On the 11th May 2017, I attended my first technology conference and two weeks on, I’m still feeling energised from the experience. Although I work in the tech industry my roles to date have focused on the delivery, process, operations and culture which are equally important in my opinion, but tech moves so fast that this conference gave me the opportunity to take a deeper dive into current trends.
The conference in question is the Maddox Event ‘Women of Silicon Roundabout’ or '#WinTec17'. The aim of the conference was to “inspire anyone wanting to work or already working in the tech industry" by having as many influential people participate, provide a platform for conversation, form connections and engage with peers. The hope was that by the end of the day, those in attendance would leave feeling inspired, empowered and ready to super charge their career!
Conference Day! Kicked off early at 'Tobacco Dock' in London with a light breakfast and a chance to walk around the exhibiter stalls and talk to tech company representatives.
After the initial excitement of registration, the stalls and breakfast pastries, the main plenary sessions began. These sessions started with opening remarks from the Producer and Co-Founder of the Maddox Events series Michaela Jeffery-Morrison. From the moment she walked on stage, she exuded pure passion for the event, what it stands for and that making the experience as positive for all attendees was her primary focus.
Michaela then introduced Faz Aftab (Online Commercial, Technical and Operations Director for ITV). Faz spoke about two main themes. One theme concentrated on ‘Parent Hood’ rather than ‘Mother Hood’ and the second theme concentrated on the ‘Imposter Syndrome’.
- Parent Hood: men given equal billing in terms of maternity and career options post maternity
- Imposter Syndrome: the fear of being exposed, that you don't deserve your success, aren't as good as others – and could be “found out”
It was this second theme which really struck a chord with me and something I've been prone to suffering with in the past. The message Faz gave however, was to OWN your achievements as you worked hard for them, celebrate them and Be BOLD! Interestingly over the past year this is exactly what I've aimed to do. I admit that at times it feels uncomfortable to share success and outwardly seek recognition from others but I work really hard at my job, I enjoy it and love the sense of fulfilment I get when the right decisions, drive and hard work result in positive outcomes. This is what motivates me to do the best job I can do – so I should be bold… I’ve earned that right!
The next session was hosted by Josh Bottomley (Global Head of Digital) from HSBC who asked the question as to whether adopting the ‘Start up Mentality’ would benefit everyone as well as discussing their digital challenge and move to Dev ops methodologies. He spoke in detail about how HSBC have invested heavily in these new concepts and how they've been able to challenge their traditional longstanding organisation and process model. It’s this shift in technology and culture that has been the biggest change for HSBC to overcome. Josh also spoke about the level of technology integration they have had to address and how it's had a huge impact on the testing effort needed to move to digital platforms. API’s development has proved to be more complex to extract information from their back end systems and integration testing has proven to be one of the most costly items on the project plan: 80% spent on integration testing compared to 20% on the end user experience! It was really interesting to hear the challenges being faced by HSBC which is driven by customers continuing to drive more instant access to mobile technology.
There were many other sessions during the morning but my favourite speaker had to be Jody Davids (SVP, Global CIO at PepsiCO). The story she told was one of life, love and ambition. Jody was clear that her ultimate career goal was to achieve the position of CIO. In order to achieve her goal she looked at what skills and experience she needed to qualify her for this position and then matched her objectives accordingly. Over the years that followed, Jody took various job positions to gain and learn the additional experience she needed to reach her ultimate goal of CIO, interspersed with break periods to deal with life and all the challenges that can throw our way. Jody more than met her career ambition though and reached the position of CIO at several prestigious companies and continues to look for the next challenge; although at some point, she really does need to write the book she dreams of writing! The advice she gave to those listening in awe, was to excel in your current role and be really good at what you do now, but always think about what’s next, then next step, seize leadership opportunities, be visible and volunteer for those opportunities that will stretch and challenge you. She stressed that most importantly you need to understand who you are and what is important to you! One of the biggest takeaways from the session was the strapline that ‘You can’t choose what happens but you can choose how to respond’… That’s a very powerful message as your response can truly determine your character.
As we broke for lunch, the London sun greeted us with full force. Attendees sat in the atrium areas discussing the morning sessions and conveying the messages that they'd heard, listening to opinions and getting into further debate. It was a great atmosphere!
The afternoon sessions were a mix of what I would label as 'confidence/character' building sessions, inter-mixed with pure technology workshops and sessions about how companies have embraced disruptive technologies and how they overcame challenges to keep up with market demands. Some of the main themes within the non-technology focused sessions were to take charge of your career, be confident and authentic, build credibility, be flexible to change and be visible. The ‘being bold’ message continued with speakers stressing that you need to tell people what you do, have a plan and don’t be afraid to canvass support and feedback.
In terms of the pure technology sessions I attended, the story of the 'Telegraph' was very thought provoking. The session was chaired by Francesca Cuda (Solution Architect from the Telegraph), who concisely explained how this 160 year old company had embraced digital technology and pushed their technical boundaries to partner with 'Amazon' and deploy instant news updates to the Amazon Echo. Of course, listing to a ‘techie’ walk you through the overall technical journey that they faced doesn’t give you the full picture of how the business, process model and overall culture of the company also had to go through this massive simultaneous shift to a make the overall project a success; but the fact is they succeeded and I walked away feeling their sense of achievement and a wanting to share their story.
As the day drew to a close, it was a sense of contentment that filled me. I could relate to all the sessions that I'd had heard throughout the day, had spoken with various companies and attendees and both laughed and cried in response to the stories and challenges we listened to.
So did my first tech conference inspire and motivate me? Yes it did, I left feeling empowered, motivated and ready to super-charge my career in this ever evolving, exciting, exhilarating and booming sector