• Jane Fordham

Conference of the Year? Women of Silicon Roundabout.

Updated: Jul 12, 2018

#WinTechSeries #womenintechnology #diversityandinclusion

Wow. It’s taken me two weeks to come down from two phenomenal days at the ‘Women of Silicon Roundabout Conference’ at London’s ExCel. I loved the one-day conference last year which must have been less than half the size of the 2018 event. Arriving on the first day and pouring out of the DLR station, there were swarms of delegates enthusiastically heading for the keynote. The popularity of this event speaks volumes about the existing talent and the movement to encourage and develop greater gender balance in the burgeoning tech sector. I’ve not been to a more welcoming or friendly event despite it’s size, bravo Maddox Events.

I physically couldn’t get myself across the entire programme however here follows the usual note-form round-up of some of my favourite speakers for your reading pleasure;

Breaking Conventionalism with Damien Hooper-Campbell, VP, Chief Diversity Officer @eBay

Fresh off a transatlantic flight, Damien’s keynote was electric, a diversity masterclass. Had the pleasure of meeting him later in the day too. I naively asked him if he felt intimated at such a female-dominated event. Au contraire, having been raised by a strong single Mum, Damien was in his element.

· He asked each of us ‘who our ‘convention breaking’ role model’ was and encouraged us to have them front of mind on our own D&I journeys

· Counsel according to the eBay D&I focus areas;

o Workforce – do better on sourcing your talent

o Workplace – how we feel when we’re here working for the brand

o Marketplace – how we include buyers, sellers & communities

Nike – Eliminating Bias in Recruitment

· Sadly, didn’t catch the name of the speaker who was a noble, last-minute stand-in for a colleague

· The D&I focus at Nike is on race & gender axis

· Nike works to the ‘Rooney Rule’; named after NFL coach Dan Rooney, candidate short-lists must be ethnically diverse

· Talked about sobering McKinsey research, whereby if there’s one minority on a short list, they have 0% chance of being hired. If there are two the chance of one of them being hired rises by a factor of 3. So, need at least two minorities a on shortlist to make a difference. Wow.

“Sobering McKinsey research, whereby if there’s one minority on a short list, they have 0% chance of being hired.”

Jody Davids, PepsiCo Global CIO; ‘Life Shapes Leadership’

Jody, I had the privilege of seeing at the same event last year. She might be the best speaker I’ve ever seen, I defy anyone to meet her, not be moved and not think about her words for days afterwards.

· She advocates a continual setting of time-based career goals e.g. seven-year goal of becoming a CIO

· ‘I suck at retirement’ – so she keeps coming back when the calls are too interesting

· Life happens to everyone, so major life events like her husband leaving her for the cleaner (‘y’all know how hard it is to find a new cleaner’) or her eldest son dying in the field have evidently shaped her approach to life and leadership

Learning no.1

· It’s not about me; a whole bunch of people, life, things that will happen to you, outside of your control. There’s a whole world out there

Learning no.2

· It IS about me; I have to look after me, I am unique. Personalise late education. It’s your career, accept that you OWN it. Doing a great job where you are is the best foundation for your next move

Paradox I need to make it about me in a world that’s not about me.


1. Know yourself and what’s important (values)

2. Find your courage

3. Live your life with purpose

3 Truths

· Resilience is key, learn how to lose

· There is only one of you. Work-life effectiveness

· This is hard work

In a world that’s not about you find the courage to life your purpose

“My husband left me for the cleaner. Y’all know how hard it is to find a good cleaner!”

Baroness Martha Lane-Fox – Tales from self-confessed dinosaur

A fascinating insight into her professional life and how the world of technology (and now politics) are so male right down to the acronyms. She started her keynote with the founding of and delivered with humour and humility in abundance.

‘What happens if She gets’ pregnant co-founder Brett Hoberman was asked of a VC about Martha in the 90s, in front of her.

Dr Anastasia DedyukhinaFounder, Consciously Digital

Mind hygiene – Taking Care of Your Brain in the Age of Digital Distractions

This. Was. Amazing. The number of people in the room was probably a health and safety risk but that speak volumes about interest/concerns about who is in charge of our lives currently, the device or the user? And yup, I will be adding her book to my summer reading list.

There are three stages of getting us hooked on technology;

1. The Trigger. Thanks to principles of neuroplasticity – we become what we do. Notifications prompt us to revisit without needing reminders. ‘we allow our devices to tell us what to focus on’

2. Variable reward. A reward when we click but not every time, so we keep checking. We like the dopamine boost of the reward but then we need subsequently bigger boosts

3. Stage 3 – time investment. The time black hole once we’re hooked!

We’re never bored, constantly stimulated – we’re all dopamine junkies. Then we can’t be creative – day dreaming is essential for creativity.

Harvard Medical School research found that if we sleep with our phone by our beds, even in airplane mode, brain remains in state of alert, as if door to house is open. Couples with iPads in bedroom have little to no sex!!

Online multi-tasking has a cost, lose up to 40% of productivity and a chunk of IQ too

Solutions? 4 principles

1. Time management, when to be connected and when not. Disable notifications, don’t put device in charge. Delay checking devices. VW doesn’t allow emails to be sent ½ hour after shift; define when your working day finishes. Virgin execs can choose a two-hour slot each week with no email.

2. Space management, time to eat and time to digest, same with your brain. Give brain space to make links, make connections. Hide phones when we need to focus/sleep.

3. Relationship Management – manage expectations of senior stakeholders and clients etc. Minimise channels you use. Do tasks 1st before you check your messages. Focus on how not to distract others (e.g. stop ccing everyone)

4. Self-management – allow time to be bored, incorporate daydreaming. Do more things that make you feel excited, natural dopamine thereby replacing addiction with a healthy obsession. Don’t over-rely on willpower (have structures in place). Read a book, play instrument. Regularly engage with nature.

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