Merici and I spoke about the last year - both for Ada’s List and women in tech in general. With Trumpism hopefully nearing its end, we touched upon some of the good stuff too: Project Include, Slack’s diverse engineer team, Facebook icons giving men and women their equal due, and lots of fellow women in tech groups like the Stemettes, Women Who Code etc. who are making the industry a better place for all of us. For Ada’s List, we’ve done a fair bit in 2016, all down to the enthusiasm and hard work of our brilliant volunteer team: we have monthly morning coffee meetups, regular Lunch n’ Learn sessions in partnership with the Government Digital Service, regular evening pub get-togethers, we hosted a vibrant ‘diversity in tech’ event during London Technology Week, a leadership event with C-suite digital leaders in collaboration with Propel, spoke at the London Grace Hopper Conference, and have regular meetups in the West Midlands as well. Not bad for a team with no financial resources (on that note, if you’d like to help, give us a shout!).
Zoe Peden spoke about her journey starting, running and then selling her social impact startup Insane Logic and the lessons learnt in the process, using Star Wars and Games of Thrones analogies. A true journey of ups and downs, she had some valuable lessons for anyone who wants to or is running a social impact startup:
Ade Adewunmi, Head of Data Infrastructure at GDS, spoke about what probably seemed like an unusual topic to start, but by the end it all made such brilliant sense. She spoke about why TV still matters, and how it creates commonality, which in turn creates empathy. In a world where Facebook and Twitter often act as echo chambers, TV is ‘one of the most effective ways of low-risk engagement with people who aren’t like us’. She mentioned how it is important for people who are not depicted in the mainstream to see people like them: Nadia Hussain winning last year’s Great British Bake-Off was a case in point. For the first time in the programme’s history (and likely ever), people were able to relate to a woman of colour who is also a hijabi, and share her ups and downs through the course of the show. TV also brings distance at times when people need to struggle with their own demons: figure out what they really think about societal questions they see depicted on screen, for example. Overall, her talk really captured so much of what we think at Ada’s List about diversity and the need for inclusion and important conversations. More than a handful of people were nodding along to her talk.
Next up was Denise Jones, Technical Product Manager at Expedia. Hers was a talk that spoke from a life-changing experience: many years ago she had a serious accident that resulted in a plate being embedded in her skull. She spoke about what she learnt as a result of it, including:
Our fabulous keynote speaker Alex Depledge was next. Alex co-founded Hassle.com, taking it to a Series A round and an exit within a year or so. She is now Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Index Ventures. I’ve seen a lot of entrepreneurs speak over the years, but none as candidly as Alex - making for a talk that was eye-opening and amusing in equal measure. She covered a number of things anyone who owns a business and is looking for funding should be aware of:
There was obviously so much more that Alex covered in 30 minutes, but I’m going to leave it at ‘you had to be there’!
Dan Godsall, co-founder of WOMBA, a maternity coaching consultancy was up next. Dan founded WOMBA after giving up his career in banking, most recently holding a Managing Director role at Barclays, as he took time off to care for his then-6-month-old son. He realised how hard it is for new mothers, but also what an amazing personal development opportunity that time as a new parent could be. Most companies do nothing to truly develop and make use of their employees when they are going through what is one of the most learning experiences of their lives. If a new parent does succeed at work when she goes back, it is usually because they have a good manager, and that’s a game of luck. The Q&A that accompanied his introduction and thoughts were incisive - here are a few of them:
We hope you agree when we say that there’s a lot of food for thought in some of the points above, even if you weren’t able to be there. It was a great afternoon and we look forward to moving forward with some of the questions that were raised. Ada’s List believes in changing the status quo for women in tech. Every day we are trying to cater to the many points on our Agenda. It is hard, but our volunteer team make it possible. THANK YOU to the team that worked on this event: Gen Ashley, Stephanie Aslan, Karoline K, Kajal Odedra, Emem Usanga, Fajer Qasem and Sareh Heidari.
Caitlin McDonald has created a Storify of the event, which you can see here.
This conference would not have been possible without our event sponsors: FutureGov, Propel and Twilio, and our venue sponsor Facebook London - all companies we are proud to be associated with. Heartfelt thanks to all of you!! You absolutely rock.