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!