Women of Silicon Roundabout Conference 2016

by Marija Butkovic @MarijaButkovic

On 27th of October Michelle and I attended Women of Silicon Roundabout conference 2016 at King’s Place in London. The conference, organised by Maddox Events, was powered by Google and we were proud to be media partners for the event. We had access to all workshops, panel discussions and speaker sessions throughout the day.

Women of Silicon Roundabout was created to inspire and connect women working in technology, so the name of this years event was aptly called “Developing The Future for Women in Tech”.

Although this was only second time that this conference took place (the first time was in January this year), its success is already massive. Maddox Events brought together 50+ successful women in tech, to debate issues such as growth and leadership for women, how can companies benefit from diversity, recruitment and retention of women, non-technical women in tech, and many others. On the day there was more than 500 participants from 175 companies which once again proved that this type of event is very much needed in London’s tech community.

The conference also had corporate tech sponsors like Google, IBM, Microsoft, Intel, Siemens, Facebook and Uber just to name a few.

The day was split into speaker sessions, panel discussions and workshops, and although we couldn’t attend all of them (unfortunately!), we had the chance to hear some amazing and inspirational stories from not only women (and men!) coming from tech giants, but also startup alike companies.

The topics, among others, covered a wide range of challenges and opportunities faced by women in this industry, and keynote speakers included Suzanne Timmons, Global Lead, Googler Engagement at Google UK; Holly Mesrobian, Director of Engineering at Amazon Video; Dr Sue Black OBE, Founder & Chief Evangelist at #TechMums; Alice Bentinck, Co-Founder of Entrepreneur First to name a few.

We attended a sold out workshop hosted by Amazon, held by Beth Holmes, Knowledge Manager at Evi; Annie Groeninger, Software Development Manager at Amazon Video and Laini Render, Software Development Engineer at IMDb. We learned about Amazon’s new smart home device - the Amazon Echo, and learned how to develop new skills and capabilities for "Alexa" to answer our questions through the Amazon Echo and Echo Dot.

We also attended a very interesting workshop hosted by The Guardian called Sacred Cows: Debating Controversial Topics. The workshop was led by Sally Goble, Head of Quality and Natalia Balthazar, Software Engineer at the Guardian. We split into groups and were asked to argue for or against statements which they had set for us. It sounds easy but when you don't agree with the statement, it was very challenging coming up with creative ways to convince the panel why we were for or against the statement. In the end, all the debates were well thought out and very convincing that we suddenly had a change in perspective after the workshop!

The speakers sessions were focused on helping women to improve their skills portfolio to ensure career progression, personal development and ultimately success as a technology professional. Jennifer Mullen, Talent Acquisition Leader EMEA & APAC at Intuit who gave an amazing talk on how to get the job you have always wanted, while Monika Biddulph, General Manager Software & Systems Group at ARM and Aparajita Bhattacharya, Senior Engineering Manager at ARM shared their stories on how they built and progressed in their careers.

We were very inspired to hear Dr. Sue Black OBE speak about her new social enterprise, #TechMums - Changing the World One Mum at a Time, which empowers mums, their families and communities by teaching them a broad range of tech skills. Sue talked about her background and how an education in maths gave her a future for herself and her children which then led her to completing her PhD in engineering.

One of the most interesting panels for both of us was on Non-Technical Women in Tech, because neither Michelle or I have technical background. We understand how hard it is to not only learn about all the technical aspects of our product, but also to work with and hire a technical team that will help us build our businesses. The panel was hosted by Vashma Bolton, Talent Partner, Technology at ASOS, and discussed all the challenges that women working in non-tech roles are facing.

The day ended with networking drinks which provided us more opportunity to meet more women in the tech industry.

The key takeaway from the event was that it was a great place to meet like-minded women and to not only hear about their struggles and doubts, but also their successes and different ways that led each of them to their current positions in tech, despite the size or location of the company. It is a big relief to know that we all have the same fears and uncertainties, but at the end of the day, we also share so many strengths and strong points, unique to each of us.

We all have to serve as role models to the future generation, to each other as well as support and encourage one another through our journey and build strong social networks.

Thank you, Maddox Events for organising and hosting Women of Silicon Roundabout 2016 to allow women in tech to share this experience together. We are looking forward to the next Women in Silicon Roundabout 2017 in May and Virtual Reality Evolution 2017 in February!