Last month, colleagues from across Vanquis attended the Women of Silicon roundabout event at the ExCel Centre, London. With a room filled with over 4,000+ technology leaders and professionals in the industry, the event aimed to celebrate gender diversity in the world's fastest growing industry and support career development.
Linnéa Carter and Rita Patel were among some of the Vanquis colleagues who attended and have shared their stories about what they got out of the day...
I've personally never been to a conference (of any kind) so I was very excited at the prospect of doing something new and experiencing something different, and to find out what it's all about.
If I'm totally honest, I was a little bit apprehensive over how it would come across with the focus specifically on women in IT and whether it might come across as a pat on the head and a 'Aww, Well Done to you for being a woman in technology' or whether it might be a 'Women are awesome! Men are rubbish! Let's burn some bras!' sort of atmosphere, neither of which would sit particularly well with me. Well, I'm pleased to say it was neither. I felt the tone was set perfectly and there were loads of motivational speakers sharing their experiences and top tips for working in the industry, with all of it being useful anyone in the industry – not just women.
I’m lucky (although it shouldn’t even be considered a ‘thing’) in that the 12 years I’ve worked for Vanquis, I’ve never felt that I’m disadvantaged or different, simply because I’m a female working in IT. It is recognised that I bring different strengths to the teams I work in, but that’s just part of me being me. I’ve never been made to feel that I’m any less than the rest of the group of people that I work with and I’m just part of the gang. If I decided tomorrow that I wanted to take my technical path down a different route and have a go at programming, no one would question whether I could do it simply because I’m a woman. They might question whether my short attention span might get in the way, but they would none the less be supportive! ; ) However, it is very disappointing that there are still women across IT experiencing this sort of thing.
I guess I've never previously thought about it, but if you look around a room when IT come together, the men far outnumber the women. It does make me curious as to why that is and I think it would be a great topic to open up a conversation on.
The most impactful talk I listened to on the Tuesday was by Nicola Beste, the Senior Director of Projects & Programs at Adidas, who was very passionate about the diverse thinking that women bring into technical topics and it was a fascinating talk as she was a very engaging speaker. I also loved one of her top tips, which is useful to anyone, which is having an 'Hour of Power', where she will spend an hour learning about something new. It could be something she's heard mentioned but don't know what it is, or a new technology she wants to focus on or anything she fancies. She encouraged everyone to put an hour in each week. When I spoke to her afterwards, we agreed that it’s our curiosity that makes us good at what we do and we owe it to ourselves and our companies to stay curious and take the time to learn. I certainly have a long list of new topics just from the two days, in addition to stuff from before, which I’m curious about and want to make sure I expand my knowledge on.
The overall highlight of the event was a speaker called Jody Davids (Global CIO – PepsiCo) . She shared her moving story about losing her son (when he was placed in Afghanistan) a couple of days before he turned 20. Her son had written a letter before he died that said if they had got his letter then he was no more. In the letter he also stated that he had no regrets and that he would do same thing again - he lived for a purpose which was to help people, after watching the tragic events of 9/11. She must of told that story a number of times but the sadness in her voice when she was reading the letter made most of us cry. She said her second son also decided to take the same path as her older son but luckily made it back safely after the war had ended and now he has two beautiful children.
Another speaker called Martha Lane Fox (Non Exec Director for Twitter) shared her story about her journey in creating the lastminute.com website and how no one thought it would work to start with. She talked about why it’s essential to have women in tech sector and how history can teach us to build the best possible future. She also shared her story about removing Alexa from her house because she saw that her kids were shouting at a box in the corner of her house and it would reply back in woman's voice with answers. She said she wanted her kids to grow up with manners and speak to women with respect. Until she mentioned this I didn’t think anything about it. She didn't want them to think they could shout at a woman to get a response as this was not setting a good example for her kids.
The key learning that I took away from the whole experience was that nothing is impossible and women can do anything! The only thing that might stop us sometimes is the doubt in our mind. We should all live for a purpose and take the opportunities that come our way.