Women in tech panellists inspire students to break the gender disparity in the industry

Jenna Davies, Employability Consultant, writes about the Women in Tech Panel Talk, held on 24 January 2017

women-in-techBirkbeck Careers’ Upscale programme welcomed an exciting panel of women in the tech industry to deliver a thought-provoking discussion around their journeys within the world of technology. With stories ranging from eye opening career hurdles to key bites of advice for aspiring techies, guests were treated to an evening of laughs, gasps and inspiration.

Emma Beer, Senior Delivery Manager at the Government Digital Services, revealed a past fear that many women today resonate with: that you have to be a proper ‘techie’ to work in the digital world. But every tech company requires the so called ‘old skills’. Communication is vital, having the natural ability to talk articulately and express yourself well. Project management is also among a host of skills that are equally crucial to such organisations, yet often overlooked by potentially strong applicants, who are bound by this belief that they don’t have the right knowledge for this sector.

The knowledge topic proved to be a fundamental part of the discussion and Nicola Byrne, successful entrepreneur and CEO at Cloud90, identified with Emma’s point. Understanding tech is one thing, but you don’t need to necessarily do it to succeed in this world. Nicola has built extremely successful businesses by understanding the industry and highlighted the vast amount of jobs that she, and fellow entrepreneurs, have created that never existed before. The job for those in the audience is working out how to innovate for the future, looking ahead at jobs that don’t exist now but will in five, 10, 20 years’ time.

wit3Jo Salter, Director in People & Organisation at PwC and the first female fast-jet pilot in the RAF, looked at where children start their tech journeys; primary schools are doing great things but it’s soon reinforced that tech isn’t ‘cool’. Exciting, vibrant people are needed in IT classrooms to teach children and young people the exact opposite; that tech is the way forward. Jo also highlighted that pivoting in your career is perfectly acceptable and thoroughly encouraged; changing direction builds experience, presents new skills and keeps you moving.

The panel discussion, facilitated by Gen Ashley, Director of Women Who Code, certainly succeeded in positively influencing the audience towards the reasons women need to be key players in tech sector, with many guests indicating they’re inspired to get back on track with their tech goals. Gen emphasised the importance to be yourself in tech, and reinforced a key piece of advice from Emma to join Ada’s list, the global community for women in tech where Gen is part of the leadership team. The evening ended with guests and panellists mingling over wine and continuing the conversation, bringing more women into the world of tech.

So what did we learn? Networking is vital. It’s ok to pivot. Being ‘flighty’ is good. And that watching a demo on folding a fitted sheet could change your life.

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UpScale visits 10 Downing Street

This post was contributed by Kate Dodgson, UpScale’s Employability Project Manager

Kate Dodgson (right) at networking event at 10 Downing Street

Kate Dodgson (right) at networking event at 10 Downing Street

On 24 November 2016, UpScale went to 10 Downing Street to attend a Women in Tech Networking and Mentoring event. The event was on the invitation of Rt. Hon Karen Bradley MP – the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and was organised by one of UpScale’s partners – DevelopHer – a non-profit organisation elevating women in tech.

100 women in tech were invited to attend and were divided into mentors and mentees. I was invited to represent Birkbeck as a mentor. Birkbeck’s UpScale programme aims to encourage Birkbeck students to pursue work in technology and has a strong focus on under-represented groups including women in technology. Partnerships with organisations such as DevelopHer support UpScale to achieve this important aim.

While nibbling on cucumber sandwiches and sipping elderflower cordial, the fifty mentors began networking with the fifty mentees. Roughly ten minutes were allocated to each conversation before a gavel was hit and the women rotated. Ideas, business cards and laughs were exchanged, and there were women representatives from the public sector, higher education, the private sector (ranging from huge multi-national companies to brand new start-ups) and everything in-between.

The Rt. Hon Karen Bradley arrived and gave a speech highlighting the gender gap in STEM industries and emphasising the need to close the gap. She said that the event was designed to allow prominent women in tech to get their heads together to try and find ways to combat the inequality. She invited the women attending to suggest to her ways that the government could address the under-representation of women.

downing-st-4The evening ended with a hundred selfies by the front door of No.10 and a walk to a nearby pub. Here the networking continued, and the wine drinking commenced. Ideas on how to lessen the gap and make technology a sector of choice, for all women, continued and relationships were built and no doubt will continue to be nurtured in the coming weeks and months.

Birkbeck’s UpScale programme helps promote women in tech by exposing female students to the tech industry and offering ideas and thoughts, directly from industry on how to support them to enter it. Through partnering with numerous companies and organisations, UpScale provides students with a series of co-curricular events which improve their digital and soft skills. Providing female students with these skills gives them greater confidence to enter a currently male-dominated industry and over time will reduce the gender imbalance.

UpScale is delighted to have been invited to No. 10 to act as a mentor for women in tech and looks forward to continuing the incredible work being done to boost women’s prospects in this substantial industry.

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Understanding Google

upscale-programme-blogFrederic Kalinke is a valued partner of the UpScale programme at Birkbeck College. He is Managing Director of Digital Animal and also runs Convertd, a digital marketing school, in his spare time. His workshop: ‘Understanding Google – A Practical Workshop on Digital Marketing’, equips students with the knowledge to fully exploit Google’s products as well as other digital marketing strategies. It provides students with valuable insights from the former Googler and is popularly attended and reviewed by Birkbeck students. The workshops are generously provided by Frederic for free, so we asked him his motivations for his involvement in UpScale and Birkbeck College.This year, Frederic ran workshops on: 14 Feb, 11 March, 13 October, 8 November. More workshops will be scheduled for next year.

What is your background?

I started out on Google’s graduate program, where I managed multimillion pound advertising budgets across AdWords, Display and Video for a number of clients from different industries. I also got a taste for product innovation by obtaining a patent for a new application that transforms YouTube into an audiovisual What’s On guide. The most enjoyable thing I did, however, was to develop my own methodology to teach Google’s myriad of solutions to businesses of all shapes and sizes.

What are you working on now?

I am MD of an advocacy marketing agency called Digital Animal. We’ve built a platform called Amigo that enables brands to deliver campaigns that transform customers into marketing assets. We believe that the digital revolution is not about the always-on connection brands have with their customers and prospects, but the connection between customers. Marketing’s goal should be to encourage and facilitate the conversations that happen when brands are not in room. Amigo delivers personalised experiences to a brand’s best customers and their friends, mirroring the experience a valued customers gets offline in their local shop. I also run Convertd where I teach digital marketing to advertising agencies, management consultancies and law firms.

How and why did you come up with the Understanding Google workshop?

We are living through a period of unprecedented transformation. The internet has ripped apart and redefined several industries within a short space of time. In order to stay on top, I believe people need to understand the principles driving online business, particularly how one acquires and retains customers in a digital age. Early in my workshop I say that understanding how Google works is as important to a business as having a bank account. It’s elementary to survival.

The workshop itself is the product of thousands of discussions with businesses. The mechanics of Google – SEO, AdWords, Display, YouTube, Analytics – and digital marketing in general is a complex subject with many interdependent parts. There are three building blocks in my teaching. First I dedicate enough time on setting the context through a number of icebreaker and thought experiment exercises. We review the digital opportunity, explain the difference between traditional and online advertising and explore the importance of data-driven decision making. Secondly, I make the workshop as practical as possible. There is a lot of audience participation and I make sure to display a cumulative glossary so that the audience can see the concepts they are learning and can put them into a context. This is because I am a big believer in the proverb that “if you tell somebody to do something they will forget, if you show somebody something they will remember, but if you involve somebody they will understand.” Thirdly I use metaphors to teach as they make the unfamiliar familiar and the new memorable. For instance, I use empire building, fishing, football and restaurants as a way to make key digital marketing concepts come alive.

What do you think students gain from attending your workshop?

Attendees will leave the workshop understanding the power of digital advertising as well as practical insights into Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), AdWords, Display, Social Media advertising, Youtube and Google Analytics. Overall I teach over 35 concepts and run a practical exercise within a 2.5 hour workshop so it’s pretty intensive. I also hope attendees leave inspired and empowered, appreciating the power that their newfound knowledge provides them, given that all industries have and will continue to be disrupted by the internet.

What are your motivations for participating in UpScale and partnering with Birkbeck College?

I am a big believer in the power of education and the idea that life is a path with no set destination. Birkbeck as an institution embodies this philosophy by offering courses for people to reskill and zig-zag. I get a lot of energy from teaching people from all backgrounds, ages and walks of life who are investing in their careers. The Upscale program is of particular interest as it focuses on technology and emphases women in tech, ethnic diversity and people with disabilities, all of which are very positive things.

What’s next for you?

My objective is to make Amigo, our technology platform, a global standard. I’ll be happy if marketing teams from around the world use Amigo to deliver highly effective and magical marketing experiences to their customers. I also want to continue running Convertd workshops across London as there’s nothing better than seeing people empowered to make the most out of the digital revolution that continues to spark and spread around us.

Testimonials from student attendees

“Really good at appealing to people who came in knowing nothing to those who already had a basic knowledge. Moved at a fast pace and kept everybody involved”

 

“The resources the Presenter included in the workbook provided for one to do more studying”

 

“Powerful insight around the behind the scenes and little known “secrets” of Google and Google Analytics. For example the How the Quality Score can reduce the cost of AdWords. Huge thanks to the Upscale Programme and Team”

 

“A complex subject was communicated in a clear and understandable way with an engaging and interesting presentational style”

 

“The presenter was able to deliver a digestible presentation and there were a few ‘eureka’ moments”

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Sports business professionals advise Birkbeck students on how to crack the industry

Event: The Football Industry Uncovered: How to Make a Career in Sports

This post was contributed by Jenna Davies, an employability consultant in the Birkbeck Careers and Employability team.

event-1Birkbeck Careers and Employability’s Upscale Programme welcomed sports industry professionals working in a range of roles to deliver an inspiring panel event on following a career in this field. From the player side to the club side, attendees gained an invaluable insight into the world of sport and what it takes to get to where the panellists are today.

Hugo Scheckter, Player Liaison Officer at Southampton FC, honed in on the importance of having the right motivation to succeed. Hugo says it’s not about being a super fan of the club you want to work for, as that will often result in an automatic rejection for the job; it’s about being passionate and showing your professionalism and commitment. Hugo studied and worked overseas before returning to the UK with his current role, advising students to consider working internationally or out of London where a host of opportunities will exist.

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Confidence was a key theme throughout the event, with every panellist referring back to the importance of being confident in yourself and what you have to offer; purely having strong knowledge in your field won’t get you through the door or progress you in the industry. Ehsen Shah, a director at digital and commercial agency The Integrity Club, develops player profiles in order to provide strategic partnership opportunities. Hard work and absolute dedication to his career propelled Ehsen to where he is today, and his advice to students was smart networking and going out to find opportunities.

Leon Anderson, a football executive with Wasserman Media Group, rated Jerry Maguire among his pool of inspirational moments and it’s clear he’s an exceptionally professional and devoted agent to the players he represents.  Bouncing back from a number of setbacks throughout his career to date, Leon highlighted the importance of staying focussed on your goal and pushing through the obstacles to make a success of your career in sport.

Every panellist exuded positivity around their demanding roles and intense work schedules and Daniel Geey, a partner and sports lawyer at Sheridan’s, summarised the discussions about the secret to their successes: that there is no secret. Perseverance, positivity, hard work and, ultimately, building connections led to their success today. Given the response from students, who queued to have a further chat with the guys at the end of the evening, it seems the advice was well received and ready to be put into action.

The Upscale Programme is part of Birkbeck Careers and Employability, hosting a range of employer-led events to inspire students to get into technology within their field of interest. For more information and to book similar events visit the Upscale Programme website.

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