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Thoughts from the #WinTechSeries: women, wisdom and war

At the end of June, I was lucky enough to spend two days at the Women of Silicon Roundabout, Women in Technology event alongside 4,500 other women. With our Global CEO, Gail Dudleston, being awarded Barclays Yorkshire Women in Business award in the same week, I’m thankful for the amazing industry in which we work and these amazing female role models.

The event was packed to the rafters with technical experts covering the full breadth of technology, from marketing to software engineering. These were just a few of my favourite speakers and key takeaways from their talks:

1. Phillippa Ritchie from Microsoft explained the importance of building your personal brand so that when people hear your name, they think of you in the way that you want them to.

Key takeaways:

  • Choose the right tools to build your personal credentials
  • Influence this with great content and build good connections (not connections that can damage your brand)

2. Sarah Raymond talked about the insight-led approach being adopted at Spotify.

Key takeaways:

  • In-environment user research is key to give a true reflection of what people are doing while they use your product or website. This method is considered far more quantitative than interviewees in a room, who are likely to be keen to please and may adjust their behaviour or feedback. A ‘Life in the background’ research approach gets real results.
    P.S. Our UX and Insights team know that interviewees can be swayed too, which is why we have an in-house biometric UX lab.
  • Go where they are. Ensure that your internal research is carried out in the same environment as your users’. For example, during a recent test, the company turned off Spotify Premium for staff because most Spotify users are on the standard version. The feedback gained from this in-depth research was invaluable.
  • Evaluate your interpretation of results. It’s not always right. Don’t let your biases sway what you see.

3. Alienor Davies, Suzie McFarlane, Josie Williams, Tanda Kabanda and Grace Davies of ASOS took us through their journey from a legacy software stack to cloud-hosted in their ‘Our journey to Azure’ session; moving payments, content and data to the cloud.

Key takeaways:

  • A large project like this has many pain points: be ready for them. Even a £1.9 billion turnover company like ASOS has them.
  • Always build with failure in mind.

4. Facebook’s Lily Jolly shared her tips on how to stop wasting your time solving the wrong problems.

Key takeaways:

  • Simply put: understand what your goal is and be able to explain why it matters; identify the best way to get there because the easiest option may not be the right one; execute your plan; stay excited about the goal, not the idea.
  • In short, she taught us how to catch a fish, and then question whether the fish was enough when we could have caught a dinosaur.

5. My absolute favourite speaker was Jody Davids, CIO of Pepsico. If you ever get the chance to hear her speak: GO! She is an inspiration.

She told the story of her 40 years in IT, from starting out as a secretary for General Electric, to becoming who she is today. She talked about how ‘life changes leadership’ when it doesn’t always go your way. How the death of her 20-year-old son just weeks after he was deployed to Iraq in the Marines, changed her.
Her son had written a letter, to be sent to his parents in the event of his death. A small section of it read: “I have never been more proud of myself than I am right now. I have finally found the key to happiness. Live your life in a way that you can be proud of everything you do. No regrets.” So how do we live a life of purpose?

Key takeaways:

  • There is a paradox in life that we all need to get around: “I need to make the world about me, in a world that’s not about me
  • If you don’t own your career no-one else will. Excel in your current role, think about what is next, and seize leadership opportunities
  • Know yourself and know what is important
  • Find your courage
  • There are three principles to living your life with purpose:
    • Resilience is key.
    • There is only one of you – there is no work-life balance, it’s all about work-life effectiveness.
    • This is hard work – only you know what’s right for you, dig deep and stay focused!

My biggest takeaway from the past couple of days was LIVE YOUR LIFE WITH PURPOSE. I, for one, intend to arm myself with the knowledge from these two days, dig deep and stay focused.


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