WOMEN ROCK

WOMEN ROCK.

Thanks for being here and welcome to Women Rock – a voice for diversity in tech! Here you will find some of the most inspirational stories about ED&I in the tech industry. Women Rock was created by SR2 co-founder and all-round positive vibe advocate Alicia and exists to help transform the industry and create a positive movement!

“If you don’t ask, you don’t get.” – An interview with Helena Dite
WOMEN ROCK2019-06-18

“If you don’t ask, you don’t get.” – An interview with Helena Dite

I met with TCarta for the first time a couple of months ago, and when I started talking about Women Rock and how we were sharing the success stories of inspiring women, they insisted I met with Helena Dite who was their Technical Superstar!Helena began her journey as a Geography Graduate, where she found her passion in the technical aspect of remote sensing. She’s since explored her passions of climate change and how sensing data could provide impactful insight, combining her passions of technology and saving the world as a self-confessed digital tree-hugger. Helena is now a Technical Team Lead and involved in everything from coding to client bidding. She’s since developed a passion for encouraging more women to get involved in the tech industry and after chatting to her about our Women Rock platform, it’s been great to showcase how techie’s can come from all backgrounds and passions and the importance of diversity in the workplace!SO TO START, WHAT DOES DAY TO DAY LIFE LOOK LIKE AS A REMOTE SENSING ANALYST AT TCARTA?It’s a little mad at times, and always begins with a coffee. TCarta is a perfect place for those easily bored – no day is the same. One moment I could be helping to bid for new work, the next I mapping an entire country’s vegetation health, then the next knee deep in python. I think the beauty of remote sensing is the wide applicability across many sectors. Being part of an SME like TCarta, ensures role diversity, encourages adaptability, and provides opportunities you wouldn’t get anywhere else – which keeps it interesting. As you can probably tell, I am most motivated when I am doing different things!HOW DID YOU GET TO WHERE YOU ARE TODAY? I CAN SEE YOU COMPLETED YOUR DEGREE IN GEOGRAPHY, WHERE DID YOUR PASSION FOR THE TECHNICAL ASPECTS COME FROM?A mixture of hard work, long hours, countless failures, and a strong determination borne from a deep seated stubbornness. I’ve had the pleasure to work with some incredible people that I have learnt a lot from. The diversity I’ve encountered having worked in councils, SMEs, Universities, and family businesses, has helped me some way in overcoming challenges in constructive ways, whilst helping me hypothesise what my current and future challenges might look like. Once I had the experience, I was able to have more choice about which companies I actually wanted to work for. I chose TCarta mainly for their ethic – they invited me on board for their journey and I’m happy to be a part of it!I actually discovered remote sensing by mistake. My passion was a combination of my love of all things geography particularly climate change and trees, my curiosity in exploring new unknowns, and ambition to do something I felt would be impactful on a global scale. Remote Sensing was by far the most interesting and challenging aspect of my degree, though it sometimes hurt my brain, I knew I wanted to pursue it by first year – who wouldn’t want to work with space?! Though if you dig down the bones of it, I’m essentially a digital tree-hugger.I CAN SEE YOU’VE RECENTLY BEEN PROMOTED TO A TEAM LEADER POSITION (CONGRATS!). WHAT 3 ATTITUDES DO YOU THINK ARE VITAL FOR A TECHNICAL TEAM TO BE SUCCESSFUL?Thank you!Introspection○ Introspection is key for a successful professional and personal life.Communication○ Most issues can be resolved through effective communication. It’s also integral to conveying technical information to non-technical audiences whilst maintaining your content.Adaptable○ Technical problems are often multi-faceted, new, and require some intense research i.e. googling! You have to work fast and be open minded to new ideas however outlandish they initially seem.FROM YOUR EXPERIENCES, WHY DO YOU THINK THERE IS A LACK OF FEMALE TALENT IN TECHNICAL ROLES?It is sometimes intimidating to compete in male dominated industries, and initially difficult to get taken seriously as you can face some negative attitudes. I’ve got a fair few stories! Unfortunately I think the small number of negative attitudes do put a lot of women off. Whilst most people I’ve worked with are fine, you do get the odd pockets of outdated thinking from people who are challenging to overcome. Both women and men provide invaluable contributions to the workplace, when the relationships are maximised compliment each other perfectly.WHAT IS ONE BIT OF ADVICE YOU WOULD GIVE TO A WOMAN WANTING TO GET INTO A TECHNICAL ROLE?Do it! Be yourself, let your personality shine through, embrace the fact you are a woman and don’t be afraid to call people out. The sector is crying out for us! Look for a dynamic and progressive company that works for you as much as you work for them. An organisation worth your time will positively foster your personal development and value your contributions.WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE QUOTE?Can I have two?!“If you don’t ask, you don’t get.” Mahatma Ghandi“You have to be odd to be number 1.” Theodor Seuss Geisel (Dr Seuss)WHO’S YOUR SQUAD?Mike Smith, my partner who coaches me through most things on a personal and professional level. Sinead Morgan, my partner in (figurative) crime, who taught me by example to always be myself. Finally, on a professional level, Donna Lyndsay (ESA), because she’s super inspirational and a strong advocate of women in space tech. Thank you Helena, we’ve loved hearing about your life at TCarta and your general positivity!#WomenRockA voice for diversity in tech!An interview by Amy Vitoria

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“You can do anything, but not everything!” – An interview with Clare Ross
WOMEN ROCK2019-06-11

“You can do anything, but not everything!” – An interview with Clare Ross

I met Elvie for the first time back in January and learnt about all the incredible things they’re creating and doing for women with their unique products. I instantly knew that Elvie would send a positive message on Women Rock because despite the fact the business is for women and a lot of the people who work for Elvie are women, the tech team there is still male dominated as are most tech companies. I was introduced to Clare who is the Senior Product Manager and is in the team behind the ground-breaking breast pump that has taken the market by storm! We spoke about her career so far in an industry that is expected to be worth $51.3 billion by 2025….TELL US ABOUT ELVIE?Elvie is a women’s health tech company. We aim to make extraordinary product that improve women’s lives. We’ve got two products in the market: Elvie Trainer and Elvie Pump. We also put boobs on roofs… not only do we create products – we get involved in conversation around women’s health. So this year, to celebrate Mother’s Day, we placed five giant inflatable boobs across London’s skyline to fight the stigma around breastfeeding and pumping in public!WHAT DOES A NORMAL DAY LOOK LIKE TO YOU AS SENIOR PRODUCT MANAGER?Haha, rarely are two days the same here! It’s a very varied role, one of the reasons I love it. From a daily stand-up with the app devs, to doing some user trials with our product researcher to chatting to our data scientist and then catching up with customer care to see how our products are doing in the wild. And there also might be a bit of time to turn your head to the roadmap and what’s coming up for Elvie…Top Secret!That’s a crazy mash-up of tasks and skills. You’re guaranteed to be engaged, challenged and surrounded by an awesome bunch of colleagues.WHERE DOES YOUR PASSION FOR TECH COME FROM AND WHAT ATTRACTED YOU TO IT?For me it’s the application of tech to solve problems that gets me out of bed in the morning. We talk internally about Elvie being a problem company, rather than a tech company or a product company. It’s only by deeply understanding the problem space and user that we can truly harness the power of tech.YOU WERE IN AN ALL-MALE CRICKET TEAM AND THE FIRST FEMALE ON THE PRODUCT TEAM AT ELVIE. WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE OTHERS WHO MIGHT FIND THE THOUGHT OF THIS DAUNTING?I think venturing into what appears to be a male space, whatever the setting, is incredibly daunting! I’m lucky, with my chunk of privilege, to be ok with wandering into them, so wanted to share my positive experience. I’ve found that once you’re over the initially daunting part, it’s worth it. I’ve been welcomed for my skills and what I’m bringing to the team; gender isn’t an issue. But the best bit is that once you’re there, it is easier for others to follow your lead!WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT SO FAR IN YOUR CAREER?EASY: the launch of Elvie Pump, in October last year. It was the culmination of years of hard work from the whole team and an amazing feeling to have created something we’re really proud of.FAVOURITE QUOTE?Honestly, I’m not cultured enough to have a favourite quote… But if I was going to pretend, then google found “You can do anything, but not everything.” which seems pretty sensible. Early in my career, someone told me that one of the most important parts of developing a strategy is knowing what you’re not (doing). That idea is something I find useful to keep in mind both in and out of work.WHO’S YOUR SQUAD?I can’t choose just 3! I seem to have surrounded myself with a bunch of amazing people: people who tell me when I’m being an idiot, people who tell me they love me and people who will come on stupid bicycle adventures with me. The mix is invaluable.Thank you Clare, we love Elvie and working with you.#WomenRockA voice for diversity in tech!An interview by Darcie Cornish 

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“Everything happens for a reason.” – An interview with Verity Foss
WOMEN ROCK2019-05-31

“Everything happens for a reason.” – An interview with Verity Foss

Who doesn’t love a burger right?! To everyone outside of Bristol I’m sorry that you don’t have an Oowee. To everyone in Bristol I am sure you are going to love this one. I would say that Oowee is now one of the most well known brands. Confession: Verity isn’t in IT, but she is a fascinating business woman, a good friend and all round great person who has a load of love to give to people’s cravings!I spoke to verity about the idea behind Oowee, the plans for Oowee Vegan and who doesn’t want to read about burger over lunch on a Friday?………..CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT OOWEE?Oowee is a ‘fast’ food restaurant chain across Bristol. We have 3 sites 1 being 100 percent vegan, it started 2 and a half years ago and is owned by my love and me.WHERE DID THE IDEA COME FROM TO START, WHAT IS THE BEST BURGER CHAIN IN BRISTOL?Well, I wouldn’t say we’re the best but we’re definitely the most calorific and naughty! It started because we love fast food and really wanted to open a take away, so we approached the guy who owned the take away joined on to our house and he was like yeah you can have this if you like. 6 weeks later we had a take away and then we were like fuck, what do we do now!! We watched loads of Youtube videos on how to make burgers and just went for it. It was the biggest shambles of an opening we literally had the doors open for 5 mins and had to close again as we had never been professional chefs and didn’t even know how to prep. We also had the world’s biggest menu and hadn’t even had chance to practice even 20 percent of the menu. We closed for about 3 days and came back with a bang and ever since we’ve grown and improved and hired really intelligent/creative people to help us grow.HOW DO YOU JUGGLE LIFE AND RUNNING 3 SHOPS?I’m just really good at delegating. I don’t think you could physically give every shop as much time as you give the first one so you just hire people you trust who care for your business like you do, to do it.WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU AND OOWEE?Well we’re going to grow the vegan brand, that’s the one we would like to become a multi-site chain. Hopefully we will be able to do that in London, we are currently living between Bristol and London and really enjoying London life.WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE?In life it would be keeping a job in recruitment for more than 3 months without being fired. In Oowee nothing, because being a burger tester was definitely my calling and when you love Mcdonalds as much as me creating a fast food restaurant was a breeze ???? There are of course a couple challenges in running a business but there generic in all businesses, staff, suppliers, unreliable equipment …the usual.WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR WOMEN WANTING TO START THEIR OWN BUSINESS?I would probably say make sure you have some money to back yourself up. You need to be financially stable before taking on a huge financial risk as having money worries at the start of a new stressful venture is the last thing you need. Also you need to test the concept, so if there is the possibility of doing it on a trial or temporary basis first then always 100 percent do that, for example a pop up kind of thing .And try not to get feedback from friends there the most critical, get feedback from strangers.I also believe although it feels like a good idea to do something super niche and outside of the box, you really do need to make sure there is an audience for it. I see lots of people do this and it’s not worked out. If you are going to be really out there you need to have super strong branding and a following.Instgram is hands down the most important form of advertising for all business so keep it interesting and regularly post and engage!IF YOU COULD START AGAIN, WOULD YOU DO ANYTHING DIFFERENTLY?Ummmm probably nothing because all the stupid things I did have taught me a valuable lesson. I don’t mind making mistakes as they always have a positive impact after – 9/10WHO IS YOUR SQUAD:Charlie Watson- my best friend, boyfriend and business partner (only person who finds me funny)Sophie Kaur- my best friendDarcie Cornish – the funniest person in Bristol.And that’s it, Verity Foss, you are one of the most interesting, funniest humans I know and super proud of you.Keep rocking girl!#WomenRock

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“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” – An interview with Laura Fritzsche
WOMEN ROCK2019-05-23

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” – An interview with Laura Fritzsche

I sat down with Laura Fritzsche for a coffee after being introduced by an mutual friend at Equal Experts. I was told about the great work she had been doing on the ‘Healthy Start’ project with the NHS which helps to support families with low incomes by helping them with vouchers towards fresh fruit, vegetables and vitamins etc. Laura has shared her incredible work history of working with Sky as their Lead UX Designer, she confidently gives her advice to anyone thinking about changing cities, or changing their career over to contracting. She encourages everyone to believe in themselves and shares a great quote around living life to its fullest ????LAURA, YOU MOVED TO BRISTOL QUITE RECENTLY, HOW HAVE YOU FOUND SETTLING INTO THE CITY AND WHAT DO YOU MAKE OF THE TECH COMMUNITY SO FAR?I moved to Bristol in November 2017 after being in Leeds for 15 years so it was a big change. My husband had set is own business up in the renewables sector and with his business partner being located in the south-west, it made sense to move. We chose Bristol as a base because we really love it after having a few weekends away here and for the tech opportunities with my job as a UX consultant.YOU WORKED WITH SKY FOR A WHILE, WHICH LOOKS INTERESTING. CAN YOU TELL US A BIT ABOUT THE CREATIVE WORK YOU DID THERE AND WHAT IT WAS LIKE MOVING UP INTO A LEAD POSITION IN THE COMPANY?Working at Sky was a great experience. I had the opportunity to lead 3 different teams during my time there. Firstly, I was responsible for a team who were essentially like an in-house marketing studio. We were responsible for everything from online adverts, tv adverts, print advertising and landing pages. I then moved into leading teams of UX/UI designers and frontend developers embedded into Agile scrum teams. The main challenge for me was not being a female in the company per se but shifting the mindset of designs that are created collaboratively, tested with users and any further priorities derived from user research. Overall, I learnt a lot from working with a diverse, talented bunch of people and on a wide variety of projects!YOU MADE THE PLUNGE INTO CONTRACTING! AS A RECRUITER, I FIND THE CONTRACT MARKET A LOT MORE MALE LED, WHY DO YOU THINK WOMEN ARE MAYBE A BIT MORE RESERVED WHEN THINKING ABOUT MOVING INTO CONTRACTING?For me, I had an idea that contracting was not as secure as having a permanent role and also that there wasn’t as great a market for UX contractors as there is for say software developers. I was completely wrong! I originally went into contracting as a stop gap until I found the ‘dream job’ and I can quite honestly say it was the best move I ever made. It would be really difficult for anybody to convince me to take up a permie role again. Perhaps other women have the same reservations as I had or never really saw it as an option in the first place?IF YOU COULD LITERALLY GO BACK IN TIME AND GIVE YOURSELF ANY ADVICE WITH ANY BARRIERS OR CHALLENGES YOU’VE FACED WHILST BEING A FEMALE WITHIN A MALE DOMINATED ENVIRONMENT WHEN YOU FIRST WENT INTO CONTRACTING, WHAT WOULD YOU TELL YOURSELF?I can honestly, hand on heart say say that being in a male dominated environment has made no difference to the way I work. I have been very lucky to work with extremely talented, kind people. I would just say believe in yourself, stand up for what you believe in and be open and honest with who you’re working with. Empathy goes a long way in work and life in general.WITH CONTRACTING, YOU MUST HAVE TO ADAPT RATHER QUICKLY INTO DIFFERENT ENVIRONMENTS. BUT IF YOU COULD USE YOUR UX DESIGNING SKILLS TO MAP OUT YOUR IDEAL WORKING ENVIRONMENT, WHAT WOULD IT BE?My recipe for ideal working environment is all about the people you are working with:• Working with people who have mutual respect for each others skills and experience• Working together to solve problems• Listening and contributing in equal measures• Close stakeholder engagementA nice office is great, but the teamwork makes the dream work 🙂THE HEALTHY START PROJECT YOU’RE WORKING ON CURRENTLY SOUNDS AMAZING, WHAT IS YOUR ROLE WITHIN THE PROJECT AND HOW IS IT ALL GOING?I’m an interaction designer working in an Agile team of designers, developers, business analysts and a delivery lead for Healthy Start (as part of Equal Experts working with the Department of Health and Social Care). For those not aware of it, It’s an amazing scheme that supports families on low incomes by giving money to pregnant women, babies and children under the age of 4 towards fruit, vegetables milk and infant formula. Our goal is to digitise the scheme and make the application process as accessible and easy to use as possible. We are currently doing cycles of user research with our prototype every 2 weeks, testing a new iteration each time. There’s loads to do, but it’s been fascinating so far!WHO WOULD BE IN YOUR SQUAD?My husband, Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, Richard Ayoade, Sara Cox and my best friend JacquiWHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE QUOTE?“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. – Ferris, from Ferris Bueller’s Day OffThanks so much Laura.#WomenRockA voice for diversity in tech.

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“Don’t try to be ‘one of the lads’.” – An interview with Layla Porter
WOMEN ROCK2019-05-01

“Don’t try to be ‘one of the lads’.” – An interview with Layla Porter

Absolutely buzzing to share this story with you! I was introduced to Layla from Matt Gilliard after meeting him at CodeBar Bristol where he coaches our students. Matt told me all about Layla and TwilioQuest & Tea (read below about this.) I had to connect and get to know her! After speaking with Layla she blew my mind within the first couple of minutes. Not only is her career journey one of encouragement and positivity, she also is heavily involved in the tech scene and travels around the world attending tech conferences and even talking at these events. And then there’s the UK tour of TwilioQuest. (again read below about this) and I am buzzing to say that Women Rock are partnering with Twilio to bring TwilioQuest and Tea to Bristol on the 20th July. If you’re a developer or you want to be one. Read this! Also keep an eye out for details on Twilio & Tea which will be announced in the next 2 weeks.PERSONAL TRAINER TO SOFTWARE ENGINEER/DEVELOPER EVANGELIST AT TWILIO. WHEN DID YOU DECIDE YOU WANTED TO GET INTO SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT AND WHERE DOES THAT PASSION COME FROM?I have been dabbling with code for some time before I became a web developer full time. I started with Flash and ActionScript then progressed to a little iPhone App development. I then mostly did front-end design work in my free time. I started programming with C# and .NET in 2013 when I created, with much assistance from my partner, an online booking system for my Pilates Studio. I needed to improve my programming skills to enable me to maintain my booking system. I spent the time when I wasn’t teaching Pilates studying. I have a logical and creative brain, so the challenge of coding along with the creativity you can have really appealed to me.WHAT IS YOUR ROLE AS DEVELOPER EVANGELIST AT TWILIO?That’s a tough one to answer! I do anything from write technical blogs for the Twilio website to speaking at conferences. I also do a lot of work in the community, organising events and meetups.YOU’RE A SELF-TAUGHT DEVELOPER THROUGH FREE CODE CAMP. I’M SEEING MORE AND MORE PEOPLE COME THROUGH WHO ARE SELF-TAUGHT, HOW DID YOU MOTIVATE YOURSELF TO DO THIS?I really wanted to change career so I was very strict about coding every day. I taught myself JavaScript with the help of Free Code Camp and C# by watching videos on the Microsoft Virtual Academy. I also had some pretty hefty manuals that I would take everywhere with me, even on holiday. I was inspired by the CodeNewbie podcast and thought “I could do that too” so that was also really motivating.I KNOW YOU ATTEND AND SPEAK AT A LOT OF CONFERENCES AND EVENTS. WHAT’S BEEN YOUR FAVOURITE ONE TO DATE?I have to say it was New York City Code Camp. It had such a lovely sense of community even though it was in the Microsoft offices in Times Square. The organisers were great and I definitely will be attending again this year.WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO OTHER DEVELOPERS, BOTH MALE AND FEMALE WHO WOULD LIKE TO SPEAK AT CONFERENCE BUT HAVEN’T GOT THE CONFIDENCE TO DO SO?I started in my local meetup group. Many meetups encourage Lightning talks, so a quick talk that last 5 to 15 minutes. The other confidence booster is to do a talk with a friend.YOU’VE STARTED TWILIOQUEST TEA TIME IN THE UK, COULD YOU TELL ME A BIT ABOUT IT?Twilio has a gamified learning platform called TwilioQuest. It’s based on the 8-bit games of old. I have often felt the games were a little male-oriented so when my colleague Megan ran a TwilioQuest Tea Time event in Los Angeles last year, I knew I had to start them in the UK, the home of Tea Time! The events are focussed around women and non-binary individuals, with fun prizes and a real sense of working together rather than competing against each other.WHAT IS THE ONE BIT OF ADVICE YOU WOULD GIVE TO A WOMAN IN TECH?Don’t try to be ‘one of the lads’. When I started, I tried to fit in around all-male teams. I laughed at the innuendos, always wore a T-shirt and jeans, and tried to avoid being at all ‘girly’. In hindsight, I should have just been me and helped build a more balanced workplace for all genders.TWILIO ARE GREAT AT PROMOTING AND HIRING DIVERSE TECHNICAL TALENT, HOW DO THEY DO THIS?Twilio runs a series of events called AfterHours which focus on underrepresented communities. They have inspirational speakers from said communities speaking about their journies. We also have a sponsorship framework which helps us choose to sponsor events that reflect our values, thus continuing to support diversity and inclusion in the tech industry.AND FINALLY, WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE QUOTE?Although I am an atheist, I love the saying “God helps those, who help themselves”. I think it embodies my beliefs that to get on in life, you need to be proactive and go after what you want.Thank you so much Layla, your story is great and I cannot wait to follow you in your career and bring Twilio & Tea to Bristol in the summer!#womenrockA voice of diversity in tech.

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“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.” – An interview with Michelle Brideau.
WOMEN ROCK2019-03-26

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.” – An interview with Michelle Brideau.

I first met Michelle 6 months ago when she was looking for a new role in Tech! Michelle has been a software developer for 4 years although wanted to take a step back from coding and try out a new challenge, but still staying within the tech industry which hasn’t come as easy as riding a bike. She is a great example of empowering women in tech and also has a passion for cycling where she promotes women in the sport too. Together we’ve explored a few options and we are really close to finding her dream role! Here’s her story and thoughts on the tech industry.MICHELLE, YOU WERE A WEB DEVELOPER FOR SKY FOR ALMOST 5 YEARS.. TELL US ABOUT YOUR TIME THERE?I started at Sky working on different areas of the Sky.com website, including things like Broadband Shield Settings and the PayPerView events page which was interesting when there was a major boxing event causing significant spikes in traffic. The company decided to move that department to Leeds in a money-saving exercise, and I was then assigned to the new NowTV team responsible for rebuilding the web apps for the launch of a new product. We had the fun of deciding the full tech stack from the start as a team. We decided on using ReactJS which meant I went from being a Ruby developer to a Javascript developer. I enjoyed my time at Sky, I worked on enthusiastic teams with positive attitudes.WHAT MADE YOU GET INTO SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT?I quit a job that was not working out how I’d envisioned and was considering various options when I saw an ad for Makers Academy, a 10 week coding bootcamp. I’ve always enjoyed computers, there was always one in my house even before that was the norm, but I was under the impression that software development wasn’t for me, perhaps it was the 2000 page C++, .net or Java reference books I’d seen. So when I saw the ad for the bootcamp I thought, if they think they can teach me to code in 10 weeks it can’t be as hard as I thought and after only 10 weeks I would have a good idea if I liked it as well.YOU WERE PART OF CYCLING’S UK’S 100 WOMEN IN CYCLING 2018 – HOW DO YOU ENCOURAGE AND INSPIRE WOMEN TO TAKE PART IN CYCLING?My way of inspiring other women to give cycling a try is to be an example, someone who isn’t an athlete getting out there and enjoying it. Hopefully being relatable will make someone think that they should give it a go. I also try to show it doesn’t have to be complicated, we women have enough complications in our lives and cycling should be fun! In future, I hope to tell stories of other women who cycle. I’ve met so many inspiring women who have challenged (and surprised) themselves with what they can do on a bike.WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN A YEAR?I recently relocated to Bristol from London, I’m currently looking for a role with a company doing something that excites me. If all goes to plan, I’ll be working with a great team on something I feel passionate about enjoying Bristol and the laidback South West lifestyle.WHY DO YOU THINK THERE’S A LACK OF FEMALE TALENT ACROSS THE TECH SPACE?I think the reason is similar to why there is a lack of women in cycling. Women don’t see it as an option for them because they don’t see other others they can relate to doing it, so they don’t see it as an option for themselves. I also feel there’s a misconception about what the work is like. I found it to be much more about creative problem solving than I realised. It would also be great to see the tech space do more to address the work-life balance issues which would attract and keep more women and prevent the burn out that you see developers face after years of coding.WHAT’S ONE PIECE OF ADVICE FOR SOMEONE WHO IS INTERESTED IN GETTING INTO TECH?There’s a lot to know, and it changes quickly. You will never know it all, learn where and how to find help and get yourself unstuck, that’s a skill that will serve you well.WHO’S YOUR ROLE MODEL?Annie Londonderry, the first woman to cycle around the world (in 1894). She was married with 3 children and only learned to ride a few days before she set off. I love the thought of her handing the children to her husband and riding away. Her bike was super heavy, the clothes women wore at the time weren’t exactly cycling friendly, and she carried a pearl-handled pistol. She was a very determined women not afraid of a challenge and some logistics – No Excuses for her, which is a mantra I try to live by.WHAT IS THE ONE APP ON YOUR PHONE YOU COULDN’T LIVE WITHOUT?Not an easy one to answer! I’d have to say Dashlane, it’s my password, ID, credit card, secure note keeper app. I’d be lost trying to remember all my passwords. It also tells me when a website has been breached so I can change that password.Thank you Michelle, you rock!#womenrockA voice of diversity in tech.

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‘Dad Jokes’ – An interview with the team at Huggg
WOMEN ROCK2019-03-19

‘Dad Jokes’ – An interview with the team at Huggg

One of the things we love most about working in Runway East is we are constantly rubbing shoulders with mega talented techies, often from awesome, game-changing companies…None more exciting than our next door neighbours (+1) huggg!huggg make spreading happiness about as easy as it can be. Their product enables the sending (and receiving) of treats from coffees to cocktails, cinema tickets to ice cream. It’s awesome. If you don’t have the app – download it now!!Paul’s built a great team since launching and I caught up with a few of the ladies and him to run through their careers and what life is like at huggg.Follow on social:Twitter: @huggg_ukInstagram: @huggg_ukMEET THE TEAMOlivia Red O’Brien – PR + Communications Manager.Caragh Jones – Partner Communications.Claire Sharpe – Community Manager.Becky Smith – B2B Strategist.Ashley Porciuncula – VP Product.Paul Wickers – Founder & CEO.PAUL, FORBES LISTED HUGGG ONE START-UP TO WATCH FOR 2019, COULD YOU TELL US A BIT ABOUT THE COMPANY?huggg is a platform which enables friends to send real things to one another, in messages.So, imagine your friend is having a bad day and you want to cheer them up. You can use huggg to send them a coffee, cake or cinema ticket emoji, which means you just paid for them to walk next door and pick up the real thing.It’s like a message, sprinkled with a touch of magic.YOU SPENT YEARS IN FINANCIAL SERVICES, WHERE DID THE IDEA OF HUGGG COME FROM?The idea came, whilst I was at work. I was researching the greeting card market for a project, and wondering if we do everything – from finding a spouse to heating our homes – from the comfort of our very own smartphones, why can’t we do the same for a real-life cup of coffee, cocktail or cupcake?The rest, as they say, is history!YOU HAVE GROWN VERY QUICKLY AND BUILT AN AMAZINGLY DIVERSE TEAM … HOW HAVE YOU DONE THIS?We guide everything by one simple principle – do the right thing. So when it comes to hiring, we don’t just pay lip service to diversity, we try to make a point of making sure that we root out any prejudice in the way that we hire.So, for example, we run the job ads through software that spots for language that injects unconscious bias. And we place our diversity language at the very top of our job ads, not at the bottom, to make a statement as to its importance.It would be impossible for us to build a mass-appeal product without understanding all corners of our audience, so diversity is key in helping us to do that, but, honestly, that’s not the driver.WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST STRENGTH?Holding huge quantities of detail and logic in my head and being able to recall and apply it fast.WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST WEAKNESS?Not being able to keep bad jokes from somehow finding their way out of my mouth.WHAT’S NEXT FOR HUGGG?We are about to, simultaneously, launch national supply, undertake our first integrations into other people’s audiences and undertake some large B2B projects. Doesn’t sound stressful at all.WHO’S YOUR SQUAD?That’s not fair. I have a wife and 4 children for a start, so I’m screwed whichever way I answer that!WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE QUOTE?”That really low one we got when we had our windows done”Thanks Paul, love the business and your dad jokes!LADIES, HUGGG HAVE A REALLY DIVERSE TEAM. HOW DO YOU THINK THIS HAS BENEFITTED YOUR ROLE OR THE BUSINESS?Olivia: Having a team made up of people of all genders, backgrounds and ethnicities is so important to us at huggg. If you don’t enrich your workplace with diversity and varied experience, you’ll end up limiting your business and excluding audiences without even realising it. We want to talk to everyone and get the whole world huggging – and in order to do that we need to listen to as many voices as we can.Caragh: When you’re working on a new product or communicating something new to the world, diversity of feedback and ideas is so important. And how has it benefited me or my role? Well, I love the team I work in and learn new things from them everyday. If you’ve not gained a new perspective or learnt something from your team members in a while, you probably need to switch things up a bit…Claire: I’m lucky in my role at huggg. I get to speak not only to our wide range of users, but also the entire team either to feedback thoughts from users, or ask their opinion on suggested features. Having such a wide range of opinions to draw from really makes my life a lot easier and gives me the chance to reconsider my own position on things. Plus it just makes for a fun office and really good lunchtime chat.Becky: The diversity of the huggg team has helped me in my role, as our different job experiences and skills complement each other, so there’s always useful insights and opinions to make the most of.It also helps huggg meet our users needs because our diverse life experiences ensures we can relate to more of our users, whether it’s Millennials, mums, marketers or managers.Ashley: We don’t see diversity as a nice-to-have or a luxury. It’s a requirement to build a product that speaks to people, and a team where everyone is invested. We’re constantly challenging ourselves to bring more voices and experiences into the team, and therefore into the apps that we’re building, because we know that it’s the only way to build something that people love.WHAT IS YOUR FOCUS AT WORK GOING TO BE ON FOR THE NEXT COUPLE OF MONTHS?Olivia: Continuing to get huggg into the pockets of kind, generous and thoughtful humans – and making sure they love it when they do have it.Caragh: Partner marketing! So that means working closely with our amazing partners to help them market their products, build an engaged community of hugggers and have fun whilst doing it.Claire: The next couple of months is a REALLY long time at huggg. We work in 2 week sprints and priorities can change so fast. My priorities will always be talking to our brilliant community and looking after our very special power hugggersBecky: Preparing huggg go to market strategy for using huggg within business, for customers and employees.Ashley: We will continue to add new features and products into our main mobile app, and have a lot happening under the surface with our API. We’re also looking to build out the team with more developers to help us keep up with all of the amazing ideas in our backlog.WHO’S YOUR SQUAD?Olivia: I know too many amazing women to choose, so I’ll go for one from each category: I couldn’t live without my bestie Jess, my mama Charlene and the dulcet tones and general greatness of Queen Florence Welch.Caragh: Emily Coxhead (because everyone needs happy news in their life), The Black Madonna (Sashay away!), Natasha Bedingfield (release you inhibitions I hope you’re all singing it now)Claire: Lex Lethal (roller derby buddy), my not so little sister Sarah and Baddie Winkle. Serena Williams will be on standby though. That’s one hell of a squad!Becky: Ali, Helen, Katie, Ana (not 3 but I can’t exclude the 4th member of my squad)!Ashley: My partner, Daniel, who is always there to support me in every way, no matter what. Olivia, our PR and Communications manager, who I can put 100% of my trust into. She knocks it out of the park every time! And Helen Mirren, who I very much want to be when I grow up, because she is the epitome of confidence and speaking her truth.FAVOURITE QUOTES!Olivia: ” …But what if it all goes right?”Caragh: ”Busy people get more done”Claire: ”I began to realize how important it was to be an enthusiast in life…. if you are interested in something, no matter what it is, go at it at full speed ahead. Embrace it with both arms, hug it, love it and above all become passionate about it. Lukewarm is no good. Hot is no good either. White hot and passionate is the only thing to be”. – Roald DahlBecky: ”In this life we will never be apart, for we grew to the same beat of our mothers heart”.Ashley: ”Know what? Bitches get stuff done.” – Tina FeyThank you so much Ladies, you are all amazing keep rocking!

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“Don’t let anyone rob you of your imagination” – An interview with Charlotte Bella
WOMEN ROCK2019-03-05

“Don’t let anyone rob you of your imagination” – An interview with Charlotte Bella

Charlotte is one of my favourite people on Twitter, one of the organisers of Ladies that UX Bristol, a group we are really proud to sponsor. She also introduced me to CLICSargent a charity I love to support personally. She is now a Product Owner at Travel Chapter and smashing it! We caught up and spoke about her 10 year career in tech and also why looking for a job as a parent who wants to work part-time was one of the toughest things she’s ever done…….Q1. WHAT DOES YOUR DAY TO DAY LOOK LIKE AS PRODUCT OWNER AT TRAVEL CHAPTER?Every day there is a new problem to solve, to get involved with and to research and provide evidence for a solution. I think that’s the number one thing I love about what I do and with an organisation with so much legacy it’s not something that will slow down any time soon. I work with a great Interaction Designer and together with other colleagues from across the organisation we will solve small problems such as ‘how might we make it easier for customers to view their booking details’ to larger scale issues such as ‘how might we make it easier for users to register and view their holiday itineraries’?Q2. YOU ARE CO-ORGANISER OF LADIES THAT UX, COULD YOU TELL ME A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE GROUP?LTUX Bristol is part of a wider global social enterprise started in 2013 in Manchester when its founders Lizzie Dyson and Georgie Bottomley recognised that it was hard to find other female role models in the sector. The group creates a space for women from all levels to engage and talk about their experiences, both positive and negative, and get the support and inspiration that they are looking for. In a sector with a high proportion of men in it, Ladies that UX is all about giving women the chance to meet up to support each other, push the UX boundaries, and promote female skill and talent. We often get told that our group is really inclusive and that it makes UX accessible to any level of interest and experience and that’s really amazing feedback as other groups can often seem overwhelming if you’re new to UX due to the depth of the subject matter.HOW DO YOU JUGGLE YOUR CAREER AND BEING A MUM?Haha, I’m really not sure some days. I’m SO unbelievably lucky that I work for such a flexible employer. I only started working at Travel Chapter in January and before that I was job searching for around six months as I really wanted to find the right company to work for. I think it’s important that parents feel protected and cared for, it’s really tough, especially as my partner and I both have senior roles and obviously it is expected that you give more of yourself to your career the higher up the ladder you go, but my family comes first. I think if I didn’t have my iPhone there’s no way I’d be able to juggle it all, LTUX, work and family life, something would have to give, but it allows me to be flexible on the go and respond to urgent situations without being tied to a desk. I’m also super organised so I ensure that anyone who relies on me at work will be fully up to date where they need to be if I know I’m not going to be around. Lastly, we don’t have family around in Bristol but we are lucky to have such a flexible childminder. I literally have no idea how I’d get by without her, she will have our little girl at the drop of a hat and has even been over to babysit so we can have date nights.YOU HAVE BEEN IN THE TECH INDUSTRY FOR 10 YEARS, AND I’M ASSUMING, YEP THAT YOU HAVE BEEN OUTNUMBERED BEING A FEMALE, BUT I KNOW THAT HASN’T STOPPED YOU GETTING WHERE YOU ARE TODAY. I’M ALSO GUESSING IT HASN’T BEEN EASY, WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE?I think looking for a job in Product/UX as a parent who wants to work part-time (so I can spend a day a week with my little girl) has been one of the toughest things I’ve ever done. So many organisations are inflexible as they might work in five-day design sprints that require a product owner overseeing the process or they simply don’t allow more senior roles/roles with line management to be part-time due to other members of staff that rely on you. I was in danger of my career suffering where I was previously as they weren’t as digitally advanced as other sectors and there was literally no one to learn from and no role to move in to. I really didn’t want the fact that I was a mum to stop me from realising my ambitions so I didn’t give up (as hard as it was) until I found the right job. Although it doesn’t make it any easier when you get feedback that ‘it was a close call but we went with this guy because xyz’. The other person is almost always a man and it does make your brain go in to overdrive wondering if they really got the job because they were better than you, or was it because they were an easier person to onboard as they didn’t have the same baggage as a woman might have.WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR WOMEN WHO WANT TO GET INTO PRODUCT ROLES?Find a great female mentor and get to know the strategic and business side of things. These are all things I wish I had done early on and I am still looking for a female mentor. Look to upskill yourself across the design side of things too so you can illustrate your points clearly. I’m signed up to IDF and am taking online courses and of course I co-organise and attend the LTUX events too as well as UCD Bristol and Product Tank. A great mix of empathy, common sense and business understanding makes a great product manager. If you know you’re good enough, don’t ever give up and find a great recruiter who can fight your corner.HOW HAS ONE MOMENT GOT YOU TO WHERE YOU ARE TODAY?It’s hard to pinpoint one single moment as I feel that my progression has come in ripples not in waves which has given me time to take stock and learn from significant micro-events before going on to the next opportunity. I’m proactive and I am constantly networking, learning and trying to be better every day and I’m open to the opportunities that come from that.WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE QUOTE?I need to be transparent here and say I literally found this on the internet as I didn’t have a favourite quote that wasn’t a line from a film or TV show. Hopefully it illustrates my curious and creative nature; “Don’t let anyone rob you of your imagination, your creativity, or your curiosity. It’s your place in the world; it’s your life. Go on and do all you can with it, and make it the life you want to live.” Mae Jemison Otherwise; “I know a cracking owl sanctuary”WHO’S YOUR SQUAD?MY LITTLE GIRL, EMMELINE – I WANT TO HELP HER TO REALISE HER POTENTIAL AND THE OPPORTUNITIES OUT THERE FOR HER FROM A VERY EARLY AGE WHICH WILL HOPEFULLY ENABLE HER TO BE A KIND AND SUCCESSFUL PERSON. SHE LIFTS ME UP, IS A GREAT CHEERLEADER AND SHE TRUSTS ME WHICH HELPS ME TO CONFIDENTLY LEAD MY FAMILY JAMEELA JAMIL – SHE’S AN INCREDIBLE ACTIVIST THAT USES HER PLATFORM TO DO GOOD AND ENCOURAGES WOMEN TO BE COMFORTABLE WITH WHO THEY ARE AND NOT TO CONFORM TO ANYONE’S STANDARDS BUT THEIR OWN. SHE WOULD BE GREAT AT HELPING MY ALL FEMALE SQUAD GET THEIR VOICE HEARD.MY MUM – MY INTEREST IN TECHNOLOGY STARTED VERY EARLY ON, I HAD A GAMEGEAR AND AN AMSTRAD COMPUTER IN MY BEDROOM AT THE AGE OF NINE. I REMEMBER MY MUM SITTING AT THE PC LITERALLY TYPING IN THE CODE FROM A MANUAL FOR HOURS SO THAT I COULD USE CERTAIN SOFTWARE. IF ANY OF THE CODE WAS TYPED IN INCORRECTLY SHE WOULD ONLY KNOW AT THE END THEN SHE’D HAVE TO GO THROUGH AND REVIEW IT ALL AGAIN. THAT LEVEL OF DEDICATION AND QA IS SOMETHING YOU DEFINITELY NEED IN A SQUAD!Thank you so much for being involved in Women Rock and everything you do for the industry.Ladies that UX Bristol meet on the last Thursday of each month. You can join the group here 

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“There are still many causes worth sacrificing for, so much history yet to be made.” – An interview with Gill Cooke
WOMEN ROCK2019-02-19

“There are still many causes worth sacrificing for, so much history yet to be made.” – An interview with Gill Cooke

Since starting Women Rock the group has grown and grown and has introduced me and the girls to some unbelievable women further afield then just Bristol, where we originally started. We are super lucky to have Gill in the Women Rock network and an inspirational role model for the tech industry. Gill isn’t just a Digital and Agile transformation leader, head of planning and delivery at Three, she is also leading the Women in Tech within the business and also the Founder of STEMConnext.  How she does it all as well as bringing up two girls is very impressive and her story even more so. Thanks so much Gill, looking forward to collaborating together soon.AS THE HEAD OF PLANNING AND DELIVERY AT THREE, WHAT DOES YOUR DAY TO DAY LOOK LIKE?My days are pretty varied, which is how I like it, I could be managing budget or headcount, chatting to new starters about working at Three, attending large planning sessions, having catch ups with my direct reports or in leadership team meetings. Over and above my day job, I might be on Linkedin making new connections, having calls with potential panellists for my #STEMConnext networking events or attending the Diversity & Inclusion strategy sessions.YOU HAVE WORKED AT THREE FOR ALMOST 10 YEARS AND HAVE PROGRESSED FROM PROJECT MANAGER TO PROGRAMMER MANAGER TO YOUR ROLE NOW. HOW HAVE YOU DONE SO?Honestly I don’t know, I genuinely thought I would last 3 months as I moved from an exciting career in TV to Telecomms and I didn’t understand any of the the acronyms! However I obviously did something right! My transferable skills of organisation, scheduling and budgeting worked well, I passed my Prince 2 training and I seemed to be good at delivering projects. A key milestone for me was changing to part time hours – initially 4 days a week and then 4 days (30hours) over 5 days to fit in with my daughters starting school. I applied for Lead Project Manager in the Online team and then the Programme Manager role (all part time) and in 2017 I was seconded into the Head of Planning and Delivery for Online & Digital (the website) and my secondment was made permanent at the end of the year. Luckily my bosses were more interested in the outcomes I delivered rather than the hours I was in the office which is rare I know. I think I have progressed thanks to having some fantastic and supportive line managers.YOU RUN WOMEN IN TECH AT THREE, VOLUNTEER FOR STEM EVENTS AND YOU ARE ALSO ORGANISING YOUR OWN NETWORKING EVENTS IN GLASGOW AND BERKSHIRE. COULD YOU TELL ME ABOUT THOSE?I have always been passionate about developing people and investing in the future. When I worked in TV I established a work experience scheme and most people I employed as runners are now very well-known producers/directors. This became even more important when I became a parent so I love volunteering for career events and demonstrating that you don’t have to be technical to work in Tech. As part of my personal development last year I decided to increase my network outside of Three and I wanted to attend Women in Tech networking events but they were all in London and very hard to get to for a 6/6.30pm start. When I was asked to take over the leadership of the employee group Women in Tech @ Three, I saw this as an opportunity. In Berkshire and the M4 corridor we have so many tech and science companies that I recognised a real gap in the market – I researched and there were no STEM networking events in the area so I decided to organise a networking event that I would want to go to… luckily about 80 other people wanted to go too! I launched #STEMConnext (named by my husband) and went live on Linkedin, Twitter and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/stemconnext/ and I haven’t looked back since. Our Facebook group already has 200 members in only 4 months and the registration for our second networking event in Berkshire has just gone live and I’m planning our first in Glasgow! Our group vision is to bring STEM women and men together in their local area – to connect, collaborate and converse.AND ALSO COULD YOU TELL ME ABOUT ADVIZA PARTNERSHIP, I HAVEN’T HEARD OF IT BEFORE?Worlds of Opportunity (www.woop.org.uk) is a programme managed by the Adviza Partnership which was set up in Berkshire and along with Learning to work (www.learningtowork.org.uk), they connect schools with businesses for Career Fairs, work experience and apprenticeships. I’m delighted to be a STEM Champion and working with them to promote career fairs and volunteering within my network.HOW DO YOU JUGGLE BEING A MUM, YOUR JOB AND ALSO EVERYTHING YOU DO OUTSIDE OF YOUR ROLE?I guess by accepting that I’m not perfect at anything and I don’t have to be, all I can do is my best. I’m not a perfect mum, but I’m a good mum and I do my best. I’m not a perfect career woman, I do my best but I get things wrong sometimes and I prioritise and am good at time managements. The things that are important to me are my family and my friends and if I remember that, then sometimes things have to give. I work hard and am on my phone or laptop when my kids are chilling and watching telly or doing homework, but if they need me I turn them off. I work late a lot especially when I’m organising an event but that is my choice and so I don’t have anyone to blame but myself but I believe that with small steps I am making the world a better place for my daughters so that is what motivates me.WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE GETTING WHERE YOU ARE TODAY?I worked in a TV for 11 years so my biggest challenge was being made redundant and making the decision to completely change industries. I made the hard decision to go back to work earlier than I planned when my second daughter was only 6 months old. I took a massive pay cut and would have to start from scratch again, but I didn’t want to miss out on the perfect logistical job (no more commuting) and I’m still there 4 promotions and 9 years later.IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT THE TECH INDUSTRY WHAT WOULD IT BE?I would change “one” BIG thing! I want to change all tech and big industries and haul them into the 21st century on mindset, culture, behaviours, flexibility, inclusivity, diversity and bring them into the Digital age!WHAT’S NEXT?I’d love to make a career out of my STEMConnext brand somehow, organise networking events and be paid for what I am doing outside of my day job – driving diversity and equality changes, challenging the perception of girls in STEM at a young age by attending career fairs and meeting amazing, inspiring, like-minded people at conferences and networking events.WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE QUOTE?There are still many causes worth sacrificing for, so much history yet to be made. – Michelle ObamaCulture eats Strategy for Breakfast – Peter DruckerBe kind, do what is right and try to make the world a better place – Me to my girls….WHO’S YOUR SQUAD?My best friend, my sisters and my husband.#STEMConnext’s next event: 20th March 2019 at Bourne End, BucksWhy do so many of us feel like frauds? A panel of experts will discuss why about 70% of men and women suffer from Imposter Syndrome and lack of self-confidence.Please come along to join the discussion and get some tips and advice on how to challenge this perception and build your confidence:https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/stemconnext-berkshire-tackling-imposter-syndrome-tickets-54800636178#Womenrocka voice of diversity in tech@womenrockbristol

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