Conferences,  Inspiring Figures

IWD 2019: Fireside Chats with Empower Women With Tech

This year to celebrate International Women’s Day I went to the Empower Women With Tech: Fireside Chats, run by the lovely Natasha Sayce-Zelem.

The venue was gorgeous, taking place at The Grand Theatre, in a section of the theatre I never knew existed!
We first convened in the bar where we were provided with canap├ęs (I lost count of how many spring rolls and eton mess I ate!) and drinks. One of my favourite things about the break out area was the photo booth!
I had some pictures with Lucy and Rachel, and it’s one of the funniest photo booth prints I own because it’s obvious we have no idea what’s going on!

The event itself had 6 inspiration speakers, and Nat opening the event with a very powerful message about Fixed Mindsets vs Growth Mindsets with encourages one to be inspired by the success of others and use that as inspiration for yourself.

The first speaker was Niamh McKenna, Managing Director at Accenture Health UK, who talked about her rise from a Technical Graduate in programming to MD of a company.

The main takeaway I took from her talk was to always say yes to work ventures, even if you don’t know how to do it. Work that part out later, but never pass up an opportunity!

The next speaker was Ana Jakimovska, Director of Product Management at The Guardian News & Media.
Despite being a extremely qualified developer with a PhD in Artificial Intelligence, this isn’t what her main talk was about, rather to have the audience understand the dangers journalism is experiencing at the moment and how The Guardian is trying to overcome those issues.
For example, instead of forcing a reader to pay a subscription to view news articles, The Guardian takes a voluntary subscription stance, where you can pay a monthly subscription if you wish, but regardless everyone can read the articles as they believe journalism should stay free for everyone to consume – which is something I can totally stand behind!

Speakers 3 & 4 were Eve Roodhouse, Chief Officer Economic Development at Leeds City Council, and Councillor Rebecca Charlwood, Executive Member for Health, Wellbeing and Adults at Leeds City Council.
Their message was about not letting your background be a blocker for achieving what you want, whether this being your current job or you social and economic background.
For example, Rebecca did a Food Science degree and now she’s a counciller – you can achieve anything you put your mind to.
They really focussed on how they are working for a 100% Digital Leeds and how to make digital and technology available to everyone, like you can borrow a Samsung tablet for two months from Leeds libraries. How amazing is that initiative?
A lot of companies just assume everyone can access or afford their online courses, when this really isn’t the case. I’m loving what Leeds is doing to try and overcome these issues.

The second to last speaker was Vinita Marwaha Madill, Space Operations Engineer at the European Space Agency, and wow this woman is an inspiration.
From seeing a picture of a female astronaut in a book when she was little and deciding that’s what she wanted to do, and then stopping at nothing to reach those heights, and now she’s worked in space suit design, improved spinal health for astronauts and now works on robotic arms.
She really made a point of the importance of having allies around you, even if they don’t understand. Support goes a long way.

And the last speaker was Milena Nikolic, Director of Software Engineering at Google.
She spoke about getting a Computer Science degree in Serbia to moving to London specially to work for Google, and since then she’s worked on some awesome projects, including search and then Google Play for Android, and all the amazing places around the world it’s taken her and her team for user research.
She also talked about the importance of soft skills over hard skills, which is something I think we all forget from time to time.

It was an amazing evening, one I throughly enjoyed!

Just a few words of wisdom to end on:

If you take a leap of faith, the ground rises up to meet you.

I hope you had a great International Women’s Day.

Clare x

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