On 2nd and 3rd November 2019, we held our third TechUPWomen residential at the University of York. Our home for the weekend was the Piazza Learning Centre on the University’s East Campus, and we spent our evening in the beautiful historic city of York.
Our keyword for this residential was ASPIRE, and we focused on the journeys our TechUPWomen will be taking as we move into the final term of the programme. We started with a careers fair and networking event, where our participants had the chance to meet and talk to our partners from Atom Bank, BCS Women, BJSS, MSP, Tombola and Waterstons. There were also two pop-up talks by MSP and Atom Bank to discuss the opportunities available in more detail.
Next, we moved into the lecture theatre for our welcome with Prof. Helen Petrie, the programme lead at the University of York, as well as introductions from Durham University’s Prof. Sue Black and Prof. Alexandra Cristea.
Our first speaker was Mansha Manohar, User Experience (UX) Research Manager at British Airways, who spoke to us about her journey into UX and the insight she has gained along the way. Hearing her story reminded us that very few people have straightforward journeys into their career, and that you can learn a great deal from the detours you take.
Next up was Dr Fatma Layas, Research Fellow in Computer Science at the University of West England, Bristol. She told us about her academic career and her research in the field of Human Computer Interaction, and the benefits this has had for people with disabilities.
After a short break, we moved to our breakout sessions; learning about Inclusive Design with Prof. Helen Petrie and about cybersecurity with Waterstons through the medium of Lego! Our TechUPWomen showed fantastic teamwork, creating innovative prototypes and defending their virtual networks from cybersecurity threats.
Then we returned to the lecture theatre for mini-talks on two job roles. First we heard from Marianne Whitfield, Director of Development at MSP, about the life of a developer and the skills and attitude needed for a career in the field. Then, we heard from Rita Arafa at BCS Women about the role of a Business Analyst and what the journey into this role looks like.
Up next was Smilyan Pavlov from BJSS, speaking about the difficult issue of Impostor Syndrome. His session was hugely relatable to many of us in the room, and we took away two very important lessons: that we’re not alone and how we can challenge this thinking to feel more confident.
This brought our first day to a close, so we returned to our hotel to relax and get ready for our evening event. This time we were hosted at the National Centre for Early Music, a beautiful venue just outside the city centre. We sat down to a delicious three course meal and chatted with each other about the day’s events.
After dinner, the entertainment began! We were treated to a traditional ceilidh by the local The New Fox Band, and spent the evening learning new steps and dancing joyfully.
The next morning, we returned to the Piazza Learning Centre for our second day. Our first speaker was Prof. Susan Stepney from the University of York, who spoke to us about her research in the department and her move into Computer Science from a background in Physics.
After tea and coffee – in our new TechUPWomen mugs! – we moved into our final speaker sessions for the weekend.
First we heard from Sharmadean Reid MBE, founder of Beautystack, who spoke to us about her journey into the tech industry from a background as a beauty technician. She described how she taught herself to code and to build an app to address a gap she saw in the beauty industry, and the steps she took to establish her new business. Her session – delivered via Skype from her car, with her young son in the passenger seat – reminded us that stepping outside the expected trajectory can make you successful, and to trust our instincts in shaping our careers.
Our final speaker was Dr. Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE, polymath and founder of Stemettes, who told us about her path into mathematics and then into technology. She shared with us her advice for success and answered our questions on issues we had faced in our own careers.
Some of our TechUPWomen shared emotional stories of difficult experiences in their journeys so far and were met with support and understanding by our speakers and their fellow participants. We were reminded of the value of our supportive and nurturing TechUPWomen community, and having that space to share difficult problems and receive advice from other women.
At the end of her session, Anne-Marie reminded us that having taken these steps to learn new digital skills, we are valuable and valued members of the tech community and that we should never lose sight of our worth. We went to our lunch together feeling inspired and positive about our futures.
We are TechUPWomen. And we are golden.