On Saturday I officially received my OBE — not yet from the Queen but it was announced in HM 90th birthday honour’s list, I go get the actual thing at some point in the next six months, (unless my dreams are to be believed and I miss the ceremony due to unforeseen diversions).
Being me and documenting most of my working life in social media I felt compelled to write, but had no idea what to say.
Being a woman, I think it is a gender specific trait, I felt slightly ashamed, uncomfortable and guilty because so many others deserve acknowledgment for all the great things they do, and also those who helped this whole kids and coding movement.
But my forever-devil-conscience Cindy Gallop once more whipped me into stepping up for other women and girls, so that everyone feels that everything is slightly more possible, and my guilt was stuck in a vortex of unforgivable ‘damned if I do, damned if I don’t…’
But then tonight I discovered who put me forward for this honour, and suddenly I feel it is OK to write something.
The lady who put me forward has been my mentor and friend for quite a few years. She has seen me through the tears, the despair, the highs and elation, the uncertainty and the bewilderment. She has also put me on public stages, given me tequila (or ribena, depending on the moment) and she has even involved me in work she is doing that is far more high fallutin’ than my endeavours.
By knowing who put me forward I can feel comfortable knowing that it is from someone who actually knows what it takes to really follow your heart and refuse to accept the status quo, or size of the mountain of success. And I know she meant it, she really meant it.
Another message that resonated was one that said the following…
Kudos to Alice Bentinck Mike Butcher Matt Clifford Saul Klein Emma Mulqueeny Wendy Tan White Sarah Wood for the kindness, talent, and hard work that led you to be in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list today!
And the word that has hit home the most with me this year has been kindness. (Talent (should read blag and attitude) and hard work — I am not ashamed or embarrassed by the hard work side of things, so that’s OK.)…
But kindness from my benefactor got me this OBE and kindness from the community brought Young Rewired State to reality. So kindness really is the quality that I hope drives most people to go above and beyond their day-to-day obligations to family and work.
I am not going to blah on about how hard it all was, or sad refrains of evenings lost to work (like this one!), we all know stuff takes work.
How can you get one? Or how can you nominate someone?
So the day before it was announced I got an email, that I obviously made everyone in the office read because it was suddenly getting real (you don’t know that it is actually going to happen until this point, you just get a guarded note that says you have been proposed and accepted to be put forward by the PM to the Queen, but say nothing and expect nothing).
A part of the email I will leave at the end of this post as my mic drop, they first congratulate you, the first official notification you get that you are in, then they warn you of press queries and finally — this is the important bit, they say this:
We have been very pleased to see an increase in the number of awards to women in recent years. If you felt able to help us to communicate this message, it would be very kind if you might signpost to www.gov.uk/honours to encourage more nominations. Everyone knows someone worthy of recognition. But they won’t receive an award unless someone nominates them!
#kindness Pass it on…
In the 20 minute video here I gave last week to researchers, here are the top five things people need to know about 97ers, those millenials born in 97 or after. They are a segmented group because they grew up with social media and know no different. I did a TEDx talk about them, you can watch that here.
If you are not keen on watching videos, here are the top five things you need to know: they are:
- Relentless researchers – they are driven by the *hit* they get by debunking internet theories, or discovering secrets
- Tribal – they are natural born community builders
- Momentarily focused – apps like SnapChat have taught them ruthless focus in seconds not minutes, this is very different to being forever distracted
- Multi-cultural global citizens – in the social digital world, geography and borders do not matter
- Data traders – they totally understand the trade with corporations, they get access to free apps in return for their data, and know no different
If you are a smart brand, you need to know these five things.
It is usually about this time every year when I give bigger news than normal, and this is no exception! You may recall a few years ago I announced that I was stepping down as CEO of Rewired and Young Rewired State and moving to the board, and for the last two years we have been shaping the incredible organisation that is Rewired State, and working out how to scale Young. So… first things first:
Rewired State – the smart data agency
I cannot really put into words how proud I am of the achievements of this community of developers. Over the last seven years we have fought for and won many a battle for open data in public services (not alone of course, but with a small crew of like minded enterprises). Our move over into the commercial sector after we left our Guardian incubator was a forbearer of the greater acceptance and understanding of big data, and we began to realise true ROI for our clients.
Our brand remains resolutely strong with provenance, successful/beautiful disruption and a growing community of data designers, scientists, developers and thought-leaders.
The culmination, I guess you could say, of these last two years of really thinking about the positioning of Rewired State as we move forward is a full pivot with a clear focus on our core competencies in smart data, fully supported by our senior team leaders, the community and the Board.
We have brought in a strong commercial director: Joe Clark, who will steer future growth. I continue to work closely with Joe as Founder and Board Director, alongside my colleagues and the community. Check out our VD01 website over here and let us know if you would like to engage with this new, beautiful version of my first baby! I am ridiculously proud of it.
Young Rewired State
As those of you who know me know, this has always been my passion: this group of self taught programmers, giving them a community, real world challenges and introducing them to open data. So many of these alumni remain a part of my life and I feel like some kind of geeky Godmother most days!
It is testament to its success that it has grown to become this International community of thousands of young developers, mentors and alumni – it almost has a life of its own without anything we do centrally! However, we have a duty of care, and it is that duty that has led us to focus once again on how best to scale and fund what we do.
Now that Rewired State has completed its pivot and is already storming through with some fantastic clients and partners, it is time to lift up the hood of Young Rewired, and see how we can really enable and support scale.
We have been incredibly lucky an have been able to second the services of Oliver Wyman for a six week strategic review, looking at other ways talent is scaled internationally in other sectors, and how we might apply this to YRS. I am confident that together we will find a scalable solution to allow the developer in every child find a community, a network and future to be excited about.
This does mean that for the rest of this year, activity at the heart of YRS will be limited to supporting ongoing activities and focused on scale and funding the future. The senior management team are in discussions with some key partners for potential delivery of the Festival of Code 2016 – but those discussions are still in flow and I am unlikely to have any news on the Festival in 2016 until the end of February.
Well – I cannot tell you how ridiculously exciting the last couple of months have been – if not a little busy! I was contacted out of the blue to see if I would consider meeting with Natalia Vodianova and her team running Elbi Digital – an organisation focused on enabling everyday philanthropy. The brilliant (and kind) Joanna Shields had suggested I do so, and Eugenia Makhlin took up the challenge (she is the outgoing CEO – off to have baby number two and help steer this from the board). #womenintechnology
Natalia is a very determined lady and has already achieved an incredible amount with her Naked Heart Foundation in Russia and Elbi is her latest genius idea – to break open philanthropy and put it in the hands of all of us, in smart, beautiful and delightful ways.
Obviously this plays directly to my own personal core values and ‘things that push my buttons’. And over a long afternoon spent with Natalia and ginger tea in Paris last year, I fell in love with Elbi.
To my absolute delight, surprise and spine-tingling pleasure, I was invited to come on board as the new CEO, to bring all of the shutzpah (well, JFDI) and lessons I have learned about breaking things better from the last seven years with Rewired and Young, adding Elbi to my stable of passions!
And so it begins. I have just stepped in as CEO of Elbi Digital, our first product is live in MVP already (since late last year), go check it out on the app store (hunt for Elbi) and we will be rolling out version 1 this Spring and then the really special magic begins to happen.
Natalia has great vision, and it is truly humbling, inspiring and an incredible opportunity to be working with her, and I look forward to introducing her into the technology world we inhabit over the coming years.
Here is to the next stage of everything! I am so happy and really am thankful for all of the opportunities I get, and grateful to the massive support of those communities I am lucky enough to be a part of.
Happy New Year everyone
If you liked that, you might like the talk I did specifically about the 97ers last year at TEDxBrum
I am going to try to cram 1200 kids, 400 mentors, 70 centre leads, 50 volunteers, 200 parents and five (yup only five) full time staff’s work at this year’s Festival write-up. A challenge – but not one as great as the one we set the 1200 kids: build something digital in a week (even if you have only just started learning to code) with only one rule: you *must* use open data. (The open data rule goes back to the origins of the Festival, where we set out to let young people know about the data government was opening on data.gov.uk back in 2009).
So please bear with me and grab a cuppa – this post will take a while to navigate, you may need to come back later.
Firstly, here is a medium post of what it is like during the week from one of our regular (and ace) centres: Lives not Knives, and how being a mentor this last week has helped her come to a decision about her career, post-Uni. How lucky the world is that this indecisive, brilliant lady has chosen a career working with young people.
We were covered on BBC Breakfast, BBC lunchtime news at one, 5Live, BBC Bews at 6 and Newsnight at the beginning of the week. The finale was covered by ITV News on Sunday. And Mike Butcher (a semi-final judge) wrote this on TechCrunch.
1200 young people aged 7-18 took part
32% were female
The semi-finalists, finalists and winners are listed here and the finalists videos can be watched here (please like your favourite one as they will win a prize)
For all the different hashtags on Twitter and Instagram we had:
- 11968 posts by 1804 users
- Total reached: 4,299,775 people <- MILLIONS!
- Total impressions: 25,909,753 <- MILLIONS!
- 65% male users and 35% female users (32% of the Festival participants were female, so this reflects that)
- The biggest surge of tweets was between 11am and 1pm on Sunday where we had around 2000 posts. (that’s the finale)
- The most commonly used hashtag in addition to one associated with the festival was #watttheduck
- The most tweeted centre was #FoCHighbury
- We had tweets from all over the world, with the UK, US and Ireland being top of the list.
Paul Clarke, a photographer of huge renown, covered the Festival for us and captured every moment of joy and trepidation – you can see the photos here, they are available on CC license but obviously please don’t take the mick and if using for anything give Paul the appropriate props in the tags and attributions. It is testament to his talent that his tweet with the photographs is the top tweet on the #FoC2015 hashtag.
For me there were three defining moments of this Festival:
The first was when I was sitting at the information desk on Friday afternoon. We have registration open for six hours (it takes that long to process 1200 young people, plus their parents, mentors and centre leads into the weekend venue) – but the numbers of people signing in comes in waves, always has – we have people coming from all over. However, there is always a 4-5pm surge. During that surge, all I saw from my slightly nondescript desk and chair to the right of the escalators, was kids going “ARRRGGHHH” *running hug* “I cannot believe you are here! It’s been a year!!!!!” *bouncing hugs*. At one point, a brilliant brilliant young developer: Michael Cullum, who was at school with my daughter, saw her at registration and similarly did the running hug. It was a Festival of Code bundle, and I was pinching my arm not to cry at every reunion I witnessed.
The second defining moment for me was when I was standing slightly off stage at the end, watching the YRS Festival alumni judges. These were young people I have watched grow up and who are now too old to take part (19+), but who we chose to be the judges for their younger peers. They get it, they know what it takes, they understand what to reward and what to feedback. I sat in the judging room with our compere, Dallas Campbell – chatting about the death of Cilla Black – when the alumni judges all decided that feedback to every finalist was vital. They worked it out between them and I tried not to get emotional then. But when I stood there watching as the winners they selected were called to the stage, as they shook their hands and congratulated them – alumni to current participants – I have to admit I totally nearly lost it. But it was also a calm moment. I now know, that whatever happens – these kids have got it. Whatever we do or don’t do – the community owns this. My heart is literally bursting with pride for them.
The third was after it was all over and everyone was slowly exiting the finale space in the ICC, already drifting into mourning for the week, and two Mums of YRSers (parents *have* to accompany their children to the weekend if the kids are 13 or under) and they suggested that the next time we give the parents a chance to hack something over the weekend for them to surprise the kids with – a parents’ race, if you like (a whole other blog post). What a genius thing that we had never thought of. But perfect, so yes, something we will work on.
I am going to leave this update with a Facebook post written by Harry Rickards for all YRSers. Harry is an alumnus who came to Young Rewired State (YRS) in 2012, and is now studying at MIT. I cannot say any more – over to you, Harry:
Words are hard, but now I’m finally out of the yearly YRS sleep coma I’ll give it a try. You all are awesome. Seriously. Most of your mates spent half the week sleeping and half the week drinking in parks, and you spent the week making amazing amazing things. I say it every year but I 100% promise it’s true: every year I’m amazed by how much better the hacks have got. Seeing you all, both young and old, up on stage presenting things most professional devs could only dream of making in a week is awe-inspiring.At MIT you feel like you’re around future billionaires, future tech leaders, future everything-awesomes. YRS is this but better. Go change the world! To those who just graduated, don’t think your journey is over! Come back as a mentor/volunteer/judge, get scared at how good the kids are, and have an even more fun time partying the evenings away (because none of you have been doing that as participants ofc), watching Robert dance and Alexander use a knife like he’s from the North. Despite the road-rage journey from hell with James and Shad this weekend (I think we might get PTSD from the M40…) and Neena‘s apparent misundersanding of the concept of private property, this weekend was one of the most fun I’ve had in a while (and I’m not even gonna attempt to tag you all).Just please please please don’t let the cool kids party be at a goddamn Spoons 3 nights in a row next year. To the YRS organizers you’re the most amazing people ever. I’m sure your jobs are a trillion times harder than I think they are, and I already have no idea how you manage. YRS changed my life in so many ways: it made me get into programming and set me off into a path leading to MIT, it let me meet the best friends, and it hella inspired me. Trying not to sound like a cliched US politician (after all, thanks to YRS there’s now an app for that…), seeing the presentations and the excitement and the atmosphere and everything this weekend gave me faith in humanity.I’m by no means alone here, so keep changing lives! Now enough with the rambling and (well-deserved) superlatives and onwards to next year. I don’t see how it’s possible, but I’m sure it’ll end up being even bigger, better, more fun, world-changing, etc. And with any luck (pending the Administration’s bureaucracy) we’ll have an MIT centre over in Boston next year! #FoC2015#BestHashtag#WorldDomination
For those of you who have seen the series: Silicon Valley, that parodies the culture of Silicon Valley: “Making the world a better place” (when in fact they rarely are); you may be familiar with the final episode of series 1, where the eclectic bunch of developers we follow throughout the series go to demo their hack at TechCrunch Disrupt.
As they take the stage, nerves are visible and code is broken and the judges are skeptical. Nothing goes according to plan but as they stumble through their presentation, slowly the penny drops in the audience, and by the end – with a naturally relieved group of presenters quivering on stage – everyone is speechless at what they have actually managed to do.
I have always loved this episode, because I recognise in those characters all of the passion, humility and slightly baffled genius that is in evidence every year at the Young Rewired State: Festival of Code.
And so this year, we are thrilled beyond measure that Mike Butcher, Editor at Large for TechCrunch, has agreed to be a semi final judge on Saturday afternoon, and to advise the judging panel (made up entirely of alumni) on the Sunday.
It is a delicious moment and one that make me proud, and I am sure pleases Mike hugely.
Good luck to all the Festival of Code participants – I cannot wait to see you on stage at the weekend, and to see who the judges choose as the best developers seen this year.
To follow on from the story about how to put girls off from programming and technology … here’s what we did to fix it
- Make it as mainstream as possible, more Festival of building digital stuff plus fun
- Have plenty to do that everyone can share e.g. photobooth, sprint challenges, maker fairs, graffiti wall, next gen tech
- Watched what everyone loved and did more of that, watched what made them yawn, did less of that
- Use social media channels such as Vine, Snapchat and Instagram
One thing to note, that has helped us grow from 2% to 30% in seven Festivals. When girls come back, they bring their mates (in most cases). When boys come back they don’t (in most cases).
It is about changing the culture, not bullying the girls.The Festival of Code runs form July 27th to August 2nd information here