Perspektywy Women in Tech Summit by Catarina Almeida
The Perspektywy Women in Tech Summit, which took place in Expo XXI in Warsaw last November featured over 150 speakers and more than 3000 participants, from over 30 countries!
This relatively new initiative is already the biggest tech and women-related conference in Europe, and this year’s edition boasted 80 workshops (focusing on technologies, career building and soft skills), 150 mentoring sessions, pre-events organised by 12 companies (where participants got a teaser on their chosen company’s topics, like digital transformation, product shows, technical interviews guidance and were able to network) and 14 side events. In addition, there was a dedicated pavilion for over 40 exhibitor stands. Our Business Analyst and People Team had the chance to talk to many of the participants about who we are and what we do.
We see an increasing number of these events around the world. In Poland alone there are many initiatives, like the “Lean in STEM” project, “Girls go start-up” academy, the “New technologies for Girls” scholarship, the “IT for She” program, and the campaign “Dziewczyny na politechniki!”.
The main theme of this year’s edition was cybersecurity. But with this and many other fascinating topics discussed at the summit (like Artificial Intelligence, 5G technologies, machine learning, big data and other), the most difficult part was to choose what to listen to. At any given hour there were 13 rooms where different speakers were presenting their work and/or views on many topics, in either technical or career development matters.
As the entire two days progressed, we had the pleasure of hearing from many successful people, from Poland and the rest of the world, who shared their careers, tips, tricks and life experiences, encouraging all of us to, first and foremost, believe in ourselves, and to find paths and solutions to be where we want to be. To name a few, we heard from Georgette Mosbacher, The US Ambassador to Poland, Rafał Trzaskowski, the mayor of Warsaw, Jadwiga Emilewicz, the Minister of Entrepreneurship and Technology and Alexandra Butler, a professional coach and project manager at Facebook. We also had the chance to hear from Sabrina Gonzalez Pasterski, who talked about her career path, and how critically important it is that you have curiosity, that you’re not afraid to change if you find other passions, and that you dare.
Quite frankly, all keynote speeches were deeply inspiring and humbling, and there are not enough words to cover all those great speakers.
So, I would instead refer to the more career- and technical-centred workshops that I attended.
On the first day, my morning kicked off with the very passionate and energetic Kate Van Akin, from McKinsey, who talked to us about centred leadership. Centred leadership model revolves around 5 principles: Meaning, Framing, Connecting, Engaging and Energizing. Kate focused on the latter, starting with breaking news that the work–life balance is a myth. And jumping to the solution for this: people need to balance their energy flows. That is, people need to find escape routes to deal with pressure, and find activities that energise us, both at work and at home. She paired us up and had us think through what are the activities that bring us joy and advised us to actively manage and incorporate those in our daily routines.
In the afternoon I joined Klaudia Sapryk’s workshop about Biometrics. Klaudia showed us MasterCard’s latest work on the topic, https://nudatasecurity.com/, a tool that allows to validate users with passive biometrics, i.e. by looking at unique behaviours of the user. Klaudia used a common log in as an example, in which a user has to put in their name, last name and password. Usually. Users will take x time on each field. A hacker might, for example, copy and paste these
credentials from a file, thus spending very little time on these fields, which raises a flag with Nu data. Fascinating how behavioural biometrics is equipped to fight these!
For my last workshop of the day, I joined Rachel Cooke from Amazon, as she shared how to succeed in a behavioural interview, that is, an interview where employers judge candidates not based on where they want to be, but on what they did in the past in this or that situation.
The second day came, and with it, many exciting new talks. I started my morning with Goldman Sachs’ Joanna Obstój and her workshop. Joanna talked about design thinking, “the tool to solve wicked problems”. She explained us the principles of design thinking, EDIT (Emphasize, Define, Ideate, and prototype and Test) and then paired us up in practical exercises, where she gave us real life situations, and challenged us to practice understanding their underlying problem, “the sneaky one that we’re missing and that is the real issue”.
Then I went to a workshop of Michał Łukaszewski from Intel. Michał had a more technical seminar, where he addressed Artificial intelligence and how is it hacked. He started by first explaining that people tend to confuse deep learning with machine learning and with artificial intelligence, and that often times, we think we’re discussing artificial intelligence, when we’re actually talking about deep learning. And then he went to the good stuff. He asked us how many pixels we thought were needed to fool deep neural networks. And, as it turns out, just the one! It was really enlightening to find out how little was needed.
In the afternoon, I attended another leadership workshop, by listening to Anna Stysiał and Mariusz Rutkowski from 3M, talk about how to become a manager when you start as a manual tester. They shared their different backgrounds and emphasised how crucial it is to be focused and to persevere, to make it far in your career. For my last talk of the day I joined Agnieszka Belowska Gosławska, from Nordea, who talked about a myriad of things, going from Nordea, to Robotics, to how to be a good manager and how to fuel your ambition.
To conclude, it was a pleasure to join this summit and listen, first-hand, to such amazing and inspirational stories and careers. I have had the chance to learn about different fields, and to represent Sollers.
And, as my final two cents on the matter, I would like to point out that technology is still an area dominated by men. We’ve learned on the summit from Dr Jadwiga that “women in Poland are more educated than men, more than 50% of people that complete education in Poland are women. And the percentage of those studying science and technology, that are women, is the highest in Europe”. We’ve also learned from Mayor Trzaskowski that “in Poland, women hold 35% of management positions, and this is one of the highest numbers in the world. And we need to work on that but, as it stands, we are very proud of that success”.
But, in spite of these incredibly powerful and positive facts, what I personally observed during those two days was that it helped to have an event dominated by women. I felt like women were much more open and braver to ask questions, I saw that the mentoring area was always filled with women, I saw that all lectures were full, and I saw very big queues for the workshops. I felt that this summit opened the door for many women from around the world, to express themselves. And I believe the world needs more events like these. See you next year at the Perspektywy Women in Tech Summit!