On death and change in mid-life

These last few years have been hard, I will not lie. Many of my friends have passed away and the sudden death of my adored nephew in 2017, age 19, almost broke what was left of my resilience to all life can throw at me. I am 46, I feel 103.

Much of my working life has been about innovation, revolution and breaking boundaries, and this has been good, tiring but good. And I have been rewarded not only with honours and a relatively stable income, but also the opportunity to meet some incredible people, travel far and really feel like I made a difference to peoples’ lives. But I would trade it all for the life of my nephew.

This recent slew of death has challenged my values, and energy levels. I find myself far more focused, perhaps more selfish and a little more determined, if possible, to use the years I have left to make life better for my family and for young people.

I have shut Rewired State and Young Rewired State, they had a great decade and did what they needed to do. I know that the legacy of both lives on in all of the young people who took part in our Festival of Code every year, and the opportunities afforded by the work Rewired State was doing with governments around the world.

My daughters and I will be working together to build up Mulqueenys, an organisation that with focus on finding new ways to practically support the challenges faced by young people, mentally and emotionally – we will take our time to get this right and make it sustainable without relying on donations, but have begun this work. Indeed we had already begun this before Ezra died, but now it is more important and personal.

It is an interesting time, a complete renewal, but I will be back – it will just take a little time to heal this broken soul.

 

Calling all young scientists and geeks for a free Summer hack in August #H2Hack

You may have heard of the first ever Hydrogen hack happening in the UK this summer, run by the uber cool Arcola Energy team, ahead of the launch of their education programme. The latest news is that we are ready to start filling up the centres. If you want to read all about the hack and apply, go here http://hydrogenhack.co.uk – but the basic idea is that 100 scientists and geeks aged 18 and under will come together in ten centres and use hydrogen fuel cells to make animate objects move faster and inanimate objects become mobile. Using a variety of fun technology, toys and fuel cells, this week promises to be challenging and completely new.

At the end of the week there will be a large competition between the projects at Ravensbourne College near the O2 in London, in front of a panel of distinguished judges.

If you look at the map on the website you will see where all the centres are, but we are just looking now at getting the right balance of young talent in each centre. By ‘scientist’ we mean that you have an interest in science and engineering, or of course are a flat out genius at science; by ‘geek’ we mean that you have coding/hacking skills; by ‘young’ we mean that you have to be aged 18 or under. Here is the list as of this week:

Nottingham University: we are looking for 8 young scientists, we have enough geeks but if you are amazing, do apply!

Techniquest, Glyndwr University, Wrexham: we are looking for 7 young scientists, we have enough geeks but if you are amazing, do apply!

Centre for Life, Newcastle: we are looking for 9 young scientists, we have enough geeks but if you are amazing, do apply!

BOC, Guildford: we are looking for 7 young scientists, and 2 young geeks

Tettenhall College, Wolverhampton: we are looking for 6 young scientists, and 2 young geeks

Monmouth school, South Wales: we are looking for 4 young scientists, we have enough geeks but if you are amazing, do apply!

University Technical College, Bolton: we are looking for 8 young scientists and 1 young geek

University of Sheffield: we are looking for 7 young scientists, we have enough geeks but if you are amazing, do apply!

In London we have a wealth of young scientists and very few geeks so far! Which is very odd, so please do apply if you love hacking and are happy getting to a centre in London. We are in the process of signing up more London centres as we have so many young science applicants – so there will be a number of centres to choose from.

You can all apply on site here http://hydrogenhack.co.uk

Right! That is it. It will be a GREAT week, and free – what more could you ask for.

{Mentors: we need you, so if you are too old for this hack but love the idea – register as a mentor, it will be as much fun – but we can’t pay you}

 

 

Summer hacking in the UK

As we are currently in the middle stages of scale and expansion for Young Rewired State, looking at sustainability and providing a bridge to more than just one off community events such as the much adored and missed Festival of Code.

In the mean time there are still some exciting opportunities for the young programming community, including the Hydrogen Hack I have been helping Arcola energy put together as they launch the expansion of their education programme.

The challenge is to take hydrogen fuel cells, code and hardware and make something newer, faster or inanimate objects animate.

Run the same way we run the Festival, with centres around the UK, mentors and then a finale in London, those of you in the Young Rewired State community will be familiar with it. This time we want to add those young people who are also crazy about engineering.

There is only space for 100 people in ten centres across the country so I would advise registering early.

Here is the link http://hydrogenhack.co.uk

We also need mentors and centres of course, so feel free to share and invite your friends

Getting an OBE (and how you can too)

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…

5 things every brand needs top know about millenials born ’97 & after

 

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.

 

New Year… New News!

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.

Me?

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

xoxo