Conscious liberation: report on #Croydon #TechCity’s Women in Tech night, 19th June 2014


By - Monday 14th July, 2014

Shaniqua Benjamin listened as sisters did it for themselves at Croydon Conference Centre on 19th June during #Croydon #TechCity’s Women in Tech event


We are women in tech.
Photo by Sepz Photography, used with permission.

Eurythmics’ ‘Sisters are doing it for themselves‘ was the rather clichéd but totally appropriate song blasted out in the Croydon Conference Centre on Thursday 19th June during #Croydon #TechCity’s (CTC) ‘Women in Tech’ event. This was my first time returning to CTC since January 2014 and I am so glad that it was for the ‘Women in Tech’ event.

There was a good turnout of men as well as women to show their support, in spite of fierce competition from the football. But CTC was the place to be on Thursday, with the opportunity to hear from some amazing women, rather than watching England crash out of the World Cup.

CTC co-founder, Sarah Luxford, set us up perfectly with her warm and energetic opening remarks as she told us that CTC “is committed to creating an environment that is female friendly” before Alex Depledge, founder of hassle.com, took to the stage to describe the origins of her company.

“Don’t be ashamed of failure. I’ll be back in a year, to talk about whether I’ve failed or progressed”

Hassle.com allows customers to book a trusted cleaner from their local area in just sixty seconds: “The whole idea about Hassle is removing the hassle from your life”. Alex’s original business platform, Teddle, failed because they “didn’t quite cut it correctly”, leading the company to focus solely on domestic cleaners. Alex does not think that you should be ashamed of failure, as she told us that in a year’s time, “I’ll either be here talking to you about how I’ve failed [or about] the next stage of Hassle”. Nevertheless, she has recently raised $6million in venture funding and said that it doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman; you can do anything that you set your mind to.

Juliana Meyer also delivered the back-story behind her company, SupaPass, an online music platform that allows artists to run their own subscription-based fan clubs, which she describes as “the music ecosystem of the future”. Juliana has a background in the music industry and she said that SupaPass came from a place of need, as it makes it easy for marketing brands to engage with the powerful music industry.

SupaPass has already enjoyed success, being awarded ‘Best UK Startup 2013’ by Midem (Marché International du Disque et de l’Edition Musical, an annual international even for the music industry) and ‘Best European Startup 2014’ by SXSW Hatch Pitch,the pitch competition for start-ups with revolutionary ideas, and I’m sure that it will continue to grow with the dominance of the super-fan. What was really lovely was to hear Juliana cite the women in her family as inspiration, including her grandmother, who received an MBE for her contribution to agriculture.

“There’s no tech industry, just companies where tech is what they sell”

After two diverse and entertaining stories, it was time for the panel discussion with five women in various areas relating to the tech industry. However, Kirsty Bell, founder of Look At This Job, remarked interestingly that: “I don’t think there’s a tech industry… there are companies where tech is the product, and that’s what they’re selling”.

Kirsty is six months into her business venture, after quitting her job at Christmas and then starting up her business in January. The decision to quit her job was the right one for Kirsty, but Juliana says that “the journey is different for everyone”, as they ask the question as to whether they should quit their job and start up a business.

Saleha Salahudin did a great job of stepping in for the founder of LocalFunded, Sweta Chattopadhyay, at the last minute, as she gave us an insight into the world of Croydon Code Club. Saleha got involved in Code Club because she does not think that schools are teaching our children to think, and she believes that once you have a thought, you can do anything. She encouraged us to to have the confidence to achieve success, just as she discovered how much confidence she had from sitting up on stage.

Tech is not just a boys’ club

This bought us on to the subject of education and supporting women in tech, as we heard from Juliana and Adizah Tejani, deputy manager of tech accelerator, Level39. Level39 currently supports Code Club and Entrepreneur First’s Code First: Girls, but Adizah says that “one of the hardest things is saying to young women out there that tech is not just a boy’s club”.

Head of Entrepreneur Strategy at the Royal Bank of Scotland, Marina Wegorek, highlighted the support of not just women in tech, but also of businesses in general. She remarked that “…businesses really need the support when they’ve just got to that success stage”. Marina also told us that people need to really think about mothers, because for them timing is essential. She believes that providing more support for “mumpreneurs” would be great. Marina is thrilled that there’s now Croydon Tech City, as she lives in Surrey and was previously forced to travel to central London for networking events, and stressed the importance of local events for the time-pressed. She advised, “don’t be afraid to reach out and don’t be afraid to network”.

Each of these ladies provided some wonderful words of advice, which could apply to any individual, whether they are male or female, working in tech or in another industry. Nevertheless, as a young woman, it was extremely beneficial to me and I gained information that I intend to take forward when furthering my own career. As Juliana says, “I don’t like to think that there’s anything I can’t do because I’m a woman”.

Shaniqua Benjamin

Shaniqua Benjamin

Shaniqua is a writer and poet, born and raised in Thornton Heath, which she is proud to call her home. She has used her passion for making a difference to found a platform, Young People Insight, which empowers the voices of young people and encourages community engagement. When she’s not writing or trying to cause change, she loves reading, scrapbooking, watching films and listening to music.

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