Women of Silicon Roundabout Conference 2018

“A bird sitting on a tree is never afraid of the branch breaking. Because trust is not in the branch but in its own wings”.

This was one of my biggest takeaways from the Women of Silicon Roundabout 2018.

Two weeks ago, I participated in Women of Silicon Conference, as a chairperson for the Diversity and Inclusion sessions and had a great time being a part of such an awesome event!

What really struck me when I reached the conference on Tuesday morning was the sheer size of the crowd. Women of Silicon Roundabout is an energising, inspiring and insightful event that grew from 200 people attending in 2016 to more than 4000 attendees this year! The conference was divided into 4 main parts, which were occurring concurrently over the 2 days: Talks, workshops, career development and exhibition. Throughout the 2 days I attended several sessions ranging from talks on IoT & AI to workshops on leadership, confidence and accelerating your career.

The sessions I chaired included inspiring and insightful talks by Nav Randhawa from BP, Kateryna Trofimenko from Badoo, Louise Troen from Bumble and Phillippa Ritchie from Microsoft.

Nav spoke about the diversity and inclusion strategies at BP and her own career journey as a leader inspiring and enabling women in tech. Philippa’s talk was useful in understanding how you can use social media to create a great personal brand. Kateryna and Louise spoke about their startup growth and approach to making the first move. While Bumble might be a dating app, their presentation focused on women empowerment and integrating it in their culture and their product.

“Be the CEO your parents wanted you to marry” was one of their main marketing slogans and their initiative to encourage women to make the first move-in personal life and career is applaudable.

Among the other highlights were numerous workshops aimed at overcoming perfectionism, the imposter syndrome, fear of public speaking and how to build thriving teams. The workshop on ‘Overcoming perfectionism and accelerating your career’ was run by the Bravest Path, where they ran an exercise on sharing our perfectionist tendencies, what makes us hold back and those whose opinions really matter within a small group. Everyone was then asked to complete this sentence: “I give myself permission to…” Be bold. Be vulnerable. Be Myself.

There was an interesting statistic mentioned – Men apply for jobs when they meet 25% of the requirements but women only apply for jobs when they meet 90% of the requirement. This is just one example given of perfectionist tendencies which sometimes hold us back.

Along similar lines was the seminar on ‘Vulnerability is a Strength, Not a Weakness’ where Anusha Nirmalananthan asked everyone to share something everyone knows about them, something only friends and family do and something no one does. It was incredible how these workshops made 100 strangers build a trust circle and share their thoughts and vulnerabilities with each other in an hour!

While the sessions ranged from inspirational and moving stories to workshops on personal development and soft skills, some of my inspiration came just from the women I bumped into outside the seminar rooms and in the exhibition halls. Often, we look up to women at the top, the likes of Sheryl Sandberg, when searching for a role model, but role models are all around. Women who have worked hard to be who they are and achieve their dreams as engineers, managers and tech experts, who are not too many steps away from where a lot of us want to be.

As a woman in energy and engineering, and having worked in India, Australia, USA and the UK, one of the common threads I’ve noticed is a lack of gender diversity in energy markets, particularly at senior levels. However, initiatives such as POWERful Women and Renewable UK’s Switch project are aspiring to change that by inspiring a new generation of women into the smart energy space.

 

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