What a 14-year-old girl can teach you about business

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One of the ways you can make your business work? Make sure you have the same imagination as you did when you were young. 

I recently went to a workshop for female entrepreneurs in the IT industry designed to teach women who want to start a business where and how to seek legal advice.

Before we get too caught up in the advice that was given about women's networks, I wanted to highlight the advice given by a young entrepreneur named Jenny Brenan.  

Admitting it had been a while since her first venture, Brenan told how after setting up her own business she had handed it over to family when she got "distracted by her degree."

She was 11 when she taught herself to code, in the days where those with HTML skills had the best MySpace pages and your ability to keep your Neopets happy was a measure of your social standing.

She decided, at 14, to start a business making websites and trained and then hired her dad to help her along the way.

"I started a business because it was better and more fun than a Saturday job, but no one wanted a website from a 14 year old girl." she said.

Brenan explained this was the best way to be when starting a business: "I didn't have guts, I was 14, I just had no fear."

But whenever a client had a question, they would direct it at her dad despite her being the one giving all the answers.

"What a 14 year old shows there, is you might not always come across as the package that people need," she explains.

"In many ways it's a marketing problem."

Unfortunately this is a problem women in the IT industry still face and Brenan admits what she had previously called "a marketing problem" is "also a societal problem."

Later on this issue was discussed by a panel, featuring Susan McLean from Morrison & Foerster, Maria Shiao, MD of Novus Ordo Capital Ltd, Caroline Ferguson, founder of Living Lawyers, Lu Li, founder of women's network Blooming Founder and Catherine McClen, CEO of Buddy Hub.

The women stated they do still get underestimated, but you have to own your minority and use it to your advantage.

"We just want our fair share of the whole cake." Sated Li, who has built an advice network for women entrepreneurs.

"Entrepreneurship is a level playing ground," Li stated.

"Women need to believe more in themselves and their own capabilities - just go out there and do your stuff."

Maria Shiao then highlighted that eventually as long as you can follow up your claims and attitude with affirmative action, people will warm to you and your ideas.

All of the ladies highlighted that at first men in business may ignore woman and direct questions at other men, but if you keep bringing the conversation back to yourself the men will eventually get the message.

They also insisted that women should make use of the networks and tools available to them to keep themselves in the loop, ask other women for help, and eventually make the city and the industry a more diverse community.       

In the end, just as diversity makes teams more productive and innovative, it will be diversity that makes you stand out.

"Take the knocks, be strong with your business and what you're all about," summarised Morrison & Foerster's Susan McClean.

 "They might remember you against five Daves."


Who are the women in IT?

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The IT sector covers a wide variety of careers and firms - but who counts as an IT professional?

A while ago I was chatting to a woman who had quite a senior IT job. On finding out I had a Computer Science degree she suddenly announced "oh, you're one of us!"

I began to realise there's a bit of an elitist view of who actually counts as a woman in IT, so I was surprised when I was asked to talk about my role as Computer Weekly's Business Editor at a BCS Women and Women in High Performance Computing (HPC) event in September 2015.

I chatted about my degree, about what IT skills and training I have and how I ended up as an IT journalist.

The crowd had mixed opinions on whether or not I actually count as a "woman in IT" with some saying I have the training and I use the knowledge every day so I should count, and others saying I don't actually work in a technical job and so I am not an IT woman.

One of the speakers, Georgina Ellis from OCF, even said she was a "fraud" to be speaking at the event because she is a salesperson as opposed to a software engineer or something similar.

Like me she has the knowledge and she uses it every day, but she isn't in a technical role.

Regardless of whether or not I am worthy of a woman in IT title, the event I spoke at was designed to convince women at a career crossroads to consider moving into a role in the IT industry.

Other speakers on the panel were academics Lorna Smith and Alison Kennedy from EPCC, Toni Collis from EPCC who founded Women in HPC, Georgina Ellis from OCF and Gillian Arnold the chair of BCS women.

Each spoke about their background, their jobs and how they reached the point they are in their career.

Speaker Lorna Smith claimed the reason there's a drop off in IT careers after getting a degree is down to universities.

"There is a problem with career plans for software engineers in universities," she said.

"Universities struggle with career progression."

To tackle some of the pressures women put on themselves when wanting a successful career, Gillian Arnold gave some sound advice which could be applied in most industries including speaking out for your achievements rather than waiting for them to be noticed, making sure you examine your own motivations and finding and using active networks in your industry to your advantage.

Toni Collis followed up by explaining there are few opportunities day-to-day for women to interact with other women in the sector, and women's networks can provide support.

"There's no shame in wanting to network with other women." She insisted. 

FDM Everywoman Awards 2016 now open for nominations

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The FDM everywoman in Technology Awards 2016, partnered with techUK, are now open for nominations.

Everywoman's sixth annual event is searching for 2016's most successful, inspirational and influential women working in the technology sector.

Launched in 2011, the awards celebrate females making a difference in the technology industry, whether they're startup founders, leaders in large firms or still building their path.

By showcasing these women's achievements through the awards, the FDM everywomen in Technology awards aims to inspire others to pursue a career in IT.

Maxine Benson, co-founder of everywoman said: "These Awards are playing a hugely important role in shining the spotlight on talented, successful women who have the ability to inspire a girl, a graduate, a colleague to pursue a career in technology. Only this will help increase the number of women working in technology from the woefully small 25%."

Sheila Flavell, chief operating officer of title sponsor FDM Group commented: "FDM is delighted to be sponsoring the everywoman in Technology Awards 2016 for the fourth consecutive year, as we continue to share a commitment to supporting, maintaining and celebrating tech talent within the industry. Diversity in the workplace is fundamental to business growth and success; it drives innovation, facilitates communication and improves global awareness. To push this diversity we aim to promote a gender -balanced workforce and continue to be inspired by the many women who are driving technology forward. FDM's dedicated global Women in IT campaign is our way of showcasing our continued commitment to driving gender diversity in the workplace, by encouraging women to pursue a career in tech."

Julian David, CEO of techUK said: "techUK is once again delighted to support the FDM everywoman in Technology Awards. Attracting appropriately skilled employees continues to be one of the biggest challenges facing the UK tech sector and we need a greater representation of the working population to join UK tech companies and help support continued sector growth. In particular, we need to work hard to attract smart, skilled women who are not currently attracted to the industry and communicate the breadth of career opportunities in tech that are open to all."

The FDM everywoman Awards are free to enter and this year's categories are as follows:

Entrepreneur Award- Sponsored by ARM

Innovator Award - Sponsored by Equiniti

Team Leader Award - Sponsored by Asda

Leader Award - Sponsored by BP

International Leader Award - Sponsored by Fujitsu

Inspiration Award - Sponsored by VMware

Rising Star Award - Sponsored by American Express

The One to Watch Award - sponsored by EMC

Start-up Founder Award

And two new categories for 2016 are:

Digital Star Award - sponsored by CGI

Engineer Award

The awards are open for entries until October 27 2015 and the awards ceremony will be held at the London Hilton on Park Lane on 23 February 2016. 

What role does technology play in building a diverse workforce?

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WCN, UK and global Recruitment technology provider, has helped organisations around the world hire great people. One of the many areas where recruitment technology is making a major difference is in helping build a truly diverse workforce, as Nick Holmes, UK managing director of WCN explains.

Business leaders increasingly view diversity as a key element in the success of their organisations, with studies showing a clear link between increased workforce diversity and better revenue and sales performance. Beyond financial measures, a more diverse workforce carries significant benefits, including enhanced retention rates of your talent and greater connectivity to your customer base. Yet many organisations still find it difficult to recruit a greater mix of people. With the business case for a diverse workforce ever clearer, focus has turned to how to implement diversity, and the role HR, recruiting and technology can play in making it happen.
UK going the right way
In the UK, we have made great progress towards building diverse workforces overall, with diversity well understood in executive and government circles. The approach to diversity at London2012 showcased to the world what a truly diverse workforce and customer engagement strategy looked like, resulting in diversity leader Stephen Frost (now at KPMG) speaking on diversity at the World Economic Forum. While the UK still has to close the gap to more progressive countries like Norway, there is evidence that we are going in the right direction, with female representation on FTSE100 Boards going from 11% to 23.5% in the last 4 years. 

But...it's not all good news
While examples like London2012 and market trends show that organisations in general are getting increasing competent when it comes to unbiased recruiting, it is not all positive news. Research[i] shows that there are only six non-white people in the top 268 leadership roles across the most prominent public bodies outside government and local authorities. According to the study, ethnic minorities are less likely to reach top Public Sector positions than within Britain's biggest companies in the private sector, despite the legal obligation on state bodies to promote equality and diversity within their staff.

Although the general picture within the Public Sector is improving, there remain certain areas that still struggle to attract candidates from diverse backgrounds. The public sector is not alone in this, showing that we still have a lot more work to do to continue progress towards diversity in every workplace.
How tech can help
Technology is making it easier than ever to improve diversity levels and reduce discrimination, through providing greater transparency and insight. When an organisation adopts innovative technology and practices at the forefront of the talent's journey into an organisation, the first thing that happens is you get better insight. You are able to see what is happening at different stages of recruitment, from who the marketing attracts for which roles, to how candidates are reviewed by different departments and managers, and how those candidates progress through the recruitment process down to a granular level of detail. Recruitment technology can monitor job offer rates by specific interviewers for example, allowing you to uncover conscious and unconscious bias.   

Once you have the visibility, the second major impact technology has is that it enables you to start making changes based on the data you see, and measure the impact of these changes. As you make changes, whether it is diversity awareness training for hiring managers or a different recruitment marketing strategy, you can see what happens, who you hire and where you can continue to make improvements.  

Removing Barriers
Beyond visibility and measurement, technology can increasingly help remove remaining visible and invisible barriers. Many businesses increasingly recognise the need to adapt recruitment process to avoid turning off certain groups of candidates, for instance those who require reading support or those whose first language is not English. One of the most dramatic technology-developments to combat discrimination in recent years is 'talking technology', making the online recruitment process more accessible to all.

Such technology has a huge impact on accessibility. 1 in 10 people in the UK have dyslexia to some degree, 10 million people have a disability and 1 in 6 is from an ethnic background.  
In a move to address this, WCN has integrated DiversityTalks, a speaking toolbar, into the recruitment platform built for customers. DiversityTalks speaks over 20 foreign languages, enlarges text and changes colour contrast, making the system more accessible to the growing number of people who struggle to read websites, enabling a higher level of accessibility for all candidates.  

Where do we go from here?
There are 189 different nationalities in the UK, 17 percent are black and minority ethnic (BME). This number is set to rise to 20 percent by 2021. Recent statistics[i] show that diverse groups outperform non-diverse groups in an employment situation, so it's becoming increasingly important to attract a diverse workforce. Increasing gender diversity by just one percent will boost your bottom line by three. This is also true for a one percent rise in race equality, but three times the difference, as it will increase your revenue by nine percent.  

Companies can now be far more thorough in their search, ensuring they are looking in the right places for the right staff, not just in the UK but across the globe. Using the right tools and technologies encourages companies to cast a wider net, interview more candidates and combat discrimination more efficiently.

Right now, diversity recruiting in many organisations mostly relies on users knowing what to do; rather than enabling better diversity recruitment through technology, but tech is taking the opportunity for mistakes away. Rare Recruitment's Contextual Recruitment System, designed to promote social mobility, is a tech offering, which can be integrated to a company's recruitment technology and process. The tool works by hardwiring social mobility metrics into the firm's existing ways of assessing candidates, which will enable them to take the economic background and personal circumstances of a candidate into account, enabling companies to identify 'stand-out' candidates regardless of background.

Continual Improvement
Improving an organisational approach to diversity is a journey that never ends. We always need to analyse, review, and keep striving to improve. Many leading organisations are setting up dedicated community areas of careers websites for particular groups, which allow candidates to find out more specific and relevant information. Particular examples are disability pages on corporate career sites with functionality for candidates to engage in a conversation yet remain anonymous, providing them with an opportunity to explain any disabilities or unusual circumstances that might hinder their chances during the recruitment process prior to applying. Other recent smart approaches have been portals based at hiring specific groups such as women within technology. These portals highlight the successful careers that have already been forged, and have a warmer and more engaging language, in comparison to the often cold words of a job description, leading to higher levels of candidate engagement and ultimately greater number of applicants.

The Last Word
If you want to hire a diverse workforce it's essential as a start point to set diversity targets. Once you set targets you have to be able to assess your progress, measure what is going on, and make the effort to keep improving. The war for diverse talent is on, and you better be ready to up your game.
For more information about how WCN can help your organisation improve diversity through recruitment technology visit www.wcn.co.uk

Why girls DON'T need to learn to code

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This is a byline by Richard Protherough, managing director of Spring Technology

As the English summer begins, there are two things that are certain: Brits will keep calm and carry on complaining about the weather, and virtually every newspaper and blog will publish an article encouraging girls to take up coding and parents to enlist their daughters in coding camp. 

Coding has become this season's fashionable one-size-fits-all approach to addressing the gender gap in IT and telecoms. There is no doubt that there is a problem in the industry. After all, recent research by Spring Technology noted that women make up a remarkably low 16 per cent of the UK's total IT and telecoms workforce. However, the obsession with coding could be doing more harm than good. 

There is no doubt that the current focus on coding is well-intended; it is a useful skill and something has to be done to address the gender balance in the technology industries. However, IT and tech careers have all too often been portrayed in a narrow light - as groups of coders gathered together in dark rooms drinking one can of Coke after another and discussing online gaming - like a particularly mundane episode of The IT Crowd, with more binary and fewer jokes. 

Such an image does a disservice to the IT industry, and drastically underestimates the range of jobs available in IT that do not involve coding. Coding, for example, is not a necessary skill in the career of an IT engineer, an IT business analyst or an architect to name but a few. 

In a rush to address the gender gap in IT and tech, the importance of coding has been raised up to hubristic levels, culminating in five-year-olds being required to learn to code as part of the National Curriculum from September 2014. By the age of 11, pupils are required to "design, use and evaluate computational abstractions that model the state and behaviour of real-world problems and physical systems".  

The issue with this approach is that some young girls may be put off completely. By touting such a niche field as all-important to the development of a future career in IT, we risk putting girls off an entire industry that has an extremely wide variety of interesting, exciting and fulfilling careers to offer. 

The solution to addressing the gender balance in the IT industry is uncertain, but by settling for a simple answer, we may be compounding the problem. Repeat after me: Not every girl needs to learn how to code. 

Reader discount for 2015 everywoman Academy: Advancing Women in Technology

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It's nearly that time of year again where our friends over at everywoman hold their leadership academy at IBM's Southbank.

The 2015 everywoman Academy: Advancing Women in Technology aims to equip women in technology with the skills they need to advance their careers and to become confident leaders.

As a partner of the everywoman academies Computer Weekly has attended this event several times and I always look forward to learning something new and worthwhile in the workshops available on the day.

With the need for IT professionals expected to grow by 1.6% per annum until 2020, the industry needs to do more to not only encourage more women to consider a career in IT but to also retain the talented ones that already work within the sector.

During this year's October academy you will learn how to:

·         Developing a long term career plan

·         How to stay motivated

·         Creating a positive personal brand

·         Building resilience to navigate workplace challenges

As a supporter of this event, everywoman are offering our readers a 20% discount off tickets. Last year was a sell-out event so ensure you book your space early and enter the code CW20.


Venue: IBM Southbank, London

Date: 15 Oct 2015 8.30am to 4.45pm

What Geena Davis can teach the IT industry

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This is a guest blog by Eileen O'Mara, vice president sales EMEA at salesforce.com.

This year's shortlist for the ComputerWeekly Top 50 Most Influential Women in IT is more impressive than ever, and seeing the achievements of so many interesting and successful women in technology laid out before me got me thinking about Geena Davis and her See Jane campaign.

I realised I was looking at a list of the UK's most intelligent, powerful businesswomen from every type of technology company. Their outstanding achievements will be celebrated through the rankings - clearly, great strides are being made to improve the opportunities for young girls and women alike within the IT industry.

But although it's a great step forward, it's still only just the beginning.  

At present, there are just over five men for every one woman studying computing in the UK. And this number is the lowest that it's been in years. This means - sadly - that the UK economy is missing out on significant opportunities for growth, innovation and success.  One recent report predicted that increasing the number of women working in IT could generate an extra £2.6 billion a year for the UK economy.

The reason why Salesforce sponsors and participates in these programmes is to help drive interest for women of all ages to choose careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) and start making positive strides to turn back this tide. We need to do as much as we can to recognise the achievements of female IT executives in the UK and Ireland.

But we need to do more than just sponsor - and attend - awards ceremonies, even though they have a massively important role to play of course.

A recent interview with Geena Davis in McKinsey Quarterly looks at the potential impact of the lack of girls in family films. The ratio of male to female characters is 3:1, the same as it's been since 1946. Davis argues that it's probably not a coincidence that in many segments of society--including on boards, in politics, and even in IT companies - the percentage of women stalls out at around 17 percent, given that we condition young children to see that kind of number as the norm.

It's important therefore that we make the issue of women in IT not just about women. So many of the hurdles we face actually come from social and cultural norms that both men and women propagate. That means getting men educated and involved in the debate as much as women. Next year I hope to see even greater male participation and interest in the Top 50 Most Influential Women in IT event. 

We must do more to showcase the impact and potential for women in IT. Geena Davis talks about how easily and quickly children incorporate what they see into an understanding of the role of men and women in society. At Salesforce, we like to say that you can't be what you can't see - that young girls really need to see and hear from mentors and successful women to know and understand what we can achieve, in the IT industry and beyond.  

What it means to be a woman in IT and a woman in the military

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Cliantha Kay

Then and Now: 
Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Cliantha Kay 2.jpgThumbnail image for Cliantha Kay 1.jpg
I was a Communication Systems Operator in the Royal Corps of Signals. This role gave me the opportunity to operate and maintain secure military radios and network infrastructures. I am now placed on site at LV= today as an FDM Consultant in a Junior IT Build Manager role.

What it means to be a woman in the military and a woman in IT:
The world of the military is often male dominated however working hard, consistently and diligently ensured I progressed. I did have to put in extra effort on the physical aspects of the role but that just built and strengthened my character. In my experience thus far, the same can be said about IT.

Why decide to leave and why IT and FDM:
I decided to leave the army in order to pursue a career in IT. The world of technology is evolving and it always involves IT at some stage of its evolution. In my opinion, this ensures job security, as long as you stay on top of your game and keep informed about the latest trends. FDM really appealed to me and I was drawn to the opportunity because it provides the training and support needed in order to find a job in the world of IT.

How FDM helped you make the transition:
FDM provided the baseline skills for me to transition into my job.

What skills/training ensured success in your current role:
I enrolled onto the ex-Forces Programme to pursue a career in technology and received training on the standard military pathway in London. My training in UNIX, SQL, OS Admin enabled me to understand my job with more ease than if I had not and thanks to FDM, have transitioned into a great role in the finance sector.

Jennifer Smith

Then and Now:
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I was an Executive Officer (Second in Command) in the Royal Navy. I am now a placed on site as an FDM Consultant in a PMO Associate role at UBS. 

Why I decided to leave and why IT and FDM:
After 6 years of primarily navigating warships, I didn't think I was particularly qualified for anything other than life at sea. Whilst I knew that I no longer wanted that lifestyle, it took a bit of time to decide that I wanted to branch into project work. Although I loved my time in the Navy and wouldn't take it back for anything, I made the decision to leave and forge a new career for myself based in London. I initially struggled to kick-start my second career but came across FDM and saw that they provided a great solution to the problem I had been experiencing.

How FDM helped you make the transition:
FDM training helped me gain basic industry knowledge and vastly improved my confidence in a business environment. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the FDM Academy and I'm excited by the future opportunities it has facilitated.

What skills/training ensured success in your current role:
After passing the FDM assessment and interview, I was placed on a 4 week training course at FDM to build up some basic industry knowledge and improve my confidence in a civilian business project environment. The training gives you the basic skills required for your placement as well as a PRINCE2 qualification if you don't already have one. My role today is certainly high pressure at times, but it didn't take long for me to settle in and the experience is invaluable. I'm not sure exactly what the future will bring and I am still relatively new to my role, but right now I'm incredibly happy with where I am. I'm very excited to see where this new journey will take me and it's only on some occasional sunny days I miss being out on the water.

Women Who Code Belfast Hackathon

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Women Who Code will be holding its first hackathon on June 6th at the University of Ulster's Belfast Campus.

If you're interested in taking part in a day of coding, creating something fun, networking and winning prizes you can RSVP here.

I've been to a Women Who Code event before - had a great time and learnt a lot. More information can be found below.


The BCSWomen Lovelace Colloquium 2015

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This is a guest blog from Helen Miles, research associate, Department of Computer Science at Aberystwyth University.

This year's BCSWomen Lovelace Colloquium was the 8th, and was the biggest in the event's history. This was my first ever Lovelace Colloquium, and I'm sorry to say it was only as a helper/photographer. I'd never heard of this event as an undergraduate (admittedly, a few years ago now), and I wish so much that I had! What a fantastic day, meeting so many women in tech with such great posters across all kinds of computing topics.


The day involved a number things: a poster competition for undergraduates at different stages of their course, keynotes from some very inspirational women in tech, a questions panel, lots of company careers stalls, and (most importantly) cake. One of the things that impressed me most about the whole event was how the wonderful Dr Hannah Dee (main organiser) manages to run the event free for the undergraduates by getting so many great and generous industrial sponsors to cover different things throughout the day. It's pretty cool to see so many companies being actively interested in getting more women employed in tech careers.


The colloquium was headline sponsored by Google (who also gave us some cool goodie bags), with a delicious lunch by Twitter, and coffee and cake by Bloomberg. Additional travel was sponsored by BCS, the University of Edinburgh, and SICSA (speaker travel). There were a lot of employer stalls, including FDM, Kotikan (who made an awesome garden stand!), UTC Aerospace, VMware, GCHQ, Bloomberg (with a cupcake challenge!), Twitter, Scott Logic, EMC and JP Morgan.


I have to say a huge thank you to Amy Guy for being the local organiser, for putting so much work into this year's colloquium and for hosting us in the beautiful Informatics Forum at the University of Edinburgh. It's quite a testament to the colloquium that she attended the event all through her undergrad, and now she is a postgraduate and still doing so much to support it.



Four great keynote talks happened throughout the day:


Being Passionate and Working on Things that Matter

Kate Ho, product manager at Ginsberg.io


Cloak and Swagger: Understanding Data Sensitivity Through the Lens of User Anonymity

Dr Geetanjali Sampemane, software engineer at Google


Insect robotics

Professor Barbara Webb, University of Edinburgh


How I stuck around for 30 years

Professor Lynda Hardman, CWI Amsterdam


It was great to have perspectives from women in both academic and industrial roles, and to hear how they got to where they are now. Some wonderful stories and great advice about following what makes you happy and persevering to get to that place, as well as some amazing work from maths games to robotic crickets!



An afternoon panel gave attendees the chance to ask questions about careers in tech, from both industrial and academic paths. Four panelists were from sponsoring companies - Google, EMC, Bloomberg and JP Morgan - and a fifth from the University of Dundee represented academia.


My favourite piece of advice (and I heard so many others say the same thing!) was from Dr Karen Petrie from the University of Dundee: she has a playlist of 'power songs' to get her ready for a fight (not an actual fight...). This is what works for her and she recommended we all find the thing that works for us, the thing that gets us ready to deal with hard times and difficult situations. This might be listening to a song, wearing certain clothes or makeup, or even having two pairs of glasses - a friendly pair and an intimidating pair!


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The panel answering questions about careers in tech and their own experiences.


Poster Competition

This year's poster competition drew the largest ever number of entries to the Lovelace Colloquium, with over 70 posters from first year to MSc level. Posters are split into categories based on year of study. Each poster contest has a prize with an industrial sponsor, and the winners also got special Google goodie-bags full of cool swag to go with their prize money!


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Midway through the day, some of the posters are getting swapped - so many brilliant posters and so few poster boards!


First Year Poster Contest, sponsored by Google

1st place: Summer Jones of Imperial College, "Computational Neuroscience - Could it Eradicate Memory Loss?"

2nd place:  Yiota Laperta of Aberystwyth University, "Programming an Arduino"


Second Year Poster Contest, sponsored by Slack

This covers undergraduate students in between their first and final years of study, so second year students from a three-year course and third year/industrial placement students from a four-year course.

1st place: Emily Fay Horner of Sheffield Hallam University, "Nanobots: from Fiction to Reality"

2nd place: Lucy Parker of Edinburgh University, "Assistive Technology for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders in the Classroom"

An honorable mention also went to Natasha Lee of Bedfordshire University, "Reframing the Mainframe: Struggle for the future of enterprise computing"


Final Year Poster Contest, sponsored by EMC

This covers anyone in their final year, so third year students on a three-year course and fourth year students for those on a four-year undergraduate course.

1st place: Amanda Curry of Heriot-Watt University, "Generating Natural Route Instructions for Virtual Personal Assistants"

2nd place was a 3-way tie:

Jade Evans of Aberystwyth University with "Teaching and Evaluation of Breast Radiologists, Using Computer Games Theory"

Yazhou Liu of the University of Bath, "Neologisms and Idioms: Translators 'nightmare'"

Jade Woodward of Dundee University, "Let's Help Around the Kitchen - iPad Game for Children with Autism"


MSc Poster Contest, sponsored by JP Morgan

Dhiya Al Saqri of Buckingham University, "Digitalised Human Body"


People's Choice Poster, sponsored by interface3

Every attendee gets the chance to vote for their two favourite posters during the day, with the most popular poster winning the People's Choice Prize. With so many amazing posters, last year saw a three-way tie; this year had another incredible array of entries, resulting in a two-way tie between:

Emily Wang of Edinburgh University, "Koi Pond"

Milka Horozova of Queen Mary University of London, "Can a Robot Make this Poster?"


Social at The Potting Shed, sponsored by Scott Logic

The day ended with a social at the lovely Potting Shed bar, just across the road from the Informatics Forum. Scott Logic kindly sponsored the evening's drinks and nibbles, where everyone spent time mingling, chatting about posters, keynotes, and tech, and just having a great time!


So after my first time attending the BCSWomen Lovelace Colloquium, all I can do is say that if you are an undergraduate woman in tech, please go! It can sound scary to go to an event like this on your own, but I can promise you, you aren't alone. As a postdoc, I've been to a few conferences, but Lovelace was the friendliest and most interesting with such a variety of topics; no wonder people keep coming back every year.


There's a Flickr album full of photos from the event available here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/handee/sets/72157651948537621/

Women in IT survey: How did you get into technology?

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The joint Mortimer Spinks and Computer Weekly women in IT survey is now live for the fourth year.

Everybody has had a different journey into technology so this year we would like to hear your stories.

We would like to know:

  • What led you into technology? 
  • How important is each technology hire?
  • Could cross training be the missing link in tech?

The survey takes just five minutes.

In addition Mortimer Spinks is looking for people to feature in case studies, so if you would like to get involved please get in touch.

You can participate in the five minute survey here.


Advice for women on how to become a business leader in technology

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This is a guest blog by Marne Martin, CEO of ServicePower Plc.

Since September 2013 Marne Martin has led London Stock Exchange listed ServicePower as CEO.


Thumbnail image for 2014_ServicePower_MarneMartin small web.jpgFollowing International Women's day recently I really wanted to pass on experiences from my career in technology that I think would be helpful to the aspirational women looking to carve out a business leadership position in technology.

Even today, technology has a reputation for being a male-dominated arena, and that is of course true, however I do sense that the tide is changing. From young to old we increasingly organise our lives using technology, this mainstream visibility is piquing the interest of more and more young women looking for challenging careers that make a difference - but how do you break through?

I grew up on cattle ranches in Montana and Wyoming. As you can imagine these were male dominated and from this experience I took lessons that are absolutely transferable to the modern technology organisation.   The first thing is don't be afraid to show what you are capable of so grab each challenge presented to you as early as possible in your career.  Secondly, those that always look for solutions differentiate themselves from the pack and become more enjoyable to work with. Interpersonally, don't try to be someone that you aren't.  Some of the best advice I received early in my career is that manners are always appreciated, but that doesn't mean a woman can't be a tough negotiator and a capable leader.

Whenever I was presented with a hard project, I wanted to lead it and wanted to work with those that were the most capable.   At 22, I was working in Venezuela where the company I worked for won the first GSM license in the Americas.  At 24, we completed a privatisation of one of the last US state-owned vaccine plants, something that was controversial at the time but a valuable experience. 

The group I worked for continued to make investments in start-ups, as well as more mature companies.  My first major challenge was in my mid-20s leading the group's Central American telecoms firm Digicel Holdings supporting the license acquisition, fund-raising, and then at 27 having the responsibility to oversee and launch the operation with our local management team.  Of course one is nervous, but per the old adage, never let them see you sweat and projecting confidence goes a long way.   Having such an opportunity at a young age can be intimidating, but taking the plunge and doing it helped me to establish a record for success. It also helped me extend the network I had with the people who had given me the opportunity, they would subsequently trust me with further openings in the future. 

To become a leader in technology and to move up the ladder, I would  strongly recommend considering expat or overseas roles.  In my thirties, I took my Americas experience and worked more internationally in the UK, Europe, the Middle East, SE Asia, and even China. These experiences really helped me broaden my horizons and provided valuable experiences that have given me a broader 'toolkit' of skills to call upon. 

Additionally cross-functional skills are essential to have as you move up the ladder.   Pragmatically speaking, it is frequently easier to gain those skills in a smaller or mid-sized company where talent is always scarce, or in an international subsidiary where you have less bureaucracy and silos.  These opportunities allow you to quickly learn the roles and aims of the individual functions that make up a successful business.  It is being exposed to multiple functions in a business and seeing how strategy is executed that later enables leaders to make the tough decisions necessary to drive a holistic and strategic approach to a business, while also understanding the challenges faced to execute. 

Be sure to remember though when you get to the level of manager, director, VP or CEO to never give up or rest on past successes. You (like everyone in a leadership position) are going to have bumps in the road, but you will continue to be presented with opportunities to grab hold of and often the opportunities that matter the most are not the ones you plan for, but rather those that come out of the blue. 

It also really helps to continually make sure you demonstrate that a) you are the right person for not only the job you have, but also the next one in line b) you have value to add to the wider organisation and c) you manage your team in a way that makes them perform better.

Finally, be the type of person that you yourself would hire. Gender-specific biases exist, but do I ever feel discriminated against because I was a woman? No.  Despite some bad press the vast majority of technology companies are meritocracies and most issues can be worked through with some emotional intelligence and perseverance. You can't argue with success and it is up to you to prove yourself.  The world doesn't owe you a free lunch, but it will recognise hard work and results, and the reality is that we have a shortage of good managers so companies have to adapt.  Woman will continue to make progress against the glass ceiling, and we owe it to ourselves to ensure that we are developing the experience and competencies to stay there.

BCSWomen Guinness World Record attempt this June

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I keep hearing about a BCSWomen Guinness World Record attempt from the women in IT community, so here are some details to share with you on how to get involved.

On Saturday 13 June (10:30am-3pm) BCSWomen are coordinating universities, organisations and BCS branches to code apps in an attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the largest number of people learning to write Android smartphone applications at the same time.

The workshop is a 'family fun day' which will involve apps being built in mixed aged groups. It's suitable for anyone over the age of 10* and everyone under 18 will need a guardian.

Groups across the UK will take part in talks, activities and hands-on coding to build apps that can run and install on Android phones or tablets. Each group will need to bring a laptop and an android smartphone or tablet.

BCSWomen have highlighted MIT AppInventor, which is a free, web-based system for creating simple apps using drag-and-drop coding techniques.

BCSWomen have suggested the following ways in which you can get involved:

  • ·         Run your own branch event - all you need is a room with good Wi-Fi
  • ·         Lead an event - this involves 3 hours online training in advance
  • ·         Assist at an event
  • ·         Promote the event - through local publicity and your networks
  • ·         Come along to an event and bring other people
  • BCS will provide: 
  • ·         Event materials
  • ·         Online training
  • ·         Funding towards refreshments
  • ·         Assistance finding a presenter

If you are interested in getting involved you can contact Shamim.begum@bcs.org

Computer Weekly will be involved in some shape or form to help break the world record, so if you can help out with the BCSWomen campaign be sure to drop them a line!

*If you do think a child under 10 would benefit from the day, BCS has said it can contact the local event leader for you to check whether they can make an exception.


Time to get personal

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Inspiring women about IT is the responsibility of us all, says Emer Timmons, President, BT Global Services UK, finalist in the 'Leader of the Year - in a corporate organisation' category at the 2015 FDM everywoman in Technology awards.

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We all know there are not enough women in the IT industry, and an insufficient pipeline for the future. At 16 per cent, there are now slightly fewer female IT professionals in the UK than 10 years ago.

There is no upside to this situation. The shortage of women damages competitiveness, because British business can't find all the skilled people it needs. It affects the wider economy: increasing the numbers of women in the IT industry could generate an extra £2.6 billion a year for the UK[1]. And it hits women themselves: the lack of women in STEM contributes directly to the gender pay gap, which has widened to 13 per cent[2].

To its credit, the government recognises that the situation is serious and is working hard to encourage more young women into science and technology with a range of educational programmes. But there is something we can all do, indeed, should do. Every woman, every man working in the technology industry must talk to girls and young women about the amazing opportunities of a career in IT.

As a member of the Women's Business Council, I get to speak to lots of female school and university students. So what do I say? I tell them that there is no glass ceiling in this industry and many paths lead to the top. I tell them that the money is good - the average starting salary for engineering and technology graduates is 16 per cent higher than for graduates overall. I point out that big technology companies such as BT practice what they preach with flexible working policies that allow women to combine a career with raising a family.

But above all, I tell them how much I enjoy coming to work. How profoundly satisfying my job is. I tell them that since I graduated with a degree in maths and economics, I've worked in sales, in marketing, in operations, in distribution and today have responsibility for millions of pounds of business. That I have a terrific team which helps top companies do bold and exciting work that makes the world a better place; how we helped BT make the most of its London 2012 Olympic & Paralympic Games sponsorship programme. I make it clear that my job is as much (if not more) about connecting with other people and solving problems as it is about technology. I want them to know that I love my job passionately - and they would love it too.

You don't have to be female to tell young women that they can have amazing careers in IT. All of us in IT, and especially those in leadership positions, must take responsibility for opening young female minds to the extraordinary possibilities of a future in technology. Government is doing a great deal; schools and higher education are doing all they can. But nothing beats the power of personal testimony.

[1] www.nominet.org.uk/news/press-releases/more-women-it-could-boost-uk-economy-%C2%A326-billion-year

[2] www.ft.com/cms/s/0/f55664b2-6a97-11e4-bfb4-00144feabdc0.html#axzz3TKObAI2h

Beijing 20+: How important is ICT for tackling gender inequity?

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This is a guest blog by Liesbeth Van den Bossche, gender equality activist and marketing and donations officer at Computer Aid International

The 20th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action brings opportunities to the international community to renew their commitment to the gender cause and mobilise the public opinion. But whilst it is great for activists and participants to reiterate their intentions, it is crucial to take in consideration the changes that have happened in the world to enable greater implementing of women's rights worldwide. I believe that only education can enable women to be aware of their rights and in 2015 new technologies are crucial to give female access to education and empowering tools.

As it is stated in the World Economic Forum 2014 Global Information Technology Report little progress has been made in bridging the digital divide between technology savvy nations and others in the past few years and stalling progress risks missing out on the positive impact of ICT within disadvantaged communities. For most developing countries a more solid ICT infrastructure must be a priority to avoid the emergence of a new digital divide.

For women in developing countries this means that 23% of them are less likely than men to be online and build their own knowledge and skills. The African Protocol of Women's Human Rights stipulates in Article 12 the Right to Education and Training: 'States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to: promote education and training for women at all levels and in all disciplines, particularly in the fields of science and technology'. Taking this in consideration, ICT4D organisations (ICT for development) are trying to implement equality in the usage of computers and connectivity to give women the ability to learn new skills, become independent and improve their lives.

Researchers at University of Zimbabwe Buhle Mbambo-Thata, Elizabeth Mlambo and Precious Mwatsiya, who partnered up with Computer Aid, demonstrated that women in Zimbabwe are still suffering from discrimination and unequal access to ICT. Due to traditional gender structure, it seemed to the men of the university that women were not worthy of using the PCs lab.

Despite an outwardly equal access to resources and student forums at university, female students struggled to gain access to facilities on an equal footing with male. Moreover, the young women did not feel that they could visit computer labs late at night due to cultural expectations and related stigma, restricting their access to ICT even more.

This resulted to Computer Aid and the University of Zimbabwe to pioneer the country's first IT lab accessible to female students only and counteract the gender inequity seen in facilities and ICT use so far. The response from female Zimbabwean students after one year of use has been overwhelmingly positive which is why the capacity of the lab will increase from 50 to 150 computers. Users report an increase in confidence when approaching ICTs for the first time. Female students at the University of Zimbabwe can now use ICT for research and can equip themselves with 21st century skills that will put them on a more equal footing with male peers when pursuing careers. This means that more guidance and measures are needed to support women and eradicate gender issues. Although technology is vital for healthy growth and development and has a huge impact on resource-poor communities it is also a vital tool for women to empower themselves especially in developing countries. Control of resources the main goal for women to reach independence, improve their lives and have their rights respected. With ICT literacy women in developing countries have higher chances to access to employment or even set up their own online businesses, generate income for themselves and their family and contribute to a fast growth of their countries economy.

As much as technology is key for development and more women have access to it, women are still left behind. We have to give women the ability to be connected in a fast pacing world where technology has become an essential element for employment and education. ICT4D organisations will have all eyes on the Beijing+20 59th Commission on the Status of Women in the coming week hoping that gender equality issues in ICT will be highlighted and actions will be taken to encourage gender related initiatives in the new technology field.

The gender diversity divide - "I don't see what the problem is" say the men

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This is a guest blog by Lee Chant, director at Hays IT.

The theme for this year's International Women's Day is 'make it happen', calling on effective action for advancing and recognising women worldwide. However, progress is challenged by disagreement on the extent of gender inequality in pay and career opportunities, particularly in the UK.

We recently surveyed almost 6,000 men and women globally to ask their views on gender in the workplace, and found that consistently across the world, men are far more likely than women to believe that pay equality exists for both genders in the workplace.

Globally, 18% of men compared to 45% of women think that equally capable male and female colleagues are not paid or rewarded in an equal manner. In the UK the gender divide is even wider, with 17% of men compared to 57% of women thinking that male and females are not paid or rewarded in an equal manner.

Given that the IT workforce is 80% male, these figures make for startling reading. To increase the female workforce above 20% will require a significant shift in perception of the majority.

The survey also found that almost one in two women (48%) compared to one in five men (21%) say that the same career opportunities are not open to equally capable colleagues of both genders. In the UK, the figure was again a slightly greater proportion than the global average with figures of 56% of women and 20% of men.

When it comes to taking action on this issue, almost one in two (44%) of the survey respondents say that more flexible working practices would have the biggest impact on improving gender diversity in their workplace. Our latest survey of IT employers found that while 73% of IT workers would like flexi-time, only 50% of employers allow this and just 36% encourage employees to take up these options, so IT employers have some way to go to provide these options.

Our respondents also called for changes to workplace culture through education across the business (44% globally, 49% for the UK), changes to organisational policy (32%), changes to government policy (27%) and better board backing for diversity issues (26%).

On average 32% of people said highlighting female role models would have the biggest impact on improving gender diversity. Initiatives such as CoderDojo, which we are proud to support at Hays, offer young women to chance to learn from successful mentors in IT, and show how easy it can be to inspire young people if they hear from the right role model.

Just nine per cent of respondents said implementing quotas would have a big impact, showing the vast majority believe that cultural change and practical measures, rather than formal quotas, are the answer.

Many organisations now have specific programmes in place to address diversity issues, but it is clear we still have lots of ground to make up to narrow the gender equality gap. If the IT industry is to 'make it happen', discussion and agreement on the extent of the issue is a necessary first step.


How can we attract more females to the IT Industry? Inspire them!

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This is a guest blog by Jenny Taylor, UK foundation manager, IBM UK Ltd and is a finalist in the 'Inspiration of the Year' category at the 2015 FDM everywoman in Technology awards.

For many years now, we've all been acutely aware of the small percentage of females being attracted to and working in our industry. Jenny Taylor.jpg

As leader of IBM's graduate, student and apprenticeship programmes, the gender imbalance is a high priority for me. The business case for diversity in the workplace is very clear yet despite multiple initiatives across our sector, the percentage of young women either choosing to study STEM related subjects or being attracted to technically orientated careers remains low. 

At IBM we run many different initiatives and focus particularly on engaging and inspiring younger girls through our Girls' Schools' Outreach programme. This is a long term strategy which is starting to bear fruit in applications to our School Leaver and Apprenticeship schemes. 

This year we focused our attention on our immediate graduate recruitment prospects and concentrated on the female students studying the UK Government and tech industry backed IT for Management and Business degree (ITMB). 33% of ITMB students are female (more than double the number of females studying Computer Science). 

So focus decided, we invited fifty female ITMB students from around the UK over to our South Bank office to inspire them and share what we know about establishing a career in the tech industry.

The day was a huge success, bursting with interactive sessions, inspirational people and female role models to whom the students could relate. 

IBM Master Inventor and Distinguished Engineer, Andy Stanford-Clark wowed the students with his story of setting up his own house to develop smarter metering and energy saving devices. 

Interactive sessions challenged the students to consider how customer experiences can be improved by creating innovative new ways for consumers to pay for goods. 

ITMB alumni and IBM's own MCA Young Management Consultant of the Year, Sarah Hughes, inspired the students with how Millennials can immediately add value in the tech workplace. 

But for me, the overall highlight was the amazing buzz created throughout the day - the atmosphere was electric. This buzz has translated into amazing results. The percentage of students who applied for IBM roles as a result of this day was over double that of any other event we had held in the past year. Our team were blown away by these figures - we had seen this event as the start of an investment in these students - but what a result!

So, the answer to our problem is actually a simple one. Inform and inspire, yes, BUT to turn that lightbulb on, deliver these messages by people with whom the students can relate and aspire to match. Don't take my word for it - read it yourself:

Dear (Foundation Professional Development Manager)

I am messaging you to let you know I have just been offered the Business Intern position for the 2015 Extreme Blue program! 

I am extremely happy and can't wait to join IBM this June. Thank you for all your support - contacting the recruitment team, but mostly for the conversation during the ITMB event in Southbank offices. I think talking to you was what made me really believe IBM may be a place for me and it is worth trying my best :)
ITMB Female Student Year 2 

Technology - an industry of rapid change?

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At an O2 event this week, I was looking forward to learning about how the telecoms company aimed to help its public sector partners enter a brave new digital world.

The chair had already spoken about how one of O2's biggest challenges was how to provide the technology its partners needed whilst still staying relevant to the fast changing world of technology.

He highlighted the importance of O2's work with the AA - the telecoms firm provides all mobile services for AA employees, including those who are in the field.

Then he said: "If you're alone, female, you're down in a dark lane, you've broken down, and you want help, the AA are there to help you."

I know it doesn't seem like much, and most people in the room probably didn't pick up on it, but it grated on me. And it should have grated on all of the men too.

If there's anything Emma Watson's speech at the UN highlighted it's that men are not benefiting from equal rights either - it's ok for a man not to know how to change a tyre!

In a room full of people discussing what changes need to be made in order to progress in their organisation, I expected a little more consideration.

I thought times were moving on, perhaps not as fast as the tech world, but at least a little bit. 

How will women feature in the UK's digital future?

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This is a guest blog from Cath Goulding, head of information security at Nominet, the company responsible for the .uk internet infrastructure. Here, she discusses the recent report from the House of Lords Digital Skills Committee and the importance of addressing the skills gap and encouraging more women into IT.

The Make or break: The UK's digital future report from the House of Lords Digital Skills Committee sets out a challenge to the incoming government: to secure the UK's position as a digital leader.  In 2011, the digital sector was worth an estimated £105 billion in gross value added to the UK economy. In 2013, a report by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research found that the size of the digital economy was almost double official estimates. The pace, scale and breadth of technological change could mean huge opportunity - but there's also a huge risk of missing out if we don't have the strategies, infrastructure and skills to support this. We are - the report notes - at a tipping point.

One of the key challenges is ensuring enough people have the right skills to drive this digital transformation. There is a shortage of medium and high-level digital skills in the UK, and the need will only grow, with the digital workforce expected to increase by 39% by 2030.

The lack of women in digital careers exacerbates this skills shortage. Women make up less that 30% of the IT workforce, and this is seen as "drastically holding back the UK from fulfilling its economic potential".  Nominet's own report estimated the net benefit of encouraging more women into IT at £2.6 billion a year.

To do this, we need to address the social and cultural attitudes that put women off IT-related subjects at a very young age. It's acceptable -almost cool - for schoolgirls to say, "Oh, I'm rubbish at maths." Yet the same thing would hardly ever be said about reading, for example. I didn't come to IT through an initial interest in computers, but I was always interested in problem solving. I did a maths degree, and know other women working in IT who followed the same route. As the report notes, there is "a very strong talent pipeline imperative", and if we "can 'crack the issue' of getting more girls into those types of career, there could be huge business benefits."

We also need to emphasise the breadth and variety of IT-related jobs. IT skills can be a secret weapon for women in getting into their desired field -  whether it's medicine, design, law, game development, education, marketing, or anything else. When Nominet visited a local girls' school as part of our Girls in IT campaign, the students listed tech companies like Apple, Google and Facebook as the places they'd most like to work. Yet they also said they didn't see IT as an interesting subject or career choice. Research we conducted showed that only 13% of girls report being 'inspired' to consider a career in IT, and 40% believe it would be 'male dominated'.  The industry's reputation among young women suffers from mixed perceptions and a lack of role models.

Fortunately, the industry is waking up to these issues. Last month, I was honoured to be named Security Champion of the Year at the inaugural Women in IT Awards. The award was presented by Betty Webb - a Bletchley Park codebreaker. When you think of the work of Bletchley Park, you might come up with names such as Alan Turing, Albert 'Dilly' Knox and Tommy Flowers. However, the majority of staff working there during the war were women. Their roles were crucial to breaking the German Enigma codes and building the first programmable electronic computer, 'Colossus'. 

Despite what the current stats might suggest, women have a proud history in this field. It's critical that government, educators, and the tech industry ourselves work together to ensure a proud future.

Day 6 of Townley Grammar's California girls: Trip to Silicon Valley

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This is a guest blog from Desmond Deehan, head teacher at Townley Grammar School for girls in Kent. Each year the school takes its GCSE and A Level computer science students to Silicon Valley to visit San Francisco, LA, the Computer History Museum and Stanford University and businesses such as Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Intel and NetApp to name a few. Deehan and his students will be blogging about their visit which is taking place this week.

Day 6

Today we were welcomed by the "Women In Tech" Group at NetApp, the data storage and management company that for 12 years has been in the top 100 Best Places to Work. With 12,000 employees, 150 offices and 7 data centres this giant of the Tech companies boasts customers in healthcare, entertainment and even CERN.

So we were privileged to be greeted by its CIO and Vice President, Cynthia Stoddard. Voted one of the top 100 most social CIO's on Twitter in 2014 she was well placed to explain to our girls why the company has such an enviable reputation.

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At NetApp the personnel leave their titles at the door and certainly there was a sense of equality amongst the VP and the 5 women from engineering, advanced technology, pre sales system engineering and performance engineering. New employees are welcomed into a family and it has to very much be a two way fit.

These very individual women shared their top tips for women with a passion for technology;

embrace your passion; work hard, it's more important than IQ; continue with Math, it's logical thinking that will serve you well; learn from others; leverage your passion by activities such as internships.

They then identified the key qualities needed for success; curiosity and a sense of adventure; flexibility for career growth; being relentless; tenacity; confidence, having and displaying positive energy.

The girls had a tour of the facility and spoke one to one with the women as well as participating in an engaging Q & A session. Then Dona Munsch,Vice President of Steelstore, which is part of NetApp gave the girls her own direct and honest perspective. According to Donna the advantage of High tech is that it is flexible, there are fewer rules and you are free to move around from one employer to another because you are so valuable. She helped the girls to understand that you needed skills in leadership and followership; and to know when each is needed. You must be able to have crucial conversations; to build your network and become a communication champ.

Finally the girls were told that as women they should enjoy being underestimated. They should be prepared to jump in and must remember that it is "never that bad". On working in a male environment they should not accept anything that makes them uncomfortable but they should  "embrace your inner dude". This means getting involved in traditional "guy" things so they could always converse with male colleagues.

This is the final blog post because we now set off to LA for Warner Brothers and a visit to CalTech but I will leave you with the words of one of my students, Carina :

-    "Honestly, these talks where the most inspirational talks that I have ever heard in my life! They have opened my views on which career path I really want to pursue, especially because all of the women giving talks seem so passionate towards it and also because there is a big demand for women engineers."

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