How far (up, down) are you willing to go?

On the 20th September 2016, more than 1000+ secondary school girls and women came together for a day of wonder, discovery and total tech geekery.

I was lucky to be one of them.

Lucky not only to have had the chance to share my story — and hopefully inspire girls that tech IS for them too, regardless of background, affinity, education or social pressures — but also lucky and honoured to be able to share the stage with such incredible, force-of-nature women.

Many I had seen from a distance but never before had had the pleasure of meeting in person. I was akin to a Belieber, meeting women whose work I’d been inspired by and followed intently. Women who had been my role models and there I was, in full-blown imposter syndrome mode. But, they were not only role models but real models, and this is where I give the ultimate kudos to Kim Arazi, CEO and curator of WOW Talks, for having found and gathered women who are pioneers and game-changers and also just as down to earth, collaborative, honest and supportive as you’d hoped, under one roof.

We’re in dire need of that leadership-led compassion. Of more of that realness.

In a world of ‘perfect’ Instagramable photos and overwhelming pressure to be “amazing” and “awesome” the whole time, we need to look beyond the fantastic women who are hitting it big and selling their fast growth startups for an undisclosed unicorn-ly amount (and who are badasses, by the way), and look to celebrate the everyday successful and just-as-uniquely talented women who are, technically, just like us. And who are crushing it. But who also aren’t afraid to say when they are not ok and share that vulnerability. Who may not be so forward and outspoken in what they do or how they do it but, boy, do we want to learn from them!

Which leads me to… this WOW Talk.

“Tech is that unique space between intellectual curiosity and real world impact”

My goal was to present a picture of life’s unpredictability, of a failed attempt to control and conform, of the human desire to be accepted and hide its rawness, which misses the point altogether. And in a world that hones in on ‘girls be girls’ from a very early pink toys and Barbies age, challenging those societal assumptions and presumptions is the first step. That — beyond simply providing Raspberry pis and hardware to schools — is what I believe to be the biggest hurdle when it comes to having the courage to break from the norm and choosing the otherwise blue, confusing unconventional path. That is as true for tech today as it was 20 years ago. Although programming and tech have become more mainstream, it is still fact that the number of female computer science graduates has actually halved in the past 30 years… and girls’ toys remain largely pink whereas boys’ are action figured and robot inspired.

I therefore ask you:

How do we challenge assumptions that are so deeply embedded in society’s norms? 

Granted, any challenge of this nature will be a very slow, gradual process. I draw the parallel to skydiving. It’s being faced with the unknown, with fear/perceived danger of failing, of not belonging, of not being accepted, of not being worthy, of being abandoned, or disappointed others. Those are all concrete universal human fears, forming the basis of the majority of our decisions in life.

 

 

That’s why I start with the quote (and posteriorly add the caveat):

“If it scares you, maybe you should (definitely) try it!”

It perfectly captures the dilemma I faced when following the “shoulds” of external assumptions and ideals of I had to be or supposedly was, which I neatly did by getting good grades at school –> attend top university –> study Law –> then presumably being able to practise to get that steady job to then, one day, become partner…..?

Erm, no.

My linear path was more of a hungover zig-zag.

Meet: my quarter life crisis.

I’ll let you watch to the video where I go into more detail but essentially, the message is: find that dream that you’ve been waiting for your whole life. It can be making music out of paper cups. Or it can be to become a movie director. A surgeon. Or it can be simply accounting.

We are uniquely different and that’s what makes us beautiful and what makes life so rich.

Which is why one of my long-term goals in life is to help foster a community within future tech, and specifically VR/AR, that reflects that richness. More to come on that front…!

For now, ask yourself: What is it that, if you knew there was absolutely no chance of it going wrong, of you failing, would you dare to do, that you are now afraid of? I’d love to hear your answers, so feel free to comment below or drop me a line on social media/email. Thanks.

 

 

❤️ “Thank you so much for sending us the invite to such a fantastic event! My students were truly inspired and enjoyed listening to the speakers, trying out demos and the workshops. The people representing companies were so easy to talk to and were brilliant at engaging the girls.”  St Marylebone School

External Links:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.