Top 50 women in UK tech, IR35 Truss fiasco – Computer Weekly Downtime Upload podcast

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The team reflects on the announcement of the Most Influential Women in UK Technology 2022, the IR35 reforms being scrapped, then not, and Dreamforce & Oracle Cloud World in the US

In this episode, Caroline Donnelly, Clare McDonald and Brian McKenna reflect on the announcement of the 2022 list of the Most Influential Women in UK Technology, and its associated event, Diversity in Tech, which Computer Weekly does in collaboration with Nash Squared.

They also discuss an aspect of the brief premiership of Liz Truss, and even briefer chancellorship of Kwasi Kwarteng that was under-covered in other media: the scrapping and then the rescinding of the scrapping of the IR35 reforms. And they talk about the return of trans-Atlantic IT conference travel, in the form of Dreamforce in San Francisco, and Oracle Open World in Las Vegas.

With a by-now traditional acknowledgment of Halloween, the team begin the episode with some chat about the season of ghosts, ghouls and demons, when the boundary between the living and the dead is at its most permeable. They lament the incursion of Christmas into Halloween and discuss the appearance of figures of the living dead as decoration to houses in and around London.

Clare gets the main part of the episode under way by relating what happened at the Diversity in Tech event. She reports on how a different approach was taken this year to gather in experience and insight. As well as the keynotes, there were roundtable discussions, with table leaders feeding back to the wider group.

The big theme of the event was captured in the motto: Inclusion = Everyone.

This year’s overall winner was Flavilla Fongang, founder of both 3 Colours Rule and the Global Tech Advocates Black Women in Tech group. Clare’s interview with her communicates how much she is a networking force for change, and brings out some of her principles to promote diversity and collaboration, including: “Leaders should create other leaders… If you keep all your treasure for yourself, what’s the point of it? Nobody succeeds on their own.”

Flavilla also advocates the colour red over black for apparel. (From the interview with her: “Most people think black is a good colour to wear”, but according to Fongang, it “drains” many people – “red is passionate, white is transparent, black is professional”.)

In 2021, the Global Tech Advocates Black Women in Tech group launched The voices in the shadow, a book filled with the stories of 51 black women in the technology sector. Flavilla talks about that, too, in her interview with Clare, Why the Most Influential Woman in UK Tech 2022 created a book of role models.

The event itself ran as a livestream on LinkedIn, to make it as accessible as possible, relates Clare.

The full list of the 50 most influential women in UK tech 2022 can be found here. The 11 new members of the programme’s Hall of Fame are hailed here. And you can read about the 2022 young rising stars as well.

IR35 reforms scrapped – fleetingly

An aspect of the Liz Truss fiasco that has received limited coverage in the national press is the government’s flip-flopping over IR35. The shortest-lasting premiership in British history featured the scrapping of the IR35 regulations that have bedevilled the lives of IT contractors. That was announced by the shortest-serving chancellor in British history, Kwasi Kwarteng, in his mini-Budget of 23 September. This was subsequently rescinded by his successor, Jeremy Hunt, after Truss was forced to get rid of her co-thinking colleague.

Caroline has long covered the IR35 legislation, and Kwarteng’s bold move prompted her to write a 3,000-word news analysis, IR35 reforms to be scrapped: What IT contractors need to know.

Before the reforms were introduced, contractors were responsible for determining for themselves whether the way they worked meant they should be taxed in the same way as permanent employees (inside IR35) or as off-payroll workers (outside IR35).

From April 2017 onwards, the public sector organisations that engage contractors became responsible for deciding how they should be taxed and – in April 2021 – so did medium-to-large private sector firms.

On the podcast, she describes the roller-coaster ride that the former chancellor Kwarteng put on for IT contractors. Hopes raised, then cruelly dashed.

Her analysis will make an interesting document for future historians of the Truss-Kwarteng episode in British political history. It’s been a wild ride.

Caroline comments that the new prime minister, and friend of the Computer Weekly Downtime Upload podcast, Rish Sunak, has always shown himself to be keen on the IR35 tax avoidance reforms. 

As Caroline comments on the podcast, many companies have had to follow public sector organisations in putting a great deal of work into figuring out what to do about this thorny area of tax law, and how to manage their contractors. There will still be lots to write about on the topic.

The return of the jet-lagged conference attendee

After a couple of years of virtual-only conferences, the annual grind of IT shows that require long-haul flights has, like a Halloween nightmare, returned.

Brian reflects, in the podcast, on his two recent US trips, to Dreamforce in San Francisco in September, and to Oracle Cloud World in Las Vegas in October.

He gives a brief summary of the debut of a new Salesforce mascot – a rabbit called Genie – which represents the supplier’s customer data platform going real time. Salesforce co-CEOs Marc Benioff and Bret Taylor were sporting bunny ears during the main Dreamforce keynote.

Genie is, in effect, a branding of the supplier’s customer data platform, built on its Hyperforce public cloud infrastructure located on public cloud providers. As TechTarget’s Don Fluckinger explains, the functionality of Salesforce Genie has been available since 2020 for Marketing Cloud users who subscribed to the supplier’s CDP. Genie generalises the CDP to all Salesforce clouds.

It is also built on the company’s Hyperforce public cloud infrastructure located on public cloud providers, and partakes of a so-called data lakehouse architecture, leveraging software from cloud data warehousing specialist Snowflake to do what Salesforce describes as “secure real-time and open data sharing” between the two platforms.

Brian also describes his experience of Oracle Cloud World, highlighting Larry Ellison going big on healthcare in his keynote, in the wake of Oracle’s acquisition of healthcare IT system Cerner.

He raises for discussion the matter of Oracle’s relocation of its annual conference from San Francisco to Las Vegas.

The team have a Las Vegas versus San Francisco discussion, as well as talking about the pros and cons of conferences that entail long-haul flights, with the attendant jet lag.

Podcast music courtesy of Joseph McDade

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