on how far you need to go.”
She is now Head of Technology at Sky.
I hear stories of success like this all the time (especially since I surround myself in such a wonderful girl gang community) but it never fails to inspire me how headstrong these women are. It is SO incredibly easy to fall back, to take the less difficult route, to accept other people’s comments about your abilities, to be completely immersed in “imposter syndrome” but here these women are, breeding success through determination. It’s incredibly admirable!
Natasha gave some great advice and take home messages from her talk:
- Help and support each other as you climb up that ladder, remember who has helped you along the way and continue taking people up with you.
- Creativity is intelligence. Let’s push STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths!)
- Having a wide range of skills is a massive asset rather than a hindrance.
- Continue to take the lead because you never know where it may take you. Be bold!
Dr Sue Black, Founder of #techmums and Computer Scientist
Dr Sue Black spoke about her career journey and the struggles she had to face during her time. She said one of the most defining things that had helped her through her journey was gathering women together to chat and support each other. The community and network she had set-up (similar to the existing community I’ve been helping to establish amongst the Sheffield Code First Girls alumni) again proved to me how important it is to have a girl gang where women can feel confident in sharing things with each other.
Sue also took on a lead on creating #techmums which demonstrate positive influencing again! The aim was for kids to use their mums as an example and hopefully increase positive choices in kids’ choices at school.
I learnt from Sue (after speaking to her as well after her talk):
- Don’t be scared of technology
- Tech is a great enabler, it can change your life!
- Community is key – find that group.
- Unwavering determination and passion can really make a difference (For instance, Sue’s work with the Bletchley Park campaign)
- Social media is great – use it effectively and to your advantage – create positive change!
And my favourite:
“The people who do well are the ones that keep going. Don’t get stuck in difficult times”
Lauren Laverne, The Pool
Closing the conference was Lauren who spoke in a more interview-style. I took some great messages from her:
- Quality over quantity with content!
- Being creative and innovative is always important, think outside of the box.
- It’s about attitude and where your head is at – not age. Mindset.
- Don’t wait to be perfect!
In addition to these incredible speakers, I met some other women who were killing it with what they’re doing and felt the love and support from every single one of them. All of them acted as great mentors for a day! Special shout out to Tanja for the wise words and for fuelling my energy always!
I’m really thankful that I was joined by fellow CFG ladies who benefitted from the day as much as I did. It’s always great getting them involved with the much bigger women in tech community.
Many thanks again to Natasha and other organisers of both the Empowering With Tech conference and Leeds International Festival – I am so hyped for next years!
Keep supporting each other, breaking personal boundaries, continue our Hersery, be brave and take that leap of faith into using tech for the good. 💪🏼
— BUILTBYGIRLS (@builtbygirls) October 11, 2016