Event Highlights – ThoughtWorks Women: Be Bold for Change


That’s the view from the ThoughtWorks offices on the 26th floor of the City Tower in Piccadilly Gardens, as the sun sets across Manchester on Monday 27 March.

I was there to attend an incredibly engaging ThoughtWorks Women event celebrating International Women’s Day and the conclusion of Women’s History month. There were inspiring, lightning talks by inspiring speakers, women who had a story to tell on being bold for change, and diversity beyond gender.

This is just a short recap of the event.

Ruth Ibegbuna (@MsIbegbuna), the founder and CEO of youth leadership and social change organisation RECLAIM shared how she overcome significant personal adversity to take the bold step of leaving a successful career as a teacher to start a charity that works to end leadership inequality.

RECLAIM started out as a mentoring project over eight years ago but has since grown into an organisation that sets a higher bar of achievement for young people from working class backgrounds by providing opportunities to demonstrate leadership potential.

I like how Ruth’s passion for the work RECLAIM does shone through her talk and her assertion that this work had given her purpose and, enabled her to overcame a challenging medical diagnosis, really rang true.

Clare Sudbury (@ClareSudbery) is a senior software consultant at Thoughtworks. She started her talk with a great poem highlighting how women can do with worrying less! She also shared her 5 rules to live by. The one that stood out for me was ‘Use your goat’. Or to put it in other words, use your resources in ways few may normally consider. Clare also writes a great blog on Medium called a Woman in Technology.

Clare emphasised the value of belonging to a bigger community and having a group of women to mentor her in her formative years during her talk. She also sang a little bit!

Nicki Czerska (@nmczerska) is Delivery Director at ThoughtWorks. Nicki’s talk really drove home one point: discover what is important to you, and use that to lead the life you want to live.

And, as you do so, the learning points along the way mean you become significantly different, more than you ever anticipated, and you are empowered to demand, and receive the respect you deserve, as a person, not because of how you achieved what you have achieved, but because of who you are.

Danielle Haugedal-Wilson (@MrsDHW) is Digital Business Architect at The Co-operative Group. Danielle spoke candidly about five ways she had been bold for change, and five ways she hadn’t.

The examples she gave came from experiences in her life as varied as being the only girl on a school team vying for a national prize in the sciences/engineering – she was terrified when she arrived at the finals of the competition and discovered she was the only girl in the entire room(!) – to organising the first Ladies of Code event last year.

Danielle’s success with starting the Ladies of Code movement really illustrated the growing demand for opportunities for young women and girls to experience what it is like working in the tech industry. Her talk was peppered with examples of school girls trying their hand at coding at such events as HackManchester, and confidence and self esteem boosted, applying for a work placement at the Coop where she works.

As someone who did a placement year before university (on the Year in Industry scheme) and another as part of my degree, I can attest to the power of work placements in broadening horizons for young people stepping from education into employment.

It’s great to see that such care is going into making sure young women and girls across Manchester grow up in a city where being a woman in tech, is less the oddity, and more the norm.

Emma Collingridge (@emmacMCR) is Digital by Design Programme Manager at Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council. I found Emma’s talk on six lessons from Digital Transformation absolutely riveting. Maybe because it was the most tech-lingo heavy of the presentations(!) Anyway, I found myself making notes. I like the last point the most:

“be brave, be humble, but mostly be brave.”

With technology you can demotivate people very easily so be humble, she explained.

She talked about how ‘agile’ provided the pastoral support and the right learning environment to make what were normally hard processes like ‘technology, process, analytics’ soft and about ‘people and their feelings’. As someone who has participated in many an agile software development lifecycle, (anyone say JIRA!), I wholeheartedly agree. Agile makes software development a way to “harness our collective potential” in Emma’s closing words.

Marina Nicholas (@_marinanicholas) is a multi-award winning entrepreneur, strategic consultant and champion of change for Women in Technology #womenintech.

Marina’s was another story of a personal triumph over difficult health challenges; she has used this as a spring board to launching a writing career, starting up a multi-platform video business, and more recently becoming a Virgin Start Up mentor. Her talk started with her introducing her personal inspiration, Anita Roddick from the Body Shop and the impact Anita’s success had on her decisions to start her business after a time of significant personal change.

All in all, it was a great event and there was ample time at the end to chat to the speakers and other attendees. I’ve briefly summarised the talks, if you were there and have a personal favourite to highlight, and/or spotted an error or omission, please let me know in a comment below!

On a bit of a whim, I decided to create a question board a few hours before the event, using Assenty, the real-time Q&A web service I’ve been building at assenty.com, and posted some questions on it for the speakers. Here’s one embedded below!

It turned out that there was to be no Q&A due to the number of speakers presenting but ironically all of my questions were answered by the ladies in some form or the other, especially the one embedded above.

Thanks again to Ele Cooper (@eletoop122) and the team at ThoughtWorks for a fantastic event. Time well spent. Very much so…