Tag Archives: networking

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WomENcourage Conference, 1 March 2014

Ah, Manchester, the home of modern computing (and some of the best bands ever).  From the work of Alan Turing to the inception of The Baby and beyond, the city has given the world of technology many wonderful firsts.  The latest addition to this list is the inaugural ACM Women conference, WomENcourage.

ACM Women Europe supports, celebrates and advocates the full engagement of women across the EU in computing, providing programs and services to their members while working in the wider community to advance women’s technical contributions and careers in the field.

The first European WomEncourage conference took place at the University of Manchester in the Kilburn building (named after Jack Kilburn, one of the people responsible for The Baby), a very fitting venue for the event.  Aleksandra Wruk and myself attended as the Edinburgh Napier University contingent and I also exhibited a poster.

The day itself was absolutely jam packed with talks, panel events and activities.  Our keynote speaker was Professor Dame Wendy Hall, who gave a wonderfully engaging and rousing talk on her work, life and career and the difficulties she faced on her journey.  Wendy’s story was really empowering and she is a perfect role model for successful women in senior positions.  Sadly I didn’t really get to talk with her as she was always surrounded by other people, but when I did get a chance to have a quick chat she was really lovely.  It’s also not every day that you get to meet a dame and a Fellow of the Royal Society!  We also enjoyed two great panel sessions with representatives from the likes of Google, Intel, the University of Greenwich, Facebook, Bloomberg, Microsoft and the University of Cambridge, which were both enlightening and tremendous fun.

My favourite part of the day was the Unconference, a completely new concept to me.  The idea of the Unconference was that everyone wrote an idea for discussion on a Post-It and we voted for the ideas we liked the most.  The votes were tallied up and we were then free to attend a discussion group of our choice and encouraged to attend as many groups as we wished.  I plumped for the cybersecurity group, where we discussed a wide range of topics from banking security to how much of our lives we are happy to share on the likes of Facebook.  It was great to be able to share ideas with folk from a wide range of academic and professional positions and listen to their thoughts and experiences regarding the subject matter.

Needless to say with such a packed schedule I was totally drained by the end of the day.  Thankfully the 8th Day Co-Op was still open so I ended up devouring a vegan pastie to refresh my batteries on the way to the train station.  We were kept so busy I didn’t really get much of a chance to network, however I really enjoyed myself, gained a new Twitter friend thanks to my poster and took a lot away from the conference.  The next WomENcourage conference is in Uppsala, Sweden in 2015, so I’ll have to get my thinking cap on for my next poster idea.

One more thing – if you’re ever in Manchester and fancy a proper pint, I can highly recommend the Port Street Beer House.  You can’t beat a proper beer served by staff who love their craft!

New girl in town?

Starting university is pretty daunting, especially when you’re going into a subject where you know you’ll be in the minority.  However, well done you for taking those first brave steps into studying a SET subject!  You’re going to do just fine.

If you’re still feeling a tad nervous, here are some handy hints to get you through the first few weeks:

  • Don’t be daunted if you’re the only woman on your course.  You may feel overwhelmed by the amount of testosterone in the room at first, but the nerves will pass and things will get better, I promise!  You won’t receive any special treatment, nor will you be singled out or ignored; you’ll be seen as just another student and soon enough you’ll forget that you’re the only one with two X chromosomes.
  • If your university has a group or network for women SET students, get involved as soon as you can.  As well has having a welcoming network for people in the same position as you, it’s a great opportunity to meet other women in your school or faculty and you will meet a lot of strong people from both academic and professional backgrounds.  If you’re a Scottish student, Interconnect can point you in the right direction.  If you’re studying at Edinburgh Napier University, I’m the Student Champion for our group, Connect, so please do get in touch if you’d like to join us.  I wrote a blog post about networking a while back, which you may enjoy reading.
  • There are loads of events for women in SET going on all the time.  Get yourself over to Eventbrite, a wonderful resource for finding out what’s going on in your area.  Many of these events are free, but if some require money your university may be able to help you with funding or even a free ticket.  Don’t be afraid to apply for events or conferences – a lot of students don’t be cause they think they won’t be successful, but how do you know if you never try?  I can highly recommend Target Jobs’s IT’s Not Just For The Boys!; this year they’re holding two events in London, so why not apply for both dates and see what happens?
  • Don’t alienate yourself by staying away from the guys.  You’ll find most of them to be very welcoming, plus you’ll have new friends to bounce ideas off.  If you are unlucky enough to run into the type of guy who likes to make jokes about sandwiches and kitchens, kick him inna fork just smile and walk away.  Alternatively, ask him why he hasn’t made you a sandwich – sorts like that don’t like the taste of their own medicine and will learn to leave you alone.  You may even find your newly-found male friends sticking up for you.
  • Lastly, you are a woman in SET and everyone salutes you.  We need more women and it’s fantastic that you’ve made it into your chosen subject, so let the bad stuff wash over you and focus on the positives.  University is a wonderful experience, so enjoy your studies, make the most of student life and celebrate your inner geek!

If there’s anything you’d like to add or ask me about on this topic, feel free to drop me a line.

Interconnect Student Champion

 

Interconnect

 

Recently I applied for the position of 2013-14 Interconnect Student Champion for Edinburgh Napier University.  I got the job; huzzah!

The job involves promoting and developing Interconnect activities and events working with staff and liaising with my fellow students.  On a more local level I’ll also be working on promoting Connect within the university with the lovely Maria, who will be representing the engineers.  As there are a few champions dotted around the country, we will be meeting several times throughout the year to discuss our collective experiences and our thoughts on how the network is developing both local and nationally.

I’m slightly nervous as the role is brand new and I want to set a good precedent for the future, however I’m also very excited as if my ideas work they might be used for years to come!  I really am looking forward to getting stuck in though and coercing encouraging more female students to get involved with the network.  My involvement with Interconnect last year was a huge confidence booster (being a female student in the School of Computing can get lonely at times) and it’s great to have such a wonderful support network to turn to, so if I can get the word out there to new and existing students Interconnect will hopefully be as beneficial to them as it is to those of us who are currently involved.  We might even be able to convince more women in study computing or engineering, which would really be fantastic.

Here’s to a successful 2013-14!

 

Preparing for the professional world

I might only be in my first year, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned from people at the various events I’ve attended in the past few months alone it’s this:  don’t be shy to sing your own praises and promote yourself.  I’ve admittedly neglected this area as I’m actually kinda shy when it comes to this sort of thing – hard to believe, I know…

However, I’m determined to go places after graduation and I think it makes total sense to plan my route right at the very beginning of my journey.  Today I’d like to share with you some excellent tips that I’ve picked up so far:

1. Web Presence

The vast amount of social media sites that people recommend can be overwhelming, but once they’re set up they’re easy to maintain.  I recently set up an About.me page, which acts as a handy starting point for all the social media sites I’m signed up to and includes a link to direct folk to my biography.  If you’re on Twitter, it’s very easy to create and manage a separate, professional account if you want to keep your personal life away from your professional presence.

However, maintaining so many profiles can get messy so I decided to buy myself a domain and set up a website to showcase everything I’m involved in.  I like the idea of having a central point of contact and I can also have a section on my radio experience.  Luckily I’m married to a web developer so I can sit back and eat cake while he’s making the magic happen, but for those who aren’t so lucky, trust me when I say putting a website together is easier than you think (EDIT:  my husband says that he didn’t work like a dog for his degree in Web Technologies for me to say that web design is easy.  I’m now contractually obliged to tell you that web design is up there with rocket science).  WordPress itself has a lot of handy tools to help novices build a decent looking site and its modular design means you can cobble something decent together in minutes with a little bit of drag and drop.

2.  Business Cards

The first time I was asked for my business card (by the wonderful Dr Sue Black, no less) I was really flattered that someone would actually ask me for one!  When I mentioned that I didn’t have any, Dr Black strongly advised me to order some cards as they come in very useful at networking events and will help the people you meet to remember who you are.  I took her up on her advice and am now awaiting my first batch of 50 cards.

In addition to sticking a mugshot on the card to help with the whole names-to-faces thing, I’ve added my course and university details, my new website, email address, Twitter name, phone number and About.me page.  I’ve picked up a few business cards from people already and I’m find them very handy, usually when I’m talking to a friend about who I’ve met and I need to remind myself who it was I met!

3.  Events

My first big event was Target Jobs’s IT’s Not Just For The Boys! in London last November.  The event was primarily a careers event made up of around 120 STEM students and representatives from many different companies.  I was lucky enough to be offered a place for the event and thoroughly enjoyed myself, taking advantage of the opportunity to network like mad and make some good contacts.  I’m also off to the BCS Women Scotland Kickoff event next week and am looking forward to tomorrow’s Tech Talk, hosted by the university’s Institute for Informatics & Digital Innovation (IIDI).  I also attended the Connect Networking Lunch last Friday and had a great time mingling with STEM students and staff.

Before you nod off, my intention isn’t to bore you silly with the above, it’s to demonstrate the sheer amount of events and networking opportunities there are out there for female STEM students.  There are literally dozens of events every month where students are welcome and I would actively encourage you to attend as many as possible.

Don’t be scared if you’ve just started your degree – I’m only in first year myself, but I’ve never found that to be an issue.  From what I’ve experienced, people tend to be impressed with students taking the opportunity to attend events and network from the off and I truly believe that keeping up the momentum is beneficial to your future career.  The more you’re seen at events, the more likely people are to remember you and it’s a fantastic – and cheap! – way to build up a professional network.  Keep an eye out for any events your university is running, but don’t be shy to go along to any events held in your area.  I like to keep an eye on Eventbrite to see what’s coming up and they also offer a good smartphone app.

I hope you find the above advice as useful as I have and I hope you have as much fun as I do as you schmooze your way around the lectures and events.