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!

Charlotte Philippe | Meta
WOMEN ROCK2023-08-22

Charlotte Philippe | Meta

Crash test dummies that were built only in male form, sunscreen and skincare products tested predominantly on white skin and also a detection software used in hand dryers that wouldn’t work with darker skin because the product was only tested on developers who had fair skin. These are just a few examples and one of the many, many reasons ED&I is extremely important in the tech industry. As far as we have come in this industry - this is just a reminder of how far we have got to go... This week's Women Rocker is Charlotte Philippe, Head of Engineering at Meta who feels so passionately about women in tech - the small amount of time she gets to herself at work she dedicates to mentoring women across Meta internationally. Charlotte's worked on some incredible projects in her career and is of the mindset that "if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. Keep going, keep trying, if you don’t try, you’ll never know the answer."  So give her story a read and go and do that thing that scares you today... HEY CHARLOTTE! THANKS FOR SHARING YOUR STORY WITH US. LET’S START AT THE BEGINNING – HOW DID YOU FIRST GET INTO THETECH INDUSTRY? When I studied electrical engineering, I particularly liked the software courses as they enabled you to create an end-to-end product that would actually work. I enjoyed the fact that I could build it, ship it, and get it directly in front of people, bringing them value. When I went to university, I particularly enjoyed applied sciences, and courses like physics that explained how things actually worked. I did a 2nd master's in Artificial Intelligence in the UK(Imperial College London) and decided to stay and work in London, which ultimately led me to the consulting space. With consulting, what I loved was the ability to learn about different industries and new tech stacks with each project – and building end-to-end software. This fast-tracked the experience you can get as a Software Engineer. We were agile from the start. Very early on, I had the opportunity to take on roles as the team and tech lead. Those tech skills, leadership skills and client-facing skills led to my current role at Meta. (Agile, wide tech stack, customer-centric, leadership skills). WHAT IS YOUR PROUDEST ACHIEVEMENT? I worked on many different projects across the public and private sectors that I am proud of, notably the UK HMRC tax platform, which is built to simplify people’s lives. One particular project comes to mind, as, to create and deliver it, I brought together business acumen and technical skills. In Meta, anticipating the shift coming to the Metaverse before it was announced, and observing the demand from advertisers that my team works with to leverage technologies like AR to connect them with their customers, I set on to create and launch ads for Instagram AR (Augmented Reality) effects with the goal of bringing brands closer to their customers by letting them ‘explore’ the brand’s products in AR (for example letting you try glasses or try on lipstick colours before buying them). During a hackathon, I put together a team to deliver an MVP (minimum viable product) that we released a couple of months later as a product, generating demand with advertisers and millions for Meta. And we formed an entirely new product team to support this area of work.This was a huge success that I am particularly proud of, bringing to life something that benefits customers, brands, & Meta equally. WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO OTHERS WHO WANT TO GO INTO THE SAME CAREER? Choose your first experience quite carefully. Dare to defy – everyone has imposter syndrome. Be bold – if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. Keep going, keep trying, if you don’t try, you’ll never know the answer. WHAT AREA OF D&I ARE YOU MOST PASSIONATE ABOUT AND WHY? Women in tech, but also complete ethnic diversity. Meta opened my mind to hiring diversity and I’m very grateful for that. I remember an example to illustrate this: a detection software used in a hand dryer at another company wouldn’t work with darker skin because the product was only tested on developers who had fair skin. This illustrates the value of a diverse team, able to bring in different perspectives and make sure what we build is relevant to our diverse society. It’s easy to hire people like you because it’s easy to get along with them. It’s an additional effort to think outside the box. Using my experience, I hope I can really help promote women in tech. I actually mentor women across meta internationally. Building on my own expertise, I help them grow in both tech and business skills. This is something unique that’s important. Women will be very competent on the technical side, but sometimes question their growth, their presentation skills, their leadership skills, etc. I’m grateful my mentorship helps women in tech address the areas that help them grow in their careers. FAVOURITE MANTRA/QUOTE YOU LIVE BY? In French: Pour obtenir ce qu'on a jamais eu, il faut tenter ce qu'on a jamais fais. Which translates roughly to: To get what you never had, you must try what you never did. Thanks Charlotte, you rock 🀘 Interview by Andrew Delsol

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Priya Baheti | EY Technology Solutions
WOMEN ROCK2023-08-08

Priya Baheti | EY Technology Solutions

When it comes to diversifying the tech industry, we could learn a thing or two from India. Various organisations, NGOs, and government initiatives in India have been working to empower women and promote gender equality. These efforts often include scholarships, mentorship programs, and awareness campaigns to encourage more women to pursue careers in STEM fields. The visibility of successful female engineers and tech professionals in India serves as inspiration for young women considering careers in tech.  This week's Women Rock guest is Priya Baheti who began her journey into tech in Pune, India where she was selected through a graduate selection process as a Trainee engineer. Priya now works as Solution Architecture Manager at EY Technology Solutions, after wearing many hats throughout her 15+ career in tech. CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT WHAT YOU DO AT E&Y? I have recently joined  EY Technology Consulting as a Manager – Solution architecture. Prior to that, I spent more than a decade in Cognizant technology solutions where I played multiple roles right from Database subject matter, Database technical lead, Infrastructure delivery manager and Infrastructure solution lead.  I worked for various Telecom, Media and retail clients.   I GUESS WE SHOULD START AT THE BEGINNING OF YOUR TECH STORY, HOW DID YOU GET INTO THE INDUSTRY?   I started my career in Infosys Technology Solutions as a Trainee engineer in Pune, India. I was selected through the graduate selection process.  Infosys is an Indian multinational company. Their training programme for fresh college graduates is exceptional in terms of getting in-depth technology knowledge and industry-ready for fresh graduates. I had to take on financial responsibilities for my family right after my bachelor’s degree in computer technology and it was a great start for me.  WHAT DO YOU THINK CAN BE DONE TO HELP ATTRACT A MORE DIVERSE MIX OF PEOPLE INTO TECH?   To attract a more diverse mix of people into tech, initiatives focusing on outreach, education, and creating inclusive environments can be implemented.  AS A WOMAN IN TECHNOLOGY, HAVE YOU FACED ANY CHALLENGES AND BARRIERS IN YOUR CAREER?   As a woman in the technology field, I encountered challenges such as biases regarding women's roles in technology, limited opportunities for leadership responsibilities, and societal perceptions about career choices for women in a male-dominated country like India. I am blessed with an incredibly motivating, unwaveringly encouraging, and wholeheartedly supportive spouse and leaders who have been instrumental in empowering my journey. WHAT IS YOUR PROUDEST ACHIEVEMENT IN TECH AND ALSO PERSONALLY?   My proudest achievement in tech is successfully navigating a 15+year career while balancing the roles of a mother and wife, and quickly re-joining the workforce after maternity leave, all while contributing significantly to the field of technology. IN ONE SENTENCE, HOW WOULD YOU SUM UP YOUR CAREER SO FAR?   The journey is the reward. WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPIEST IN YOUR FREE TIME? Spending time with my family, enjoying my hobby of painting makes me happiest in my free time. WHAT ERA WOULD YOU LIVE IN, PAST OR FUTURE, AND WHY?   I would always love to live in the present. However, when there is an option between the past and the future, I will choose a future for which I can dream about.  WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE QUOTE OR A QUOTE YOU LIVE/WORK BY? Miles to go before I sleep.   Thanks Priya, you rock 🀘 Interview by Max Crowhurst

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Hannah Cross | Near St
WOMEN ROCK2023-08-01

Hannah Cross | Near St

On July 20th this year we saw the Flexible Working Bill become law and pass Royal Assent - meaning workers can make use of job-sharing and flexitime and enjoy an improved work-life balance. We've been following this journey closely with Anna Whitehouse aka Motherpukka who has been campaigning like a warrior to get this bill passed and highlighting the impact it will have for parents and particularly women across the UK. Women Rock Ambassador Doug spoke to Engineering Manager at Near St, Hannah Cross about returning to work after having her daughter Luna and the work she did to create the maternity-return-to-work policy for Near St.  Hannah moved into tech from the arts sector after enrolling in a 3-month coding boot camp so knows first-hand the ups and downs of a career transition and what it means to "take the leap" and follow her passion.  So whether you are a mum returning to work, thinking about a complete career change or toying with the idea of enrolling in a boot camp - you have got to read this!  HEY HANNAH, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR TALKING TO US ABOUT YOUR JOURNEY IN TECH SO FAR! CAN YOU TELL US A BIT ABOUT WHAT YOUR ROLE IS AT THE MOMENT AND WHY YOU LOVE WORKING IN TECH? I am currently an Engineering Manager at a start-up called NearSt. I’ve been there for 4 years now and started as a mid-level Software Engineer and after a couple of years had the opportunity to take on more people management responsibilities. I love how these days working in tech is working in any sector that interests you- almost all industries use tech of some kind so there is a job for us all! Also, the creative problem-solving that is required satisfies me and I feel like I’m building and creating daily.  YOU MOVED INTO TECH FROM A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT INDUSTRY. CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT HOW THAT CHANGE CAME ABOUT AND WHAT GAVE YOU THE CONFIDENCE TO TAKE THE PLUNGE?  I previously worked in the arts sector for non-profit art galleries and museums. I was a private giving fundraiser and spent a lot of time networking and organising events. Whilst I enjoyed some aspects of this, I realised I wanted to have a more tangible impact on a day-to-day basis. I felt the fundraising I did was too far removed from the creative activity that I was trying to facilitate. A friend told me about coding bootcamps and after a bit of back and forth I decided to take the leap and did a 3 month course at General Assembly in London. I was 30 and thought, if not now, when? A new adventure for a new decade! I was also really ready to move on from my job and so it gave me the nudge I needed to break away.  WITH BOOT CAMPS BECOMING MORE & MORE POPULAR WE’RE SEEING A HUGE AMOUNT OF COMPETITION FOR GRADUATES. WHAT WAS YOUR EXPERIENCE LIKE GETTING A ROLE AFTER YOUR BOOT CAMP? AND WHAT TIPS DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHER PEOPLE THAT MIGHT GO THROUGH THE SAME PROCESS IN THE NEAR FUTURE?  It was quite tough after completing my boot camp. It took me 3 months of job searching and sending applications and enquiries out daily. I also did several really awful interviews before finding my first job post tech. In terms of tips, staying strong and persevering is really important. It’s easy to feel disheartened in any job search but with the added pressure of having been out of the job market for 3 months already to do the course it can feel particularly stressful. I’d also say that most jobs aren’t advertised so if you like a company, be bold and send an enquiry email to their Hiring team or Engineering Lead (if you can find that from their website or LinkedIn). Finally, celebrate any previous career or work experience you’ve had - those skills are definitely transferable. Tech skills alone aren’t enough for most businesses, they want to know you can function well in a team and settle in quickly with a company’s systems and processes.  ONE THING THAT BOOTCAMPS ARE DOING FOR THE TECHNOLOGY INDUSTRY, IS BRINGING PEOPLE FROM DIVERSE CAREER BACKGROUNDS INTO THE WORLD OF TECH. DO YOU THINK YOUR PREVIOUS CAREER HAS HAD ANY POSITIVE IMPACTS ON YOUR CAREER IN SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT? AND IF SO, WHY DO YOU THINK THAT IS THE CASE?  Building on my previous point, I think the reason I was able to move to a manager role within quite a short space of time is that I had experience managing people in my previous career. I had an understanding and interest in how teams operate and how to hire good people which I was able to apply to my tech role. I also have seen some bad systems and processes in my time and knowing what bad looks like (as much as what good looks like) in a general setting has helped me offer constructive advice and suggestions to a growing startup. It might not always be right, but I do believe that being able to offer another perspective can help discussions move forward to what is ultimately best for your team or business,  AS A WOMAN IN TECH, CAN YOU SHARE WHAT BARRIERS YOU’VE FACED DURING YOUR CAREER TO DATE, AND WHAT HAS HELPED YOU OVERCOME SOME OF THESE BARRIERS?  I think the two main barriers for me were: career pathway and learning to interview and navigate a world where my gender was rarely visible. When I was at school I was really interested in computers but not so interested in Maths and Physics. So when it came to choosing a degree at university I was not inclined to apply for a Computer Science degree. This is why, when the opportunity for a boot camp came up, without the need for those credentials I jumped at the chance to build websites and problem-solve with technology. Since starting my boot camp, most engineers I meet and teams I encounter are primarily made up of men and I’ve had a few people say to me “You don’t look like a programmer/coder/engineer” which I am never sure how to respond to. However, I feel very lucky that my coursemates were pretty much 50/50 split men and women so I knew there was a group of women entering the workforce together. I also looked up and started following several women engineers on social media (there are actually quite a lot of them!!) which helped me feel like I had a network of support and information to help me with those days when it might feel a bit overwhelming to be the only woman in the room. I do believe there is a truth in “you can only be what you can see” so I’ve said yes to opportunities to be visible to other women looking to work in tech. I volunteered as an instructor for Code First Girls, I say yes to anyone who contacts me to ask about “doing a career change” and in my hiring processes I have spent a lot of time with my team trying to make our interview setup as unbiased as possible. However, on the whole, since working at NearSt I’ve had a very positive experience and I am pleased to work with two other brilliant women in my team YOU’RE NOW ON MATERNITY LEAVE, LOOKING AFTER THE LOVELY LUNA – CAN YOU SHARE WHAT IT IS LIKE BEING ON MATERNITY LEAVE AS A SOFTWARE DEVELOPER? Being on maternity leave as a software developer… I am sure in some ways it’s very similar to anyone else on parental leave! The focus is very much on my daughter and once she was born any ideas I had that I might do some work or coding on the side disappeared quickly as she has kept me busy from day one! I am pleased that my job allows me to work from home, so the thought of going back to work is not as nerve-wracking as I know I will be a short walk away from her nursery! In terms of motherhood though, I think about technology and my daughter’s future a lot and I am keen to instil problem-solving skills in her early on. My friend even bought me a coding for babies book! I KNOW YOU HELPED CREATE THE MATERNITY-RETURN-TO-WORK POLICY FOR YOUR CURRENT EMPLOYER, FOLLOWING THAT EXPERIENCE, DO YOU THINK THE MAJORITY OF BUSINESSES ARE PREPARED FOR SUPPORTING PARENTS BACK INTO WORK FOLLOWING MATERNITY OR PATERNITY LEAVE? WHAT ASPECTS DO YOU THINK COMPANIES NEED TO TAKE INTO CONSIDERATION TO ENSURE THESE POLICIES ARE EFFECTIVE? This is a big question… I am still figuring some of this out. I know that it is not as simple as companies just “offering more”. Some businesses genuinely don’t have the resources to offer various financial support, such as a year of full-pay parental leave. And so it definitely needs to be a combination of support and incentives from the Government, society and the business. Paid parental leave does need to be better and longer for both parents though. The physical and mental toll that having a child has on an individual is enormous and if you want employees who return to work with energy and renewed commitment to the business, they need to feel taken care of as they essentially produce the next generation of workers of the world! Flexibility is another big one and I was thrilled to hear that the Flexible Working Bill now means employees are entitled to ask for flexible working hours - something that can make a huge difference for parents. There’s definitely a lot more but haven’t quite got my thoughts together on this yet..!  YOU’VE MOVED UP TO ENGINEERING MANAGER LEVEL REALLY QUICKLY IN YOUR CAREER TO DATE – WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU HAVE FOR OTHER PEOPLE FROM DIVERSE BACKGROUNDS TO HELP THEM ACHIEVE SOMETHING SIMILAR? I would say progression is a funny one in that if financial compensation is what you seek, then make sure the progression route you are pursuing is the right one for you. In tech, I am seeing more and more the opportunity to choose between Individual Contributor and People Management. This allows those who are technically skilled to increase their seniority and pay package without having to move into a whole different role of managing others. In terms of advice… work hard at what you’re passionate about. Take opportunities when they come your way and ask for them if you feel like they aren’t coming to light. Take advantage of skills you have cultivated in previous roles or careers, but most of all be patient. Sometimes taking things a bit slower means you will be better equipped for a bigger jump. Whilst progressing too quickly can actually mean more stress if you’re not quite ready yet! IT’S TRADITION TO FINISH THESE INTERVIEWS WITH A FAVOURITE QUOTE, MOTTO, OR PIECE OF ADVICE. WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO SHARE?  Oh dear I’m terrible at these… the default one I like to go for “To live will be an awfully big adventure” - JM Barrie An alternative to carpe diem… reminding me to not get bogged down with the small things and focus on enjoying as much as possible.  Thanks, Hannah, you rock 🀘 Interview by Doug Gear

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Raana Saheb Nassagh | Plan D
WOMEN ROCK2023-07-26

Raana Saheb Nassagh | Plan D

Remember your first day at school when you were standing in the playground, school bag in hand, desperately looking around the playground to find a familiar face, someone that you could relate to - either physically or mentally? As human beings, our innate desire to belong and be part of something greater than ourselves is a fundamental aspect of our social nature. We yearn for connections, seeking out groups, communities, or organisations that resonate with our values, interests, and aspirations.  This feeling isn't left at the school gates, as  Raana Saheb Nassagh, Senior Data Scientist, describes how she sometimes turns up to a meeting and is the only female participant.  Raana's passion for well-written code, intricate software architectures and elegant design patterns is palpable as she talks about her journey into data science and specifically her work with AI models. She wears many hats at work from machine learning engineer to project manager, highlighting how one's skillset doesn't just apply to one role in tech. But, like us, she wants to see more women in these roles and has some really cool ideas on how we can all make this happen... CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOU AND YOUR JOURNEY INTO THE FIELD OF DATA SCIENCE AND WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO PURSUE A CAREER IN THIS AREA? I was 16 when I had to choose my specialisation at school. I had to answer the question: “Should my main subject be art or math?”.  I remember how I wanted to put the mathematics books away, to go after photography. But somehow, I just couldn’t do it. I just loved math so much … This was the start of my data journey: A passion for solving complex problems and thinking logically. So, I graduated with a math diploma and continued on with studying software engineering. During my bachelor studies, I got fascinated by AI topics like genetic algorithms and neural networks. That was my motivation to continue with a master program focusing on AI. Since then, I have worked for 2.5 years as a data scientist, whose everyday work is dealing with data and struggling with pipelines and deployments. And still, I enjoy the moments when we try to solve a problem with mathematical equations and forget the time while brainstorming about different solutions … this is what I like about my job. WHAT IS YOUR ROLE AND RESPONSIBILITIES AT PLAN D? Although I have the title „data scientist “,  I fulfil a wide range of roles and responsibilities at PLAN D. Sometimes I am a data scientist, who is working for hours with data, patterns, visualizations, and AI models. Other times I am a machine learning engineer, who deploys the whole pipeline of the AI models and tests the endpoints. There are times when I am a data analyst, who analyses a topic and presents the results to our customers. On some occasions, I also play the role of a project manager and make sure everything is finished on time before the deadline. That is why I prefer the term „full data“- we here at PLAN D do just everything with data :)  WHAT SPECIFIC AREAS OF DATA SCIENCE AND MACHINE LEARNING ARE YOU MOST PASSIONATE ABOUT, AND HOW HAVE YOU DEVELOPED YOUR EXPERTISE IN THOSE AREAS? I like many different topics in the data field. However, I come from a software engineering background, so I just love well-written code, intricate software architectures and elegant design patterns. That is why I like to think a lot about the whole architecture of the AI models before I implement them. I have been passionate about this since my last bachelor semesters where I had courses like object-oriented programming and software system architecture. I followed these topics also in my master's study, where I used AI to find anti-patterns in code. AS A FEMALE DATA SCIENTIST, HAVE YOU FACED ANY UNIQUE CHALLENGES OR OBSTACLES IN YOUR CAREER? HOW HAVE YOU NAVIGATED AND OVERCOME THEM? The biggest challenge for me is a meeting or video call where I am the only female participant. Then, I sometimes see myself as a lonely wolf and miss seeing other female data scientists, engineers, front-end, and back-end developers. Having women in tech roles brings new perspectives and changes the dynamics of the whole group. Since I have no female role model in the team to look up to for guidance, I try to be the best version of myself. Maybe then I can be a role model for others and motivate other women to pursue a career in the data domain. IN YOUR OPINION, WHAT ARE SOME KEY STEPS ORGANISATIONS CAN TAKE TO PROMOTE AND INCREASE DIVERSITY IN THE TECH INDUSTRY, SPECIFICALLY WITHIN DATA SCIENCE AND MACHINE LEARNING ROLES? I think women should be encouraged for tech roles as early as possible, for example at school. Tech companies can encourage young girls for tech roles, by offering free courses, workshops, and talks or internships. Somehow the tech branch needs to demonstrate that women are welcome here. Especially in the field of data science, there are a lot of fun programs and software that can be taught at an early age and motivate girls for AI topics. SR2'S WOMEN ROCK PLATFORM AIMS TO PROMOTE DIVERSITY AND INCLUSIVITY IN TECH. CAN YOU SHARE ANY EXPERIENCES OR INITIATIVES YOU'VE BEEN INVOLVED IN THAT ALIGN WITH THIS MISSION? As a member of PyLadys, I like to share knowledge with other women, who work with Python. That is why my team and I also host PyLadys events on the 11th of July on our premises.  On this occasion, I also contributed a talk about how to become a better code reviewer. What I especially like about PyLadys is that they are not only open for women but welcome people from all walks of life independent of their background, and thus create a very diverse community focused on Python programming.   DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR PEOPLE THAT ARE LOOKING TO GET INTO THE TECH INDUSTRY? I think women in general, and I especially, tend to overthink a lot of things. So here is my suggestion: Just do it and don’t overthink it! Send applications even if you might not fulfil all requirements, take courses, even if they seem daunting at first, and do what you like to do. One reason why women are not in tech roles is that they don’t have so many role models to look forward to. So: Be the first one! There is no "wrong" and "bad", there is just "new" and "better“.    Thanks, Raana, you rock 🀘 Interview by Finlay Bright

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Candice Storm | Design In Focus
WOMEN ROCK2023-07-13

Candice Storm | Design In Focus

What is the Value & Impact of Creativity, Innovation and Design (CID) in Business & Society? Look around you, how much of your own environment has not been created, innovated and or designed? Think of all of your engagements beyond yourself, how much of that has been created, innovated and or designed? Your communications, entertainment and work, all have been shaped by CID. The value & impact of CID is present in all of our lives, and yet, a great deal of those who make the functional world are often underrepresented, exploited or disabled to do better. Enter Candice Storm. Candice started building DesignInFocus.org, a multimedia & professional platform serving CID in April / May 2022. Having worked in Government, Retail, Entertainment and Technology, she connected the dots to develop DesignInFocus.Org in such a way as to enable humans to step up and also do more with less. While DesignInFocus.Org was started as a side project sponsored by StormCIS 360 Corporate Identity Solutions (her design agency), it now is a full-time activity - from the design, production, organisation and development, to creating multimedia with professionals and companies. And if that isn't enough, Candice also designs gamified workshops to convey challenging topics in synthesizable interactions. Women Rock ambassador Cameron chatted with this incredible trailblazer about her multi-faceted journey into tech... TELL ME A BIT ABOUT YOUR JOB AND WHAT A DAY IN THE LIFE LOOKS LIKE FOR YOU? I do several things. When I'm working for clients my job includes analysing and improving existing digital products and services through creative problem solving, from Design Strategy to Digital Design to DesignOps. I work on branded experiences also, creating corporate identities, marketing and promotional content as well as web and social media.I also spend a great deal of time building DesignInFocus.Org. A lot of time goes into designing and building the actual platform and its content. Next to that I also engage with stakeholders in various capacities such as participants to talk with in the Design in Focus media, or to speak at our events, collaborating with professionals and organisations to create interesting professional activities and working with volunteers. I'm having to develop and learn in areas that I'm not familiar with, such as learning Velo to implement code on the platform, making podcasts, and growing a sense of business administration and organisation.Lastly, I manage the Design in Focus flagship network Randstad UX, which was launched to demonstrate how the platform could be leveraged for others who would like to start their own networks and communities relating to creativity, innovation and design. I organise monthly events and share relevant information with the network. Most of the events tend to be informative and so I organise talks and presentations, but for example this month I'm organising a networking event with cocktails at a skylounge in Amsterdam, and to celebrate the one year anniversary of the network, I'm working on throwing a gala in October! WHAT MADE YOU GET INTO THE INDUSTRY? I have quite an unusual background and a lot has happened on top of all the winding roads, personality-wise, I also deviate from the norm. When I started school, I passed the first year and went straight to the 3rd year. I liked school but after a traumatic experience at boarding school, I lost interest in and stopped paying attention, after that my marks were average. To deal with the situation, I started drawing. I was kind of good at it and received positive treatment or rewards such as my teacher printing my drawings for everyone to colour in, or people giving me attention (I also grew up in a culture where "children must be seen but never heard", so it was more impactful). Well, skip forward to my final year, I had to decide what profession to get into. I was deciding between Psychology or Archaeology when I became expectant with my daughter, and so thought I should better take Psychology, but when I went to enrol at Uni, there was no space and that's when my guardian suggested law.   After completing the year, I faced two challenges, one was that I did not have the finances to study the next year, and two my feelings towards law were pretty negative  - I perceived it as an inadequate attempt to establish justifications within a flawed system. So, I ended up doing a short study in Public Relations, and there is where I discovered that I really liked media and creating media kits. After that, I went for an aptitude evaluation at my local university. Their advice was to study design, which I resisted at first because I did not want to become "a starving artist", but because I had no real vision for the future, I took the advice. My focus was on Corporate Identity which marries with PR in many ways, but I mainly worked on digital projects after my studies.  After working in digital for 3 years I realised that I had more talents and additional interests and so started growing towards product/project management and UX. And the rest I guess is history. WHAT WAS THE REASON YOU WANTED TO START BUILDING THE "DESIGN IN FOCUS" WEBSITE /PLATFORM? There were many influences in starting Design in Focus. It would make more sense to understand that what the platform is today is not what I started with, but more of something that evolved. Last February I registered my company StormCIS and built a website for it. As an Identity Experience creative, I was planning a podcast with someone to help him elevate his professional digital presence in order to get hired. Next to that I also made a connection with someone who organised a conference who wanted to cocreate on podcasts. Things didn't quite work out as planned and so I started reworking the concept. I used my own experiences to conceptualise a product that would be able to solve some of it, and I also listened to what my stakeholders had to say.As a designer, I've had to create portfolios throughout my career and as a digital / web designer, I needed to showcase my capabilities. So I guess if we strip it down all the way to the core, then building websites is just something that is an average activity for designers. However, I found it very challenging to create a portfolio because that tends to serve only the owner, and because of some of my background, I found it difficult to care for or nurture myself only, which meant that I was never satisfied with anything I made. But knowing that I exist and that my situation existed, I thought "What if someone else has this challenge", and so started working on a concept that could be beneficial to any creative, innovator and or designer. The platform is growing continuously and I keep conceptualising solutions to common problems.You can read more about this in an article I wrote here. YOUR QUOTE IS "EMOTION IS THE PALETTE OF THE SOUL", WHAT DOES THAT MEAN TO YOU PROFESSIONALLY? That is a very layered quote that impacts a few key areas. Firstly of course from an experience design perspective, how the person engaging with the design perceives the value of doing so is an integral aspect of my profession. From a brand perspective, the leveraging of human behaviour, which is mainly governed by emotion, tends to be the foundation of a company's communication and products / services they develop. So professionally emotion is an integral part of my work.Then there is the personal layer. Having survived a thing or two and experiencing life in different roles, I am all too familiar with how emotion shapes the existential experience. As much torment as I have endured as a victim and a mother, I also would not change it because I value the good emotions that my child has brought into my life. As much anger and resentment as I've felt due to unfair situations, I also feel a certain level of accomplishment for coming through. NOT ASKING FOR MORE by the way! The extremes between emotions which are so fantastic that one seeks to maintain for as long as possible and the emotions which make you wish that life itself would come to an end, has given me an understanding of humanity and myself which I see as a living painting of exchanges that reveals a rich and vibrant notion of creativity and the creative nature of life. There are also a few different angles which weigh it in different perspectives. Even as professionals and entrepreneurs, we are every bit as exposed to the effects of emotional manipulation as everyone else. So somewhere between the professional and personal, there is an interconnectivity that cannot be avoided. There really is a lot more to be said and a few cases that I could mention that tell the stories associated with this, but that is too much for an article. I presented my talk on the Human Connection last week and there has been a request to share it on LinkedIn, which you can watch here. HOW DO YOU THINK WE CAN HELP TO CHANGE THE "OLD WAY OF THINKING AROUND EMOTION IN THE WORK PLACE"? There is no easy answer because of the extent to which emotion drives business, politics, education and every other aspect of our behaviour. Recently I discovered a whole collective of professionals spanning in the thousands who are doing what they can to make changes through ethics, human-centered design, accessibility and a lot more. If you read my article about AI & Ethics  then you will notice just how complex a topic such as ethics can be. To try to find some tangible and effective solutions, I've just launched the #ImpactCollective last month, which is a listing page of professionals who are engaging in conversations and building awareness of some of the biggest challenges we face. Our first Northstar is Dr Robert Kozma, author of Make The World a Better Place, Design With Passion, purpose and Values, released earlier this year, pretty much at the same time as Don Norman has released his book Design For A Better World. You can find a conversation between the two in the #ImpactCollective portal here, and there will be more to come. On the Experience portals you may find Trine Falbe , founder of the Ethical Design Network, and we've also created events such as Design For Good ,  Design for Accessibility and coming up this summer, Design for Tomorrow There are a lot more happening under the bonnet, but as I am also doing so many other things and with limited resources, it may still take a while to surface. (Volunteers are highly valued, hint hint, wink wink) What I can say is that from my first talk with Trine early last year to where I am today, I have somewhat more trust in humanity. When I first spoke to Trine, I had tremendous respect for her work and balls to take on this delicate matter but told myself to not focus on this kind of topic too much because of the penalties we pay as professionals, especially when we are in vulnerable positions as I had been, just is not worth the effort. But earlier this year when I was organising the Design for Good event, I saw a different perspective. Although I've seen the emergence of CID professionals taking charge, I am all too aware of the interconnectivity of things.The systematic structure that rendered law hypocritical bs to me, is evident not only in law and design, but in a lot of other areas too. I think if we were to ever hope to create change, then first we must call a spade a spade and honestly reflect on the totality of cause and effect. Based on the themes of the above-mentioned professionals and activities, for me, it is pretty evident that there is enough of a force to incentivise professionals to address these challenges, but with that also comes buzzwords and terms. So, it is very very complex! For me the lens to look through that might yield the most impact is through the value we place on human emotion. Personally, I highly value business which is rooted in exchange of value. I love fine art, jewellery, luxurious homes and furniture, I love my amenities such as clean water, electricity and telecoms. I think business is super important because none of this would be possible without it, but I also believe it to have been perverted due to profit pushing at all cost. I think certain sectors must never be privatised or profit-driven, especially when those industries are involved with aspects that are integral to human survival and thriving. WHAT BENEFITS DO YOU THINK COMPANIES CAN GAIN FROM THIS? Well, that depends on the companies. some companies would not be able to survive were it not for the human violations. I'm not really sure how to shortly explain fully, but the structures that enable their existence have been put in place through loopholes and conceptual justifications created by those who profit from it. Next to that, there are not always many options for alternatives. Just recently I was in a group conversation where someone said that those wanting to make valuable changes in the world should volunteer and work for good causes. It sounded ridiculous to me. In my eyes, those who are solving real issues and delivering solutions should be the most rewarded, not work for free or for scraps. I think if we start building businesses based on the foundation of exchanging value, then it would change the landscape completely. Many companies use the buzz term design thinking, and designers have long been involved in the reward aspect of creating value. And yet, at the same time, some companies really miss the mark in understanding that design is meant to creatively solve problems, more than to create problems to force compliance.That said, there are companies that exchange value and do profit from being human-centric. Trust and loyalty is one massive metric that yields bountiful harvests. Ok, we all know this, that is why it is exploited by harnessing the darker aspects of humans and human emotion, but at the same time sports and academic achievement is as high as ever. What this tells me is that we do have the desire to feel victorious and with that, I think we can rely on a metric of achievement to benefit from how we measure success. I think if we centre our businesses around building legacies instead of bank accounts, then we will really reap the benefits. Because we go through quite a lot of conformist validations throughout our educational backgrounds, we are often more able to just do a thing, than to actually be original and unique. Add luxury mindset and power struggles to the mix, and you end up with the economy we have today, which if we were competent and able, would be less volatile and we would see less recessions and economic disasters. Applying more human-centric techniques and solutions would enable us to build stronger economies and cement our positions as true champions in business. Maybe companies are satisfied with ephemeral accomplishments, but I personally believe that winning business champs are akin to a house with a strong foundation. It can stand its ground for a really long time and survive the worst weather while offering comfort and reassurance.   Thanks, Candice! You rock 🀘 Interview by Cameron Daniel

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Namrata Sarmah | INTO University Partnerships
WOMEN ROCK2023-07-04

Namrata Sarmah | INTO University Partnerships

ED&I. Many people can talk the talk, but can they walk the walk? The proof is in the pudding - or hiring in this case. Meet Nam. Nam is the Chief Product Officer at INTO University Partnerships – a global higher education company that works with 30+ top universities in the UK, US, and Australia to help recruit international students from 70+ countries for undergrad and postgrad degree programmes. She has also built a diverse product team at INTO made up of folk representing 10+ nationalities and languages and a 50/50 split in terms of gender diversity, she runs a community group of 500+ called "Women in Product UK" AND is also a Founding Member of Chief in the UK - phew.  To say she knows a thing or two about ED&I in the tech industry is the understatement of the year... As you can imagine, Nam has insane amounts of insight and advice on creating a more diverse workforce, so if you're looking to break into the industry or are a company looking to enjoy the huge amounts of benefits in hiring a diverse team - read on! It may be the start of something amazing...   KICKING THINGS OFF, CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT WHAT YOU DO AT INTO UNIVERSITY PARTNERSHIPS? I work as a Chief Product Officer at INTO University Partnerships – a global higher education company. We work with 30+ top universities in the UK, US, and Australia who we help in recruiting international students from 70+ countries for undergrad and postgrad degree programmes. We help students throughout their academic and career journeys. I’m accountable for INTO’s digital platforms, digital experiences, and our student employability business.  STARTING AT THE BEGINNING OF YOUR CAREER, HOW DID YOU GET INTO THE INDUSTRY? I started my career as a software engineer, the first 1-2 years of my career was focused on tech only. I didn’t know about product management at that time; it wasn’t a structured discipline. I entered the world of product management after my MBA, it was a chance encounter, a bit of an experiment. Product management was quite new in the UK at that time (circa 2013), so not many companies had a product team. I saw this as an opportunity!  AS A WOMAN IN TECHNOLOGY, HAVE YOU FACED ANY CHALLENGES OR BARRIERS IN YOUR CAREER? Entry wasn’t a challenge, but I had no role models. Most of my bosses have been male. During my early career, I was often part of the CTO org, there was no CPO role. I’ve been lucky as most of my managers have been quite helpful, but I always yearned for a female role model. There was no structured career path either, I learnt a lot of things by doing. Things were different few a years ago, the product community wasn’t as big as it is today, and the support network was small too, especially for women in tech.  WHAT DOES DIVERSITY MEAN TO YOU AND WHY DO YOU THINK IT’S IMPORTANT? Diversity should be at the top of any leader’s agenda, especially for product leaders as we build products for such a wide audience; our users can be anywhere in the world. Our users are diverse, this means that the teams building products must be diverse too. I am very happy to say that my current team is very diverse, we are about 50/50 in terms of gender diversity, and we represent 10+ nationalities and languages. We have been successful in building a very diverse team, this was my goal when I joined the company.  IT SOUNDS LIKE YOU HAVE BEEN PRETTY SUCCESSFUL AT EMPLOYING DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION WITHIN INTO. THIS IS SOMETHING MANY COMPANIES WITHIN THE INDUSTRY ARE TRYING TO IMPROVE ON. WHAT DO YOU THINK CAN BE DONE TO HELP ATTRACT A MORE DIVERSE MIX OF PEOPLE INTO TECH? First, having a diverse senior/executive team is very important, even at the board level. It all starts at the top! Role modelling plays a big role when it comes to building diverse teams. My advice to other companies would be to look at your board and exec team and challenge them on diversity. This is important if a company wants to attract diverse talent. This has happened to me personally, and I feel proud and grateful that I tend to attract diverse candidates for jobs in my team.  But what matters more is inclusion and belonging. Hiring diverse talent is much easier than keeping them for the long term. People need to feel included and have a sense of belonging and for a company to be a safe and positive place to work.  IF YOU COULD GIVE ADVICE TO SOMEONE FROM AN UNDERREPRESENTED BACKGROUND WHO’S THINKING OF GETTING INTO THE TECH INDUSTRY, WHAT WOULD THAT BE? Knowledge is power! My advice would be to upskill yourself and work hard to achieve your goals. There is so much free knowledge and resources around. There are several certification & training programs that can also make the entry into tech industry feasible. Internships are a great way to enter the sector of your choice. As a person of colour, one thing I have learnt is that “we must work twice as hard to get half as far”. This means there is no time to waste, just keep going… WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPIEST IN YOUR FREE TIME? Oh, that’s very easy to answer. Playing with my two kids makes me very happy. I’ve got 2 cheeky boys aged 5 years and 7 months. Every little spare time that I get is devoted to them.  WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE QUOTE OR A QUOTE YOU LIVE/WORK BY? I’ve had one favourite quote throughout my life since my school days, I don’t know where I heard it from originally. It goes  “Give the world the best you have, and the best will come back to you”. I live my life based on this mantra. I like to give, and I give without expecting anything in return. I know that the universe will pay me back in some shape or form if I truly deserve it.  TO ROUND THINGS OFF, IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU WOULD LIKE TO COVER? I would like to mention my community group “Women in Product UK” which is very close to my heart. This group has been going strong since 2020, and we have 500+ members now. It’s completely free to join! So, if you are reading this interview and you are a product manager or an aspiring product manager, please do join this group. It’s available on LinkedIn, Facebook, and WhatsApp and you can find the LinkedIn group here.   Thanks, Nam, you rock 🀘 Interview by Annie Everitt

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Tanmaya Kulkarni | Henry Schein One
WOMEN ROCK2023-06-27

Tanmaya Kulkarni | Henry Schein One

Last Friday it was ‘International Women in Engineering Day’ and we celebrated all the amazing female engineers within the Women Rock community. So, this week’s guest on the blog: Software Engineering Manager Tanmaya is extremely fitting, and we are thrilled to have her join our growing network. Tanmaya always knew she wanted to be in computer engineering and strongly believes the support and encouragement from her family and colleagues has played dividends in her successes within the industry – did we mention she was listed as a finalist for the "Women in IT" award for her outstanding contributions to leading a team and delivering tangible business returns in 2023?  Now being a parent herself to twins – one boy and one girl, Tanmaya uses her own experiences to make sure she fosters an environment that promotes equality – there are no ‘pink and blue jobs’ in the Kulkarni household!  FROM BEING PLACED INTO INFOSYS DURING YOUR STUDIES IN THE EARLY 2000S, TO BECOMING A TOP 50 SOFTWARE ENGINEERING LEADER 2023 & WORKING WITH RENOWNED COMPANY XERO, HOW HAS YOUR JOURNEY BEEN INTO TECH & BEYOND? I grew up in Pune, a famous city in India, and from a young age, I was interested in technology and fascinated by how computers worked. As I grew older, I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in computer engineering. I am proud to be the first girl in my family to pursue engineering, and I received exceptional support from my parents, who encouraged me to pursue my dreams and provided me with the resources I needed to succeed. I also credit my husband, who is a Software programme manager, for being a constant source of support and inspiration throughout my journey. During my studies in computer engineering, I spent long hours in the computer lab, writing code and debugging programs. I also took part in extracurricular activities such as coding competitions and hackathons to hone my skills and gain experience. After graduation, I worked with multinational tech companies in India such as Infosys and Persistent for a few years. During this time, I learned a lot, working on various projects and collaborating with a team of developers. In 2008, I moved to the UK to join my husband, who was posted there on a deputation. Soon after, I landed a job at EADS Astrium, now known as Airbus Defence and Space. I was excited about the opportunity to work in the space industry in a new country and learn from world-class colleagues. I quickly proved myself to be a talented developer, writing clean, efficient code and delivering projects on time. Over the years, I changed companies and continued to advance my career in the UK, taking on engineering leadership roles managing teams of developers and ensuring that projects were completed to a high standard. I found this role challenging but rewarding, as I enjoyed mentoring and coaching my team members and helping them grow their skills. I became known for my technical expertise, leadership skills, and ability to deliver high-quality projects. In 2021, I joined Xero, a leading SaaS provider for accounting and bookkeeping software, where I lead a cross-functional team of engineers, designers, and product managers. In 2023, I was listed as a finalist for the "Women in IT" award for my outstanding contributions to leading a team and delivering tangible business returns. In the same year, I was also listed as one of the "top 50 software engineering leaders to watch." Looking back on my journey, I am proud of what I have accomplished. I credit my success to my hard work, determination, and passion for technology. I also recognize the importance of having a supportive family and colleagues who have helped me along the way. I am excited about the future of women in technology and look forward to continuing to make an impact in the field of software engineering. WITH 11-YEAR-OLD TWINS (A BOY AND A GIRL) AT HOME, YOU HAVE WITNESSED FIRST-HAND HOW CHILDREN ARE EXPOSED TO GENDER STEREOTYPES FROM DAY 1. CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THE WAYS IN WHICH YOU PROMOTE EQUALITY AT HOME? My husband and I are both work in software engineering and we both share the household chores equally. Growing up in such a family setup reflects in children’s behaviour naturally. We do not have the pink vs blue in our household - since a very young age, both have been encouraged to equally play with dolls and construction toys. We are selective when it comes to which books to read and shows to watch. In the holidays, the twins are given small chores to do at home to foster the environment that promotes equality. WHAT HAVE YOUR KIDS TAUGHT YOU ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF EMBRACING DIFFERENCE (WHEN IT COMES TO DIFFERENT APPROACHES ETC.)? The dynamic between my twins never ceases to amaze me, as their unique ways of thinking complement each other beautifully. To illustrate this, both of them are currently learning the programming language Python. My son takes a systematic and methodical approach to his assignments, ensuring that the program is robust and comprehensive. Meanwhile, my daughter adds a touch of usability to her projects, incorporating a user-friendly interface along with solving the core problem at hand. Witnessing their distinct approaches to the same task is a constant source of wonder, and I often imagine the incredible projects they'll create together in the future. Moreover, I'm grateful for the alternative perspective my daughter brings to programming, and I can't imagine what I would have missed if I had discouraged her from pursuing this field. IS THERE ANYTHING THAT YOU DO, AS A HIRING MANAGER/INTERVIEW PANELLIST, TO PROMOTE DIVERSITY WITHIN YOUR TEAMS? Making the hiring process inclusive and fair to all applicants regardless of their background is the key to hiring diverse talent. As a hiring manager, I ensure that wordings in job postings are inclusive and welcoming to diverse candidates. Additionally, I take steps to train the interview panel to recognize and eliminate unconscious biases during interviews. Wherever possible, I like to include at least one of the underrepresented groups, such as women, people of colour, and people with disabilities on the interview panel. During interviews, I emphasise the values and culture of our team. This approach has proven to be effective in attracting a diverse pool of candidates. HAVING MOVED TO THE UK FROM INDIA, YOU TALK ABOUT THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE TWO CULTURES, AND HOW INDIA REMAINS MORE PROGRESSIVE THAN THE UK WITH REGARD TO DIVERSITY RATIOS. IS THERE ANYTHING WE CAN LEARN FROM THE INDIAN CULTURE, TO FOLLOW IN THEIR FOOTSTEPS? To better comprehend why India has a greater proportion of women in STEM than the UK, it is essential to analyse the contrasting approaches to recruiting women in IT and the cultural perspectives surrounding the technology industry in both countries.  In India, fresh graduates from a range of STEM disciplines, including technology, are recruited by companies directly from universities. The recruitment process, including exams and interviews, takes place on campus, and successful candidates receive on-the-job training before working on live projects. Conversely, in the UK, I see students are more likely to attend job fairs and often need to gain additional training or experience before joining firms that are difficult to access. Apart from recruitment strategies, the cultural environment in India is more welcoming to women in the technology industry than in the UK. In the UK, stereotypes about the types of individuals who typically fill technology roles can discourage girls from considering technology careers at a young age. In India, women are regarded as an indispensable part of the technology industry, and many pursue technology careers due to their passion for the field. Women in India are exposed to media such as adverts, brochures, and public billboards featuring other women in the technology industry, which serve as role models. In the UK, the lack of role models in the technology industry is a significant problem that even young women have voiced concern about. Furthermore, there needs to be a mindset shift among parents and teachers to eliminate gender stereotyping of STEM subjects. WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO GET UP TO OUTSIDE OF WORK? When I'm not working, I spend a lot of time driving my twins to their various activities. In my free time, I enjoy exploring my creative side through arts and crafts such as quilling and acrylic painting. Additionally, I have a passion for cooking and love trying out new recipes to satisfy my inner foodie. IS THERE A MANTRA THAT YOU LIVE BY? I would like to mention two quotes that really resonate. "The only way to do great work is to love what you do." - Steve JobsThe quote highlights the importance of finding work that you're passionate about, as this can be a key driver for achieving greatness in your field "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together." - African proverbIt reminds me that working together can lead to more significant achievements that can have a greater impact - while working alone might be faster but may not necessarily lead to long-term success.   Thanks, Tanmaya you rock 🀘 Interview by Izzy Morgan-Davis  

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Violet Snell | iProov
WOMEN ROCK2023-06-20

Violet Snell | iProov

Uncomfortable thoughts and questions are often the unwelcome visitors in our minds that we try to silence or avoid. There is of course no harm in this avoidance, however in order to learn more about ourselves, sometimes we have to let them in and address them. When it comes to job interviews, we'll probably find these thoughts creeping in and then if we are unsuccessful in the application it seems like these feelings have been validated. But it's how we learn and grow from this, that matters. Violet Snell, Head of Platform AI at iProov urges us to always ask for feedback when an application is unsuccessful - to get perspective and shape how we can adapt to move forward - especially in the tech industry. A self-proclaimed engineer, Violet thrives on the prospect of building useful things to help others. As a woman in the computer vision space, she hopes for a bigger female candidate pool and thinks this can only be achieved if companies take a more holistic approach to hiring, by involving changes in company culture and recruitment practices. HI VIOLET! PLEASE COULD YOU START BY TELLING US ABOUT YOUR STORY SO FAR? I have worked in tech since my teens, first as a programmer, then gradually specialising in image processing algorithms such as compression and eventually moving into computer vision. I have done both academia and industry but continue to self-identify as an engineer whatever my job title. To me, engineers are people who build useful things that ultimately help others. I really enjoy passing on my accumulated knowledge and supporting the next generation in learning how to make their contribution to the world. WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE WOMEN STARTING OUT IN TECH? Do not be afraid. You are perfectly capable of doing this. Just keep practising and the mastery, and its recognition, will come. DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEAS ON HOW COMPANIES CAN REMOVE BIAS FROM AN INTERVIEW PROCESS TO MAKE SURE EVERYONE HAS A LEVEL PLAYING FIELD? Ensure that interview panels always include at least one woman and listen to their view. This also provides a great step-up opportunity for less experienced staff. WHAT CHALLENGES HAVE YOU FACED HIRING WOMEN IN COMPUTER VISION? The very basic challenge of a tiny number of candidates. Their standard may be high, but they often have heavily academic backgrounds which are difficult to transition into industry. WHY DO YOU BELIEVE THESE CHALLENGES AFFECT COMPUTER VISION MORE SO THAN OTHER AREAS OF DS/ML? As a guess, it could be the association with more 'nerdy' areas such as optics and robotics, in other words being more closely related to hardware and greasy overalls than the more abstract and mathematical vibe of general ML and DS. This image (ha-ha) is not true: pixels are features like any others, just a bit more strongly correlated. And the visuals are so much better ;-) WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE TO WOMEN CONSIDERING APPLYING FOR ROLES BUT WHO MIGHT HAVE RESERVATIONS? If your reservations are about the merits of your prospective employer or their line of business - listen to them most attentively, and make sure to resolve them if you do go ahead. If, on the other hand, your doubts are about your own merits - there is never harm in trying. By seeking feedback on any unsuccessful application, you can learn highly valuable information about yourself, how your skill set is viewed from different application standpoints, what does or doesn't fit, and what you could do to change things. This information is critical to finding the right direction for you but can only be obtained by evaluating a rich range of options. And this does require making contact with the enemy potential new friend. IS THERE A MANTRA OR QUOTE THAT YOU LIVE BY OR JUST LIKE? I strive for balance, maintaining which is a never-ending task. And the best quote about that is: “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” Albert Einstein   Thanks, Violet! You rock 🀘 Interview by Jamie Forgan

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Tobi Olowu | Diversifying Agencies
WOMEN ROCK2023-06-12

Tobi Olowu | Diversifying Agencies

One of the best ways to improve ED&I within the tech industry is to talk about it at grassroots level and make sure the next generation of tech professionals are aware of the huge breadth of roles available to them and inspire young individuals from diverse backgrounds to pursue careers in tech, to create a pipeline of talent that reflects the world we live in. As a recruitment agency that feels so strongly about this, partnering up with Diversifying Agencies was a complete no-brainer for us. Diversifying Agencies was born to help recruiters like us, help fix the ED&I issue within the tech industry. So this week we are chatting with Tobi Olowu, Account Executive at Diversifying Agencies and an incredible young individual passionate about equity, diversity, and inclusion.  Tobi is an artist, has her own business customising clothes and quotes Burna Boy, aka she's fabulous and we LOVED chatting with her... HI TOBI! COULD YOU START BY TELLING US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF, WHERE DID YOUR PASSION FOR ED&I BEGIN? HOW YOU BECAME A PART OF DIVERSIFYING AGENCIES? Hi! My name is Tobi, and I’m a 26-year-old Black woman living in the UK. I currently work as an Account Executive for Diversifying Agencies. Where my passion for ED&I began is very simple – I have lived my whole life as a Black woman. Being a woman and Black brings not just one but two challenges. It also gives me the drive and passion to want to make a change in the world we live in, to be accepted without having to put up a fight all the time - not just for myself but for everyone. I came across Diversifying Agencies by scrolling through LinkedIn one night while I was looking for a new job! I saw the job advert and it was exactly what I was looking for in a role, so I started looking into the company and read up on their mission and values. And I thought to myself, why wouldn’t I want to be a part of such a great movement and be able to achieve something like this at a time in my career? I went through the interview process, which was a great experience, and was successful in getting the role! CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT HOW AND WHY DIVERSIFYING AGENCIES WAS CREATED? Diversifying Agencies was co-founded by the amazing Cynthia Davis and Luke Davis, who both have extensive experience in the recruitment industry. They’d previously created two other job boards for employers to advertise roles directly but realised there was nothing out there specifically for recruitment agencies. As more and more employers are asking for proof of inclusive recruitment practices and diverse shortlists, it is SO important for recruitment agencies to show how they are proactively supporting diversity and inclusion. So that’s where Diversifying Agencies was born. We believe recruiters have a massive role to play in moving ED&I forward, so we’ve worked hard to create a safe space and a real community for recruitment professionals to exchange opinions and ideas as they grow. We provide them with the tools they need to make recruitment more representative and inclusive. This means that we only work with agencies and consultants who truly care about making a difference and who are willing to commit to adopting inclusive recruitment practices and advocating for ED&I with their clients. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY ARE DIVERSIFYING AGENCIES MOST SUCCESSFUL METHODS WHEN SUPPORTING ORGANISATIONS ON THEIR JOURNEY TO INCLUSIVE WORKING? One of our guiding principles is that ED&I is about “widening the gate, not lowering the bar”. To us, diverse recruitment is about broadening the talent pool from which candidates are sourced so that we can find the best person for the job, regardless of their background – and it’s something we teach every single one of our partners. We believe it’s all about education, so we offer tailored guidance and support to each of our partners, as well as exclusive ED&I resources and learning materials to support agencies (and their clients) on their journey to building a fairer and more inclusive world of work. Another really successful avenue, in my opinion, is how we connect with our partners on a personal, human level, with a dedicated Account Executive attending to their journey at every step. I love working directly with inclusive recruiters and creating that sense of community! CLEARLY, DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION IS SOMETHING YOU ARE PASSIONATE ABOUT, WHAT DO YOU THINK CAN BE DONE TO HELP ATTRACT A MORE DIVERSE MIX OF PEOPLE INTO THE TECH INDUSTRY - OR ANY INDUSTRY FOR THAT MATTER?! Every organisation first needs to commit to their ED&I journey – it doesn’t matter if you’ve just started or if you’re not “doing ED&I” perfectly yet, what matters is that you’re showing an interest in making a difference for people of all backgrounds and committing to support a diverse talent pool. Once candidates see that you’re making the effort, they’ll be more likely to trust you and want to join your organisation – or your industry as a whole. If you don’t know where to start, reach out to ED&I organisations (like Diversifying Group and Diversifying Agencies!) – there are tons of experts out there whose mission is to support companies and give them the tools to better themselves. It can be hard to find that diverse talent pool if you don’t know where to look, so don’t hesitate to reach out to people who can help. AS A WOMAN OF COLOUR, HAVE YOU EXPERIENCED ANY CHALLENGES AND BARRIERS IN YOUR CAREER? As a woman of colour, I would say yes, I have experienced challenges and barriers in my career but not to the great extent I would say many others have experienced. I think I have been quite lucky in not being exposed to too many negative impacts from being a woman of colour, but what I can say is I have felt like at times I have been picked for a tick box exercise more than for my actual experiences and skills I have gained. Other times I have felt I have been treated fairly by my other counterparts. I have had to take other measures to be treated fairly, for example changing my name on my CV, so It’s not discarded to the side because it’s ‘too hard to pronounce’. WHAT IS YOUR PROUDEST ACHIEVEMENT IN YOUR CAREER SO FAR AND ALSO PERSONALLY? My proudest achievement in my career, to be honest, is this job that I am currently in now as an Account Executive at Diversifying Agencies! I feel like I have come such a long way in such a short time in this role, more than I ever have in any other job in my life. This job challenges me in many ways, but it’s also helping me grow, and I’m very grateful for that. In my personal life, my proudest achievement is my side hustle as an artist. I’ve loved to draw from a very young age and even though I stopped during university, I picked it up again during the pandemic. I started my own small business customising clothing during the pandemic too, and I have been able to sell my own work. It took a lot for me to come out of my shell and do such a big thing but I’m so happy I took the leap of faith and did it. Check my work out here! WHO WOULD YOU SAY INSPIRES YOU? THIS COULD BE A COLLEAGUE, FAMILY MEMBER, FRIEND OR CELEBRITY. I always find this to be a tricky question! I feel like everyone else can say what inspires them off the top of their head, but I always have to sit there and think before I can answer. I’d say what inspires me changes frequently to whatever is motivating me at the time to do better. For example, If I can see my peers doing great things in their field, it just makes me want to do better. But if I had to choose one, it would definitely be my parents. I admire them very much and they inspire me every day - how strong they are, their resilience, their work ethic… I could go on. I am the person I am today because of them. WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPIEST IN YOUR FREE TIME? What makes me happy in my spare time is drawing and painting. I would consider myself to be a street artist. I love street art, graffiti, and old-school art. I recently went to the ‘Beyond the Streets’ art exhibition in London which featured some really dope artists and I felt like I was in heaven. Drawing feels peaceful to me, and I love being able to just get carried away with my creativity. WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE QUOTE OR A QUOTE YOU LIVE/WORK BY? My favourite quotes always change throughout my life, to be honest. It really depends on what stage I am in my life or what’s going on in my personal or work life. But right now, my favourite quote is by Burna Boy: “I can’t come and kill myself!” (a common Nigerian saying). This means that no matter what is going on in my life, especially situations I have no control over, I can’t stress myself over it and make myself potentially ill and allow it to affect my mental health. I’d rather take things one day at a time and do what I can but not stretch myself. I’m only one person!   Thanks, Tobi! You rock 🀘Interview by Sophie Eadon

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