Don't you just love it when two separate things in your life come together in a beautiful synergy and to others it looks like you planned it that way?
Early this year I went to a networking event and heard Kirsty Styles from Tech North talking about an initiative she was launching - Northern Voices, a six month speaker training programme. It aims to address challenges like the gender or regional imbalances of contributors at tech conferences and in the media. And what better way than to get 28 fabulous women, give them some media and speaker training and launch them on the world?
I decided this was something I really wanted to be part of. In previous jobs I had spoken to large groups and was reasonably comfortable in front of an audience but I’d had no formal training. I didn't really know how to get myself broader opportunities that would give me a chance to talk, and to share my career experience on being a woman in the technology sector for the past 28 years and also my thoughts on digital transformation.
I believe it’s really important that the 28 women chosen for this programme are diverse and can represent all women and I can represent a generation of women whose careers began in the late 80's and early 90's. So I was delighted to be selected for the programme.
And what an experience it's been.
A wonderful day of top quality media training from Penny Haslam (yes her off the telly, the BBC Business reporter) and Sandy Lindsay MBE (Tangerine PR). They passed on super tips and tricks for public speaking and media appearances and I now know the two most important questions to ask the interviewer (say Jeremy Paxman as I'm being miked up for a News Night feature!)
But, the best thing about the day was my integration to the most awesome girl gang. I’m now part of a group of 28 inspiring women, in a vast array of digital careers, ready to love and support each other via the simple medium of WhatsApp. Because no matter how ok you might feel about public speaking, putting yourself out there can get a bit scary! So to know that we have our NorthernVoices gang supporting and encouraging each other really helps.
Our WhatsApp group has gone way beyond providing a bit of support and encouragement, we have strayed into many and varied topics that are relevant to our lives as women in digital. We support and pick each other up when difficult things happen. When someone's having a bad day or feeling a bit low we're there, we share opportunities, rather than jealously guarding them for ourselves and celebrate all our successes.
Some of us have never met in person - we did our training in four separate groups - but I can honestly say that I would count each and every one as a friend. It's really been an unexpected benefit.
Women in DWP Digital
And I’ve have had lots of opportunity to get out and speak. I’ve really enjoyed it and have a number of events lined up over the coming months… and this is where the synergy comes in.
A few months ago the DWP Women in Technology (WiT) group had a re-launch and defined some explicit objectives. I was keen to get more involved to support the group and Sue Griffin, the group lead, so I’ve taken the lead on attracting external talent. This is where I realised that everything I was doing with NorthernVoices was beautifully aligned with the WiT group. As, one of the ways we are going to encourage women outside of DWP to want to come and work with us here in DWP Digital, is to actively demonstrate what an exciting, technically interesting and supportive place DWP Digital is for women. And, we can demonstrate this by getting the women in DWP Digital out there and visible talking about their experiences and opportunities. So now when I’m the one presenting or taking part in a conference panel, or commenting on social media, I link everything I talk about back to our DWP Digital objectives… neat.
And so to the conclusion: we've struck a little seam of gold here. I was delighted when I saw that our network had already spotted the opportunity to create our own ‘Digital Voices’ to build a community of women here in DWP Digital who can tell their story and make a difference to the gender balance in digital. This isn’t just for women though, it’s about diversity and inclusion and getting the balance right, and it’s for everyone who wants to help change Digital for the better.
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