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TechUP Ambassador: IoC Conference

Shakirah Mustapha-Tahir. Photo: Elena Rossini

by Shakirah Mustapha-Tahir, TechUPWomen Alumna

I arrived at the IoC Conference 2020 in London last month, swamped with excitement to see my TechUPWomen tribe again. It was barely a month ago we waved goodbye at our graduation celebration in Nottingham; only this time, we joined the Institute of Coding‘s panel discussion on the enormous impact the retraining programme has had so far.

It was a calm and pleasant morning at the IET Savoy Place, sharing jokes and deep, meaningful conversations with attendees over refreshments. Still learning about what they do and who they are was my favourite part of the day. At about 11am, we all proceeded to the lecture theatre to wait for the event to start.

The programme titled ‘Thinking differently about life-long learning’ began on a very inspiring note by Dr Rachid Hourizi, Director of Institute of Coding, with Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, President of TechUK. It uncovered exciting facts about the UK’s digital skills gap and the prospects of gender diversity in tech. While some speakers voiced grave concerns on the digital skills shortage, it was great to learn about the progress and steps taken towards diversity in tech.

The next keynote speaker, Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon, CEO of Stemettes, spoke on the topic of life-long learning in technology. She talked about the implication of unconscious biases in innovation and the benefits of diversity in ensuring tech works for all. After the session, we had our break where we networked with attendees while enjoying a delicious lunch.

Panel discussions continued with more talk on diversity in tech, place-based learning and its effect on a wider variety of learners. I was amazed by the effort in India to advocate for more women in tech. Finally, the time came for TechUPWomen’s heartfelt presentation, followed by a video recap of our journey on the programme.

TechUP IoC Conference team. Photo: TechUP

Johanna and EmJay gave insight into the progress recorded so far, both sharing remarkable ideas and moments from the programme. Prof. Sue Black spoke about the initiative behind TechUPWomen and its objective to encourage more women in digital roles. It was quite interesting to learn about the effort that went into funding and advancement of the project from Prof. Alexandra Cristea.

As discussions went on, Judith, Sarah, Muma and I cheerily answered panel questions as participants in the programme.  I spoke briefly about my background in Nigeria and how TechUPWomen has significantly influenced my interest in technology. The residential weekends in the course stood out to me as my favourite part of TechUPWomen, recalling shared experiences with the rest of the cohort. It was lovely to see the audience deeply moved by our strong sense of community.

In time for the evening reception, we checked into our hotel, dressed casually, and made our way out for drinks and canapés. On our way back, it was cold and breezy as we strolled into a stunning Lebanese restaurant in Haymarket. I had a chicken wrap platter and took photos in a Tarboush headgear. What a fun way to end the night!

Once morning came around, it was time for IoC Conference 2020 Day 2! We made our way to the IET lecture theatre after checking out of our hotel. Timandra Harkness, author of Big Data: Does Size Matter, began with a humorous keynote speech on Big Data. She spoke on the importance of learning and understanding data and its implication on making informed decisions.

As sessions continued, it was time for me to catch the train back home. I waved goodbye once again, pondering over the knowledge I had gained in these two days. While I, unfortunately, couldn’t make it to the end of the event, the Whova app was a great help in catching up on what I missed. It was truly a memorable time in London!