21 Nov 2018  |  Culture

What We Learned From Celebrating Ada Lovelace Day

6 minute read

The Ada’s List Conference is organised by Ada’s List, a female email community committed to addressing the under-representation of women in tech. This year, several female Paddlers attended the event to hear from leading women in STEM industries and to share what they learned.

What is Ada Lovelace Day?

The first Tuesday of every October is Ada Lovelace Day, an international celebration of the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). This October, Paddle chose to celebrate with a trip to the Ada’s List Conference and a little event of our own.

Founded by Suw Charman-Anderson in 2009, Ada Lovelace Day aims to increase the profile of women in STEM. The day is named after the 19th century female mathematician who is widely considered to be the first computer programmer, having published an algorithm for one of the earliest iterations of the modern day computer.

Organisations are encouraged to arrange Ada-themed events to mark the occasion, so here at Paddle we hosted an Ada’s Day breakfast at our Bermondsey HQ featuring a quiz to test our knowledge of all things tech. We wanted to make sure that the event was both educational and fun and, of course, that the winners were awarded with a women-in-tech themed prize! Taking some time to celebrate being a woman in a STEM industry was a very empowering start to the day which helped us reflect on how far things have come since Ada Lovelace’s lifetime. It also got us sparked up for the Ada’s List Conference. Here’s what some of our attendees took away from the day’s workshops…

The Ada’s List Conference

Cindy Chen, Product Manager

I attended the Discover your Self-Care Non-Negotiables workshop led by Babs Ofori-Acquah, a ‘workplace wellbeing warrior’ and yoga teacher who previously worked in the corporate world. The goal of the session was for us to think about our own self care and to reassure us that we are not alone in feeling work-related pressure, as well as stress in our daily lives.

We began with a short meditation session, then shared what self-care means to each of us. Babs asked us to think about a good week we’ve had, then a week when we felt overwhelmed. People shared what made their good week so positive, followed by what they felt they’d sacrificed on their bad week. Unsurprisingly, most said they neglected self-care during their bad week; things like taking a walk in nature or getting a full 8 hours of sleep had fallen by the wayside.

The session stressed that it’s especially important that we maintain our self-care during challenging times because it is what we need to get us through it. Neglecting our self-care is not sustainable, as we are less able to achieve our goals when our mind and body are not taken care of.

I left empowered to take back control of my own health. The variety of self-care choices that people shared in the session sent an important message to the group that we need to be respectful of what others need to do to take care of themselves. When we build a working culture with empathy and compassion, we give ourselves permission to put our health first.

Ada Lovelace Day

Raluca Popa, Talent Acquisition Partner

Åsa Nyström, VP of Customer Advocacy at Buffer, did the keynote speech and I learned a lot about transparency in a company. Buffer have a transparent approach to salaries, equity and revenue in the company and I was fascinated to learn that employees at high-trust organisations experience, to name but a few:

  • 74% less stress
  • 106% more energy at work
  • 50% higher productivity

I also attended Emily Tate’s presentation Stuck in the Middle: Stakeholder Management for Women in Tech, which confirmed for me the importance of managing your stakeholders closely and keeping them satisfied and continuously informed. As a woman in management, Emily acknowledged that at a certain level you need to deal with politics and that this is all about empathy, communication and understanding needs.

I felt very welcome at the Ada’s List Conference. Working in tech recruitment is a very male environment and I was pleasantly surprised to see such cultural diversity in the community of women working in STEM. I came away inspired and feeling proud to work in the tech industry and understanding that, even if sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the terminology or complexity of the industry, my continued love of the subject helps me learn and adapt faster. I believe that things are headed in a positive direction and events like these are encouraging women to work in tech - we’re not a niche anymore!

Marta Fioni, Product Designer

I attended a workshop named Role Modeling Vulnerability led by female agile coach Kate Rees. The session addressed the lack of female role models in the tech field and what we can do about this, as well as considering how vulnerability can be a positive attribute, both in agile teams and other work environments.

While Kate acknowledged that there is no quick solution to the lack of female role models in STEM, she emphasised that workshops such as these are a start. We were asked to recall the last time we felt vulnerable and coached to see the potential that this disconcerting emotion contains. She then talked us through how we could incorporate this vulnerability in our everyday work life and positions of leadership. A big part of leadership is about being aware of your blind spots and weaknesses and communicating with your team honestly so that you can work openly as a group. As a female leader, you can role model this behaviour for your team and bring about positive change.

Ada Lovelace Day

Oyku Esen, Lead Development Representative

There was a lot of interest in the Building Feminist Chatbots talk with AI researcher Josie Young. The session began with a discussion about how gendered technology might impact us today, and I was very interested to hear the view that the Alexa home device having the voice of a woman can help play into the stereotype of assistants being women.

Josie told us how chatbots need to be designed for a wide array of diversity points and how lack of such design may result in discrimination, rendering an otherwise useful application useless for some groups. We then broke into groups of three and four to work on a design brief provided on a worksheet.

Our task was to think about self-disclosure, and we wrote down how the chatbot would behave based on our subject: a person who wanted to learn using a chatbot. We considered everyone who might want to use this chatbot, from students preparing for a test, to professionals wanting to improve soft skills like public speaking. Instead of presenting the chatbot as an absolute source of truth, we wanted our chatbot to ask a lot of questions, prompting its human user to think for themselves, acting as an inclusive assistant for anyone wanting to use it.

I thoroughly enjoyed learning how the design process works and sharing ideas in this hands-on workshop with other women working in STEM.

Want to work in STEM? Paddle is hiring! Check out our current openings here.