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!

 “Be the change you want to see!” – An interview with Ebony Allison
WOMEN ROCK2022-06-07

“Be the change you want to see!” – An interview with Ebony Allison

Want to break the mould? Want to make real change? Want to smash the status quo?Jacob spoke to the incredibly gifted and talented Ebony Allison about her the beginnings of her story in Engineering, her challenges, what we can do to implement real change to an aging industry and a lot more.It was both parts insightful and inspiring to hear the almost nonchalant attitude to Ebony making waves in the Engineering world and we cannot wait to see how her story grows through the years as she innovates and inspires the future!This one’s definitely worth a read to make you smile through this unfortunately grey and wet summer! WHAT WAS THE MOMENT YOU REALISED YOU WANTED A CAREER IN TECH?I really didn’t have a plan, I tend to live life on a whim and just go with what I feel like in the moment, I didn’t fully realise that I was classed as tech or stem until already working in it. I chose to study maths and physics at A-level without knowing what careers could come from it, it wasn’t until I met with a careers advisor at college that he told me to consider engineering which I’d never heard of. I then went on a ‘gifted and talented’ trip to Newcastle University where I soldered together a heartbeat monitor – which was my first time soldering! I hadn’t even heard of soldering. From this point onwards I decided to study electronic engineering at university which naturally led me to a career in tech starting with robotics but now I’m in consumer electronics in the R&D team.MOST INFLUENTIAL PERSON/PERSONS IN YOUR EARLY CAREER?I didn’t have any particular role models as I didn’t actually meet any engineers until I was already working in the industry. I just knew in myself what I wanted to study and the fear of failure is what gave me motivation. I just really enjoyed learning about electronics and knew that my best chance at success needs to be in something I enjoy otherwise I’d get bored. Also, being constantly told not to do electronics because I don’t fit in was the cherry on the cake to keep me motivated in low moments.WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO UNDERREPRESENTED MINORITIES AND FEMALES TO INSPIRE THEM TO PURSUE A CAREER IN TECH/ENGINEERING?I think the one main selling point in engineering/tech is that your skills can do the talking. For example, if your hardware/code works, it works, no one can take that away from you! Being a minority in this old-fashioned industry can be extremely difficult and tiring but I use it as motivation to get better at my skills so no one can complain and say I’m not good at what I do. We can’t control other people’s attitudes so it’s important to not let their negativity dull your shine because you’re the one that will suffer, we have every right to work in an industry that we enjoy and there are so many supportive people; the aim is to not let the loud old-fashioned minority stop you from pursuing your career.WHAT DO YOU THINK WE CAN DO TO REALLY ACCELERATE THESE CHANGES IN IT/ENGINEERING?I think companies should put in effort to show support for change, be vocal about the lack of diversity as a lot of people don’t really understand that there is a problem. Companies need to speak to their minorities employees about how it feels to work in the company as the percentage of women that stay in the industry longer than two years is still very low. I think for the younger generation it is important when running STEM activities to have mixed-gender groups so from early the younger generation are used to working alongside the opposite gender to abolish the notion that boys are better at maths and science.WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR DOWN TIME?In my spare time I like to practice self-care haha.. love a face mask, fruit tea and a Netflix binge and TikTok crawl or the opposite; doing my makeup and going out for food and drinks with friends.Thanks so much Ebony… you rock! #womenrockInterview by Jacob CookA voice for diversity in Tech & Engineering <3I: @womenrockbristolT: @womenrockbrstl

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 “Trying to not compare your life to others can be incredibly freeing” Interview with Kim Palmer | Clementine
WOMEN ROCK2022-05-24

“Trying to not compare your life to others can be incredibly freeing” Interview with Kim Palmer | Clementine

Women Rock Ambassador Sophie is fascinated with alternative therapy and tech when it comes to mental health and wellbeing so when she chatted with Kim Palmer, Founder of the Clementine App, she was in her element!Clementine is an app by women, for women who struggle with anxiety and all that it brings – insomnia, low self-esteem or just overwhelmed with the daily grind. The app has amazing tools- all based on a range of hypnotherapy sessions and courses, that help build confidence and reduce anxiety and BOSS life!HEY KIM! SO EXCITED TO MEET YOU AND FIND OUT MORE ABOUT YOUR JOURNEY AND HOW CLEMENTINE CAME ABOUT. CAN YOU START BY TELLING ME A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOU?Well first off I’m a kiwi, I moved to England back in 2006 so I’ve been here for yonks but I hold a lot of strong values from growing up in NZ. My husband and I have two young boys – Louis and Kingsley so we have a very chaotic and busy home life – it’s very noisy. Before starting Clementine I spent most of my career working in consumer loyalty marketing – working for some well known household brands like Tesco. To fast forward a little, it was when I was working at a Tesco owned start-up called Blinkbox that I had a rather epic mental health breakdown. I started experiencing panic attacks (whilst I was pregnant) and ended up going into a dark hole for a few years where I totally lost my voice and my confidence. It was when I found hypnotherapy that I started to get better and this became part of my inspiration many years later to start Clementine.SORRY TO HEAR THAT AND ABSOLUTE PROPS TO YOU FOR SEEKING HELP AND USING THIS EXPERIENCE TO CREATE THIS INCREDIBLE PLATFORM. CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THE CLEMENTINE JOURNEY SO FAR?Sure thing, well it was at the beginning of 2016 that I started to think about taking a different path in my career and one that might lead to me being able to be my own boss and work more flexibly. I also really felt it was time to make some impact in the world and that’s when I decided to start a side hustle. I spent 9 months building Clementine whilst I was still working and launched the app onto iOS in Nov 2017. I absolutely loved having something else to focus on and it was sort of like having another baby. My husband and I fully funded the project and I spent the next two years learning everything I could (making lots of mistakes) about how to build a business. During this time we managed to secure some great support from Apple (we were app of the day twice) and coverage in a lot of press (The Guardian, Telegraph, Stylist etc) and the community started to grow.It was in 2019 that I felt that I could no longer keep working, support two children and run Clementine – I was left feeling very burnt out. So it was crunch time to make a decision about whether to go any further with Clementine and well, that’s when I quit my job. I knew the first job to do was to raise some funds (not an easy task) and so it was after months and months of building a business plan and pitching that I secured our first £1m. I’ll fast forward a little. Today we have a team of 4 of us (that includes me) and we are trying to work out a sustainable way to grow our impact. It’s not easy but I do pinch myself every so often as it’s awesome to work on something that genuinely helps people and also a big one for me is to work in a way that suits my family too.AND CAN YOU PLEASE SHARE A LITTLE BIT ABOUT WHAT A TYPICAL DAY IS LIKE FOR YOU?We get up just before 7am. We all eat breakfast and sit down at the table together. This is an important ritual for me as it helps me to feel more grounded knowing that I know how everyone in the family is.My partner does the school drop off and when they leave I do some form of exercise – either a run or a walk most days. This is another important ritual for me as movement helps me to keep my mind feeling better.I start work around 9am – oh I should say that I work from home. During the day I try really hard not to do any housework as I find it really distracting. I almost always stop for lunch for 30minutes – and I’ll eat at our kitchen table away from my work. I do the kids pick up at 3.30pm and I don’t usually get back until after 5pm. En route I will do some homework with my eldest. Back at home either my partner and I will cook. Whilst dinner is getting ready we will do more homework or if it’s nicer weather go outside and throw a ball around with the kids.Dinner is early around 5.45pm and we all eat together as a family – again this is another ritual. Finding out how everyone is doing. It’s chaotic but I like it. A couple of nights a week I will have a bath with the kids – another ritual. I’ve found that this is the perfect time for my eldest to share what’s on his mind in a relaxing environment. A couple of nights a week I head to our local gym for boxing and lifting club. On the nights that I’m not at the gym then I do log back into work when the kids are in bed (7pm) and usually work for about 2.5 hours)Gosh writing that all seems a bit boring!NOT AT ALL! BUSY, BUT NOT BORING! WHAT DO YOU THINK WOMEN USE THE CLEMENTINE APP FOR MOST?Our most popular sessions are sleep by quite someway. But we know that a lot of women come to the app to help with their anxiety – which impacts sleep. So they start with sleep and then start to move onto our morning and pick me up sessions to build stronger mindsets.WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS THE BIGGEST MISCONCEPTION ABOUT HYPNOTHERAPY?That you are going to lose control of your thoughts and that you could end up clucking around like a chicken. It’s actually the complete opposite – you become more in control of your thoughts – we help you with the positive suggestions and the space to reconnect with your own thoughts in a super relaxing way, but you won’t lose control.WHY IS IT DO YOU THINK THAT WE HAVE SEEN SUCH A HUGE RISE IN ‘WELLTECH’ COMPANIES IN THE PAST 2-3 YEARS?I think there are a few reasons for this – unfortunately people aren’t turning to their GP’s for support for their mental wellbeing and so look elsewhere for support and because it’s so easy to search these days we have taken matters into our own hands when it comes to finding support. The narrative around mental health has changed dramatically in the past 5 years too. Moving from no one talking about it or even understanding what it was and how important it was to build strong mental health, to everyone talking about it and finally people realising that it’s just as important as our physical health. Then obviously technology has improved so that it’s easy for people like myself to build bespoke solutions without spending millions of dollars.IT’S NO SECRET THAT MANY WOMEN IN THE TECH INDUSTRY HAVE FELT THEIR GENDER HAS AFFECTED THE WAY THAT THEY ARE PERCEIVED OR TREATED. HAVE YOU EVER BEEN IN A SITUATION LIKE THAT? HOW DID YOU HANDLE IT?For me it’s been a lot more obvious when I became a mum. Questions from investors about the age of my children and assuming that perhaps I wouldn’t be able to cope. Questions about my working patterns and assuming that not working 9-5pm meant that I wasn’t fully committed.WHAT ARE YOUR PROUDEST ACHIEVEMENTS BOTH PERSONALLY AND PROFESSIONALLY?Hmmmm good question – I do feel quite proud of the way I managed to pivot my entire career and build a business that at it’s heart is trying to solve a massive problem. This makes me feel really proud.Personally I’m proud of how I’ve moved away from always striving for things like happiness, success, balance, perfection. Striving was a big part of why I developed such bad anxiety and panic attacks and now I realise that the key to feeling good is to focus on the everyday. Find joy in the small things that happen everyday and it does leave you feeling better.WHAT’S THE BEST PIECE OF ADVICE YOU HAVE EVER RECEIVED?This will sound a bit cheesy but it was a boss who told me to trust my intuition and to not always have to find the words to describe by intuition immediately. Step back and work out what it is that my intuition could be saying and then step back into situations and explain my POV. I always used to get lost for words when I was in situations where I felt overwhelmed by groups. But I would know deep down that I would have something valuable to say or a strong point of view but couldn’t quite speak.I THINK THERE’S A FEW OF US THAT CAN RELATE TO THAT. WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE WHO WAS THINKING ABOUT CHANGING A CAREER PATH THEY HAVE BEEN ON FOR MOST OF THEIR WORKING LIFE?Ok so honestly I’m not a huge believer in giving advice to other people. I kind of feel that everyone needs to find their own way, their own learnings and that. I suppose this idea of finding your own way could be deemed as advice. Trying to not compare your life to others can be incredibly freeing.IMPORTANT QUESTIONS: IF YOU WERE A SONG, WHAT WOULD IT BE? (WE’VE HAD EVERYTHING FROM SNOOP DOG TO CHAKA KHAN!)Oh that’s a super hard question. I do love Bohemian Rhapsody – I love how it has so many different parts to it like it’s made of so many different genres. I guess I feel like I’m a bit like that.FINALLY – ONE TOP TIP FOR THE WOMEN AT WOMEN ROCK ON HOW TO BOSS LIFE?!Don’t strive to boss life! Focus on what makes you feel good everyday and do more of that stuff and less of the stuff that makes you feel like shit.Amazing! Thanks Kim – you rock! And so does Clementine!If you think you would benefit from the Clementine App, you can download it from both the App Store and Goggle Play 

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Meet the Women Rock Ambassadors
WOMEN ROCK2022-05-17

Meet the Women Rock Ambassadors

I started Women Rock to create a movement, I wanted to let folk have a voice, I wanted to make a real change when it came to ED&I. I wanted Women Rock to have a positive change on our industry and for us all to share stories about careers, challenges and successes. Also to celebrate the awesome things companies are doing to attract, retain and promote diverse talent. Almost 4 years on Women Rock is doing everything it was set out to do but we’re not slowing down.I’m super proud of the Women Rock ambassador team who share the same passion as myself and who are out to make a change in the tech industry by supporting underrepresented folk. In 2021 our diversity placements were an awesome 46.3% which is well above industry standard. This year we want to increase this to over 50% and expand our reach, meet new folk, hear and share new stories + so much more, did someone say a festival……This is a group effort and would love to introduce the Women Rock ambassadors.I have to say, my favorite quote when chatting to the team came from Mr Steve Dalley, when asked ‘If you could change one thing about the world what would it be? ‘’Any confectionery item produced with chocolate and orange should be made a crime.’’ We were talking about ED&I but each to their own you orange hater! Lol! And in the spirit of ED&I we celebrate all varieties of chocolate – even coffee Revels…Keep rocking!SOPHIE – MARKETING AND COMMUNITY MANAGERWHAT DOES DIVERSITY MEAN TO YOU?Variety is the spice of life – an oldie but a goodie! But to me, diversity is exactly that – the spice of life, exciting and interesting. I love to learn from people of all walks of life and from a variety of backgrounds. I feel like diversity is something of a buzzword at the moment, and those companies that look at diversity as a trend will only miss out on the depth and value that a true diverse organisation brings.WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO COMPANIES ON HOW TO ATTRACT THE BEST DIVERSE TALENT?I may be biased as a content creator…but content is key when companies are trying to attract a more diverse work force. Think about the audience you are trying to engage with and then look at the topics that effect/ interest them – different cultural events and celebrations for example – then create content, for your blog, social channels etc that is still authentic to your brand (you don’t want this to look like a tick box exercise) but a lot more inclusive.IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT THE WORLD, WHAT WOULD IT BE?Not to sound like a pageant princess or anything…but peace! No more war, a peaceful world where we can all just live our lives how we want, without judgement, hate, jealously and greed.WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST SUCCESS TO DATE & WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE TO DATE?Biggest success to date is proving to myself and others I can work for amazing brands all around the world without a uni degree!! I’ve moved a lot in my career – Leamington to Sydney, Sydney to London, London to Bristol and hustled HARD. Biggest challenge is similar to my biggest success, in that I have not only rocked up in a new city, knowing no-one, but also had to wrap my head around a recruitment brand to market! But so far so good (I think)IF YOU WERE A SONG WHAT SONG WOULD YOU BE?Kate Bush – Running Up That Hill – To me it’s about overcoming fears by being vulnerable and that’s something I’m working on…also, Kate Bush is a vibe. ANDY HAZEL – PRINCIPLE CONSULTANTWHAT DOES DIVERSITY MEAN TO YOU?For me, Diversity is the openness to accept different backgrounds, beliefs and values without question or judgement.WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO COMPANIES ON HOW TO ATTRACT THE BEST DIVERSE TALENT?Think about what you can do to help attract diverse talent at entry level, to help address the long-term issue rather than solving a short-term fix.IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT THE WORLD, WHAT WOULD IT BE?War. Human beings should be battling to co-exist for the longevity of our planet and all species on earth, rather than fighting each other because of different beliefs and desires.WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST SUCCESS TO DATE & WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE TO DATE?Success: being consistently recognised by friends, family, and colleagues as someone who goes out of their way to help people.Challenge: Being consistently confident in the person I am, and not changing my personality to make others happy.IF YOU WERE A SONG, WHAT SONG WOULD YOU BE?Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen. There are lots of different parts to me that can often be a surprise!CHARLOTTE BAKER – SENIOR CONSULTANTWHAT DOES DIVERSITY MEAN TO YOU?To me, diversity means zero judgement. You can be who you want, wear what you want, look how you want, say what you want (within reason lol) and not feel judged, worried, or stereotyped. A world where you can fully embrace and appreciate others ❤WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO COMPANIES ON HOW TO ATTRACT THE BEST DIVERSE TALENT?Be open minded, especially when reviewing CVs! Just because a candidate doesn’t have X number of years, or skills with a certain technology doesn’t mean they can’t do the job. If you’re on the fence, then set up an initial chat. You never know, they may really impress you and end up being one of the best hires you’ve ever made!IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT THE WORLD, WHAT WOULD IT BE?Get rid of social media.WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST SUCCESS TO DATE & WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE TO DATE?My biggest success is currently happening right now. I have been through a lot at SR2 and have faced loads of challenges, but I think my biggest success is being able to turn these negative experiences into a positive one. I’m now doing the best I’ve ever done, and soon going to be promoted to Principal and I wouldn’t have got here if I didn’t have the strength to push through. Recruitment isn’t easy, everyone knows that – so I’m super proud that I’ve got to where I am. Without sounding big-headed 😂The biggest challenge for me was a life experience one when I lost a family member very close to me. I’m super open about speaking about this because there might be someone out there experiencing something similar. It was an extremely difficult time for me, but it’s made me stronger and is probably played a part in getting to where I am right now.IF YOU WERE A SONG, WHAT SONG WOULD YOU BE?Dancing in the Moonlight – Toploader (tune) STEVE DALLEY – SENIOR CONSULTANTWHAT DOES DIVERSITY MEAN TO YOU?Diversity is about not only addressing the imbalance we see in the industry but also is about breeding fresh ideas and innovation with stems from those with varied and mixed backgrounds.WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO COMPANIES ON HOW TO ATTRACT THE BEST DIVERSE TALENT?There are multiple ways to attract diverse talent but can start from the initial advert about a particular role or opportunity. Companies need to consider the language being used and how requirements are portrayed in the advert. Portraying and creating an inclusive company culture is key to bringing in and retaining a diverse talent pool. Recommendations and referrals will occur naturally if this is created helping grow and increase diversity. Finally, companies can look to participate in particular events and initiatives such as ‘Women Rock’ as these are pushed and published to underrepresented groups and therefore, creates an opportunity for companies to portray their values and get their name out there driving engagement from these particular groups.IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT THE WORLD, WHAT WOULD IT BE?Any confectionery item produced with chocolate and orange should be made a crime.WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST SUCCESS TO DATE & WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE TO DATE?Outside of work, my biggest success has been obtaining a 1st class degree at university. Inside of work, I would say reaching a recruitment milestone of £10k per week.My biggest challenge has probably been completing the Bristol half marathon with virtually no training. This was slightly harder than expected!IF YOU WERE A SONG, WHAT SONG WOULD YOU BE?Hips don’t lie – Shakira CAITLIN SWENY – HEAD OF CULTURE OPS & PEOPLEWHAT DOES DIVERSITY MEAN TO YOU?Diversity to me is having variety in every sense of the word – thoughts, actions, personalities, experiences & backgrounds. Celebrating being different and not being held back by those differences.WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO COMPANIES ON HOW TO ATTRACT THE BEST DIVERSE TALENT?Not treating diversity as a tick boxing exercise. Being open and honest about where you are currently, and the challenges faced in the past with attracting diverse talent. Really understanding and educating others on what a diverse workforce will bring to their teams. Make sure ED&I runs through their company culture and not just recruitment processes.IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT THE WORLD, WHAT WOULD IT BE?Time. Can you imagine time not existing and everything being free of having a limit or end?!WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST SUCCESS TO DATE & WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE TO DATE?Success: Discovering SR2, the purpose it has given me, and the incredible opportunities & experiences it has unfolded for me 💙.Challenge: Getting to grips with believing and understanding the above 👆IF YOU WERE A SONG, WHAT SONG WOULD YOU BE?American Pie – Don McLean. Long-winded, organised chaos 😅.

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 “I believe that anyone can programme, everyone should be able to work in tech, so don’t be afraid to try” Interview with Michelle Tian | Passionfroot
WOMEN ROCK2022-05-09

“I believe that anyone can programme, everyone should be able to work in tech, so don’t be afraid to try” Interview with Michelle Tian | Passionfroot

Michelle Tian is the Co-Founder and CTO of Passionfroot – a Berlin-based start-up that aims to unlock the full potential of the creator economy and help pave the way for a more equitable future. Eleanor from Team Germany at SR2 sat down with her to find out what makes her tick, what she thinks Millennials can learn from Gen Z, and what companies can do to ensure diversity and inclusion aren’t just buzzwords.HI MICHELLE! IT’S SO GREAT TO MEET YOU – TO START WOULD YOU BE ABLE TO TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR STORY SO FAR?I grew up near Silicon Valley and was always surrounded by technology growing up. I ended up studying Computer Science at UC Berkley and ended up working for Apple as an intern and then Airbnb. There I was working on payments processing and honestly really enjoyed it – I think that Airbnb gave me a lot of opportunities to learn about things outside of the engineering side of the business, so I worked alongside the accountants and legal team, I had great mentors and managers there too. Then I wanted to relocate to Berlin, so I moved in March 2020 right at the beginning of the pandemic. I worked for Shopify here, and it was during that time that Jen (Passionfroot’s cofounder) reached out to me. At the time I wasn’t really expecting to start a company with someone that I didn’t know but Jens and I were all very aligned on wanting to build a company that’s very diverse and inclusive. We wanted to build a company that empowered creators or any person to work on their own terms. I started working on Passionfroot full time from Dec 2021 and now working on getting the product off the ground.CAN YOU SUM UP WHAT PASSIONFROOT IS IN 30 SECONDS?Our vision for Passionfroot is to build a business management platform for creators. We basically want to help anyone who is creating content online, whether that’s writing newsletters, making podcasts, vlogging, posting educational content on twitter – we basically want to help them run their business more smoothly, and manage the ‘back office’ and the administrative workflows of content creation.WHY IS BERLIN THE BEST PLACE TO WORK IN TECH/ FOUND A START-UP?Interesting! I don’t know if it’s the best place as I’ve never tried to do it somewhere else but if I compare Berlin and San Francisco, I think the cost of living in SF is extremely high and in Berlin it’s much lower so there’s a lot more creative people there and more diversity, so I feel like having that around me is more inspirational. I’m looking forward to hiring people from all different walks of life with different perspectives. I think in the creator industry as well it’s cool because a lot of people who work in tech in Berlin are creative themselves so they can bring a creative perspective into the product.WHO INSPIRES YOU MOST IN A PROFESSIONAL/PERSONAL SENSE?I think in general I can be inspired by anyone, so I feel like it’s hard to pinpoint one person who inspires me the most. Different people inspire me in different ways!2021 WAS A RECORD YEAR FOR FEMALE FOUNDED START-UPS IN EUROPE BUT YOU SEE PEOPLE TALKING PARTICULARLY ON LINKEDIN ABOUT FEMALE FOUNDERS BEING ‘OVER MENTORED AND UNDERFUNDED’ – DO YOU AGREE WITH THAT AND WHAT DO YOU THINK CAN BE DONE ABOUT IT?There’s been data published that shows that female founders find it harder to get funding, and I’ve read articles how when a female founder is in a meeting with an investor, she will tend to ask questions that would ‘lift’ male founders up, so I think there probably is still a long way to go. We got lucky with our funding round, but I think it’s also because Jen my co-founder came from VC and knew how to ‘play the game’ and we wouldn’t have got the funding that we did without that network. I don’t know how to fix the problem; we have to help people out by making connections but that’s a small part of a systemic problem.HALF OF YOUR ANGEL INVESTORS ARE WOMEN OR PEOPLE FROM UNDERREPRESENTED GROUPS – WHICH IS AN AMAZING STATISTIC. DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION IS AT THE CORE OF WHAT YOU DO, SO WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO OTHER, MORE ESTABLISHED, COMPANIES TO ENSURE THESE AREN’T JUST BUZZWORDS AND ARE INTEGRAL TO THEIR ECOSYSTEMS AS WELL?One of the biggest problems in bigger companies is the number of women in technical roles, so just making an active effort to hire more diversely, whether that’s making the job descriptions more inclusive, or having diverse pipelines, and there are recruitment companies (like SR2!) that can help with that if they can’t do that themselves. I think one thing is that with women and minorities, many people don’t want to be the first one. It’s a topic I could talk about for hours and hours! There are no quick solutions – it will take time and a lot of effort for companies to become diverse, and it’s also about making sure that when those people are hired that they aren’t just statistics but rather that they have the career paths to grow and move up the ladder.WHAT CAN MILLENNIALS LEARN FROM GEN Z?I am the millennial that needs to learn from Gen Z! the most interesting thing I think is that for a lot of people growing up today, they don’t see themselves going into traditional roles and industries, and they would rather follow their passion and become a creator. I think that learning that you can and should try to work on your own terms rather than follow someone else’s dream, I think just the fact that it’s possible, is something we can all learn. Maybe if I’d grown up in the Gen Z world, I wouldn’t have ended up working for big tech companies myself!DREAM DINNER PARTY GUESTS, WHAT’S ON THE MENU AND WHAT’S ON THE SPEAKER?I’m a person who thinks that every person I meet or run into has something to offer and something I can learn, and I love meeting people with new perspectives, I would be happy to find random people off the street and invite them to my dinner party so they can teach me something interesting! Food-wise I would make Chinese food as you can have a bunch of different plates and there’s different options for everyone. I really enjoy cooking, but it would depend on what my mood is that day. For music, myself and the other founders have created a Passionfroot playlist, so we could have that in the background, but I really like listening to albums which makes me not a great party DJ!BECAUSE OF THE ROLE THAT SOCIAL MEDIA PLAYS IN OUR LIVES ARE WE ALL CREATORS NOW?I think to some extent yes. There’s this concept of the creator economy, which is big in the tech world, but we are targeting the passion economy, which is anyone who has a passion that they want to somehow market and monetise online, so we would say that Passionfroot is part of this passion economy. Some of our customers are people who are like tax consultants making TikTok’s to teach people about taxes for example! Anyone who is building an audience by sharing what they care about and finding their niche on the internet is most definitely a creator and that’s why we also think this opportunity to support creators is really huge, because in the future people from traditional industries are going to quit their jobs and then just become creators.2021 WAS A HUGE YEAR FOR PASSIONFROOT BUT WHAT IS ON THE CARDS FOR 2022 AND BEYOND?2021 was all about research and groundwork for us, and when we got our funding. In 2022 its about shipping our product and starting to deliver value to the creators, because we have a lot of ambition, but the first step is building something that creators love and need, and slowly adding more and more functionality so we can support every part of their business.ANY ADVICE TO YOUNG WOMEN WHO ARE INTERESTED IN A CAREER IN TECH?This is an interesting question for me because I grew up in an environment where a career in tech was a no-brainer as I was always surrounded by it. When I was at university, I saw that students who didn’t have a computer science background in high school struggled a lot to programme. And it’s not because they were less capable, its rather that the more exposure you have to it the better you’re going to be. Don’t look at how much better people are doing than you, it’s likely they had more time, exposure and privileges that allowed them to get to where they are. I believe that anyone can programme, everyone should be able to work in tech, so don’t be afraid to try!WHAT IS THE MANTRA THAT YOU LIVE BY?Be kind to other people and don’t worry so much about what other people think.Thanks so much for speaking to us Michelle, you rock! #womenrockAn interview by Eleanor McCloskeyA voice for diversity in Tech and Engineering 

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 “The ambition should be to always better yourself, not just to be better than others” – Interview with Zuza Kopacka
WOMEN ROCK2022-04-22

“The ambition should be to always better yourself, not just to be better than others” – Interview with Zuza Kopacka

Zuza Kopacka came to the UK when she was only 16, speaking only a little English, without really knowing anyone over here. Facing the usual life challenges and a tricky language barrier, her drive and, what she calls her ‘stubbornness’ helped her get through some tough early years and land her a dream role at Basekit.Here, Natalie speaks to Zuza about the challenges she had to overcome – how working at Costa Coffee created transferable skills for a career in tech and what it means to not being able to jump higher than your own bum! Read on and all will be revealed…ZUZA, I’D LOVE YOU TO START BY TELLING US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOUR STORY SO FAR…I grew up in Warsaw, Poland where I was raised by two amazing women, my mum and my grandma. They gave me a lot of freedom and trust which allowed me to always follow my dreams but also learn from my own mistakes. I did well at school and had a good group of close friends, however I always felt a little sceptic when thinking about my future over there. At the age of 15 I met my half brother and his family who invited me to spend the summer with them here in Bristol. I fell in love with the city and started to consider moving, unfortunately the following year my nan passed away and this made the decision to move an easier one.YOU CAME TO THE UK WHEN YOU WERE ONLY 16, SPEAKING ONLY A LITTLE ENGLISH (I WOULD HAVE NEVER KNOWN SPEAKING TO YOU NOW), ALSO WITHOUT REALLY KNOWING ANYONE OVER HERE – A VERY BRAVE THING TO DO! CAN YOU TELL ME WHAT THAT WAS LIKE AND WHETHER THERE WAS ANYTHING THAT HELPED YOU SETTLE?The beginning was tough, I was now facing usual life challenges and also struggled with breaking the language barrier. I remember putting on my headphones only to take a break from hearing English which I wanted to understand so much but couldn’t . There were times I wanted to fly back but my stubbornness, the thought of the life I wanted here and above all the support from my brother and his wonderful partner helped me get through that period.YOU MENTIONED THAT YOU WORKED AT COSTA COFFEE FOR 10 YEARS BEFORE PLUCKING UP THE COURAGE TO CHANGE CAREERS AND GO INTO TECH. IS THERE ANY ADVICE YOU’D GIVE TO SOMEONE WHO’D LIKE TO GET INTO TECH BUT MAY THINK THEY DON’T HAVE THE SKILLS?Think outside the box! Working at costa was my first ever job, and I didn’t think that the skills I gained there could help me get a job anywhere else but hospitality. I was wrong. We all have transferable skills, with the customer service experience, film degree and one extra language I landed a Support Agent role at Baskit, where I currently work. The process of finding a job and getting an interview can be very difficult. Like you mentioned I worked in a coffee shop for 10 years, feeling stuck and helpless at times, so I get it! It might not be obvious where your skills, whether gained from uni course, a job, books or life experience, can take you but it can be further than you currently think. I understand it might not be easy to see that yourself – people say I don’t always give myself enough credit. If you’re finding it hard my advice would be to reach out to others, career advisers, friends, whoever you can and don’t just think of your set of skills as something that restricts your career choices, think of your skills as possibilities and explore them. Skills you thought didn’t count, might.My current role isn’t highly technical. As a Quality Assurance Tester at BaseKit I don’t test the code per-se, I test the functionality of the software we build, mainly from a user perspective. I have definitely learnt a lot over the past year, I even tried my strength at coding a basic website, but I started without that knowledge. BaseKit trusted me with the skills I had to offer at the time and I’ve just built on it since.4. IT’S QUITE THE CHANGE OF CAREER! WHERE DID YOU HEAR ABOUT TECH AND WHAT WAS IT THAT ATTRACTED YOU TO IT?Since I was a child I enjoyed spending time on the computer and with my camera. Back then I thought nothing of it, I was just a kid who liked playing games and taking portraits of people but looking back I believe that that’s when my interests started developing.After I moved to England I picked my camera back up. I did a media course at college and after that I got accepted into uni to do a Film course. I found that I enjoyed specialising in more technical roles where I practised using a variety of cameras and editing software.Recently I learnt that creativity plays a big part in tech and in being a QA Tester. I often have to think outside the box and put myself into the user’s shoes. I test various ways in which the app could be used taking into consideration the functionality but also the look and the feel of the software.Also my maternal uncle was a computer specialist, maybe you can inherit it 😉ONE OF YOUR MANY ACHIEVEMENTS WAS GETTING A 1ST CLASS HONOURS AT UWE FOR FILM, WITH YOUR FINAL FILM SHOWN AT MAJOR FESTIVALS AROUND THE WORLD! (AMAZING!). AS THE DIRECTOR YOU WERE THE ONLY FEMALE IN THE TEAM, HOW DID YOU FIND THAT AND WAS THERE ANYTHING THAT HELPED YOU WITH MANAGING THAT PARTICULAR TEAM?I couldn’t have asked for a better team. I got to work with very talented film students from my year and they happened to be male. My uni year was pretty diverse so there was no obvious reason why. Of course I had some doubts about whether I could manage the team by myself, especially with the project being my final one. However, with all the help and support I received from my amazing tutor and all round great woman, Freya Billington, I believed I could do it. The team liked my idea, we had a similar vision and the same goal so we did our best to make it happen.I think what helped in the end was not treating it differently than any other project.YOU SAY THAT A BIG HELP IN GETTING WHERE YOU ARE TODAY HAS BEEN DOWN TO HAVING SEVERAL FEMALE MENTORS THROUGHOUT YOUR LIFE. WHO HAS HELPED YOU THE MOST AND WHY DO YOU THINK IT IS IMPORTANT IN TECH ESPECIALLY?I’ve been extremely lucky to have met some amazing females throughout my life to whom I still look up to and turn to when in need. My mum, my brother’s partner Karolina, Elisha who was my tutor at college, Freya and many more, they all showed me how important it is to have a mentor, someone who has faced similar challenges, who believes in you and wants to see you succeed.After finishing ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages), I got accepted to do a Creative Media course at college. I was still afraid to speak in front of people and struggled to understand group conversations. Gina, who was one of the first classmates I got to know, always made sure I wasn’t alone. We spent lunch breaks together, she always tried to include me in the conversations, explain anything I struggled to understand and wasn’t afraid to correct me when needed. We are still very good friends and also currently working for the same company. She’s the one who helped me realise I had the skills to go into tech and told me about the available position at Basekit.Tech is a male-dominated industry and as a woman who only just started her journey here I doubt myself at times, I lack the confidence to speak up and share my opinions. Having female mentors has given me a sense of security and their support and faith in myself has given me the courage to keep going and the confidence that one day I can be like them.YOU’RE STILL EARLY ON IN YOUR TECH CAREER AS A QA WITH BASEKIT, HOW’S IT BEEN GOING SO FAR AND WHAT’S IT LIKE TO WORK IN TECH?It’s been going good so far. There have been a lot of challenges but with everyone being friendly and always open to help it’s easy to settle in and feel like a part of the team.Something I love about BaseKit is that everyone, besides their sole duties, also holds knowledge about other specific areas of the business or the software. We come together well as a company and a team to support each other, share the knowledge and teach/ learn new skills.Since working in tech I don’t feel stuck anymore. There are plenty of career paths and opportunities for further development. I’m currently taking a ISTQB Software Testing Foundation course and Basekit has been very supportive with the tools and flexible with the time I need to study and to pass the end exam.INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY TOOK PLACE LAST MONTH AND THE THEME WAS #BREAKTHEBIAS, I’D LOVE TO KNOW WHAT BIAS YOU’D LIKE TO BREAK…Over the years that I worked at costa my colleagues and I were made to feel belittled on a number of occasions. Directly, unconsciously, jokingly or not people working in hospitality and any other working sector are in no way, or should be treated differently. Working in hospitality doesn’t have to mean that you weren’t good at school or that you do not have an ambition. It can be someone’s career of choice, it could be one of the stops whilst travelling the world, a side hustle, or just an in between place whilst figuring out what to do next – just like me.I also know that I’d love to be a mum one day, and I hate the fact that it makes women less employable. I know a lot of mums who kick ass every day. It’s a full time job requiring multitasking, planning, organising, managing and leading. When you can be a mum, you can be anything. It’s one of the biggest challenges in life.LASTLY, DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE QUOTE THAT YOU LIVE YOUR LIFE BY…My mum used to say “wyżej dupy nie podskoczysz” which means you can’t jump higher than your own bum. I found it funny of course, but as I’ve gotten older I started realising that what she meant was that you can’t do better than your best. I believe the ambition should be to always better yourself, not just to be better than others. Nothing wrong with a bit of competitiveness of course but as long as I feel like I’ve done enough and I’m satisfied with my own progress if I fail to get the position or if I fail to pass this exam but I have done as much as I could I didn’t fail myself. I still became better than I was before. Don’t get me wrong, I’m only just learning how to live by it, I still happen to be too hard on myself, at times ignoring all the work I’ve done to achieve everything I have so far but then I try to remember that we are the only person we’ll always be with so it is important that we are proud of ourselves, recognize every little success and take away the lesson from every speed bump on the road.

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 “Learn from yesterday, live for today and hope for tomorrow” – Interview with the AND Digital Team
WOMEN ROCK2022-04-11

“Learn from yesterday, live for today and hope for tomorrow” – Interview with the AND Digital Team

Steve Dalley recently spoke with some of the incredible team at AND Digital to chat about their beginnings, struggles & successes and what we can all be doing to encourage more women and underrepresented groups into the wonderful world of tech. Tina Howell, Charlie Newman and Sophie Cosgrove all had very interesting and insightful stories when it came to increasing diversity in technology.All three of them had a different path into IT proving there is no right or wrong way to enter the world of tech.AND Digital pose a fantastic opportunity for those entering the industry with their graduate/apprenticeship programme as well as those career tech professionals looking to further their career.THANK YOU TINA, SOPHIE AND CHARLIE FOR YOUR TIME AND SHARING YOUR STORIES WITH US. TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR AND DIGITAL JOURNEY SO FAR.Tina – I have worked for AND Digital for coming up to four years now and am the Exec for Cloud Engineering in the North. I look after a lot of Engineers such as Sophie and also have a team of Engagement Leads like Charlie. We help clients build Cloud platforms and move their applications in AWS, GCP and AzureCharlie – I’m the Engagement Lead and Disco Diva for Cloud Engineering in the North. I’ve been with AND Digital for just over four years. My role is all about enabling our clients to achieve their goals through digital transformation within cloud infrastructure. I also support our Cloud Engineers on collaborating with the client teams.Sophie – My title is Associate Cloud Engineer and bookworm. I am a Cloud Engineer that came through the Cloud Academy which is set up to help juniors get into the industry. I specialise in Amazon Web Services so I help clients with a focus on that but whilst also looking into other platforms as well and integrating that into DevOps technologiesHOW DID YOU GET INTO THE INDUSTRY?Sophie – I actually did Psychology at University and I came out of it not really knowing exactly what I wanted to do but gathered after doing some work experiences that a psychology role wasn’t what I wanted. During University I was a Maths and English tutor and I really liked the problem-solving side of Maths so I wanted something similar to that but had never been exposed to tech so it took a while to figure out coding was really similar to this and what I enjoyed. I got into Python, learning it myself, then did a DevOps boot camp that featured Cloud. I later came across AND Digital and it was exactly what I wanted to do in my career so joined AND in Cloud Engineer role.Tina – I got a degree from Huddersfield University in Computing and was the only female on the course. I joined as the only female technical person at Compaq Computers which was taken over by HP. I then moved on to Vodafone and now have years of experience in many different roles gaining experience in a lot of areas. However, my main area of love has always been infrastructure and operations as I’ve always loved building stuff and problem-solving. My key element is that I can take what customers see as a big issue and convert that into what they actually need. My end goal was always to build a cloud practice at AND Digital so it’s certainly been a demanding four years to build the Cloud business in the North.Charlie – I have quite a varied career as I had nothing to do with Tech before AND. My background is human resources specialising in learning and development and that’s how I joined AND Digital. When I joined there were only 300 in the business and four years later we’re at over 1000 so my role was to go around and set-up the new clubs and business units helping the teams understand what we deliver to our clients and embed that culture. After three and a half years I was looking for something to push me out of my comfort zone and something that really challenges me. I was on a walk with Tina one day and she mentioned about joining the cloud practice which led me to take on the role of Engagement Lead within the Cloud Engineering team.DO YOU THINK DEGREES ARE ESSENTIAL TO HELP YOU GET INTO IT?Tina – I don’t think you need a degree to get into IT anymore. 10/15 years ago it was set on a precipitous but I think employers need to change that and use apprenticeships and building your own training programmes like Cloud Academy to bring more people in to be more inclusive and diverse. Looking back on it, I would have preferred this route rather than getting into debt and going down the university route to give more flexibility and not worry about a degreeSophie – I think university degrees help provide you with a structure and encourages you to do a lot of learning on your own. I think with tech there are so many things you aren’t going to know so you need to be comfortable to go and research to find out those things by yourself. Thankfully there are companies like AND that don’t require a specific degree and help get people into the industry who otherwise wouldn’t necessarily have the opportunity.Charlie – I think this comes down to how you learn best and your learning style. I have a number of qualifications but didn’t go to university because my learning style is much more hands-on and sitting in a classroom or researching on my own doesn’t always bring the best out of me. I think it’s important to reflect on your learning styles and then look into what might be the best thing for you whether that is university or apprenticeships. This comes down to having determination and a desire to learn and I believe these are the main things that helps to get into an IT role.WHAT DO YOU THINK CAN BE DONE AT BOTH PERSONAL AND BUSINESS LEVELS TO ATTRACT UNDERREPRESENTED GROUPS INTO TECH?Tina – I think the key to think about going to those areas that you wouldn’t normally think about going. For example, you could look at going to schools in slightly less privileged areas to have the chat that IT isn’t just about developing code but showcasing the number of different paths you can take and I think this is something really important we need to demonstrate more of. We can look at introducing the different types of tech being used at a school level whilst also focusing on implementing newer and more widely used technologies in universities and stopping teaching outdated and unused technologies that have moved on. Don’t be afraid to take away the bias of it being a man’s world and target those underrepresented groups, whether it is certain minorities or women.Sophie – AND are big advocates for women and minorities in tech which I felt took a lot of pressure off me as there was a company advocating and supporting these groups which is a big thing more companies can be doing. In hindsight, I would have liked to have done a computer science degree and although it wouldn’t be directly related to what I’m doing right now, it would have given me a good foundation in technology.Charlie – One of the biggest ones is social media. If we are really pushing that social media presence, that will help people be more interested and want to find out more. AND Digital are looking into how we use platforms such as Instagram, Twitter and Facebook and how these platforms can be used to showcase what technology is all about.Another big thing is partnering with charities that are centred around helping underrepresented groups and finding out how you can support these to help attract more people into tech.WHAT BARRIERS HAVE YOU FACED TO GET TO WHERE YOU ARE TODAY?Tina – At university, I suffered with really low confidence and didn’t like standing up in front of people doing presentations and actually suffered from panic attacks as I always felt like I was being judged. In my early career, I was bullied by various organisations due to my different thoughts and feelings, and the way I spoke – back then I have a thick Irish accent. I was regularly told I shouldn’t be in tech and should just look to get married and have children because that’s what women should do. There were different extremes from being stalked to being judged in the workplace by having a break and thinking they can get away with it. When I turned 30, I changed and took a no-tolerance approach to this as it isn’t acceptable because I think work is about collaborating to achieve something and having experienced that in my early days, I wouldn’t want anyone around me to go through that. I now have a great community around me that is really supportive.Sophie – I think one of the biggest barriers is around the stereotyping and when I say I’m in tech people straight away assume I mean sales and not what I actually do. I think we have come really far getting more women into tech but until we see more of an uptake of women in senior roles people will assume you are more junior. I also feel when you ask questions, quite often people overexplain things thinking you have less knowledge about the topic but I do think we are on the way to getting rid of that.Charlie – I think I have been quite lucky and haven’t received any direct discrimination. We are very big on treating everyone equally and it’s not about who you are, where you come from or your gender but about whether you do a good job. Having said that, I have seen bias against females within tech sales, for example, being questioned on their knowledge. I’ve had such a good support network around me so thankfully I haven’t been exposed to this.PROUDEST PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL ACHIEVEMENT?Charlie – My proudest professional achievement was initially not being afraid to take a step into Cloud by achieving my cloud accreditations and I’m currently working towards my Cloud Practitioner having achieved two accreditations so far. My proudest personal achievement is definitely doing a skydive.Tina – This was actually my third attempt at becoming an Exec and having been told at other companies I wasn’t successful, to finally achieve what my career ambition has always been with AND was a big moment. Personally, I’ve done quite a bit from travelling the world and doing a lot of extreme things, but when I receive messages on LinkedIn from women saying they are IT because of me, that’s when I’ve known personally I’ve made a difference. The give back is a big requirement and if I can incorporate more women into tech and give them the career I’ve had, without the same problems I’ve faced, I can say I have achieved my life goal of making men and women equal.Sophie – I’ve always wanted to publish a blog post because when I first started out learning new things, I was always very appreciative that someone had taken the time to write it, their knowledge and their way of conveying it. This is something I have always wanted to do so being able to do that this year has been one of my most cherished achievements, especially putting it out on Medium as that has been a go to for me. Personally, finishing university and achieving a First was a big one for me as I did struggle during that time as at one time I thought I would have to take a year out or even drop out to then turn that around break through my own limitations and overachieve what I thought was possible, was a bit achievement.IN ONE SENTENCE, CAN YOU SUM UP YOUR CAREER SO FAR?Tina – It’s been a bumpy ride but I got there in the end but feel very fortunate and lucky and for anyone on the same journey, I hope they have a better start.Charlie – It’s been an adrenaline-filled rollercoaster, it’s had lots of up, some down and a lot of twists.Sophie – My ambition to learn overcame my fears about not following the traditional career path.WHAT ONE PIECE OF ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO OTHERSSophie – If you have a question, that is always a good start as it shows your interested. I think it’s important to not be afraid to ask questions because you’ll come away from that experience knowing more and having more confidence in yourself. It doesn’t matter what people think and if they think it is a basic question or not, you will end up not caring as you’ll know within yourself you’re capable.Tina – Research, research, research. There is so many things to help you get into tech now from Tech Returners, to things like Code Nation and Code Your Future. There are so many available training places now that doing your research is important to find the right fit for you and not to worry about it as everyone starts at a different point in their career. Organisations like AND Digital are a great place to start so don’t be afraid to just go for it.Charlie – Embrace your imposter syndrome and take time to reflect and then just do it. What you don’t want to do is regret anything later down the line.DO YOU HAVE ONE QUOTE YOU LIVE OR WORK BY AND WHAT IS THAT QUOTE?Charlie – Learn from yesterday, live for today and hope for tomorrow.Tina – Karma is a bitch. Treat people the way you would expect to be treated.Sophie – It’s not a silly question if you can’t answer it.Thanks so much! You three rock!

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 “The mind is everything. What you think you become.” – Interview with Dulcie Jackson
WOMEN ROCK2022-03-23

“The mind is everything. What you think you become.” – Interview with Dulcie Jackson

Meet Dulcie – She’s a Bristol based full stack developer working for Gravitywell, who are currently on a journey to gain their B Corp certification. Dulcie & I have been chatting over LinkedIn for quite some time now, discussing all things tech for good and B Corps. As we are currently in March, which is B Corp month – I thought, what a perfect time to get Dulcie involved with Women Rock and discuss her passions around these things. We had a lot to chat about, due to her passions around ethical & sustainable tech and wanting to make the technology field all the more diverse, inclusive and empowering.You are going to absolutely love reading this interview, before we get started here are some things you might not have known about Dulcie before reading this…When she’s not working on building tech for the greater good… she can be found visiting one of her favourite spots in Bristol – the Riverside Garden Centre in Clifton, full of glorious plants… or you could catch her munching on a veggie breakfast down in the Bristolian café in Stokes croft! (it totally sold her on moving to Bristol when she first tried it) 😊 Dulcie’s biggest inspo is her Brother, they’ve always been super close and he has helped to install confidence in herself seeing how he has had the courage to do what feels right to him in life, such as deciding to leave & re-join Uni to do a course that really mattered to him. On top of that, Dulcie loves to listen to Rock & Metal music – perhaps not what you’d expect from her but she’s looking forward to discovering the Bristol music scene more!Ok, now that we know her a bit better… let’s get straight to it! Throughout this interview, Dulcie touches on topics such as the process of becoming a B Corp, working at Gravity well, how she first got into software development and what true equality means to her! She even gives us the scoop on her top 3 favourite B Corp brands 😍 HI DULCIE! ALL OF US HERE AT WOMEN ROCK ARE SUPER EXCITED TO HAVE YOU INVOLVED WITH OUR INITIATIVE. AFTER CHATTING TOGETHER YOU COME ACROSS AS SOMEONE WHO IS PASSIONATE ABOUT THE ETHICAL SIDE OF TECHNOLOGY AND TECH FOR THE GREATER GOOD – COULD YOU TELL US WHAT FIRST SPARKED THAT INTEREST FOR YOU?I’ve always wanted to live as ethically as possible – for example, I’ve been vegetarian from a very young age and always apply sustainability principles to my day to day life. Ethical technology and tech for the greater good is just an extension of my ongoing passion for making the world a better place!YOU CURRENTLY WORK FOR GRAVITYWELL, COULD YOU TELL US A BIT ABOUT THE COMPANY AND WHAT FIRST ATTRACTED YOU TO JOIN THEIR TEAM?Sure! We’re a small software development company, specialising in innovative tech for start-ups and new ideas. We do a bit of everything, from helping with initial brand creation, discovery and design right through to web and mobile development. Because our projects all start with new concepts, we’re really able to think outside the box and use the newest, most exciting tools and technologies on every project – which is both loads of fun and great for our clients!I was mainly attracted to Gravitywell because of the diverse projects – I’ve always loved the problem solving and creativity of building something new from scratch! I was also looking to join a smaller company – I think it offers more freedom and is generally more rewarding. Throughout my application process to Gravitywell, I got the feeling that it was a team where people are friends and not just colleagues. I’m glad to say that my hopes have been met, and exceeded! In fact, we have a team holiday and a festival lined up this summer!GRAVITYWELL ARE CURRENTLY IN THE PROCESS OF BECOMING A B CORP WHICH IS SO EXCITING! AS YOU KNOW, MARCH IS B-CORP MONTH. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS SO IMPORTANT ABOUT B CORPS AND WHY DO WE NEED THEM?The B-Corp process offers a framework to get conversations going about the topics that really matter. There are plenty of companies out there that are already doing great things for their employees, community and the environment without being B-Corps, but it’s a great badge of recognition and also an incentive for companies to uphold those standards. The process to certification offers a roadmap to continuous improvement of all things ethical, but also helps to spread the word with wider audiences and turn it into a movement. Small changes multiplied many times make a huge difference.WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU PERSONALLY TO BE WORKING FOR A COMPANY THAT WILL BECOME A B CORP SOON?When I was changing jobs, I actively looked for B-Corps because I wanted to work for a business with values I believed in.I feel a great deal of pride in Gravitywell for our steps towards B Corp certification. We’re all responsible for maintaining and improving the planet and society, and certification is tangible evidence that we can make a difference. It’s a rewarding process and comes with a very supportive community.WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON RECRUITMENT AGENCIES LIKE SR2 GAINING A B CORP CERTIFICATION?I think it’s great! If I were to talk to a recruiter then two things would matter to me: that they understand my industry and they respect and share my ethics when looking for new work. I’ve had tons of recruiters get in touch in the past trying to place me in roles in industries that I’d never be comfortable working in – so B Corp status is a great reassurance!LOOKING BACK ON YOUR CAREER AND JOURNEY THROUGH EDUCATION, DO YOU REMEMBER WHAT IT WAS THAT MADE YOU WANT TO GET INTO TECHNOLOGY AND MORE SPECIFICALLY SOFTWARE ENGINEERING? TELL US HOW IT ALL STARTED FOR YOU!I wouldn’t say that my path into tech was clear-cut – I certainly wasn’t one of those teenagers who spent hours coding or building computers!I’ve always had a lot of pretty diverse interests, and when I first started thinking about potential careers I was looking for something that let me combine my enjoyment of both analytical and creative subjects. I went through a lot of phases, considering architecture, law, orthodontistry and graphic design within a year or so – and I really could have gone in any of those directions!The big decision that eventually led me towards a Computer Science degree and a career in Software Engineering was probably picking my A Levels. I’d done equally well in arts and science subjects, so I found it tough to choose a direction and commit to one or the other. I think being pushed to make that choice made me realise that I didn’t want to pick just one, and so I chose to study Maths, Further Maths, Physics, Computing and Fine Art. I had to argue with my school that it was a sensible combination of subjects! At that point, I definitely wasn’t planning to study tech, but I wasn’t willing to give up art and felt I could find a way to tie it all together.During my A Level years I interned at 3 Sided Cube, a tech-for-good agency in Bournemouth. Seeing the work environment there is what sold me on tech as a career. I loved the laid-back vibe, but also the great combination of technical knowledge with creativity and problem solving. So when it came to applying to universities, I looked for courses where I could learn the fundamental theory, but also apply it to real world problems. Royal Holloway was absolutely amazing, and set me up brilliantly for the work I do now!I CAN SEE YOU WERE A WOMEN’S AMBASSADOR DURING UNIVERSITY, COULD YOU TELL US WHAT IT WAS LIKE BEING A FEMALE WITHIN A RELATIVELY MALE DOMINATED SUBJECT AND HOW HAS THAT MOULDED YOU AS A PERSON?I’ve actually always enjoyed standing out in this industry! I think it’s a great opportunity to surprise people, and to challenge myself to achieve what I’m aiming for.Obviously, it’s not always plain-sailing to be in the minority, but I think the mindset you bring to it is more important than any inherent bias. People will have preconceived ideas and expect certain things of you, but what you do about it is always in your control – whether that means working hard to prove them wrong, increasing public awareness, or having the strength to walk away from a company that doesn’t value you.In a way, I don’t like to think of myself as a “woman in tech” – I’m a woman who works in tech, but day-to-day I don’t think that should make any difference to my experience or contributions to the field. I ended up in the role of Women’s Ambassador of the Computing Society almost by accident, but the main benefit for me was being part of a diverse committee where we were all able to bring our skills and opinions to the table. I was voted in as President the next year, and the whole experience really proved to me that it was better to be part of the group and immerse myself in the field than to view myself as a minority.WHAT DOES EQUALITY MEAN TO YOU? AND, WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO OTHER TECH COMPANIES TO ENSURE THEY ARE PROVIDING A EQUAL WORKING ENVIRONMENT?I think equality is hugely multi-faceted. Firstly, it’s obviously about things like equal pay and equal expectations when it comes to reviews and promotions. It’s about understanding that the ways we express ourselves vary, and encouraging everyone to ask for the things that they want and need. It’s about working together as individuals, not forcing everyone into a box that fits a business decision or profit margin.I also think that equality is about treating everyone and everything – people, animals, the environment – with respect. There’s so much good that can come from decisions made with care and appreciation for the world around us, and one of the best things we can do is ask how our actions might affect other people or things. Often by just listening we can solve problems that sound bizarre or unrelatable to those of us who aren’t impacted in the same way.AS A WOMAN IN TECH, THERE MUST HAVE BEEN SOME BARRIERS & STEREOTYPES THAT YOU’VE FACED. IF SO, COULD YOU TELL US ABOUT ONE OF THEM?Honestly, the thing that I’ve struggled with most about being a woman in tech is the positive discrimination associated with companies aiming for a 50:50 gender balance. Taking steps to remove biases from hiring, reviews and promotions is obviously very necessary, and I absolutely support businesses in doing this – I’ve certainly been on the receiving end of negative stereotypes in the past.But I would be offended if I was offered a job in preference to someone else just because I’m female, or if the main incentive was to boost a company’s diversity stats. I believe that true equality comes from me being able to stand alongside whoever else applies, and be chosen for my personality and experience, irrespective of gender.AS IT’S B CORP MONTH, WHO ARE SOME OTHER B CORP COMPANIES YOU FOLLOW THAT YOU THINK ARE AWESOME?I think DAME are great – they make environmentally friendly period products and aim to reduce erase single use plastic from the industry as well as the stigma around discussing periods! Everything from their products to advertising drives positive change on a subject that is often seen as taboo.I’m also a big fan of Triodos, Tony’s Chocolonely and Patagonia, who are really leading the drive for change in industries with traditionally negative environmental and ethical impacts.IF YOU COULD GIVE ADVICE TO OTHER WOMEN ABOUT GETTING INTO A CAREER WITH TECH, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO THEM?Don’t be afraid to aim high.Figure out what it is that you want, and stay aligned to those goals – even if they’re not what other people might expect of you.Call out discrimination, even when it works in your favour.Imposter syndrome is totally normal – just remember to look back at how far you’ve come and pat yourself on the back from time to time!LASTLY, WHAT IS A MANTRA YOU LIVE BY OR YOUR FAVOURITE QUOTE?“The mind is everything. What you think you become.”What a great note to end on!Cheers Dulcie you rock! #womenrockAn interview by Steph JacksonA voice for diversity in Tech and Engineering

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 “Don’t be a dick!” – An Interview with Elle Chappell
WOMEN ROCK2022-03-15

“Don’t be a dick!” – An Interview with Elle Chappell

‘Culture’ is a word thrown around a lot by companies at the moment to try and attract new talent. However, culture is more than a early finish and free coffee as Elle Chappell from Best Energy explains.Elle is one of the most passionate people I have met when it comes to ED&I. She leads from the front, always learning about best practices, has a heart of gold and here shares some valuable insights on what companies should be doing when attracting underrepresented talent to their teams…HEY ELLE, WE’RE REALLY EXCITED TO SPEAK TO YOU ABOUT ALL THINGS PEOPLE AND CULTURE AND YOUR PASSION FOR ED&I.CAN YOU TELL ME A BIT ABOUT YOUR JOB AND WHAT YOUR DAY USUALLY LOOKS LIKE?I’m in a stand alone People & Culture role and have a responsibility for talent acquisition, day to day people operations, L&D, supporting line managers and the senior team, benefits…the list is quite endless actually! There often isn’t a typical day but I could go from interviewing to training to preparing to onboard new joiners, for example. When I joined the business, there was no People function so I’ve pretty much built everything from scratch including implementing 2 x pieces of people ops and hiring software, introducing Annual Talent Reviews, creating hiring processes, rolled out engagement surveys etc.PEOPLE AND CULTURE IS A RELATIVELY NEW ROLE WITHIN COMPANIES. WHAT DOES A GREAT CULTURE LOOK LIKE TO YOU?Personally, I think a great culture is somewhere people can show up as themselves and not feel they have to hide their true selves away. Somewhere people feel trusted and empowered to do the right thing (otherwise why have you hired them?), and somewhere that values and supports people as individuals, as people that have lives and families. Trust, autonomy and respect.WHO DO YOU THINK SHOULD OWN CULTURE WITHIN AN ORGANISATION?100% every single person within a business from the person who vacuums the offices to the CEO. It’s not up to one person, or a group of directors, it’s got to be people owned and driven. I use the phrase ‘moments that matter’ a lot. The moments that you have with your colleagues, suppliers, partners, customers, the behaviours you exhibit on a daily basis. The interactions, the behaviours – these all working together and occurring each day result in your culture.YOU SHARE THE SAME PASSION AS US FOR ED&I – WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO COMPANIES WHEN ATTRACTING UNDERREPRESENTED TALENT TO THEIR TEAMS?Assess your job descriptions: when we write job specs, language has a huge impact on the end reader. For example, women are much less likely to apply for a role if they don’t hit all the listed criteria than men are. Instead, take a look internally at people who are performing and consider things that matter the most. Do you really need someone to have a Masters, for example? It’s also really important to ensure candidates can see into your business. A job description is a bunch of words, it’s not your culture. People need to be able to see into your business (your careers page/LinkedIn/social media and see that they would be supported to thrive in your community. For example, if your company is predominately white, how do you ensure any new joiners who are black or Asian for example, are supported, or people with a disability? If they can’t see you supporting them, they’re less likely to apply. Have a great hiring process in place and ensure your teams are trained properly when it comes to interviewing too are really key.WHAT CHALLENGES HAVE YOU FACED IN YOUR CAREER BOTH BEING SELF-EMPLOYED AND AN EMPLOYEE?Wow, good question. Being employed was tough, I just wanted to deliver, I didn’t want to be a finance manager and a sales manager and a marketing manager too. I think in hindsight, I might have liked it better if I started something with friends or someone else in my field, who knows.WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR PROUDEST MOMENT TO DATE, BOTH PERSONALLY AND PROFESSIONALLY?Proudest moment professionally on reflection, is making the decision to close my business. It turned out having a business isn’t what I wanted and taking that decision changed my life but it wasn’t an easy one to make. At the time, I was worried about the word ‘fail’ and what people would think, which I still haven’t figured out why that was even an issue for me. I remember being sat on a boat near the Isle of Arran and just said to my husband ‘I’m closing the business when we get home and I’ve decided on the role I want.’ His face was a picture! I didn’t even know if the role was out there, and it had to be in sustainability or something similar. A month later, I had an offer so it all worked out in the end. Personally, my 250km ultra marathon in the Wadi Rum desert, Jordan. I completed the race, flew home and the day after I landed started my new job! 2021 was an interesting year…IT’S INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY THIS MONTH AND SOMETHING WE SHOULD CELEBRATE EVERYDAY. WHO ARE THE MOST INSPIRATIONAL WOMEN YOU FOLLOW AND INSPIRED BY?Blimey, my friend Andreea Wilmott is up there for so many reasons, she’s a power house of a woman. Jane Goodall, Dr Jess French (someone I know personally again), Leena Nair, Malala Yousafzai, Jacinda Ardern…the list goes on!WORKING MUMS AND SUPPORTING THEM IS ALSO SOMETHING YOU ARE PASSIONATE ABOUT, WHAT CAN COMPANIES DO FOR EXPECTING PARENTS AND THEN MUMS OR DADS RETURNING TO WORK?First of all, enhanced maternity/paternity pay and/or shared parental leave. If having a baby isn’t stressful enough with the physical, mental and emotional changes a woman goes through, the financial pressure of being on statutory MAT leave must be unbearable. Don’t get me started on this! Flexible hours, childcare vouchers, understand that new parents are going to be sleep deprived, offer mental health support (many men don’t disclose to their employers that they’re suffering with perinatal mental health issues as they think it will harm their career), create new parents meet ups/groups within the business to share stories and experiences, celebrate family. So many women have to sacrifice their career when they have a baby after years of hard work. The best businesses will embrace multiple ways to truly support parents and they will reap the rewards for doing so.IF YOU WE’RE A SONG WHAT SONG WOULD YOU BE?Probably Don’t Stop Me Now by Queen.WHAT IS THE SAYING OR MANTRA YOU LIVE BY?Don’t be a dick! Am I allowed to say that?!Course you are – sterling advice!Thanks so much for speaking to us Elle.You rock! #womenrockAn interview by Alicia TeagleA voice for diversity in Tech and Engineering

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 “Work hard, play hard, be kind – always.” – An interview with Marina Traversari
WOMEN ROCK2022-03-09

“Work hard, play hard, be kind – always.” – An interview with Marina Traversari

Women Rock founder, Alicia chats to Marina Traversari who recently joined Spherics as COO.The insights that Marina shares are testament to her amazing accomplishments in the tech industry, including representing Oracle at House of Lords events, fireside chats and chairing panels at local and international events to drive cultural change through thought leadership and most recently her role as COO at Spherics where ED&I are top of her priorities as she scales the team.She also lists Chaka Khan as her song, displaying impeccable taste in music.But we could sit and fangirl over Marina all day 💙Probably best if you hear it from her! So without further ado…MARINA, THANKS SO MUCH FOR SPEAKING TO US. KICKING US OFF, YOU HAVE RECENTLY JOINED SPHERICS AS COO, CAN YOU TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOUR DAY TO DAY?We are preparing for Series A, so there are lots to do in preparation for that! Ensuring we are on point for due diligence, keeping on top of finances-P&L, working with CFO & CEO, preparing for scaling the team – interviewing, looking at premises, ensuring we are compliant and legal, HR, whilst also looking after the team we already have. We are a people first organisation, and we truly believe in creating the right culture for everyone to thrive.SPHERICS SOUNDS AWESOME, WHAT IS THE PLAN FOR THE BUSINESS THIS YEAR?We are scaling and fast! As I mentioned we are raising a Series A this year, currently we are a team of 15. Priority now is scaling our tech and customer services teams to meet the additional priorities from our customers, but we are also recruiting a variety of other roles, so if anyone is interested, please get in touch! By the end of the year, we forecast to be a team of 50.HOW ARE YOU GOING TO ENSURE YOU BUILD AN INCLUSIVE AND DIVERSE TEAM FROM THE START?This is very important to the founders and myself, we have equal parity of male female in our team, and the majority of our dev team are women, which I am incredibly proud of.However, we have to ensure our team is representative of our city region. We are using software to ensure our job descriptions are not biased in terms of language, and we also protect against unconscious bias influencing our recruitment process by conducting blind selections.We are also working with D&I specialists and organisations across the city region to maximise reach into diverse communities.YOU SHARE THE SAME PASSION AS US FOR ED&I – WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO COMPANIES TO ATTRACT UNDERREPRESENTED TALENT TO THEIR TEAMS?There are various ways to tackle Equality, Diversity & Inclusion in terms of blind selections and unconscious bias, working with female coding orgs to reach talent that is underrepresented. I don’t think we have it cracked yet unfortunately, which is why we have started working with other local organisations to identify individuals with protected characteristics that have a passion for working with us.We have also just completed our B Corp assessment thanks to the tenacity of Rebecca Burgess, our former Chief Engagement Officer, which we will hopefully hear from this month, fingers crossed! B Corp Certification is a great process to fully understand how you implement the passion to be a ‘people first’ organisation.HOW WOULD YOU MEASURE SUCCESS WHEN IT COMES TO ED&I?Great question! Measuring inclusion is vital, we measure and make it a priority for the company, and it is driven by our Board – what is valued is measured, and those measurements drive action. We are tailoring our business goals to be both meaningful and truly effective within our organisational strategy.We are a remote first team but our beating heart is in Bristol, and I want our team to scale and reflect the city we live in. We also have quarterly pulse surveys/360 reviews and team away days to ensure we are hearing from all our team, as we want our team to feel confident and empowered to offer different opinions, to bring innovation and meaningful change.WHAT CHALLENGES HAVE YOU FACED IN YOUR CAREER?There have been a few! I was a single mother when I moved to Bristol, this made completing my degree more challenging and commence my career however I had incredible support from UWE and this assisted my development.I worked for an awesome organisation straight out of university, Calling the Shots, who were fully supportive and inclusive and shared their knowledge which has stayed with me as I have developed.I have had male managers remove my name from Board reports and add theirs, if this ever happens to you my advice is to challenge immediately! Be assertive and direct, whilst remaining calm and professional.GROWING UP YOU TOLD ME YOU WENT TO A SCHOOL WHERE YOU WE’RE DIFFERENT AND DIDN’T FIT INTO THE NORM OF OTHER CHILDREN AROUND YOU. I WOULD LOVE TO DO MORE FOR THE NEXT GENERATION ESPECIALLY IN TECH. WHAT DO YOU THINK SCHOOLS AND EVEN LOCAL COMPANIES CAN DO TO ENCOURAGE THE NEXT GENERATION INTO TECH AND DIGITAL CAREERS?Wow, I’d forgotten I’d told you this! Yes, we were a working class, immigrant family – Irish/Italian and I remember people crossing the street, so they didn’t have to speak to my mum – that was hard but what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right!In all seriousness, I would advise the next generation to speak to as many people as possible, take on as much work experience as you can, go to career events, network. Schools and Local Authorities are working together to ensure initiatives, such as the one led by the Career Enterprise Company – advisors work with schools on curriculum planning and bringing in companies to deliver talks.Roles are changing with such a pace, there are jobs now that didn’t exist when I was leaving school. If young people are not aware of the scope of employment, then they can’t apply themselves and their skills.I would also advise young people to take risks, be brave and push themselves out of their comfort zone-it’s ok to fail as a lot of learning stems from failure.Look at alternative routes other than university, as it’s not for everyone. Apprenticeships, for example are a great way to earn and learn through hands on experience. I feel there is too much focus put on uni degrees, which leaves young adults feeling they are substandard if they don’t have one and I want to see this change.WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR PROUDEST MOMENT TO DATE, BOTH PERSONALLY AND PROFESSIONALLY?Personally, there have been a few – no 1 is my amazing son, Leon who is now 22 and a wonderfully caring and considerate young man, whom I am immensely proud of!In addition, completing my degree and exhibiting at BETT at ExCel, taking part in NESTA Futurelab Design Challenge and exhibiting my work at Submerge, an audio-visual tech/arts expo, with a 3-year-old at the time!Professionally, Representing Bristol, Facebook, Oracle and the West of England at International events and delivered keynotes, fireside chats and chairing panels at local and international conferences/events to drive cultural change through thought leadership.Seeing through as Chair of BoD for Gapsquare’s acquisition to FTSE 100 company and representing Oracle at House of Lords events due to Women in Tech advocacy.Winning the SW Mentoring Award and a Lifetime Achievement Award for demonstrable value to the UK SW Tech scene, and achieving #27 on the TT50 list!IT’S INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY THIS MONTH AND SOMETHING WE SHOULD CELEBRATE EVERY DAY. HAVE YOU DRAWN INSPIRATION FROM OTHER WOMEN BOTH PERSONALLY AND PROFESSIONALLY AND WHO ARE THEY?Absolutely, personally of course my mother was such a source of inspiration, she taught me the importance of compassion and inclusion.My best friend Jodie aka wiffles, who is a kick arse Production Manager working in TV and has worked with the likes of Attenborough and Obama, she is the kindest and most inclusive individual and keeps me constantly in check.Professionally, there are a few however top of mind are Dr Zara Nanu and Mel Rodrigues, who are, and continue to be my vanguards. Their positivity and drive provide such inspiration, and professionally they are two of the most incredible, ambitious individuals I have ever met, and I am also honoured to call them friends.WE SPOKE ABOUT DISABILITIES IN THE WORKPLACE AND WHILST WE STILL HAVE WORK TO DO ON ALL FRONTS OF DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION, I BELIEVE A LOT OF EMPLOYERS ARE THINKING ABOUT DISABILITIES BOTH PHYSICALLY OR HIDDEN. LIKE MYSELF FOR EXAMPLE, I HAVE SEVERE DYSLEXIA AND IT WAS ONLY PICKED UP 5 YEARS AGO AND MY PREVIOUS EMPLOYERS DIDN’T SUPPORT ME WITH THIS OR OFFER ANY SUPPORT WHEN I FAILED TESTS FOR EXAMPLE. WHAT CAN WE ALL DO TO SUPPORT DISABILITIES IN THE WORKPLACE?It is so important to support disabilities in the workplace, both physical and psychological, however as you say sometimes neurodiversity can go undiagnosed, unnoticed, or mis-interpreted.Employee assistance programmes and building supportive company cultures helps, whilst also embedding accessibility into every part of your recruitment process.Make sure you spend time myth busting with managers, modify your working arrangements to support individuals, provide unconscious bias training for all employees and obviously pay workers with disabilities equally.I have had the pleasure to have had a career in TV, Film, and Technology, these industries tend to have a high percentage of neuro-diverse creatives/individuals – learning how to bring out the best in people is key, provide different software and hardware, be conscious of large team events as some people will struggle – take the time to get to know your team and how best to support everyone, as individuals.IF YOU WERE A SONG WHAT SONG WOULD YOU BE?Chaka Khan, Ain’t Nobody!WHAT IS THE SAYING OR MANTRA YOU LIVE BY?Work hard, play hard, be kind – always.Great note to end on – thanks so much Marina! Keep rocking #womenrockAn interview with Alicia Teagle I: @womenrockbristolT: @womenrockbrstl

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