Just over a month or so, I was invited by the fabulous Amy Lynch from ThoughtWorks to speak as part of their International Women’s day event called ‘Make It Happen‘. Of course I instantly said yes – any excuse to visit Manchester again!
More seriously, after I graduated I spent about a year volunteering and helping out at the Manchester Digital Laboratory. Whilst I was hardly the best general assistant thingy in the world, the best part was being able to meet new groups and take part in the events. One of these was an evening organised by ThoughtWorks and Manchester Girl Geeks. As always there were some amazing inspiring talks and lots of pizza and I had a lot of fun.
So, Wednesday afternoon I made my way from the office to get to Manchester. Thankfully, having arrived at Piccadilly station, I didn’t have to wander around the Northern Quarter for long before I found the venue and then it was time for the usual pre event chat with the other attendees. I love finding out about all the new tech businesses and startups in Manchester. Some aren’t quite so new, of course, but realising the wide range of roles taken by women within IT and related industries puts a whole different spin on the issue of diversity and representation.
All the talks were of a really high calibre and covered such a wide range of issues and experiences. From insights into customer service to life as a contractor, from the importance of motivation when designing and the process of developing an app for sex workers, I felt I was getting a real insight into the way these amazing women have gained and applied their skills in different areas.
My talk was on the topic of intersectionality and covered my experience as someone with far too many interests who’s constantly pursuing ways of bringing them together to create new and exciting things. I went from my background in Physics to my current role in IT, detailing the projects I’ve been able to be a part of it and develop along the way. One thing I felt I didn’t emphasise enough was how important people are. So many of the opportunities would not have happened if not for my amazingly supportive friends. In many ways it was entirely providential that I got to meet fellow weirdos with way too many interests, carving out their own niches and it’s really all their fault for encouraging me.
It’s been both odd and wonderful the way that it’s the sum of all my experiences thus far – those lectures in complex systems, being invited to seminars and conferences on the sly, attending evening lectures and helping out at museums and art galleries, which helped me realise that it is ok to be one of those people who likes to make connections between apparently random things, who likes to venture out into whole new fields for a week or so, to binge read the latest papers on Academia.edu. This is especially considering I do tend to consider myself to be a failure for not achieving what I set out to at University – something that came across in my talk if only indirectly.
I think that’s partly why I found the feedback from my talk really unexpected. As I was saying to my friends later, it’s great to discover that your experiences have resonated with others, but there’s always something a bit bewildering about it. I kept wanting to say “…but I’m a total eejit!” as though warning people off which yes, I know I shouldn’t (you become what you say or something like that) but was always there on the tip of my tongue. Still it makes ones failures almost worth it, if you can still get something of value to pass along to others.
Overall I really enjoyed the evening and I can’t wait for any future events. I feel very privileged to have been able to speak with so many fantastic women doing really impressive stuff – special mention to Rebecca Rae from Reason Digital (the app for sex workers safety sounded like an awesome project and petty much hit all the right buttons for me: women’s rights, workers’ rights, sex workers’ safety and doing good UX for a good cause) and Clare Sudbery who had some very wise words to say after the event. Also special thanks to ThoughtWorks for hosting ‘Make It Happen’ to begin with (and well done to Amy Lynch for organising it). It’s one of those companies that I’ve always admired, combining a passion for new technology and methodology with a social conscience which is displayed both within and without the company.