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Caitlin Moran, Girls in Coding & the Future Workforce

caitlin-moran-girls-who-code

This is a guest post from Sinead Bunting, Marketing Director at Monster and organiser of tomorrow evening’s Girls in Coding: How they will be critical to female roles in the future workforce event, being held at Skills Matter. The event is free though tickets are limited, so book now!


I used to be a bit of a blogger, and enjoyed nothing more, than regularly posting a good cathartic piece of my mind at the industry blog; Digitalrecruiting.co.uk. But I stopped contributing about three years ago. Having moved media/solution side, I felt my thoughts wouldn’t be viewed as being as objective as perhaps they once were. Also, maybe nothing got me fired up enough to bother putting my tuppence worth out there in the blogosphere. Yet here I am today, fired up and ready to go!

So, What Happened?

In July last year I went to see Caitlin Moran launch her new book, How to Build a Girl in Union Chapel, Islington, London. I was pretty excited; I’m a big fan of Caitlin and I was also about to go on holiday to France, so was looking forward to a bit of downtime and a break from all things work.

That night however, rather un-expectantly, Caitlin said something that got me thinking all about work!

She said something that was so fundamentally important to the future of the workforce that I immediately thought to myself, ‘something has to be done about this’ and Monster and its mission of helping folks ‘Find Better’ in their career and its strength in connecting tech talent, has some role to play here…

This is what Caitlin said:

“If 90% of coders are men, developing and owning the language of the future, women won’t be part of the conversation”

monster-event-twitter-post

This hit me like a bolt of lightning – well perhaps a slight exaggeration – but it did really hit home. I was worried. Whilst there is still some way to go in terms of true equality, whether it’s in equal pay or the low percentage of women in senior management positions, females have made some significant strides in the UK workforce in recent years. This has been to the benefit of all concerned with reports showing that companies who have more women on their boards and in their senior management teams aren’t just ‘doing the right thing’, they are generating greater profit. The prospect of this gender equality progress unravelling, due to females not being sufficiently skilled in tech to converse in a world where all things tech prevail, is hugely concerning. It’s also the wrong direction to go in for a stronger, fairer and more successful society. As Hilary Clinton stated last month at a conference for women in Silicon Valley; “We’re going backward in a field that is supposed to be all about moving forward”.

Girls in Coding and the Future Workforce

Intuitively, the solution seems pretty clear; we need to show girls that a career in coding can be hugely interesting, rewarding and that coding and technology are fundamental skillsets required for any industry or role they hope to pursue in the future. Additionally we need to enable girls to learn these skills and also up-skill females (and males) who are currently in the workforce. So, by no means an easy or simple task. This is further compounded by worrying retention rates of women current working in tech, who are leaving the industry due to a chauvinist culture and female-unfriendly working environment. If we are building a pipeline of female tech talent but it goes into an environment that’s not accessible or sustainable, we have a ‘leaky bucket’ effect, which does not solve issues in the long-term.

The good news is that contrary to popular opinion, girls and women actually quite like technology with recent reports showing that there are now more women than men gamers in the UK. Having spoken to numerous women in and around the area of technology and ‘women in tech’ in last month or so, there is some fantastic work and initiatives already being done it this area. There is such an appetite and passion to help girls and women get into technology that the future is incredibly promising.

Next Steps – Working Together

Our goal at Monster is to raise awareness of the issue amongst talent acquisition and HR professionals and to show both current and future candidates the importance of coding skills in current and future careers.

Our first step towards raising awareness is to host a Monster #TechTalent event on April the 16th at Skills Matter eXchange, London: Girls in Coding: How they will be critical to female roles in the future workforce.

The event will consist of a series of interactive panel discussions with leading figures in this space discussing issues around the long, mid and shorter term areas and possible solutions to help girls get into coding and women into technology.

The event is open to all parties, and of course both genders.

The following panellists have been confirmed:

  • Amali de Alwis, CEO and Executive Board, Code First: Girls
  • Ruth Nicholls, Managing Director, Young Rewired State
  • Amelia Humfress, Founder and CEO, Steer
  • Anne-Marie Imafidon, Founder, STEMettes
  • Marily Nika, Co-ambassador, London Geekettes
  • Debbie Forster, UK Managing Director, CDI Apps for Good
  • Gina Jackson, Managing Director, Next Gen Skills Academy
  • Graeme Goulden, Senior Product Lead, Monster Worldwide
  • Alexa Glick, Global Diversity Program Manager, Microsoft
  • Wendy Devolder, CEO, Skills Matter

Role Models

Additionally, what we know is that ‘people buy people’ and girls are hugely influenced by roles models and their peer group. Monster is working with the London Met Film School to film a selection of women in tech, as role models to show girls just how rewarding and successful a career in and around technology can be. We will be distributing this content online with the aim of influencing not only girls but their parents who as gatekeepers are hugely influential when it comes to subject and career choice.

Plug the Digital skills Gap & Fuel Economic Growth

It’s estimated that the UK requires an additional 745,000 workers with digital skills by 2017and 77% of firms within Tech City in London say they could grow faster if they had access to better skilled digital staff. All too many studies highlight that in tech, its men who are leading the way in this crucial aspect of the workforce. To ensure we meet this tech talent challenge, plug the digital skills gap, as well as develop tech that meets the needs and requirements of both genders, this needs to change.

Having spoken to many industry figures and women in technology in the last few months, it’s fantastic to know that there are many great initiatives and passionate professionals out there wanting to and already making a difference in this key area. We’re looking forward to marking the start of our Girls In Coding campaign with our upcoming event and believe that, by raising further awareness of the issue amongst the HR and talent acquisition community, we can work collaboratively to really make a difference to the amount of girls and women considering coding as an exciting and rewarding career option.

Watch this space…..


For more information on the Girls in Coding: How they will be critical to female roles in the future workforce event, or to register, click here.

 

Dear next PM: Stem the tide of our worsening tech skills gap!

This open letter to the next Prime Minister from Skills Matter CEO Wendy Devolder first appeared on ElectronicsWeekly.com. It is reprinted here with permission.


wendy-devolder-1200px-webDear next P.M.,

You will know that London is now the undisputed home to Europe’s fastest growing tech cluster.

It’s not clear, however, if you or your main challengers intend to take action to deal with the crisis in which our capital’s tech businesses find themselves.

They can not find the talent to keep up with their own growth. So you and your government must take action.

Tech is a golden place to work right now according to all the most recent research. The Business Growth Fund and Barclays say 27% of all job growth in London is generated by the tech and digital sector. And businesses questioned by the latest Barclays’ Fast Growth Tech survey predict they will grow by 11 percent on average over the course of the year, which is more than four times faster than the UK’s 2015 GDP forecast (2.6 percent).

Technology professionals are also receiving more pay rises than pay cuts. The Technology Industry 2015 Report by Mortimer Spinks and Computer Weekly reveals the proportion of permanently employed technology professionals getting pay rises has continued to rise from 57% in 2013 through to 64% in 2015.

And yet 80% of data-intensive businesses still struggle to find the skills they need, suggests research co-produced by the Royal Statistical Society.

The current Home Secretary Theresa May’s response: a proposal in December, 2014 to immediately kick out foreign, highly-skilled technology graduates from British universities after they complete their studies, preventing them from entering the UK’s technology job market.

May’s proposal was widely criticised by the tech sector and ultimately blocked by Chancellor George Osborne. Yet the growing negative rhetoric in the UK around immigration is badly hurting our tech sector. Compounded by the UK’s visa restrictions, it’s now harder than ever to find highly-trained international talent, let alone experienced and highly skilled local talent that is up to speed with the needs of our world-class tech firms. And let’s not forget all the other industry sectors, whether banking or retail or publishing, for whom technical talent and expertise are vital for developing and maintaining a competitive advantage.

T​he solution to our tech skills gap is to attract the very best tech talent from around the world to our capital. But little is being done to make this happen.

Despite initiatives like Mayor Boris Johnson’s talent visa to attract the best and brightest in tech from around the world to London, the UK’s visa restrictions remain unnecessarily bureaucratic and the quotas are too low and too narrow.

We have so many successful homegrown innovators to celebrate, including companies like Mind Candy, Huddle, and Novoda, all based and founded in London. And the capital’s digital scene continues to enjoy fantastic growth. According to The Tech Nation Report by Tech City, there’s been a 92% increase in new digital companies incorporated between 2010 and 2013 and there are now more than 250,000 jobs digital jobs in London.

This means the urgent need for the very best talent to design, develop and grow products and services is stronger than ever – something we see first hand evidence of at Skills Matter, with daily requests from companies across all sectors about how and where to find skilled people to fill vacancies.

We help by working with companies and communities to inspire and develop talent and skills, connecting software engineers with world renowned experts to develop technical, behavioural and process capabilities. I’ve also long campaigned for easing visa restrictions through my engagement with No 10’s Tech City initiative, UKTI, Tech London Advocates and the House of Lords.

But of course as our tech sector grows, the problem will only get worse. So if our capital city wants to continue generating quality jobs and remain a leader in burgeoning sectors such as fintech, dealing with the technology ‘skills-gap’ is imperative now.

​Future Prime Minister, this topic’s a winner for you. You need to spell out now what you’ll do to support London’s continued growth into a world-class tech hub.

Wendy Devolder, CEO of Skills Matter

What is our community expecting for 2015?

2015 is well and truly upon us, and it came along quick! After a busy, event-filled but ultimately fun 2014, we asked a range of experts from across the Skills Matter community what their predictions are for the year ahead. From social networks to BDD, here’s what they thought…


Cate Huston

Social Networks: Cate Huston

“These are less predictions and more hopes.

There’s some great insight in Coder’s at Work from Douglas Crockford where he talks about the social systems that existed around timesharing and how those went away when we moved to the “personal” computer. But social is normal – to be human is to be social – so I’d like to see social networking move away from contrived ideas of what social is, and more to enabling normal, human, social, interaction.

I think we will see fewer new social networks and more integrations and innovations on top of existing ones. See the way that Discourse is doing logging in as an example, they accept almost anything. It’s kind of ridiculous that so many people are building their own versions of identity. Android has had intents for a long time, but the advent of extensions in iOS 8 is a good sign for this.

The other thing I’d like to see is social networks taking harassment seriously. In 2014 we saw some truly appalling treatment of women online, taking place on social networks. Death threats, rape threats, revenge porn… I’d like to think by the end of 2015 we’ll have found better ways to balance freedom of speech and the freedom to threaten and harass.”

Cate Huston is a developer and entrepreneur focused on mobile. She’s lived and worked in the UK, Australia, Canada, China and the United States, as an engineer at Google, an Extreme Blue intern at IBM, and a ski instructor. Cate speaks internationally on mobile development and her writing has been published on sites as varied as Lifehacker, The Eloquent Woman and Model View Culture. She blogs at Accidentally in Code and is @catehstn on Twitter.


Daniel Steinberg

iOS Development: Daniel Steinberg

“At the end of 2014 developers had to decide whether to transition to Swift or to adopt the new techniques and APIs introduced in iOS 8. Apple will certainly give us more widgets, services, and APIs to play with in June, but I think this year will be about exploring what it means to write idiomatic code in Swift. This is a year where we’ll figure out the design patterns and best practices for coding in Swift. This will also be the year where Apple revises the language and the libraries to work more naturally together.”

Daniel Steinberg has been writing and teaching about programming the iPad and iPhone since the SDK’s first appeared in beta and Mac OS X for many years before. He has presented at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference, MacWorld, MacHack, CocoaConf, and other Mac and iOS developer conferences. Daniel also teaches the iOS 8 development and Swift Kickstart: Introducing the programming language and platform fundamentals course at Skills Matter.


christina ohanian

BDD: Christina Ohanian

“Behaviour Driven Development (BDD) isn’t a new concept in the software development industry, but it certainly has come a long way since the early days. BDD has proven (certainly for me) that behaviours and examples are very useful and powerful conversation starters to describe and talk about how our solutions should be experienced by people. It allows development teams the chance to discover ways to build (and test) their systems, collaboratively, with the ultimate outcome that we have built the right solution for our users where the system behaves as it should.

However, it hasn’t all been plain sailing. BDD has suffered from a number of misconceptions throughout the last few years, and I feel it is starting to lose its core meaning and purpose. One pertinent example is something I witness a lot: an unfortunate misunderstanding that confuses the practice of BDD with the practice of automating tests. The two are very different and distinct, and their role should be regarded as complementary – if practiced correctly. This topic has been at the core of many recent conversations. I hear the following questions often: what do we mean when we say BDD? How does it relate to test automation? Hang on – I thought BDD was just another way of writing test scripts? These are questions, which if interpreted incorrectly, can lead to harmful misconceptions. Ironically, they have the potential to lead, ultimately, to the very thing BDD was created to avoid – too much emphasis on the right way to build, instead of actually building the right thing for users.

My prediction for 2015, or perhaps my aspiration for the year ahead, is that we need to look at how we tackle this misconception, so we can get back to the essence of what BDD is. This is critical, as we continuously grow in today’s digital world: a world where new behaviours are created at light speed, shaped by powerful forces like mobile.

So bring on 2015, and let’s get back to the fundamentals of good BDD practice.”

Christina Ohanian is a member of the team at The App Business heading up the Quality Assurance team, where she manages and coaches a talented and motivated group of mobile testers. You can find her on Twitter, check out her website, or see her talk at the upcoming London Tester Gathering Workshops in June.


Evelina Gabasova

Machine Learning: Evelina Gabasova

“I think that machine learning and data science in general will become even more pervasive than it is now, and the area of its applications will grow even further. For example, I?m a big fan of emerging data-driven journalism or computational social science. Another trend which will get more important over the next year is making machine learning easier to apply and accessible to non-experts. Unfortunately, applying machine learning to data is still far from straightforward. Typically there are many steps we need to take before we can even start playing with clever machine learning algorithms ? like sourcing and pre-processing data. I love how in F#, data can effectively become a part of the programming language itself and make this part of the process much more fun.”

Evelina Gabasova is a PhD student in statistical genomics at Cambridge University in the MRC Biostatistics Unit. You can find her on Twitter, check out her blog, or see her talk at this years F# eXchange where she will be discussing how she uses F# for data processing in her research.

Heartbleed Update

Heartbleed

In light of the Heartbleed bug, a serious vulnerability in the popular OpenSSL cryptographic software library, we have taken steps to ensure that your information on skillsmatter.com is protected from theft or loss.

Action we have taken:

  • Servers have been patched with latest OpenSSL fix (courtesy of Heroku, read more here)
  • Generated and installed new SSL certificates.

It’s now safe to change your skillsmatter.com passwords – do this by clicking on the ‘forgot your password?’ link at the login screen and send a reset link to your registered email address.

Many thanks,

The Skills Matter Team