As the UK's North West positions itself to be a global technological powerhouse, will we have enough of the talent needed to realise this ambition?"
Today we talk to Annette Joseph, diversity and inclusion speaker and founder of Diverse Tech NW about how the great Northern Powerhouse of the technological industry is working to address issues of diversity and a forthcoming series of events to inspire change.
Annette: The technological industry is the most exciting industry to be in right now. It changes every day. And because it is moving so fast, there are opportunities everywhere - and we don't want to be left behind.
Diversity and inclusion in the tech industry goes beyond being a 'noble cause'. It is well documented that a diverse team makes tech better. But when you consider the rich diversity of the North West of the UK - Manchester in particular - the tech industry just doesn't reflect our region like it could. This exposes a huge risk for the industry as we develop products and services that will determine how all of us live our lives in the future. How are we to build and deliver services that are fit for all without teams that are reflective of our society? How can we develop the right services if everyone is not involved at development stage?
And even more pressing - as the UK's North West positions itself to be a global technological powerhouse, will we have enough of the talent needed to realise this ambition?
What inspires you to address these issues?
My sons. There's so much going on in our world right now, I literally have to turn off the news so I can function. I've decided to do what I can to action change. Even when things go wrong, or I want an easy life, I think about how I want my sons to realise how much power we have as individuals -- to see that you can pick something, anything, that fires them up, act on it and literally change the world - even if it's just your part of it.
Annette goes on to explain, "When I speak about tech careers to non-tech people, they usually start telling me how they're not good at maths or science or computing. This inspired me to set up DiverseTechNW, to dispel the myths, challenge perceptions and break down the boundaries to encourage people from under-represented groups to realise their potential and get into the tech sector.
The series of workshops planned for 2019 aim to drive awareness that none of that actually matters! There are lots of different roles in the tech sector- and many of those don't need a degree. Many roles don't even need technical experience (or competence). There are roles for creative minds, analytical minds, practical minds. There are flexible working arrangements, modern work spaces and lots of variety in the types of work available as our growing workforce evolves."
How can people get involved?
There are many ways of getting involved in this bigger mission to improve diversity. We're hosting a series of free events, kicking off with a coding taster workshop which is accessible to all. If you feel like you're too old to change careers, or if you feel like there's some assumptions that the industry is not for you, come along to our workshops and dip your toe in the water! Sign up to our first event to explore whether coding is right for you.
If you already work in tech and particularly if you're from a under-represented background, we'd love for you to be involved. We need trailblazers who are either happy to talk about their experiences on a panel or help people during the hands-on training. Or simply just come along to network and meet people!
What can participants expect?
The aim of the workshop series is for attendees to get a feel for what it might be like to work in the industry in a particular role and also meet others that are in the industry. They get a chance to hear from people from diverse backgrounds describe their experiences working in tech, and then get 2 hours of hands-on training in a relaxed and judgement-free environment. The groups are small and intimate so that everyone has the chance for quality, one-to-one support. The aim is that by the end of each workshop, the attendees will be better informed about whether or not they'd like to find out more about a particular discipline - or know that that discipline just isn't for them.
What does 'success' mean to you?
I want to be able to walk into any tech company and see profitable teams of people of all races, genders, ages, abilities and experiences, working together and collaborating, showing empathy for each other's experiences and creating products and services that are fit for everyone in society. If I can inspire just one person to think differently and realise their potential and consider a career in the tech industry, it's moving in the right direction.
I want to be able to walk into any tech company and see profitable teams of people of all races, genders, ages, abilities and experiences, working together and collaborating, showing empathy for each other's experiences and creating products and services that are fit for everyone in society."