On 18th and 19th January 2020, we gathered in Nottingham for our final TechUPWomen residential. It was a time for celebration, as each of our incredible 100 women has achieved many great things over the course of our programme. Many of our TechUPWomen completed all their assignments and graduated. Some of them overcame huge adversity to continue with their studies. And everyone gained new digital skills enhancing their journey to becoming women in technology, and a network of 100 colleagues ready to support them wherever they go next.
In the broader sense, we finished the programme as we began it six months ago: with presentations from each TechUPWomen participant on their journey to this point. We heard stories of friends made, confidence gained, lessons learned and new doors opened. We cheered and celebrated and cried together, taking stock of how far each of us has come in such a short space of time. It was wonderful to see our TechUPWomen feeling more confident speaking publicly, surrounded by the safety and support of our TechUPWomen community.
Our first speaker Prof. Sarah Sharples, Pro-Vice-Chancellor at the University of Nottingham, told us about her journey as a woman in technology, navigating a multidisciplinary background and struggling to find a space to fit in encouraging us to ‘focus on what we are, not on what we are not’.
Jacqueline de Rojas CBE shared her story and taught us that ‘diversity isn’t always comfortable’. She reminded us that the way we tell our own narrative is an important part of how others perceive us, and described how she has shaped her image through her words and actions.
After tea and biscuits, our next speaker was mentoring consultant Veronica Pickering who spoke about her journey from social work to coaching, and gave us her top tips for improving our confidence, making connections and creating the life we want to live.
Veronica’s session was followed by an expert panel chaired by Prof. Sue Black on interview technique. Our TechUPWomen100 will now be interviewing with our 17 programme partners. Our expert panel members: Veronica Pickering; Charlotte Swavola from CapitalOne; Matt Holgate from Experian; Cynthia Davis, CEO of BAME Recruitment; and Mel Parker, CEO of Graft Talent shared their insights from both sides of the interview table, and gave us some top interview tips.
Once evening came around it was time to really celebrate! Our venue for the evening was the beautiful conference centre at Nottingham Trent University, which was dressed for the occasion with our own TechUPWomen graduation banner and photoboard! We were joined for the celebration by our programme partners, some of our volunteer mentors, and Rachid Hourizi – Director and Caron Staley – Manager, of the Institute of Coding. Dinner was served in the atrium, which looked very impressive with floor-to-ceiling banners!
At last, the time came for our TechUPWomen graduation. Prof. Dame Jessica Corner of the University of Nottingham spoke first, to welcome us to the city and offer congratulations on behalf of the University.
Rachid Hourizi then spoke to congratulate us all on the incredible success of TechUPWomen and Sheila Flavell chair of the IoC Industry Advisory Board also congratulated us all on our amazing achievements.
Finally the moment we had all been waiting for: one by one our extraordinary TechUPWomen crossed the stage to receive their certificates, awarded by Professors Sue Black and Alexandra Cristea. Our graduates – who have now completed all their TechUPWomen assignments – were also awarded their TechUP colours, their own TechUPWomen supershero cape! It was an incredibly proud moment for us all seeing each of our participants celebrating and being celebrated for their achievements, so many TechUPWomen also hugged our professors and the team as they collected their certificates, emotions were really high throughout. What an incredible journey we have all been on.
After the ceremony was over, the dancing began! The University of Nottingham’s ceilidh band delighted us with their music, and we all danced the night away.
After a breakfast, where everyone was buzzing from the night before, our first Sunday morning speaker Sarah Walker-Smith, CEO of Shakespeare Martineau LLP told her story of being the only female CEO of a Top-50 law firm. She taught us her ‘equation for equality’, and shared her insight on being a pioneer in her field.
Kate Pljaskovova and Clare Sutcliffe from She Wins ran a workshop for us next, teaching us about negotiating in the workplace, and how to ensure that the way we are treated reflects our value and dignity.
Our final speaker was Dr Margo Thomas, Founder of the Women’s Economic Imperative. Margo joined us at our first residential as a very welcome impromptu guest, and inspired us so much that it was only natural to invite her back to round up our final residential. She shared with us her wisdom on living authentically and being confident, measured and successful in everything we do.
And then finally it was time to say goodbye. We embraced, laughed, cried and congratulated one another on a life-changing six months. It was hard to believe that the time had come for our TechUPWomen to take their next steps out into the world of technology and fly solo. However, as one of our participants wisely said in her final presentation:
…this is not the end. This is just the beginning…