With a focus on improving the city as a place to live and work in technology, Tech Nottingham has been hosting events to an ever-increasing audience since 2014. With a string of exciting online events coming up, we catch up with Director of Projects Anna Dodson to find out more...
Can you tell us a bit about Tech Nottingham?
Tech Nottingham is an organisation dedicated to improving Nottingham as a place to live and work in technology. For seven years it’s been running wildly popular events like Tech Nottingham and Women in Tech, and we host a large and very active online community. There’s now six of us working on the events and projects we run.
We also run a number of initiatives, including our student outreach programme which brings Nottingham's students into the tech community and encourages them to stay once they’ve graduated. We do this by connecting them with others working in tech and introducing them to the many tech companies that are hiring. We also provide startup support by connecting local tech businesses with advice, mentorship and funding and we advocate for the city, letting the world know about Nottingham's booming tech industry. Tech Nottingham really has been a place where people have shared and learned, friendships have been formed, business ventures have been hatched and new career paths have been forged.
Can you tell us a bit about the two monthly meetups, Tech Nottingham and Women in Tech?
Our flagship event is Nottingham’s biggest monthly meetup. Tech Nottingham is focused on software development featuring talks and, before COVID times, food and drink. We always have a great atmosphere and an audience of brilliant people working together to get better at what they do.
Our growth meant that we moved to a larger venue in May 2019, and Women in Tech is a monthly meetup that celebrates the women and gender minorities in our tech scene. These events are open to everyone – whether you’re working as a software developer, designer, project manager or a student, hobbyist or just an interested passer by. We know the importance of representation so we only allow women and gender minority speakers at WiT and we encourage networking and friend making by running what we call facilitated fun activities which helps people meet others and have fun in a relaxed, safe environment.
How have they been affected during lockdown?
Previously all our events have been in person so, like so many other groups, we moved online. Despite this being an incredibly difficult time, hosting our events remotely has allowed people to join who otherwise might not be able to, either from geography or childcare and the social interaction has been invaluable to some throughout lockdown. We also found some unexpected ways we could help the wider community and the city. In April when there was a shortage of PPE, we coordinated the members of our community in the 3D printing and delivery of over 1600 COVID-19 face shields for local frontline workers at doctors surgeries and care homes. Our [email protected] team has also been donating computer processing power to the scientific projects working to develop treatments for COVID-19, and is one of the top 1500 teams in the world out of 350,000.
Women are still in the minority with only 16% in technical roles in the UK, and women and gender minorities can face loneliness and feeling like they don’t belong
What problems do women face when entering the tech industry?
Women are still in the minority with only 16% in technical roles in the UK, and women and gender minorities can face loneliness and feeling like they don’t belong. They can be the victims of unconscious bias and be overlooked for promotion and underpaid. Facing these issues and feeling alone leads to women leaving the tech industry at more than double the rate of men. But having friends and finding companies that support diversity and actively work on their inclusion policies makes a huge difference keeping and encouraging more minorities into tech.
We recently hosted our first workshop to help women negotiate for better jobs, pay and benefits. People who have read Caroline Criado Perez’s book Invisible Women, know that the workplace was not built for women and that can hold people back – our workshop aims to help redress that balance by educating and helping women and gender minorities. When young people don’t see themselves in careers, it’s harder for them to get into that field, we try and be as visible as possible for young girls and students considering careers in tech.
What is the tech industry like in Nottingham?
We’re very lucky, as it’s thriving. Nottingham builds software that’s powering healthcare, banking, government, HR, ecommerce, biotech, green energy and AAA video games. We have small startups to huge organisations and everything in between who have brought their technology operations to the city. Nottingham’s tech industry is uniquely interconnected, those working in tech in the city actively communicate, share knowledge and support one another. This network of people attracts brilliant people and the companies who benefit from their talent.
Can you tell us a bit about the planned Black Women Speak event?
We’re partnering up with Coding Black Females – a fantastic group started by Charlene Hunter who aim to provide opportunities for Black female developers to progress, meet familiar faces, network, receive support and build relationships through having regular meetups. On 5 November, Coding Black Females are partnering with WiT Notts and presenting five short talks on a range of different topics. We can’t wait. If you’d like to join us, check our website before the event for the link to join.
What else have you got planned for the future?
We’ve just announced our Autumn season of events – three months with nine online events with local and national speakers. As well as the Coding Black Females takeover, we have local game developer Rosanna Nichols speaking about what’s in a game at Women in Tech and Gary Short is explaining the data science behind how to steal an election in the run up to the American elections at Tech Nottingham in November.
We have an upcoming project to provide financial and logistical support to minorities in our community who want to attend conferences and learning events they might not otherwise be able to attend. We’re also proud to continue to sponsor and support Project Function, a team of incredible people giving free coding lessons to support and encourage minorities to get into tech.