Women in Tech

Sky offices at Leeds Dock
July 28, 2016 5:25 pm

Women in Tech



‘Women in Tech’ held their most recent event on Tuesday 26th hosted by Sky in their Sky 2 building on Leeds Dock. Some of the SimpleUsability team went along for the evening to get to know more women in tech and listen to the five talks.

Talk 1: Didier Lebrat

Didier is group chief technology officer at Sky, kicked off the talks with an introduction into why Sky are passionate about hosting ‘Women in tech’ events and the importance of women in the industry.

Within education there is still a strong bias towards boys continuing technical disciplines into further education. Despite girls showing the same competence in subjects such as maths, information technology and science and engineering, they are discouraged from these subjects. It is important that girls and young women are encouraged to pursue a career in tech as they can offer new ideas and see products from an alternative angle. A wide range of roles in technology require a range of people. Companies see the importance for the people building products to reflect their customer base and recognise the need for more women in tech in order to accomplish this.

Talk 2: Rachel Goulding

Rachel, now a product owner at Sky, explained – the agile business analyst, “a very valuable role”.

Rachel began her talk with the basics of a waterfall vs. agile process, focusing on their differences and why Agile works for Sky. The agile process means the cost and schedule drives the features created to assure a high product value, in the optimum time and flow to launch. She expressed the importance of communication and collaboration within any team working within an agile process.

At the beginning of the project, everyone needs to understand the value of the project.

  • The team needs to identify what they are trying to achieve. What needs to be delivered? What is the Minimum Viable Product?
  • The business analysts must then protect the product based on the scope, ensuring changes or additional items have been checked against this.
  • They must champion the product, making the scope and the process visible; sharing challenges and celebrating success.

After the value of the project is decided the business analyst needs to help ensure flow.

Share the ‘what’ and the ‘why’, building a story to help create vision. Encourage discussion to understand ideas and potential challenges. Include members from different aspects of the team from the start and throughout. To create success, everyone should understand their role within the team and remember to communicate!

Talk 3: Gail Parker

Gail, Head of online capabilities at Sky, spoke about the key traits of a Sky Product Owner.

Gail reflected on a time where she had helped create a product with many features, millions of users and a feeling of success! Feeling proud, she approached her manager who questioned what made the product so good? Looking for further evidence of success, the team realised that 80% of the product’s features weren’t used. The product had no advertisements and no sponsors. With time and effort wasted on unused features and little profitable value from advertisements and sponsors; 80% of the product had no value to users and generated minimal revenue for Sky.

This experience highlighted the importance of value led products.

Gail talked through the role of a Product owner, stating they must set the vision for the product. As well as this, they must be super communicators with the ability to confidently speak to stakeholders, consider the customer experience and be a team player, all in order launch a successful end product.

Talk 4: Shirley Ficken

Shirley was the night’s keynote speaker. Shirley is a Leadership Development Practitioner and Executive Coach, her talk was to inspire – The power of self-efficacy.

Shirley started this talk by getting the audience to remember a time where they were doing something they’re good at. Then remembering a time where they’d not been successful at something and felt bad about it. After each, Shirley asked how the good experience and bad experience felt.

Self efficacy is ‘the belief in one’s capabilities’. If you believe in yourself, this influences your behaviour and has the power to change the outcome.

To be self-efficacious – notice and adjust negative self talk. Visualise what you want, “see” the positive outcome in your mind. Repeat positive thoughts and actions. Own decisions, and accept positive feedback!

Shirley’s closing line was a quote from Henry Ford, ‘Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.’

Talk 5: Catharine Bardsley

The last speaker for the evening was Catherine Bardsley, who told her story, of how people told her she would never succeed after a teenage pregnancy. Despite this, Catherine went back to college and graduated from university. However, her job proved to be inflexible, putting a strain on her home life. Catherine knew she was capable of her job and felt being late for work due to dropping her child at school should be irrelevant as it did not affect her ability to carry out her job. Eventually she started working freelance for the same business which caused a movement, where other employees also turned freelance, and she saw an opportunity.

Catherine co-founded ‘Cloudtrainer Ltd’ and now runs a successful company which provides interactive training online for paramedics to teach users how to triage multiple casualties. Catherine’s employees work freelance and remotely. Cloudtrainer put emphasis on employees feeling trusted, respected and valued, as this was what Catherine was looking for when starting out as a women in tech.

The talks for the evening drew to an end with Matt Grest summarising the key points raised by the speakers and restating the importance of encouraging women into tech roles.