Ladies of Code (Leeds) January Meetup
This week I got to mix two of my interests — my learning to code and the work I do as part of She Does Digital.
I saw the invite on Twitter for what was billed as an evening of lightning talks, drinks and pizza! This particular meet-up was being held at the Sky Leeds Dock offices just around the corner from where I work, and after being assured that beginner coders like myself would be welcomed, I decided to give it a go.
I’m really glad I did — what followed was an amazing evening of talks, networking and badass ladies doing their thing. While we didn’t have pizza (we had gorgeous snackables instead — which I didn’t mind as I can’t eat pizza!), we did have beautiful lavender gin to help the event get off to good start 😉
Renee Hunt from Sky (the sponsor on this occasion) kicked off the evening, talking about the importance of getting more women involved in tech and the steps that Sky are taking to help change the ratio. She then handed over to Natasha Sayce-Zelem, Ladies of Code Leed organiser and our leader for the evening.
There were five excellent talks given by amazing women who use code as part of their careers. Our first talk was by Edafe Onerhime who gave a talk called, “Living In The Science Fiction Future”. In it she talked about the possibilities we saw in technology in shows like Star Trek and how increasingly we are living in the “future” right now — with our use of modern-day tech. She also talked about the possibility of how technology could be used in the future and the scope it has to further empower women, particularly if we can be more involved in its creation and implementation.
Our second speaker was Sorina Grave who works at Sky. She gave an extremely useful and cat-filled presentation about the importance of performance testing. This is something I’ve started to experience myself on several of my projects, where the difference in run time can be incredible, depending on how you write your code. (I’m quickly learning that loads of nested loops are bad, but I’m not as quick with learning faster, alternative methods!). It was a very actionable talk, filled with insight on what we can do differently.
After this session Natasha made a great point about how much Google values site speed from an SEO perspective — and they’ve announced an upcoming change in the last few days which is going to put even more of a premium on the speed of mobile websites when determining rankings. Time to take site speed seriously, if we weren’t already!
Talk three was Becky McCarthy — also from Sky, talking about her role as a Business Analyst, in her first ever event speaking publicly. She did an amazing job (you’d never have known it was her first time!) talking about what the role of a Business Analyst is and how having one can add value to an organisation. It was lovely to hear the pride in her voice as she talked about how much she’s learned and how good it feels to be improving her skills on a daily basis.
Our fourth talk was Kulvinder Panesar who gave a really in-depth talk about AI and Natural Language Processing. As part of this, she talked us through a program she’s been working on the last few years, building an agent prototype using a different approach to most of the voice assistants already out there (such as Siri, Alexa, Cortana and Google Assistant). While most of it went over my head as a newbie, it was absolutely fascinating — and very intriguing to understand the process of how you go about building a voice-activated agent.
Last but not least was Clare Devine from Sky, talking about her less-conventional journey into technology. She’d considered going to university but instead went down the apprenticeship route — going from bootcamp to graduation is two years — less time than going to university and gaining a ton of real experience on the way.
She talked about some of the stereotypical attitudes she’s experienced, with some men telling her that a particular subject or path wasn’t for her, but she didn’t allow this to deter her. Like Becky, she spoke with pride about how her skills have grown and how she’s worked on projects that are now used every day by Sky customers — something that must be incredibly satisfying.
She ended on a really important note — reminding all of us that we belong in technology and like Edafe, emphasising that we need to be involved in the future of technology for it to have the benefit we need it to. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that tech isn’t right for you!
I really enjoyed the evening — I met some really talented women who are learning to code, use it in some way in their jobs, or even use it to create art! I’m glad I set my worries aside and went along — I can’t wait for the next meet-up!
(Sorry for the crap pics — all done on my phone!)
If you’re interested in attending Ladies of Code Leeds, you can find details of all of their meet-ups here: