5,000+ women in one venue creates an inspirational environment.
Women of Silicon Roundabout was held in London in June and hosted over the course of 2 days with nearly 6,000 attendees, all ready to be inspired and take charge of their careers. The conference at its core revolves around empowering women, cultivating diversity in the technology industry and of course discussing emerging technologies. Over the two days, the conference centre was bustling with activity. From presentation stages with talks or panel discussions, hands-on seminars varying from technical to soft skills workshops and a plethora of company stalls; the attendees were spoilt for choice.
For a conference of this scale, there was no better option than to kick off the event with an inspirational woman delivering the keynote presentation.
Who received this honour?
None other than Baroness Karren Brady CBE. She focused her talk around 6 key points for success:
- Show Leadership
- Have Ambition
- Be Determined
- Change your Attitude
- Find your Direction
- Be Positive
But out of all these points, one phrase in particular, stuck with me, one in fact Baroness Brady has cut out of a newspaper and carried in her purse for years:
Nothing in the World can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination are omnipotent. The slogan “press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race. — Calvin Coolidge
Let’s Talk Tech
After a wonderful start to the conference with opening talks on empowerment and allyship, it was time to get into some technical talks. These talks all focused on the Future of Technology, with the core theme being “Disrupt, or be disrupted”, designed to inspire change and innovative thinking. With Artificial Intelligence (AI) being one of my biggest interests I focused on attending talks that would discuss what is coming next for the industry in this space.
Increasingly, AI is becoming a sought after technology for companies and it was interesting to see the combination of this technology into the insurance sector, during Reza Khorshidi’s AI-First Insurance session. He covered a brilliant analogy around the understanding of AI-First design; comparing an autonomous car that is created in an AI-First manner, to an AI-Inside autonomous car. AI-First is the principle that the algorithms and hardware for AI systems in the car should precede over the car’s design, for example, the way Tesla design. Whereas, AI-Inside focuses on creating an autonomous car by adapting an original car. The point to be made here, was that in order to fully accept and integrate AI into our systems, we should be designing them in an AI-First manner.
Of course, there wouldn’t be talks around AI without touching upon data. One of the sessions I attended focused on how data can be used for good; in relation to a sensitive topic, human trafficking and exploitation. Using data and pattern detection, LexisNexis was able to track money before it was laundered to enable the detection of criminal activity; allowing data to be used for good. Despite this being a more serious use case for data and AI, it was inspiring to see the benefit that these new technologies can bring.
I also wanted to use this conference as a way to understand new technologies that have seemed complex or almost like buzzwords to me.
One of these was Quantum Computing. Natasha Norris’ talk on “What will a world powered by Quantum Computing look like?’ made the subject accessible and explained the foundational concepts behind Quantum Computing, which removed the mystery around the topic for me. One of the predictions from this session related to security and scarily, how Quantum Computing could have the ability to break all current public key encryption methods. We’re a while away from that, don’t panic!
One of the core pillars supporting Women in Silicon Roundabout is career guidance and personal development, to up-skill and empower women to take charge of their careers.
One of the most insightful workshops I attended focused on sociology in the work environment, more specifically the difference in the communication styles of men and women. The research showed the differences in both body language, tone and specifics in a conversation between the two genders; highlighting how in order to be heard it is common for one party to adjust their communication style. Part of this workshop was to undertake the Thomas-Kilmann assessment to determine your conflict communication style. My own personal style turned out to be Compromising; the mix between assertiveness and cooperativeness, that focuses more on seeking out mutually acceptable outcomes. It was insightful to understand the dynamics that can affect communication and slight changes you can take to adopt a new conflict style, to achieve the desired outcome.
With the main theme of empowering women to champion their careers, there were several talks and sessions on finding your allies and how to progress professionally.
In various types of media, there has been an increase in the discussion of the gender pay gap, but what’s clear is that knowing about the issue doesn’t fix the issue, we have to stand up in order to create change. The workshop I attended on pay and promotion revolved around how to control your stake in negotiation and remove the awkwardness from the situation. It was clear from every woman in the room that there was confusion around identifying your worth and fear around asking for too much. Shockingly in the US only 7% of women negotiated when accepting graduate positions. By focusing on preparation, timing and your behaviour in the situation, every woman in the room left with the confidence to aim high and more importantly, the understanding that we are worth it.
What struck me about this conference as a whole was the energy and determination of all the women in the room; their passion and dedication to making a difference was evident. Across the two days, I had several conversations about the importance of Diversity and Inclusion and how companies were trying to tackle and implement change. The vast amount of companies who sponsored the event and supported speakers were all promoting how they were creating change either through educational schemes, policy changes or providing training to tackle unconscious bias.
A Silicon Round-up
Women of Silicon Roundabout did a brilliant job of providing a well-rounded conference, that covered professional and personal development, an insight into changes we will see in the industry and technical workshops and talks to up-skill attendees. Did I learn and leave inspired? Yes I did! There were so many talks that I wish I could’ve seen so I can’t wait to watch the recordings.