How can we proactively make a change to achieve equality and inclusion in tech? It's International Women's Day in March and Orbis are dedicating the entire month to celebrating the womxn of Tech and Design. If we want more womxn in tech, we have to do more than want. Our team felt we needed to share stories from the industry, told by voices with first-hand experience. All of the exposure International Women's Day kicks up is critical, not just for our own education as a business, but also to support the exposure of gender equality and inclusion in tech. These stories are not told by a company or PR, or any other bias perspective. These are the real womxn of tech shaking up the industry.
In a few sentences, what is your personal career journey in tech?
At school, I was told to stay away from computers as my code never ran. I mean never ran, not once.
I was a little surprised to find myself becoming a tech lawyer in the mid-’90s. I was in the early stage of advising on internet law and wrote a book on it. It was an amazing opportunity to do something new and to help to shape the laws in this area.
For about 20 years I worked in companies as a senior or the head lawyer, mainly setting up and building teams. That took me across the globe and a variety of sectors including fashion at French Connection, Data Centres and Digital Financial services on the mobile phone in emerging markets like Pakistan and Bangladesh. I enjoyed all of these for different reasons.
My true love is, however, and much to my surprise, software.
I am probably considered to be a bit of an expert on open source software and spend quite a bit of my life writing and speaking about it. In fact, my second book will come out later this year. This time I am the editor and around 20 others have written the content, along with me. I love that kind of collaboration, it’s at the heart of open source.
I gave up being a lawyer after 25 years and took the plunge to become a CEO a couple of years ago. I absolutely love my role with OpenUK, the UK industry organisation for Open Technology, which is the 3 Opens, open-source software, open hardware and open data. I have an incredibly varied and creative role, and being CEO allows me to shape the organisation and our activities. These span community, legal and policy and learning. You can see more at www.openuk.uk
What do you think tech leaders could do to help support gender equality within their teams?
I think we should all look at people as just that, people, and encourage a diverse group of people to participate in business and technology. That sometimes means that you have to make room for someone or coax them to be courageous and take their place with you and expand beyond gender to other diversity like neurodiversity and social mobility.
Widening that point, how can businesses adapt to ensure they are enhancing women with their careers?
Again, I don’t think it’s just about enhancing women’s careers but ensuring that opportunity is open to all on a balanced footing, to create real diversity and organisations where people feel a sense of belonging in the environment. We need to make sure that people are given these opportunities.
Top 3 tips for women looking to break into tech or progress from their current position into a tech role?
Learn, go out and do some courses. My old boss pushed me to do a Masters in IT law and supported my doing it with funding. Without that, I would not have ended up as an IT lawyer and having so much fun in IT. The pandemic is a great opportunity for this as more are available on-line.
Say yes to opportunities. Don’t allow yourself to find excuses not to do something or think that because you don’t have every skill required you are not able to do something.
Be present in everything you do.
When and how was your community created and what inspires you to lead your community?
OpenUK is relatively young in its current form, only a year old. A passion for open technology and the pleasure of working with such a mix of knowledgeable and kind people constantly inspires me.
What is your community’s mission and what impact are you hoping to have on the industry?
To develop and sustain UK Leadership in Open Technology.
What is the best part of being involved with your community?
The people. So many people with so many stories to share.
What are your plans and goals for 2021, what is the community’s vision for the future?
In 2021, we are releasing a report in 3 parts showcasing the UK as a centre for excellence in open-source software and demonstrating its value to the UK economy.
We hope to take part in COP26 with a model for the data centre of the future with the 3 opens open-source software, open hardware and open data at its core, and which will be part of the circular economy, reducing carbon emissions and moving to net zero.
We will continue to promote learning with weekly Future Leaders talks and a Kids course, camp and competition. This will be the second year for our course, you can see last years at https://openuk.uk/openkidscamp/
Last year we gave kit to over 3000 kids to allow them to participate. We’re very proud to have been a winner in Phases One and Two of the Gnome Community Challenge, with our Kids activities. We are now down to the final 5 competitors.
In tribute to IWD’s 2021 campaign, what do you choose to challenge?
I choose to challenge myself. I choose to challenge myself to be a leader and to do that well and to allow myself to be seen in this role.
Fancy joining the discussion?
Orbis Connect are hosting various events dedicated to IWD and womxn in tech across March 2021.
Amanda Brock will be speaking at our womxn in tech event this Wednesday 17th March.
Please join us.
Sign up here