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!

“To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom” – An interview with Lloyd Watkin
WOMEN ROCK2019-08-06

“To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom” – An interview with Lloyd Watkin

I caught up with Lloyd Watkin, the Principal Engineer at OLIO – ‘The Food Sharing Revolution app’. Lloyd has been with OLIO for almost 4 years’ and is not only passionate about the tech but also the mission behind it. OLIO are doing incredible work in order to prevent food waste around the UK by connecting neighbours and local businesses to share food – and not just throw it away!We have been working with Lloyd recently to help diversify their tech team and SR2 will also be supporting and sponsoring OLIO’s event ‘Making S*** Happen’ on August 21st in Bath. This is going to be a really insightful and interesting evening filled with speakers from all walks of life talking about things they’re doing to make the world a better place. If you want to be a part of it then just sign up on the link here https://www.eventbrite.com/e/making-shit-better-tickets-66166831775!SO LLOYD, YOU WORK FOR OLIO – THE FOOD REVOLUTION APP. TELL ME MORE ABOUT WHAT THEY DO?Food waste is a massive environmental, economic, and social issue all around the world; in the UK, for example, the average household throws away £700 of food each year, and when compared to countries Food Waste generates more CO2 than every country on the planet except for China and the USA. We grow more than enough food on this planet to feed everyone yet two doors down from someone binning a pile of food they didn’t get around to eating could be a family in food poverty. Similarly there’s always something you just need a spoonful of for a recipe but have to buy a big jar and the rest ends up going to waste when a neighbour could equally make use of it. We also work with stores to help reduce their food waste and redistribute it to the local community using our massive (and amazing!) volunteer network (30k and counting!).Simply put we’re trying to help solve one of the greatest threats facing our planet and at a level where everyone is able to be involved.YOU’VE BEEN WITHIN A TECH CAREER FOR ABOUT 15 YEARS’ NOW – WHAT WOULD YOU SAY ARE SOME OF THE BIGGEST CHANGES YOU’VE SEEN OVER THE YEARS?Over that time I’ve seen web-centric tech change a lot. Not just the technologies but the quality of engineering too. Long gone are all connecting to a shared file system and using the F5 testing technique (i.e. hitting refresh in the browser). These days its distributed version control and unit/automation tests which is a much happier (and safer) place to be. One of the more interesting differences for start-ups like us is that developers of my, erm generation or before, had to be involved at all steps of the stack and so naturally had server admin as well as development skills. Now thanks to amazing platforms this range of skills aren’t required so much (so we can concentrate on delivering more software more quickly), but sometimes you need these broader skills but with your lower head count.WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE THING ABOUT WORKING AT OLIO?We’re all highly motivated by the company mission and therefore it makes working with the whole company a very positive experience. We also get contacted by users who have discovered OLIO and through the availability of food &/or through volunteering have managed to turn their life around for the better. We also get some very interesting things shared through the app and its always great to find out about them, one example is a gardener sharing their surplus of Tromboncino squash. Also working flexibly and remotely with a positive helpful team is great for productivity and mental health. WE’RE EXTREMELY EXCITED TO BE SUPPORTING YOUR POP-UP EVENT ON AUGUST 21ST – ‘MAKING S**T HAPPEN’ – TELL OUR READERS MORE ABOUT IT?On a quarterly basis I drag the tech team from our various corners of the world (yeah, we work remotely!) in order to have some co-working time and catch-up socially (team bonding is important). I like to try and do something interesting in the evenings; I thought this time it would be good to meet some other developers (some of us don’t get the chance to attend meetups due to location) and socialise outside of our developer group. Being a one-off event it needed to be about telling a story (to appeal broadly to the community) and I wanted it to be a place for a positive discussion (with a bit of rebellious edge… so swear words). Hence a pop-up meetup about making shit better in whatever way. https://www.eventbrite.com/e/making-shit-better-tickets-66166831775WHAT DO YOU THINK ARE THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES COMPANIES FACE WITHIN DIVERSITY/INCLUSION?Speaking specifically from a start-up point of view (because huge companies with lots of applicants experience a different set of challenges) and given that I’ve just completed our latest round of recruiting (and found a great QA thanks to SR2) the major problem is that the sheer ratio of people like me (straight, white, male developers) to any other group is staggering and, sadly, not unexpected. Redressing these balances (because there are several) takes many years not only because we need to encourage non-people-like-me to head towards a career in tech but when they get there the working environment needs to be welcoming/inclusive/etc at the same time. With a small, but growing, team I’m trying to bake diversity and a welcoming environment from the early days so it’s part of the culture rather than something that has to be actively thought about as we scale.WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE REMEMBERED FOR?This is getting deep! Realistically, whilst lying on my death bed, surrounded by family, soft jazz music playing, a random water cooler in the corner, and a parrot spouting death metal song lyrics, all I’d really like is to have as few regrets as possible and to be able to look my children in the eye and have them know that I did my very best.FAVOURITE QUOTE? WORDS YOU LIVE BY?Two things spring to mind…I often say to my step-son “always do the right thing, especially when it’s the hard thing to do” so I’m assuming at some level I apply this to myself. Unfortunately he hasn’t quite applied this principle when it comes to cleaning his bedroom.The other is a quote from Bertrand Russell “to conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom” – to me this means that if something feels scary or difficult (i.e. you fear tackling it) then you are probably going to learn a lot in the process, so its best get on with it.3 PEOPLE YOU’D HAVE DINNER WITH:• Elon Musk, the guy delivers and is massively mission driven in the right way• Greta Thunberg, a bit cliché right now, but she’s a young lady wise beyond her years and also someone who takes action driven by a mission https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zq4eCQCgQw8…. actually I can’t do more without opening the floodgates and spending four hours listing names. It would depend on my mood and what was on my mind at the time. Oh, and dinner with each separately, when I talk to each person I want to talk to them directly and not engage in a group conversation 🙂 Interview by Charlotte Bakera voice of diversity in tech.@womenrockbristol

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“You can either watch it happen or be a part of it” – An interview with Rida Zainab
WOMEN ROCK2019-07-16

“You can either watch it happen or be a part of it” – An interview with Rida Zainab

Rida Zainab is a software engineer working within the space division at SCISYS in Bristol, her code is being sent to Mars to navigate the ExoMars Rover and her dream is to one day become an Astronaut. We met for a chat over a cup of tea and I instantly could feel her passion for what she does, it’s actually infectious – I left feeling more motivated than ever to work hard to achieve my goals, so thank you Rida. We talked about how she got started in her career, which started with moving from Pakistan to England, and becoming interested with STEM through her A-levels, Rida is now the first ever Pakistani woman within the space sector which she is massively proud of and aims to make her Mum even prouder – How amazing is that!!She is one of the most passionate people I have ever met, when I first started with SR2 and became an ambassador for Women Rock, if someone had asked me “how would you described what Women Rock stands for”, I would’ve said it’s gender equality, diversity, inclusion and encouraging people to reach for their goals and dreams – this interview with Rida pretty much sums up what we are all about. You are such an inspiration to both me and I’m sure a lot of other young girls and boys who are aspiring to be a software engineer! When Rida isn’t sending her code to Mars or rocking out to ‘Super massive black hole’ by Muse (her favourite song), she attends and speaks at different STEM events, encouraging young people to choose a careers within STEM.I hope you enjoy this blog post with this incredible lady who is determined to achieve her dream, and just like within software development when she is trying to solve a problem and ‘find’ a way – I know she will find a way to become the Astronaut she has always wanted to be.YOU WORK IN THE SPACE DIVISION AT SCISYS, TELL US WHAT THAT’S LIKE DAY TO DAY?I have mainly been working on the data processing algorithms for the ExoMars rover at SCISYS. During a normal day, I could be working on anything from software design, implementation, testing, validation to just writing up some documents for the project. One of the main reasons I enjoy implementing algorithms is because I love maths and this way, I get to use all the complicated theories we learnt throughout university on real life projects and literally send it out of this world. There are days when nothing seems to go right but, on those days, I just take a deep breath and tell myself that my code is going to Mars so it’s all worth it in the end.DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN YOU FIRST REALISED THAT YOU WANTED A CAREER WITHIN TECHNOLOGY?I have always wanted to be an astronaut since I was a child, but to me it looked more like an unachievable dream rather than something I could work towards due to limited career options in Pakistan and mild claustrophobia (so ironic). It was only when I came to the UK in 2012 that I decided to choose Computing as one of my A Levels just so I could try something new. The reason I chose to go for an engineering degree later on is due to a STEM talk I attended during my A levels where one of the presenters told her career’s story and said “There are a million ways you can try to achieve your dream, it’s almost never a straight line and you can change your career at any point you like if it doesn’t satisfy you.” That’s when I realised that a degree in engineering would open a whole world of opportunities for me in space sector which means even though I can’t go up in space myself, I can still send a part of me via all the satellites, rockets and rovers I’d be working on!IT’S SO AMAZING TO SEE THAT YOU’RE A STEM AMBASSADOR, WHAT’S THE STORY BEHIND IT ALL AND HOW WOULD YOU SAY TAKING PART IN THAT HAS CHANGED YOUR PERSPECTIVE ON BEING A WOMAN IN THE TECH INDUSTRY?I first started off being a student ambassador at university because I was passionate about what I was learning and well like every broke student, I needed the money. After only the first event I realised that my words could make a real difference in someone’s life as a lot of younger students didn’t have a clue of what career they wanted to pursue in the future. I was in a similar situation around their age and it was the words of a STEM ambassador that made me choose a career in engineering, so I decided to continue being a STEM ambassador. Luckily, SCISYS supports STEM events as well which makes it easier to balance my work life alongside. It has certainly made me a proud woman to be part of such a growing industry especially when space industry is still largely male dominated. I hope to inspire the next generation of women to invest their time and skills in the tech industry and make a great career out of it.WHY DO YOU THINK THERE IS SUCH A SHORTAGE OF FEMALES WITHIN TECH ROLES AND WHAT DO YOU THINK WOMEN ROCK COULD DO TO HELP CHANGE THIS?I think gender stereotypes have a big role to play in that as a lot of women still think tech roles are just for men and vice versa. During my university degree I was one of the only 4 women in a batch of about 40 men which shows women aren’t confident enough to go for an engineering/tech degree. Also, the fact that tech industry is very competitive, and one must constantly stay up to date with the current and upcoming technologies scares off a lot of women as at some point they want to take a break and start a family. Unfortunately, most of the companies aren’t very supportive when it comes to that and women are made to choose either their career or personal life. Women Rock can provide more awareness regarding the roles in the tech industry and their perks to young school/college students or even adults looking for a career change. I believe having role models they can look up to would be a great positive impact as well.WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE THING ABOUT SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT?My favourite thing about software development is that I can be as creative as I like in solving the complex problems at hand. My main interests are in algorithm development related to data processing, spacecraft engineering and machine learning which needs “outside the box” thinking most of the times. The feeling when you finally write that one command to run the whole algorithm you have been working on for months and it runs without crashing is just out of this world.IF THERE IS ONE THING YOUR MOST PROUD OF, WHAT IS IT?The one thing I am most proud of is when I joined SCISYS, I was the only Pakistani woman in the space sector (still am). It just shows how far the companies have come to diversify their teams not just to fill in their diversity quota but based on the skills and talents of the candidate. Coming from a background where being a Pakistani national is frowned upon to working on one of the most exciting projects in the world is certainly a win for me.HOW DO YOU THINK COMPANIES CAN ATTRACT MORE WOMEN INTO THEIR TEAMS?I have been involved in similar discussions before and some of the things that come to mind are reasonable benefits such as maternity leave and flexible working. However, one of the main issues is that there just aren’t enough women studying the STEM courses so even if the companies are looking to fill in their gender gap, they find it difficult to do so. One of the possible solutions could be to provide training for women who have a different career background and are willing to learn and expand their skillset.IN 5 YEARS’ TIME, WHAT CAN YOU SEE YOURSELF DOING WITHIN THE TECH INDUSTRY?My plan is to start my master’s degree in Astronautical and Space Engineering at Cranfield University followed by a more specific job role in the space industry. I would like to work in mission control for exciting space projects in the next 5 years’ time with the hopes of starting my own rocket company at one point.WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE SONG OF ALL TIME?Supermassive Black Hole – MuseIF YOU COULD CHOOSE YOUR DREAM SQUAD, WHO WOULD BE IN IT?Elon Musk and Gwynne Shotwell!Thank you so much Rida, we couldn’t be more proud of this interview and we cannot wait to follow you in your career. You rock, like really rock! #womenrockInterview by: Steph Jackson a voice of diversity in tech.@womenrockbristol

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One woman can make a difference but together we can rock the world!
WOMEN ROCK2019-07-11

One woman can make a difference but together we can rock the world!

You’ve probably seen that at SR2 we’ve grown even bigger over the last couple of months and with our latest superstar Sam, who joined us on Monday. We are well outnumbering the men, with a strong female squad of 8. I wanted to introduce 3 of our new brilliant ladies to the team. Sam, Caitlin & Jaydee! I am over the moon to have them on board and also to have them as ambassadors for Women Rock, they are all going to be a big part of the brand throughout the rest of the year and beyond. Here is a bit about all of them <3SAMWHY DID YOU JOIN SR2?I’d been following SR2 since they started and loved their approach to recruitment and how they have been doing things a bit differently. it’s really refreshing to see a recruitment company that aren’t all about being salesy and making money and genuinely want to help make a difference to the local community. Plus how could I resist a IT recruitment company where the girls out number the boys!WHAT DOES YOUR DAY TO DAY LOOK LIKE?Well every morning has to start with a cup of tea, I’ve never quite managed to get myself to like coffee despite my mums best attempts! Once that’s done then I spend my day speaking to candidates and clients, meeting them and understanding what they are all after with the aim of finding people their perfect job and clients their perfect candidate!WHO IS YOUR ROLE MODEL?It has to be my mum, I know that’s a bit cliché but she’s is like superwoman and is always there for me and my brother with her wise words and advice. i’d love to recreate that feeling for my kids so that they look up to me as theirs one day!WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS AND AMBITIONS FOR WOMEN ROCK?Well aside from helping them inspire more women to get into the world of IT, I’d also love to champion the benefits of part time and flexible working for women that need the flexibility to work around family commitments.WHAT DO YOU THINK THE CHALLENGES ARE FOR THE WOMEN IN THE INDUSTRY?As well as it being a male dominated industry one of the big things that I have noticed is the lack of opportunities within the tech industry for women (and men) who need to work part time to juggle family commitments. It’s been a big frustration of mine and something I have been doing my best to change when I have people looking for part time work. There are some extremely skilled people out there who struggle to find work because companies set out looking for a full time employee and aren’t open to exploring the benefits that a part time worker could offer. Having worked part time myself after having children it’s something I feel really strongly about and have been proactively trying to change.WHAT DO YOU LOVE TO EAT AND DRINK?I’m actually a big salad eater and have it most days much to my husbands dismay as he is one of those people that hates the sound of crunching and according to him I always find the crunchiest salad there is! Aside from that I absolutely love a roast and my naughty treat is a mcdonalds! I also won’t ever say no to a glass of Rose and I can’t live without tea !WHERE IS YOUR FAVORITE PLACE IN THE WORLD?The Maldives, I absolutely love it. I first went when I was a kid on a family holiday and I always said that it was where I was going to go on my honeymoon so my poor husband didn’t get a say in the matter! I’m now figuring out which anniversary I can convince him to do it all again for!WHAT DO YOU ENJOY DOING OUTSIDE OF WORK?With 2 kids, a husband, 2 rabbits, 2 guinea pigs and a dog I feel like any spare time I have is spent about running around after them! Gone are my weekends of going out horseriding and gym visits, instead they consist of softplay and kids birthday parties!WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE QUOTE?When shit happens turn it into fertilizer! I have no idea where this is from but I love it!WHO’S YOUR SQUAD?My mum- She is my absolute rock and her babysitting skills are the reason me and my husband still have a social life!My husband – Well for obvious reason plus I’d be in serious trouble if I didn’t say him.My friends, they keep me sane! I can’t just pick one as that would get me in more trouble than missing my husband out!JAYDEEWHY DID YOU JOIN SR2?I’d heard such good things about SR2 and the different approach they were taking with recruitment, their friendly non hassling approach and charitable work really appealed to me.WHAT DOES YOUR DAY TO DAY LOOK LIKE AT SR2?No two days are exactly the same. I get to connect and speak to great candidates looking for their next challenge and introduce them to interesting organisations… basically I get to help people every day!WHO IS YOUR ROLE MODEL?My mum, she’s a hero that runs her own business all whilst caring for my disabled brother and looking after 2 young children.WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS AND AMBITIONS FOR WOMEN ROCK?To continue to promote diversity in the workplaceWHAT DO YOU THINK THE CHALLENGES ARE FOR THE WOMEN IN THE INDUSTRY?Having limited female role models in the industry.Continue to promote Women Rock and give a platform for successful females in tech to inspire women looking to get into Tech/StemWHAT DO YOU LOVE TO EAT AND DRINK? THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT.Italian- creamy pesto pastaCiderNot necessarily at the same time!WHERE IS YOUR FAVORITE PLACE IN THE WORLD?Greece- so many hidden beautiful beaches, amazing food and great peopleWHAT DO YOU ENJOY DOING OUTSIDE OF WORK?I do commission sketches/ portraits when I have time. Also, socialising with friends, food/ drinks.WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE QUOTE?Life works out best for those who make the best out of how life works out.WHO’S YOUR SQUAD?My nephew- he’s a mini me, my best friend.Our family dog Disney- she’s just the bestMy mum- my therapist CAITLIN WHY DID YOU JOIN SR2?I was eager for a new challenge for some time and after looking into what SR2 are doing and what the company stands for there was no stopping me, I had to be a part of it.WHAT DOES YOUR DAY-TO-DAY LOOK LIKE AT SR2?Trying to cool down from the stomp into work (it’s not that far but I’m an abnormally warm person), generally trying to make office life as easy as possible for our lovely team, being known as the in-house tech support and trying to juggle a wide array of tasks to support the business.WHO IS YOUR ROLE MODEL?Dawn French – need I say anymore?WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS AND AMBITIONS FOR WOMEN ROCK?I will be supporting Women Rock broaden it’s focus into the wider diversity and equality areas in the coming months – I am super excited to see what the second half of 2018 has in store for this amazing movement!WHAT DO YOU THINK THE CHALLENGES ARE FOR THE WOMEN IN THE INDUSTRY?Just not having a loud enough voice – society is changing and we’re also adding to that change which is great!WHAT DO YOU LOVE TO EAT AND DRINK? THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT.EVERYTHING – I am seriously not fussy when it comes to food and drink so I love most things but you can’t beat an Italian and lots of wine!WHERE IS YOUR FAVORITE PLACE IN THE WORLD?Cornwall, I lived there for 3-years and have well and truly fallen for it’s wild, rugged and sometimes weird charm.WHAT DO YOU ENJOY DOING OUTSIDE OF WORK?Making the most of living in such a vibrant city.WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE QUOTE?No rain no flowers.WHO’S YOUR SQUAD?My very patient boyfriend for just generally being a top human being, Dwayne Johnson (The Rock) as he is my spirit animal and Oliver my next door neighbours cat who I have secretly adopted as my own.  Thanks girls#womenrocka voice of diversity in tech@womenrockbristol

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“A day without laughter is a day wasted.” – An interview with Afroditi Konidari
WOMEN ROCK2019-06-25

“A day without laughter is a day wasted.” – An interview with Afroditi Konidari

Afroditi Konidari is the CEO and co-founder of the Cardiff based start-up TenderTec. She shares her touching story of how the tech for good company got started and the passion and drive behind what they do. They have created personalised technology that is able to sense emergencies within the homes of seniors, so if you are living away from your loved one, if anything were to happen it wouldn’t go unnoticed and allows seniors and vulnerable people to keep their independence. Genius!She shares her advice for anybody wanting to start their own business, and encourages them not to let life and family plans hold you back from achieving your dreams and goals.YOU ARE THE CEO AND CO-FOUNDER BEHIND TENDERTEC WHAT DOES YOUR DAY-TO-DAY LOOK LIKE?We recently closed our pre-seed round so the past few months we’ve been busy with fundraising, growing our team and planning pilots for our next phase of development. My day to day has included engaging with investors to finalise investment agreements, interviewing on average 2-3 candidates per day, networking and submitting proposals to get pilots with Councils and care providers. Fundraising and recruiting are full-time jobs in their own right so it’s been a tough period trying to fit 48+ hours of work in a day. Having a co-founder to share the journey and the load has made it possible to deliver on all fronts.WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO START TENDERTEC?Tendertec is an inspiration from fall incidents with elder relatives in my family. My grandmother, Maria, 74 years old at the time, was living alone at her own home and in relatively good health. As she was getting ready to go to bed she lost her balance and ended up on floor. Unable to get up again or reach her pendant alarm she had just placed on her bedside, she spent the night on the floor. She was lucky enough not to get injured and to have my mom pay her a scheduled visit the next morning, otherwise she could have laid there for days. Due to the prolonged period on the floor she developed pressure sores and pneumonia, entering a downward spiral with her health after that. That incident made me think that there must be a better way for seniors to be able to get help than pendant alarms which rely on senior users to wear them 24/7.My grandmother is not the exception. Falls are the most frequent and lethal type of accident in seniors aged 65+ affecting 1 in 3 seniors in the UK every year. I have been inspired to develop technology with senior users, their carers and families participating in every stage from research to deployment to create products users love and accept in their lives. To this effect, Tendertec’s technology does not require any user engagement or lifestyle change from the side of users; you don’t need to wear anything or change your routine. You just fit Tendertec’s sensor and forget about it, knowing that it’s always on for you to rely upon.AS A FEMALE FOUNDER, FROM YOUR PERSONAL EXPERIENCE WHAT WOULD YOU SAY HAVE BEEN THE BIGGEST BARRIERS FOR YOU?Being a female co-founder of a pre-seed tech startup involving hardware and trying to raise a significant amount for its pre-seed round has been a long 2 year journey. There are few lessons I can share as a female founder. First, speaking of first impressions, I believe that being involved with hardware has been a bigger repeller than being a female in her early 30s and pitching her first tech venture. In addition, having a PhD and a male co-founder with previous startup experience tends to even those first impressions out. In situations like these, the remedy for me has been to let my audience know my story, the motivation behind Tendertec and how my experience to date has uniquely qualified me to solve the challenge of safeguarding the independence and quality of life of vulnerable people.Another important lesson I’ve learned over the past year is to focus on investors that can share the pain you are solving. When it comes to caring for family members, women are more likely to take on caring roles than men particularly in their 40s-60s. To this end, pitching to investment funds comprising both female and male partners has been essential. This is one of the main reasons we believe we have been successful with Metevallon VC, a fund with 2 female and 2 male partners.WHY DO YOU THINK THERE IS A LACK OF FEMALES WITHIN STEM CAREERS?I was blessed to be raised in a family where my gender did not dictate my parents’ beliefs regarding my abilities and potential. Therefore, I never felt that when it came to intellect I should only compete with members of my own sex or that there are jobs that are done traditionally by men or women in the workplace or at home. But I understand that is not the case everywhere. Even if you have been privileged to be born in in a society that gives equal rights and opportunities for men and women, gender stereotypes existing and continue to cause women to question their abilities. In my opinion, the bias starts at home and continues at school before entering the workplace. On the other hand, I believe that companies must change workplace culture to ensure that women are climbing an equal career ladder to their male counterparts. As women, we are gifted with the ability to bring life into this world and that should not become an impediment when building a career whether we choose to have children or not.WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO WOMEN WANTING TO BUILD THEIR OWN START-UP?I would give them the same advice I would give to anyone thinking of building their own startup. Learn to persevere and believe in your ability to learn. It’s not how many times you fail, it’s how many times you get back up and what you learn from each failure.WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE QUOTE?“A day without laughter is a day wasted.” Thank you Afroditi, we are very excited to see what the future holds for TenderTec!#WomenRock A voice for diversity in tech!An interview by Steph Jackson

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“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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