Women of Silicon Roundabout 2019 Summary

Last week Katherine, Lies and I attended the Women of Silicon Roundabout (WoSR) Conference at the ExCel Centre in London.  The conference was huge, boasting more than 5000 attendees with 8 parallel talking tracks and 8 parallel workshop sessions.  There were six main themes to the conference:

  1. The Future of Tech
  2. The 2019 Tech-Pulse
  3. The Evolution of Work
  4. Founder Focus – Changing the World Through Entrepreneurship
  5. Taking Charge of your Future – Career Guidance & Personal Development 
  6. Diversity, Inclusion and You!

Thankfully there were three of us to cover more ground.  I’ll share my summary of the conference. 

The morning of Day 1 featured some really inspiring and thought provoking keynote talks.  Baroness Karren Brady of Knightsbridge opened up the conference with her career journey. She embodied everything I want in a leader: intelligence, strength, tenacity and humour.  An unexpected outcome of this conference for me was that I discovered a lot of role models. In academia, there were so many people that I aspired to be or could take inspiration from, but I don’t think I have had that ‘in the real world’ until this conference.  Karren Brady was definitely one of those people. Overall, it was great to see female leaders with such varied leadership styles, passions, career paths and ultimately advice. Other great talks and leaders from the conference included:

  • How to Stay Relevant During a Career Break – Doina Pop, CIO Salesforce, Barclays
  • The Pros and Cons of Moving Laterally Than Vertically – Shepali Sillitoe, Director, GTB Operations & Technology Services, Deutsche Bank
  • Thoughtworks Technology RADAR Vol. 20: An Opinionated Guide to Technology Frontiers – Karen Lee Rigg, Senior Consultant Software Developer, ThoughtWorks

Another learning from the conference was that (self-) awareness can trigger change.  Rehana Nanji and Chris Burgess, Expedia Group, gave an amazing talk entitled ‘Mindset Shift: Igniting Inclusion Through Allyship’ (show picture).  The three topics of their talks were:

  1. Why Inclusion and Not Diversity
  2. Mindset Shift
  3. Allyship

One of the key takeaways for me was that the being aware and acknowledging your privilege in every situation can put you in the right mindset for understanding and – hopefully – being able to empathise with those who may be (or feel) marginalised in that particular situation.  

The notion of awareness leading to a mindset shift, though I hadn’t properly realised it until seeing the talk from the Expedia Group, was also the underlying message of my own presentation at WoSR.  I was honoured to have been invited to speak in the Evolution of Work where I spoke about Sandtable’s journey towards ‘Introducing a Collaborative Environment that Works for Everyone’.

To give a bit of background, historically project resourcing at Sandtable used to follow the one data scientist per project scheme.  Over time it became clear, from a personal and company perspective, that this wasn’t going to work as the company grew and individuals wanted to further develop their skills.  We decided that we needed to become more collaborative and run projects in pairs While the notion of collaboration is not new, what we learned is that the accepted ‘rules’ of collaboration (e.g. brainstorming, open offices sparking spontaneous collaboration) don’t necessarily apply in a team (and company) dominated by introverts.  It took years, but our path to more effective and healthy collaboration sprang from an unexpected source: the Insights Discovery Evaluator (IDE).  We discussed the validity of psychometric tests one night in a pub, and then a link for the IDE showed up on Slack (courtesy of Katherine).  Members of the team took the test for fun and shared their results. The test results made sense for some, shocked others, but most importantly started a conversation about people’s preferences for working, communication styles and also how they might be perceived by others.

Although it happened somewhat accidentally for us, the awareness of both oneself and others did result in a cultural mindset shift towards working more collaboratively.  I think that having a clear visual via the IDE results of similarities and differences in individual preferences made it easy to keep others in mind when working together.  


The key messages from my talk were:

  1. Provide a flexible working environment (both physical space and company culture) that allows people to work individually and together 
  2. At the start of a project or when a new member joins take time to understand their communication style and share the preferences of the team
  3. Acknowledge that it is a continual process and that you can’t force change overnight
  4. Understand that the process is unique to each team/company
  5. Make use of tools, courses and processes, but be sure to use the ones that work for your company culture.

We’ve certainly reaped the benefits from collaboration and are committed to continually refining how we collaborate as the team(s) grow and change.  

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