It consisted of 8 lightening talks from women in the science and technology industry. There were some interesting thoughts which I wanted to summarise with my interpretations.
Sex, Murder, Rape & Apps – Rebecca Rae, Strategy and Insight Lead at Reason Digital
I have to admit, my intrigue for this talk was one of the main reasons I attended the event! Not at all metaphorical as I had imagined, Rebecca began to talk about Manchester’s red light district. Some statistics revealed that there are approximately 80000 sex workers in the UK, 50% of whom are at high risk of a violent crime such as assault, rape or murder. When these crimes are not reported to police, which is quite usual in this industry, sex workers in Manchester would instead contribute to the ‘dodgy punter’ board. This board resides in the MASH offices and is a place people can report incidents such as descriptions of dangerous clients. Reason Digital, a company that only works on projects that do good and help the vulnerable, thought there must be a better way to distribute this information: by using an app. To my surprise, most sex workers own and utilise smart phones for their day to day activities. Rebecca went on to say that there is not much information on this demographic because they are a private group within the society. Reason Digital needed to know the needs of their clients to provide an appropriate solution. Together with MASH, they went out onto the streets (as the sex workers weren’t inclined to visit the office) and talked to street workers and escorts and visited brothels and saunas. They found out that sex workers wanted a dark background for the app so light did not shine on them (to not draw attention on the street perhaps?). They also specified that the app must be able to be closed quickly so they can check it in between interacting with clients and incase they wanted to keep their occupation private from friends/family. The app was made to help keep users safe by reducing the risk of violent crimes. In doing so, this means less time and money is spent on police investigation, where a reported rape can cost around £100000. It was really interesting to hear about an app being used in an unconventional context. With so many apps and websites focussed on social networking, gaming and entertaining, it’s easy to forget that apps have the potential to impact on so much more.
Life As A Female IT Contractor – Clare Sudbery, Software Developer
- Money: more money, less tax.
- Flexibility / Freedom: i.e. it’s easier to stay off work if your child is ill because there aren’t procedures in place for this for permanent staff.
- No performance reviews: some people don’t like reviews, but on the other hand they can be useful and help you improve
- Variety: of projects, companies and locations.
- Learning: talking to Clare after the event, she said the time when she learnt the least was when she stayed in the same job for 6 years.
- Positive feedback: you get more positive feedback because you’re applying to more positions. For example, from sending out your CV, getting pitches from companies or agents who want you and from LinkedIn recommendations that she asks for when she leaves a company.
- Holidays: you can choose when and for how long you want holidays.
- Politics: you aren’t subject to company politics. For example, aiming for a promotion that managers imply you’ll receive but not getting it due to ‘politics’, cost or last minute changes.
- Legacy systems: Clare said generally you don’t have to touch as much legacy code as permanent staff. I’m not sure I agree with this as it depends on context – they could bring you in as a contractor because you specialise in a language that an older system uses.
- Employer comparison: you get to work at lots of different companies so you can see compare them in terms of work and culture. You can also see what it would be like to be permanent staff (including what benefits they get) incase you wanted to stop contracting. Working on different projects, perhaps with different programming languages and technologies, means you find out what it is you like doing the most.
- Pay per skill: I’m not sure what Clare meant by this, but could it be that as a contractor you have certain skills that are proven with certifications (paid for by the contractor?) which contributes to a contractors higher pay?
- No benefits: paid leave, paid sick days, pension contributions, trips/conferences that other employees attend. Think also if you’re off sick with a serious illness for 3 months that this would severally affect your budget for the year.
- Job insecurity: you worry about getting sacked as you can be asked to leave at the drop of a hat. You have to think ahead and budget accordingly.
- Your next contract: you can take holiday gaps between contracts (brilliant!) but never do for the fear of not getting another contract.
- Paperwork: you have to do tax forms etc yourself or pay someone (like a contracting agent) to do it.
- Isolation: you’re not usually seen as ‘one of the gang’ in work and have to make extra effort to fit in. Contracting can sometimes be lonely.
- Efficiency: you are expected to hit the ground running, so you need to be confident in your skills and that you can pick things up quickly.
I’ve always worked with contractors but have never understood what it entails. Clare gave a really blunt and honest review of her experiences and was more than willing to answer questions after the event. I liked the fact that she started by saying what people were probably thinking – “yeah, I like money”!
A Lesson in Customer Service – Dominika Phillips-Blackburn, Senior Business Analyst at Cooperative Group
Getting Out There – Kirsty Hunter, Developer at Swinton
Design with Purpose – Katie Finney & Maria Mayor, Co-founders of Amity hcd
- Alignment: the developers should understand the clients motivation so that everyone aligns on purpose.
- Decisions: in an ideal world, don’t make decisions based on budget or sales. From UCD (User Centred Design) always think about the user’s needs and what would improve their lives.
- People: work with people with the same motivations and values as yourself so you are all aiming for a product to be created for the same purpose.
Agile: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly – Sarah Glanville, Scrum Master at Sky
it’s okay to stand still, just don’t stand still with your eyes shut
- The bad: when one team member is overpowering, dictatorial and controlling. Although strong, confident people are needed to lead teams, they must also listen and take other people’s opinions on board.
- The ugly: when teams reach a state where they think everything is running perfectly. This doesn’t sound so bad, but it can mean that the team stops improving. As time goes by, what the team once thought was the best way to approach something might have developed or other techniques could have emerged and gone unnoticed. Sarah used the phrase “it’s okay to stand still, just don’t stand still with your eyes shut” which is a phrase I’ll remember!
- The good: when you have a team who all communicate effectively. She noted this is uncommon which is why we need Scrum Master’s in the first place!