10 years @ ThoughtWorks

Unbelievably, yesterday was the 10 year anniversary of when I joined ThoughtWorks.

It blows my mind that a whole decade has passed since the first day I walked into our London office with Becky and Val, as a recent graduate, as we hid in the kitchen, too nervous to join our new colleagues on the desks.

When I think about it, 23 to 33 is such a formative time in your life. I’ve grown up here. This will sound cheesy but ThoughtWorks has not only taught me how to be a software engineer, a coach, a leader but I think it’s almost definitely taught be how to be a better person. I may not be the biggest social and economic justice activist that I‘m sure our founder Roy would love us all to be. But I proudly call myself a feminist, I understand my privilege, I value diversity, equality and equity for all, and I’m pretty sure that a lot of those socialist liberal values have rubbed off on me too.

My journey with ThoughtWorks has been pretty up and down (especially at the beginning!), and my path has been wonderfully winding. But turns out moving to Canada 6 weeks in gave me life long friends, a pretty awesome husband, chances to work with and become friends with two of my current colleagues (I can’t beleive that Mike and Rebecca you’ve seen me grow up here). Chicago gave me more awesome people and experiences, and coming back to London the same.

A wise ex-colleague of mine Warren said as he was leaving that “as long as you are getting opportunities to grow and learn and do interesting work, stay and enjoy this amazing place”. He was right, and I still am.

I’ve had so many great opportunities and experiences through my time at ThoughtWorks, worked in and travelled to many far flung countries, gotten to speak at conferences and met, learnt from and become friends with amazing people from all kinds of backgrounds. I hope that I’ve left a positive impact on those who I’ve crossed paths with too.

The first time I met ThoughtWorks, I travelled up to London from Devon to attend a graduate open day, when my step dad picked me up from the train on the way home, he asked me what it had been like and my response was “well…. they are all totally crazy, but they are so passionate about what they do, I think I’ll fit in perfectly”. Still so true today, and I’m pretty happy to count myself amount them.

So many memories, so many laughs and quite a lot of gin later I often think that ThoughtWorks years are like dog years, 1 year here is like 3 somewhere else, and I’m feeling all those years. So…. here’s to us ThoughtWorks and all the wondberfullly crazy people I’ve met along the way, may we look forward to a few more.

Gender Diversity on Teams – Roundup

Wanted to keep a note of a bunch of articles and books that I found recently around studies about gender diversity on teams. Prompted by a discussion with a programme manager at an investment bank and then subsequently with my fellow ThoughtWorks colleague Nic Ferrier

I found these often quoted “facts” and was trying to hunt down their sources…..

National Center for Women in Technology – Resources
The Impact of Gender Diversity on the Performance of Business Teams 
Gender Diversity and the Impact on Corporate Performance – Credit Suisse Research Institute
Gender Diversity, Team Decision Quality, Time on Task, and Interpersonal Cohesion
LBS study shows addition of women to teams improves performance

GHC2012: Nora Denzel’s Keynote – Tips for staying in your technical career

Go and watch her whole keynote speech here. It’s well worth it, and much better than I could ever attempt to summarise!

See here for Nora’s bio and some of the quotes from her keynote.

Nora’s keynote was funny and inspiring. She’s a great speaker. As well as talking about her own journey she focused on issues of diversity and also retention of women in IT.  Mentioning that once you have got women into IT, you have to work just as hard to keep them there.

Nora talked about her top 5 tips for a long career in the technical industry.

  1.  Your attitude…. Your career is an obstacle course not a path. Obstacles are put in your career not to kick you out– but to see how bad you really want it. Things don’t happen ‘TO’ you in your career, they happen ‘FOR’ you. You are not victim of these obstacles. Don’t run away. You shouldn’t be scared, this gives you tools to deal with things.
  2. Be comfortable with being uncomfortable…. Tech is always changing, you will always feel like you have no idea about something. It’s normal to feel uncomfortable. It’s about how fast you can learn. If you are comfortable all of the time, you are not growing. Comfortable OR growth.
  3. Act as if…. Fill in the blank. Act as if you are confident… Act as if you are a good speaker…. etc. Nora gave a great example of how she met the first lady to go into space. She strutted confidently onto the space shuttle, but when Nora asked her if she was scare, she responded that yes, she was terrified. I knew how the systems worked and all the possibilities of what could happen! What is courage? Master your fear. Easier to act into a new way of thinking than to think into a new way if acting.
  4. Control your career PR agent. YOU! You are your own agent. Be careful about what you say back to a compliment. Say thank you and then stop. Don’t qualify all the things you were terrified about or didn’t do right. Always tell the truth but just not so much of it. Shorten your press release. If you don’t have confidence in yourself how can we have confidence in you.
  5. Maintain your village. People that support you. Have a network that you nurture. It is not what you know or who you know, it is who knows what you know!

You have the chance to change the world. To work on things that will change peoples lives.

Grace Hopper ‘ A ship in port is safe, but that is not what ships were built for. Sail out to sea, and do new things.’ @ndenzel #ghc12

GHC 2012: The Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing 2012

This years Grace Hopper Celebration of women in computing was held in Baltimore, in the US.

I once again got the chance to go and it’s always an amazing event. This year was the biggest ever at nearly 3700 attendees, made up from students, academia, industry and some military.

It was a very busy year for ThoughtWorks there too, each year our presence gets bigger and this year we did a tonne of interviews and assessments. Hopefully we’ll find some great women.

As always the dance party was my favorite part. Not just because I love dancing, which I do, but because it epitomises everything great about this event. The exhibiting has finished so we can all relax, the organizers can relax, you have well over a thousand people dancing like no one is watching, celebrating being who they are. So many smiles, many new friends have been made. And just a great electric, energized, and optimistic atmosphere. I love hearing first time attendees overflowing with excitement and drive as they tell me what an amazing experience it was for them.

I didn’t get to attend as many sessions as I would of liked but I did manage Nora Denzel’s keynote and a sessions called How to Influence Without Authority. See follow up blog posts.

Next year will be in Minneapolis, and I’ll be taking a break from the conference as i’ll be busy getting married over that time!

Little Miss Geek

I wanted to share with you a campaign that has been gaining traction in the UK recently.

There has been a lot more media coverage of the lack of women in IT due to the launch of a new book. The ladies of Lady Geek have launched a campaign through their social arm to inspire young girls to become the next pioneers in technology, and to get the attention of the British Government. The founder of Lady Geek, Belinda Parmar has written a book called Little Miss Geek, to go alongside this campaign.

Whats the book about? (From the book description on Amazon)

Belinda Parmar charts the rise of the Little Miss Geek as she fights her way from childhood, through school and into the heart of the technology industry. Along the way the book outlines practical steps that will bridge the gap between women and technology, and help inspire girls everywhere to be tech pioneers.

You can get the book on Amazon here and there is also a kindle version http://www.amazon.co.uk/Little-Miss-Geek-Bridging-Technology/dp/0957389809/ref=pd_sim_sbs_kinc_1

My copy of the book is currently winging it’s way to me, so once I’ve read it I will report back. Some parts of the campaign make me cringe slightly, there’s a lack of celebration of the achievements that women have had in technology, but their intentions are all good. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and speaking on a panel with some of the ladies from Lady Geek, and they are full of energy and drive for making a difference in this space. They also do a great job of addressing how the stereotypes around a “typical IT worker” can be so damaging when attracting people into our field, which we know is something thats always bothered me!

Media Coverage


“What I like about the Little Miss Geek campaign is that it is practical. It goes beyond merely moaning about the data; it outlines simple techniques that companies and schools can employ to address the issue. As Parmar says, the plan is to address gender imbalance in tech in the same way that Jamie Olivertackled childhood obesity. There is a manifesto that companies can adopt to attract more women to the workplace — with initiatives such as apprenticeships, mentorship schemes, and “female heroes” programmes. Lady Geek also plans to run after-school coding clubs for girls and has started carrying out workshops in primary and secondary schools exploring boys’ and girls’ perceptions of the tech industry and attitudes towards the ICT curriculum.”






About Lady Geek’s campaign  http://ladygeek.com/littlemissgeek/

Why we are running the campaign:

  • Women only make up 17% of the UK’s tech workforce and this has been falling by0.5% each year = we need to encourage more women to want to work in the tech industry. 
  • There was only 1 girl for every 11 boys in the average UK A-Level computing class in2011. Girls account for 56% of high education applicants but only make up 14% of Computer Science and I.T. subjects  = we need to excite girls to want to study computing, so they are more knowledgeable about tech. 
  • 80% of women want creative independent job roles. Only 30% of women believe that tech jobs can provide such an opportunity = we need to change the negative perception women have about the tech industry. 
  • 4 out of 10 gadgets are now bought by women but only 3% of women are creative directors in this industry = we need women to become creators of tech and not just consumers.  

What we aim to achieve: 

We hope to gain national Government awareness and backing, so the issue is taken seriously and initiatives are put into place to help get more females into the industry.

We won’t rest until women make up 50% of the UK’s tech workforce. 

Back At the Grace Hopper Celebration

So I’m happy to say that I’ll be once again attending the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing! This years celebration is in Baltimore, USA.

I’m very much looking forward to it. I’ve started to build quite a network of friends that I see there every year. It will also be great fun to catch up with the other ThoughtWorkers there, as I haven’t seen a lot of them since I move to the UK this year.

Unfortunately I will not be speaking this year, after the amazing amazing experience of last year, I did try, but it wasn’t to be.

The main reason for me going this year is to start talking to people about the possibility of setting up a European version of the Grace Hopper Celebration! There is very little visibility of the Anita Borg institute and the work that they do in Europe and I think there are loads of great women in Tech in the UK and Europe that would get a huge boost out of events like this.

Anyway just a pipe dream at the moment, but watch this space.

The last 2 years I have attended have been really worth it. Totally exhausting, there are so many sessions, awesome people to meet and network with, and then ThoughtWorks always has a huge recruiting presence there too. But I always get such a boost just from being there. I meet really inspiring new people and I remember why I’m a women in technology and why it’s so great. Being surrounded by so many others you can’t help but leave on a huge high. (plus I’m really looking forward to the dance party as always!)

Hope to see you there and let me know if this European Grace Hopper Celebration sounds interesting!