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

“… for a girl”

I had a sickening realisation recently about an ex. When I first met him (in an iphone queue for the next amazing iteration) we did the “What do you do” convo and I was working in gov then, at the Home Office in *quite a senior* role and he said: “oh a real job”… I fell in love with him on the spot because I thought he meant compared to his – in banking. But time would teach me he meant: for a girl

June 2014

Coding girls: in their own words

This post is about coding/geekery and girls. Yes, that much-hectored subject that we love and loathe to discuss. I would like to share four short videos with you from our YouTube channel that I think contain some very simple facts about learning programming, to help inform those who are focusing on bringing more girls into this field. They were all filmed at this year’s Young Rewired State: Festival of Code and our first Young Rewired State event in New York City; they are only a few snatched minutes, but the girls (of varying ages) are consistent in their message.

At the end of this post I have listed what I took from these, but obviously you are free to draw your own conclusions and I hope that by getting this stuff on camera, it helps raise awareness and understanding of what really matters.

Here is 16 year old Emma Corlett, this is her second year at the Festival of Code:

Introducing Nadine Shaalan, NYC, aged 15

Amy Marshall aged 11 shares her thoughts and a small dance…

Finally the lovely Jenny Lea (16) I dare you not to be at least smiling by the end of this video…

Here are the highlights for me from what they are saying:

  • it’s a useful skill for future jobs, even if not in tech
  • it is more a life skill/interesting skill to have
  • the community is the best thing about being with other kids who are discovering coding
  • the other kids are not weird
  • it’s free to learn and peer-to-peer is an effective way to get to know whatever you might choose to learn
  • it’s not a MASSIVE thing, but it is fun so why not?

“Why not?” is the persistent message, but keeping it social is important too.

These interviews are available thanks to the inspiration of Gemma Cocker from Rosy Cheeks Productions, our forever champion and a great film-maker, who roamed free and asked some great questions of the young people we had at the Festival. 

Open communities, kids and coding and people

I opened my mail today (I try to only do this once a month) and I saved the largest until last. How exciting I thought. Then I saw this:

With an accompanying letter for the press and sentence about how the trade name belongs to P&M Brannigan.

Conflicted I was. Had P&M Brannigan not turned out to be three people who attended the Coding for Kids meet that Katy and I ran last year, (a mother, father and son), I suspect I would have hit the phones and the roof, but they are, and Paul is marketing this with his 10 year old son fronted as the “CEO”, so you can’t be too harsh on the child! Indeed, But yet… wtf?!

Katy and I had a chat about it and wrote an email to the Coding for Kids google group, which by no means includes everyone, so I want to be clear that we have not published this, it is nothing to do with Coding for Kids – indeed they are using the name without any discussion, agreement or acknowledgment.

The email is pasted below:

Hello lovely community!

Katy and I are very very slowly getting our stuff together. We’ve been working away behind the scenes to try get some money to develop the programme (we’re currently speaking to NESTA and Nominet who are keen to support us) and create resources for you to draw on. As soon as we have some news (hopefully very soon) we will be in touch, however I just wanted to raise one point.

Today I opened a large and exciting letter to receive a book published by one of you, trading under the name P&M Branningan Publishers using the trading name Coding for Kids books. Images attached. The Coding for Kids name/header and colour use is terribly familiar! (http://rewiredstate.org) We have not trademarked the Coding for Kids name yet – on purpose as we consider this a community movement and community owned project. We will look to do this once we’ve finished working on this initial stage, getting frameworks established within which you could all happily share the brand and expertise.

We do feel like it is in breach of the spirit of the community to take the Coding for Kids brand and use it for commercial projects. And especially to trademark it as your own without any acknowledgment of the CfK community or provenance.

In the spirit of keeping everything open, for helping each other learn, share and grow through the power of community with a shared goal – please could you respect the principles of openness and operate with kindness.

Do let us know if you have any questions and we’ll be back soon with more news about funding, resources and next steps.

Katy and Emma
It is a huge shame when things go like this, but in the open org, open community world of course these things will happen. But luckily the majority of the time they don’t.
I hope Mark (10) is enjoying writing the rest of the books in his series, we know it is hard to do great things in this world – we know this from our years of very hard work often for free and certainly for free with regards to Coding for Kids!
Time to move on, a little bit sadder than this morning.

Lazy, layabout teens

Yesterday I received this email from a YRSer – they are happy for this to be published but I have removed all references in the email that might identify this person. I am publishing it for several reasons:

1. to get the help asked for from a wider community than just me

2. to show the kind of dilemma our students are facing

3. to give Universities/Google a chance top snap this person up

Email copy starts here:

I am studying Biology Chemistry Physics and Maths with Mechanics at A level (Year 13- upper sixth).

This year, I attended YRS and won a prize, I also won an award at the Cambridge Chemistry Challenge.

At GCSE I recieved A*A*A*AAAAAAABB.

Computing in general was only really ever been a hobby for me – I decided against a degree in the area after taking DiDa at GCSE, which was a real trainwreck of a GCSE course, focusing more on secretarial skills than what I was interested in. I left with an A in the subject and the assumption that I had misconceptions about IT as a career. I had tried to really show my skills through the course’s website topic where candidates produced a web-page (though not hosted) to log their work, but the course wasn’t looking for the skills I had. At the time I knew VB, Javascript, C++, HTML, some PHP, and basic Python.

I was always interested in the sciences, and after taking some work experience, decided firmly on Medicine as a future career.

I didn’t do as well in my AS levels as I was expected to. I have a short history of underperforming relative to my skills in a given subject, but was naïve enough to assume it wouldn’t affect my AS results, though I think this can be remedied.
I took Biology, Maths, Chemistry and Physics respectively.
I believe these grades can be remedied, and after sorting myself out and really applying myself, I believe I can achieve A*AAB (or similar) at A level, please forgive me if I sound arrogant – I am really intending to work hard this academic year through retakes in January and Christmas.

This, of course has the potential to get me into medicine once I have picked myself up, but after this I see things in a different light and am having second thoughts for medicine as a career.

YRS was one of the most enjoyable things I have ever undertaken – before this I felt all IT jobs (aside from the legendary Google jobs) were writing simple, static programs for big companies in C, or inaccessible to me. I was really looking for a job where I could be challenged with problems to solve (which drew me to medical diagnostics), but I met lots of interesting people who were working on equally interesting problems including an IBM employee working on a web spidering project who I discussed Machine Learning with (I am taking an online Introduction to Machine Learningcourse at Stanford university), and the man who wrote the very popular National Rail iPhone application, and made a similar train tracker.

As things are going I will probably end up at a fork in a road when I reapply to university next year, but having never considered this area as a future career, and not knowing anyone who works in this area I am lost. I understand there are many computer related IT courses, of which I know Computer Science, Software Architecture and Computing, but I don’t know which one is what I would like to go into, or even if I have what is necessary to get into the business.

I would be very thankful if you could answer a few questions I have:

  • What IT related course should I take, or- how do I decide on one?
  • How difficult is it to work at Google? What path would I take?
  • What should I do to increase my chances of admission?
  • Do I have what it takes to do a course, if not, what should I do?
  • What areas, in your opinion, would I be interested in?
  • What sort of work would I be doing?
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