The European Women in Technology conference took place on the 28th and 29th of November 2018 at the RAI Amsterdam. The conference is the largest women in tech conference in Europe with over 3,000 participants from across the globe.
With more than 175 leading industry experts, there were lots of inspiring sessions and technical workshops to choose from. Themes included Career & Personal Development, Future of Tech, Tech Talks, Soft Skills, Product Design, Emerging Tech and Entrepreneur/Female Founders.
My role was to chair the Tech Talks stage on Day 1. We had talks from inspirational female experts on the latest trends, such as blockchain, cybersecurity, robots, AI (Artificial Intelligence) and IoT (Internet of Things). It was a content enriched, jam-packed day and one of the best experiences I have ever had.
First up on the Tech Talks stage was Monika Oravoca, Co-founder & COO @ Naoris Cyber Blockchain. Monkia presented "How to Build your Business on Decentralised Ledger Technology". She spoke about blockchain, problems in cybersecurity and how she and her colleagues set up Naoris, a blockchain-based cybersecurity platform. Monika also provided examples of how blockchain changes our lives and recommended open-source blockchain-based projects, such as Ethereum and Hyperledger.
Our second speaker was Rini Icent Gopinath, Cyber Security Expert @ ABN AMRO. In her presentation "Defeating Diabolical Adversaries with Advanced Cybersecurity Tactics", Rini unfolded the sequences of events that led to hackers transferring 81 million dollars from Bangladesh Bank. Following this, she informed us that 92% of cyberattacks are targeted at employees through email and explained the importance of educating employees about threats, cybersecurity best practices and ensuring security is a shared responsibility.
Finishing the morning session was Diana Birsan, Technical Program Manager, Security @ Shopify. Diana presented "Leading the Charge to Security Behaviour Change". Diana spoke about company culture and involvement in youth initiatives, such as Technovation. She explained that trust is at the core at Shopify and how supporting a blameless security culture encourages coworkers to learn and motivates them to help solve security concerns. Diana provided examples of gamification in security training and workshops, such as hackerone bug bounty, CTF (Capture the Flag) and security trust coins.
After lunch, presentations focused on AI, IoT and robotics. Laura Andina, Product Manager @ Telefonica Digital led the afternoon sessions with "Memoirs of a Geisha: Building AI without Gender Bias". Laura gave examples of gender bias in voice assistants. Siri, Alexa and Anna (Ikea) all have female voices and female names. She questioned why female voices and names are perceived as "helpers". Laura then explained schema theory, gender theory and how we perceive bots with female and male voices. To help build products without gender bias, she suggested not to use female voices/names as defaults, avoid skeuomorphism, create diverse teams (80:20 ratio needs to improve) and invest in equality bonds.
Next up was Christina Bechhold Russ, Principal @ Samsung NEXT Ventures. Christina talked about "The Missing Experience in Home IoT". She stated that less than 50% of consumers anticipated to buy smart home devices in the next five years, mainly due to issues that still exist with current devices. She spoke about the challenges teams face when building an IoT device. Christina is also the co-founder and Managing Director of Empire Angels, a New York-based angel group of young professionals investing in early stage technology startups. For entrepreneurs to succeed in IoT, she suggested they need to think about value, open/distributed infrastructure, simple, loved & complete products.
Take a look below at Lynda's video highlights.
Danielle der Haar, Consulting Partner @ Technology2Enjoy presented "How to use Mixed Reality". Danielle spoke about the use of Mixed Reality in healthcare, transportation, construction and sport. She gave an overview of the HoloLens and provided a live demo for the audience. Following Danielle was Anuradha Gali, Engineering Leader, Financial Intelligence @ Uber. Anuradha presented "Supercharging Business Decisions with AI: Insights, Optimise and Personalise". She discussed how Uber is leveraging AI to automate business investments and the architecture that enables Uber to scale. She also covered trip forecasting, predictive models, bayesian models, optimisation and neutral networks.
Our final speaker on the Tech Talks stage was Meike Muckenhaupt-Greenaway, Senior Solution Architect OmniChannel Payments @ adidas. Meike presented "Navigating the Payments Maze". She discussed the changing payments environment, avoiding over-engineering and providing customers with scalable, available, stable and secure systems. To end, she spoke about the importance of female role models, speaking up, working in a flexible/forward thinking company and quoted Nicola Beste, Senior Director IT @ adidas:
"Sit at the table don’t just take notes, be technical and know where you are going!"
Day 2 started early with a Leaders Connect breakfast sponsored by Google. Following breakfast, it was time to attend the talks and check out the sponsor stands. Jennifer Beecher, People Products, Leadership Development @ Zalando kicked off the Career & Personal Development stage with an insightful and energetic talk "If Only One Could Git Clone Leadership Skills". Jennifer's talk was thought-provoking. She covered leadership skills, styles, mindset and shared her top 10 leadership values.
"Conscious inclusion - focus on the value that people different from you bring!"
Maria Cioplan, Head of International Campaigns @ AWS Marketing guided us through the importance of having a growth mindset. In her talk "#buildonaws or a Journey in the World of Public Sector Heroes", Maria discussed common challenges in development, how to learn from failure, having a builder's mindset and enabling teams to build.
"Having a growth mindset. It's the fact that you know you can improve!"
Odina Ifeoma, Consultant Engineer @ European Space Agency gave a direct, honest and motivating talk about career progression. Odina's talk "Are We There Yet?" was one of my favourites. Odina asked some valuable questions:
- "What are the things that are holding us back?"
- "Are we holding our own career back?"
- "Am I where I want to be? If I am not, I have to do something!"
Her advice was plentiful, "to self fund", "it might just be a little tweak to what you know" and "don't procrastinate on self development".
"I did it! I can do anything! I can go to the highest level!"
By evening time, I had a goodie bag full of swag. I felt inspired and proud to be a woman in tech. To be surrounded by positive, ambitious female leaders who spoke openly about topics that we so often encounter in our careers was so empowering.
Overall, the conference was my highlight of 2018. A special thank you to Maddox Events, for organising a superb event. The Maddox team were extremely friendly and professional. I would highly recommend attending this conference and encourage you to apply for speaking opportunities.