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International Women’s Day 2021 – Celebrating CW's Women SIG Champions

CW News published by CW (Cambridge Wireless)

The CW SIG Champions are the bedrock of the amazing events which you know and love.  They are all experts in their field and ensure event topics are timely, the speakers incisive and the conversation lively. On International Women’s Day, CW is celebrating the women within that community of successful professionals. They have kindly shared their wisdom and insight on the technology sector and what has helped them progress their careers.

Our contributors:

  • Esther Ford, Partner, Marks & Clerk
  • Iris Barcia, COO and Co-Owner, Keima
  • Julie Bradford, Managing Consultant, Real Wireless
  • Marine Barbaroux, Head Of User Experience, Fluidic Analytics
  • Nadia Aziz, Founder, Unbounded Futures
  • Siddhi Trivedi, Founder, Beyond Identity

Why did you choose to enter the technology sector?

Nadia has been a maker since she can remember. “It began with coding games for fun when I was in school. I also loved watching the Jetsons and pretending to have fancy gadgets or DIY them. As a kid, I also distinctly remember visiting my father at his labs in CERN in Geneva being in awe of particle accelerators, huge computers with lots of data and numbers everywhere. It was a magical time. At University, I continued by developing a cool smart home security system using sensors and the good old Nokia 3310 phones as a centralised communication device.”

"The love of how technology can be fun and useful too has continued to inspire me.” Nadia

Julie was also always keen on maths and sciences at school, and so choosing a degree related to those seemed a natural fit.

“I studied Electronic Engineering with Business Management as I wanted to understand how to apply what we can learn from science in very practical ways to solve real problems in commercially viable ways.  I have always been fascinated by the cleverness and element of “magic” in being able to transmit messages through thin air so focused on wireless at university and throughout my career.” Julie

Iris Barcia says that for her it offered a combination of the two things that I find the most exciting: the possibility/need to understand the world that surrounds us from different perspectives, and the opportunity to invent and create new things that improve our life and our world.

“As a child I was very curious about how things worked, and some of the things we could achieve with electronics and computers seemed close to magic. That feeling of wonder hasn´t changed a bit because the technology surrounding us is continuously evolving. Working in the technology sector I can be a part of that change.” Iris

Siddhi believes that she never chose to enter the technology space, it chose her.

“I was basically thrown into a tech role when I was appointed project manager in the 1990’s during the formation of Novartis and my remit was to implement an enterprise customer relationship management system during the merger between two swiss pharma companies Sandoz and Ciba. As a result, I was headhunted by a senior partner at a consulting firm who became my mentor and champion to lay the foundations of who I am today.” Siddhi

Marine is also unsure that she chose the technology centre. She trained as an industrial designer and, at the time, she was still using drawing boards and A0 tracing paper. “However,” she says, “a PC with all the cool software coming with it really allowed greater productivity and creativity. One could explore new ideas very cheaply... and from there, it all escalated.”

Esther notes that the potential that electronics had to change lives and create opportunity was already apparent when she left school. Instead of a degree in Physics or Maths, she chose Electronic Engineering. She had also been encouraged by a 'Women in Engineering' course, which helped make her feel that she would be welcome.

What was your first job in the technology sector?

  • Esther: “After school, I spent a year as an apprentice at Thorn EMI Defence Group, followed by placements in different technical departments during the university summer breaks.  You could consider my first job after graduating to have been my Microelectronics PhD research at Cambridge, it was hard work after all! However, my first commercial job after academia was at Nortel Networks, where I was involved in optical communications research.”
  • Iris: “My first professional experience was in Telefonica. I worked for the regional radio planning and optimization group around the time when the first 3G base stations where being deployed.”
  • Julie: “My first job after graduation was as a communications engineer at QinetiQ’s Malvern site (set against the back drop of the lovely Malvern hills).  There I specialised in signal processing techniques for software defined radio platforms and also worked in the emerging area of Cognitive Radio and dynamic spectrum allocation.”
  • Marine: “Designing icons for one of the first web app designed at Amadeus (the travel GDS).”
  • Nadia: “In a previous life, I was a Management Consultant advising M&A in the IoT industry in France. That changed when I moved to the UK and I was lucky to start in  technology innovation given my lifelong passion. I joined a subsidiary of NTT Group as an Innovation Consultant where I had a fantastic time in pursuing R&D making new prototypes and enterprise solutions in Augmented and Virtual Reality as well as the opportunity to collaborate with innovative startups across the UK. I have really enjoyed being able to combine professional career and being a maker.”

Who or what is your inspiration?

Inspiration across our group of women SIG Champions comes from a variety of sources. Nadia is very inspired by the vision of creative visualizers such as Keiichi Matsuda. “The hyper reality and Metaverse they imagine, I think this is quite inevitable,” she says. “It is likely the future we would live in the boundaries between physical and virtual realities will be blurred and that has implications for pleasure but also for the future of work." 

“This vision has inspired me to collaborate with start-ups and organisations that build solutions that will be the foundations of the spatial computing ecosystem. I think a lot of value will be derived through co-creations within this ecosystem of Virtual & Augmented Reality, Spatial Computing, AI and 5G.” Nadia

Similarly influenced by a renowned expert, Julie looks to the Irish journalist Orla Guerin, and explains that “in an industry that can often become cluttered with more gossip than news, she always does an outstanding job (often putting herself at risk) at focusing on real news issues and going to extreme lengths to bring these to the world’s attention in a clear and coherent way.  In a way there are some synergies with consultancy in technology.  Many consultancy reports can be driven by technology hype and qualitative analysis but I aim to make sure any I author are thorough and evidence based.”

For Marine, inspiration is in the form of her late mum. “She was very driven, with sound and simple principles. Very much like what's needed for good design”.

Esther similarly finds her inspiration in the people she meets every day: the “many ‘ordinary’ women who often don’t self-advertise but achieve amazing things!”

“Without naming names, I am inspired by the women in senior positions in Marks & Clerk, who have achieved this based on their technical expertise and without needing to adopt stereotypical male behaviours. Compared to the number of women who graduate with degrees in STEM subjects, a high proportion of our leadership team is female which is inspiring in itself. We’ve come a long way from previous generations where a woman would automatically be made redundant simply due to becoming a mother, as happened in my family.” Esther

Iris wanted to choose an inspiration that really influenced her when she was young:

“I will always blame Star Trek as the reason why I daydream about crazy tech stuff” Iris

What are you most proud of?

“I’m proud that I’ve always applied my engineering studies throughout my career, including now as a Patent Attorney. Becoming a Partner at a leading international Intellectual Property firm such as Marks & Clerk was a milestone. I am very fortunate and proud to work with such talented colleagues and inspiring technical innovators every day.” Esther

“Personally, my two girls 😊

“Professionally, leading the Real Wireless team on our techno-economic assessment of network slicing via evolving, virtualised 5G architectures under the EC Horizon 2020 5G-MoNArch project.  It was a huge pleasure and privilege to work alongside the first class consortium on this project which included tier 1 vendors and operators as well as industrial users of 5G in the form of Hamburg Port Authority.  The RW team did an exceptional job at quantifying costs and benefits for emerging 5G services and covering new ground in these areas.” Julie

"Providing people I hire with the tools and opportunities to thrive, and see them become better than I will ever be. Also, people say I'm a good listener, and a good manager, which is always nice to hear." Marine

Is there something particular that you dream of accomplishing during your career?

Our SIG Champions career goals are altruistic and beneficent.  Marine would “like to contribute to something that will bring some sort of happiness in a small way to many people. Nothing too grand, but something clever that can impact many people. Akeen to the "lucky iron fish".

After watching the news, Iris often things that she would like to be in a position where she can facilitate widespread positive change through technology. “Then I wonder if that involves getting into politics and the idea becomes less attractive,” she concludes.

After spending time in the technology sector, one of the things that is very apparent to Nadia is the under-representation of women in tech and innovation. “The situation is even worse for Board positions within the industry where women leaders can influence the agenda including for the other women in tech as well as BAME,” she continues.  “I do wish that our voices are heard and I hope to work with a few organisations to influence them to include diverse opinions and break this glass ceiling by adding more women in tech leaders to Board positions.”

Esther, similarly, is keenly aware of how her engineering degree has opened up so many doors.

"So my main dream is to see other girls experience similar opportunities, positively encouraged by friends and colleagues rather than swimming against the tide. It’s not necessary to become a CEO, present a TED talk or become a famous inventor: just use your full potential to contribute whatever you can.” Esther

From Siddhi’s perspective, it is also about helping women who aren’t necessarily trained in tech to pivot.

“I want the world to know that women over 50 can pivot into tech and build their own tech start-ups, raise 4 kids and be who they want to be. I chose to challenge all stereotypes; tech is an enabler for giving everyone choices.” Siddhi

And there is much that can be done to mitigate the digital divide. For Julie, her career “win” would be about understanding the right strategy for public and private entities to work together to provide nationwide mobile network infrastructure and deliver the range of services that will bridge the digital divide and deliver the full value, both socio-economic and commercial, of the mobile industry.

Finally, what do you know now that you wish you knew at 21?

Esther wishes that she had appreciated how fast technology changes:

“The pace of innovation is just breathtaking now. Having said that, I’m not sure how I could have prepared myself for this. In the end you just keep learning and enjoy the ride!” Esther

Julie wishes that she knew that one can’t do everything on one’s own, much as one might try!

“Engineering and technology looks at solving complex problems that are only achievable by breaking them down and working methodically and thoroughly through them as a team.” Julie

Although Iris believes in not self-imposing limits on what one can achieve!

“At 21 I knew I wanted to work in technology but I never even dreamt of what I have become and the experiences I've had.” Iris

For Marine, it is about environment protection.

“The climate is really changing because of human activity and Earth is precious. We can't afford to use resources for vanity, so be mindful of what you consume.”  Marine

CW would like to thank our SIG Champions for their contributions and wish everyone a thoughtful International Women’s Day.  For further information, you might be interested in this upcoming event, run in collaboration with the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women:

No Labels! Tackling gender stereotypes that hold back women tech entrepreneurs in low- and middle-income countries

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