#Mothercare to go into Admininstration – pale, make, stale boards can’t cut it anymore #tech #diversity #

Mothercare to go into administration.

I’m not surprised, and wonder how tech savvy and diverse the Mothercare board of directors are…

The most successful companies in the future are going to have diversity and tech savvyness at their core so that their products and services are fit for purpose in the 21st century, for a global, diverse marketplace.

Old school pale male stale boards aren’t going to cut it anymore.

https://metro.co.uk/2019/11/04/mothercare-announces-collapse-putting-hundreds-jobs-risk-11037001/

#MyWeek last week #October #2019 #ificandoitsocanu

Great talk from Andy Stephenson kicking off Rob and I’s Computational Thinking module – 1st year Durham Computer Science module

Lovely to meet Charlie – 1st year CS UG – and all his class

Out in the evening to meet up with friends in Durham

Beautiful Durham Cathedral

On a Durham University panel talking about Diversity and Inclusion with Sir Paul Nurse

Selfie with Camila from maths department and Sir Paul Nurse

Had a great first meeting with 3 of my 1st year CS advisees

Wonderful to meet up with Ian and Corrina, and Lauren, Ian is a Durham CS alumni now doing exciting things with Microsoft in Seattle

Selfie with Lincoln Uni CS students after my public lecture there

3 incredible women who came to my public talk at Lincoln University

Giving my talk at Lincoln University

Talking about #techmums graduation at Leeds Libraries, what a wonderful day

On my way back to London on Friday morning for a meeting with #techmums CEO Lauren – forgot to take a selfie 🤳 😭

Fully funded UK/EU PhD Scholarship in Predictive and Prescriptive Analytics for the Media Industry 

Come and join us at Durham 🤩💃🏽👍🏽❤️🥳

Extended closing date for applications: 22nd of August 2019 

UK/EU PhD Scholarship is to start 1st of October 2019 Funding period: 1/10/19 – 30/09/22 

Project Description:

A unique opportunity of an industrial-collaboration fully funded UK/EU PhD scholarship at the prestigious Durham University (world-wide top 79th by QS World University rankings and 5th in the UK by the Guardian) and Distinctive Publishing Ltd, Newcastle.

The successful PhD student is to experience both academia and industry, and spend up to 50% of her/his time at the Distinctive Publishing business premises, with the rest at the Department of Computer Science, Durham University. The main academic supervisor is to be Professor Alexandra I. Cristea, a world leader in artificial intelligence for the web and web science. 

Distinctive Publishing is looking to introduce an additional product/service to its current platform but introducing two distinct areas to enhance its existing capability of descriptive analytics: 

1. Predictive Analytics Engine – modelling past data to predict future actions, behaviours, or outcomes of readers/users within the existing platform.
2. Prescriptive Analytics Engine – providing direct insight into the consequences of different actions by uncovering the key cause-and-effect relationships that impact the outcomes the publisher focuses on, and will be used for understanding what causes what, and why within the readership of content/publications.

For more information please contact alexandra.i.cristea@durham.ac.uk and consult the original Call at:http://community.dur.ac.uk/alexandra.i.cristea/ad/PhDAdvert_IIP-final.pdf

If I can do it, so can you – Alan Gore’s inspirational story

I love hearing other people’s stories of triumph against adversity, particularly involving education and technology changing people’s lives. I got a DSc from University of Kent at Canterbury Cathedral last year and was honoured to be invited to present the computer science department awards to students before the cathedral ceremony.  Alan Gore won two of the prizes and his lovely mum Jan contacted me after hearing my speech about how education and technology had helped me to bring my family out of poverty. When I heard Alan’s story I asked Jan if Alan would write a blogpost that I could share about his education and life journey. Here it is below. What an amazing, inpsiring man with such a supportive mum. Enjoy. 

***

I’m writing this on a plane to Svalbard in the Arctic Circle where I will be taking a break with my partner, a research physicist studying the Northern Lights. I’m 28 years old, a recent graduate from the University of Kent, where I collected my degree at the same award ceremony in Canterbury Cathedral where Sue Black was awarded an honorary doctorate.

I was excited to meet Sue and hear her story that day, partly because of her work about Bletchley Park (a place I’ve enjoyed visiting multiple times whilst living and working in Milton Keynes) but also because of what she represents: someone who, despite adversity and an unconventional route through education, has achieved great success in a field that still feels dominated by a narrow part of society.

Whilst I cannot claim to have gone through anything like her experiences, I’m also a mature student who didn’t follow the traditional route to University. If you’d asked me 10 years ago where I expected to be now, it certainly wouldn’t have been here; at that time I already felt that I was “too late” to achieve my goals of going to university and entering the tech industry. I’m writing this in the hope that my story might serve to give some hope to someone in a similar situation.

Throughout my school years I listened to the mantra that at every stage (SATS, GCSE, A Levels) you had to work hard as this was the only chance to progress and do well in the next stage, all the way to university. My parents divorced in my early teens and, perhaps in an attempt to have control over something in my life, I stopped attending school. I left school with only a single GCSE with my plans of university shattered. I didn’t have the five GCSEs needed to get to college or even to get a basic job. My school wouldn’t allow me to re-sit them because of how little I’d attended. I was “too late” to change the path I’d chosen by not attending.

The following year I sat the 4 additional GCSEs I needed for college with the National Extension College, a distance learning charity that at that time would take my mother’s stockpile of Tesco Clubcard Vouchers as payment! After this I started on a BTEC IT Diploma and did well, but ultimately dropped out again, feeling inadequate when compared with my peers. 

By my late teens I felt hopeless, with no chance of work or education. I was struggling with depression and anxiety, as well as trying to come to terms with my sexuality. I retreated from friends and family and I continued drifting like this for years, spending most of my time online, trying to escape a day-to-day life in which I felt I’d failed and was too late to change things.  I was forced into change by my father falling into financial difficulties. Facing the reality of him losing his home and supported by treatment for my depression, I started looking for work.

Eventually I found a role as a supermarket delivery driver; the work was hard with shifts often exceeding 12 hours, but I enjoyed it and did well, progressing to a driver coach/instructor role and then supervising the department. I learned how to handle everything from rescuing vans stuck under bridges to answering irate phone calls from customers and drivers, whilst trying to help someone find something on the shop floor. I regained some confidence and my Mum suggested maybe I could give education another try. 

I enrolled in an Access to Computing course at the local adult college. Access to Higher Education Diplomas are available for anyone who hasn’t already completed an A-level or equivalent qualification; they pack the equivalent of 3 A-levels into a few days a week over the course of a year. They’re designed so that on completion students can go on to university, and the majority of universities accept them. The Access qualification was hard work; I balanced a 30-hour working week with a similar amount of studying, but it paid off. I received a distinction (equivalent to 3 A*) which meant I qualified for scholarship funding at Kent. I received offers from all 5 of the universities I applied to (Aberdeen, Cardiff, Kent, Lancaster and Stirling); the only limitation I faced when applying for Computing degrees was the lack of a maths A Level. 

Going to University, I was apprehensive, I’d be 6 years older than most of the people I’d be living and studying with. I chose a 4-year programme with a year in industry, which meant by the time I graduated I’d be nearing 30. Was this too late? What’s more, many of the people there would have sat dozens of exams over the course of their education, whilst I’d sat almost none.

Exams certainly proved a challenge, as did my lack of maths knowledge. However I found I did well, especially in programming where my Access qualification had given me some excellent tutelage, as opposed to most of my classmates who’d done next to none at school. When it came to applying for work I was similarly worried about the gaps in my CV and history. I also found this wasn’t the barrier I expected.  At the end of my first year, I secured a paid summer placement with the Bank of England, followed by a year’s paid placement with a firm in Milton Keynes whom I now work for.  

University wasn’t plain sailing. My mother was diagnosed with cancer (thankfully now in remission) towards the end of my first year and I found I often suffered from “imposter syndrome” throughout my degree. However, I was helped by a variety of amazing people, from the friends I met in halls in first year, through to university career advisors, managers on placements and of course my partner. I graduated with a first class honours degree in Computer Science and won multiple awards, securing a job with my placement company in Milton Keynes, where I now work (and live on a 55ft narrowboat!). 

As a white male from a middle-class background I write this with no illusions that my relative success means that the same opportunities I had are available to all. The data around education and employment in the tech industry, especially for those from “non-conventional” backgrounds makes for difficult reading (1) (2). I’m immensely grateful to all those who supported me and very much aware that without them and the academic options available, I would not be where I am now. 

I hope that my story might show that it’s never too late to change course and return to education. Despite an education system that drills into children that they must do well in the next exam or else they’re locked out of progressing, it is possible to return to education years later. It might require more effort, but it’s doable. 

Furthermore it’s vital we keep these routes open for people and promote them so that students don’t unwittingly limit their potential. Since I studied for my Access qualification, funding for further education has been cut by around half a billion pounds;  the result of this is that adults over 24+ have to pay (by student loan or otherwise) for any Level 3 or Level 4 qualifications and this has led to a marked reduction (31% according to a government report) in the number of people taking such qualifications. People are (rightly or wrongly) put off even starting on the journey to university by the student debt that now also accompanies our degree programmes. 

I hope that in time our government will come to recognise the value of such funding and reverse some of those cuts. In the meantime I will do all I can to support people going on a similar journey to mine, be it through talking and writing about it or helping provide some of the opportunities I was given, for example by setting up paid internship programmes. 

Written by Alan Gore

 

Women’s Equality Party – Doing politics differently

Earlier this year I took a deep breath and put myself forward as the Women’s Equality Party candidate to stand in the 2020 elections to be Mayor of London.

As someone who had almost given up on politics ever representing someone like me, and not really imagining myself as a politician, it was a bit of a scary thing to do, but I felt the time to sit on the sidelines had passed. It’s not just that so much is going wrong, it’s about how much could go right if we work together. We have enough resource to make all our lives better, there are so many opportunities out there, we just need to focus on the right things, and work collaboratively to create change. I am so excited to be part of the Women’s Equality Party and to lead our campaign for a better, more equal London supporting and being supported by our wonderful leader Mandu Reid.

One of the most exciting things about our party is that it was founded to do politics differently and work collaboratively to drive change. Anyone who believes in equality can be part of our movement – even if they’re already a member of another political party. We’re the only party not only to allow dual membership but to encourage it, as part of this approach. Other parties talk about working cross-party and building alliances, but sometimes they put their own and or their party’s political advantage ahead of the public interest. Our leaders need to be bold and show that there is a better way to do things.

That’s why yesterday I showed my support for Jo Swinson MP, the new leader of the Liberal Democrats, by joining her party. As a longstanding WEP member and now LibDem member, I would like to welcome Jo and ask her to consider allowing members of her party to join our party and work together, to stop Brexit but not only that, to fight together for a better, more equal future.

Our country is facing an awful and unprecedented crisis. We are not going to solve it using the same old style of politics, the same old entrenched, tribal divisions. There is a way forward, one that brings people together around the things that unite us rather than the things that divide us. Collaboration, working with others to make life better for everyone can give us a bright and hopeful future, one where we *all* have the chance to live our best lives.

FREE TECH RETRAINING PROGRAMME FOR WOMEN!

If you are, or know of, any women in the Midlands/North of the UK who have a degree and might be interested in our exciting new tech retraining programme please tag them underneath or send them the details of #TechUP Women.
 
We will take 100 women and retrain them into tech careers: #datascientist, #agileprojectmanager, #businessanalyst or #softwaredeveloper part time over 6 months from July 2019 to January 2020.
 
We have 15 industry partners working with us including Capital One, Experian, BJSS, Tombola, Northern Power Women, Colorintech, BAME recruitment and Atom Bank providing mentoring and real world advice and experience to our programme.
 
We’ve extended the deadline until Sunday as several people needed the weekend to get their applications in, application take just a few minutes if you already have a CV.
 
Please share far and wide, any questions please ask, thanks very much 🙂
 
Screenshot 2019-05-31 at 18.34.51

Sexist SATS – how primary assessment is reinforcing gender stereotypes in 2019

I received this email from a Chair of Governors of a London Primary School this week.

No wonder we have issues with girls and STEM if ten year old children are already seeing girls stereotyped as “getting maths wrong” 😦

This should not be happening now in 2019!

How can we get a copy of the test paper?

I’m Chair of Governors of a Primary School and the Head asked me to observe the administration of one of the SATS. So this morning I was there for Mathematics 2. ( I think it is called “Reasoning”).
One question involved a drawing of a child who was making a mathematical statement.  Pupils had to explain why that statement was wrong.
A second question showed a problem accompanied by a drawing of a child giving the answer.  Pupils had to say why that answer was wrong.
 
In both cases the child who was wrong was a girl.  I think there was only one drawing of a boy and that was neutral.  (e.g. John has £10. He spends  etc.) Every state school year six child in England, who sat that paper this morning, saw the stereotype of girls who can’t do maths.
I have asked my Head to complain, if Heads are given that opportunity, and I am working out to whom I should write.
Obviously I don’t have the paper, as all spare copies have to be accounted for, but if what I am saying can be verified, it would be terrific if the Academic Maths and Computing Community “kicked up a fuss”.

Mesh scandal whistleblower stopped by UCLH from saving women

Incredible UCLH surgeon Suzy Elneil was a whistleblower on this situation, and is now being stopped by UCLH from practicing.

Her work is saving lives, helping women in ridiculous amounts of pain caused by mesh implants.

Suzy is the UK’s top mesh removal surgeon, she removed around 400 mesh implants last year. No one else in the UK has this amount of experience.

Thousands of women, some suicidal from the amount of pain, need their mesh removed urgently.

The FDA in the US have banned mesh operations.

The FDA have told medical device companies to stop manufacturing and selling mesh.

Mesh kills, maims and injures, but mesh implants are very lucrative for medical device companies and implanting surgeons.

What can be done?

NB Thanks so much to #slingthemesh for supporting mesh injured women and men

Eulogy for my Dad – Richard Ambury 1939-2019

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My Dad sadly died last month at the age of 79. Last Monday we cremated him in Ipswich. I wrote this eulogy and read it out at the service:

“Hello everyone, thanks for coming today. Particular thanks to my sister Sarah who is the best sister ever.

My name is Sue Black, I’m Richard’s eldest daughter.

Until I was 13 my dad was a great dad. It’s this time, when I was a child, that I choose to focus on today.

Many of my first memories are of hanging out with my dad. After my brother and sister Sarah and Stephen were born when I was nearly five years old I spent a lot of time hanging out with my dad. When we lived in Chandler’s Ford he would do odd jobs for people at the weekend, painting and gardening. I remember going along with him to help out, though as I was only about 4 or 5 years old I’m not quite sure how much help I actually gave him 😉

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Dad used to take me to work with him, introducing me to staff and patients at the places he worked: Leigh House in Chandler’s Ford, Hill End Hospital in St Albans and Runwell Hospital in Essex. I remember a particular year when he was in charge of Runwell Hospital, I must’ve been about nine or ten years old. We spent Christmas morning together visiting wards around the hospital to thank all of the staff that were working that day, saying Merry Christmas to all the patients. I remember coming home with so many boxes of chocolates given to us by staff and students as we went round that we could hardly carry them all. It was obvious from our visits that he was well liked and respected by everyone we met. Working hard, personal interest in, and care for others at work, I thank my dad for these leadership experiences that have played a strong role in my life.

Dad loved cars. One of my first happy memories is of him sitting me on his lap so that I could “drive” the car whilst we were on the way to one of his weekend gardening jobs. That was before the day of seatbelts and so probably not so safe by today’s standards, but a lot of fun ☺

Later on in my childhood I used to fix the car with my dad, he taught me how to bleed the brakes, change a wheel, how the engine worked etc. Another time we went to test drive a car he was thinking of buying. He drove us to a disused area and then accelerated till we went over 100 miles an hour! It was so exciting! I’m thankful for this knowledge and I attribute my lifelong love of cars and interest in engineering to my dad.

Other memories I have are of his and my mum’s great love of music. I remember dancing to the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Tornadoes and many others, aged about 4, stacking up the 45s on the record player and the excitement of hearing that characteristic clack as the next record dropped, then waiting in anticipation of the next song. Music has been a constant source of happiness in my life, my son Sam is a keen guitarist. I thank my dad for my lifelong love of music.

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When he was younger my dad loved sport and was good at it too. He was captain of the football team at Hill End, and captain of the cricket team at Runwell. I have many memories of playing badminton with him, he sometimes took me to the staff badminton practice at Runwell hospital after work. He often won inter-hospital competitions with his doubles partner Phillip. I’ve loved badminton and sports all my life, even though as you can see, I’ve probably not done enough 😉 My son Olly loves playing badminton, has inherited my dad’s speedy raquet skills and plays badminton regularly, this reminds me of my dad and how he loved it too. Dad also loved boxing and instilled a love for it in me, my daughter Leah now trains at the boxing gym near where we live and is a talented young athlete.

My whole life I’ve had a love of comedy, it has helped to keep me sane through the many difficult times I’ve had. Both my parents had a good sense of humour. Particular memories I have of my dad are of mucking about with him and my brother and sister after seeing some new comedy sketch on TV. Dad had loved the Goons when he was young, and used to let me stay up to watch Monty Python with him back in the 1970s. Comedy has enriched my, and my children’s lives, and I thank my dad for this today.

When I was younger my dad used to encourage me to use my brain, he would give me riddles to solve, I particularly remember a book of mazes he brought home for me, and how he enjoyed the fact that I was really good at them. My daughter loves puzzles and is great at solving problems. Dad also encouraged my love of maths from a young age. As I got older he would tell me about real life problems which he needed to solve at work and we discussed how to go about sorting them out. All of this has stood me in good stead in my career in computer science and academic management.

Working hard to achieve goals, leadership, love of cars, sport, music, comedy, solving riddles and puzzles. I have a lot to thank my Dad for. As you can see even though he was only around as a positive influence until I was 13 he made a deep impression on me which lives now through my life and career and those of my children and I’m sure will be felt through my grandchildren’s lives and other generations to come.

I give thanks today for my dad’s life and influence on me and my family.

May he rest in peace.”

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From Bletchley to Brexit – an utter disgrace

From 2008-2011 I ran the successful campaign to save Bletchley Park. As part of that campaign I met and got to know several of the codebreakers including Captain Jerry Roberts and Mavis Batey who was only 18 when she made major codebreaking breakthroughs. The work that was done by 10 thousand people at BP, 8000 of them young women shortened WW2 by 2 years saving 22 million lives. 10000 people working around the clock for years making sure that we can enjoy the freedom we have had all of our lives.

Bletchley Park to me epitomises what is best about Britain and the British. People from all different backgrounds coming together around a common cause, working for years, in secret, with no real personal reward or recognition for what they have done. Incredible people in incredible times. 

To me Brexit is the opposite of this. Brexit epitomises the worst of Britain and the British. People from privileged backgrounds seeking to manipulate others, to pit people against each other for their own personal gain. Selfish people creating a selfish atmosphere in selfish times.

At a time when other countries, like China for example are building infrastructure across the world with the Belt and Road programme, buying up land, building roads across Africa and Asia, lending large amounts of money to countries that possibly won’t be able to pay it back, we in the UK are showing the world quite clearly that we are unfit to be incredible pioneers as we once were, working en masse, working in collaboration with other countries, building the alliances that we have enjoyed up until now.

We are now operating in a global marketplace. There has never been so much opportunity in the world for us to create products and services that we can sell around the world. Technology is rapidly changing the way we connect with each other, the way we trade, the way we live our lives. It is creating social change through connecting us together with others that care about making change happen. #blacklivesmatter #metoo it’s incredible that through one word, one hashtag we can create global movements that are changing the world for the better, empowering people who previously had no voice.

Technology brings amazing opportunities for jobs, education, connections with people around the world to solve global challenges, but in the UK we  just look backwards and complain about how it’s taking away jobs.

In less than 100 years we’ve gone from seeing the best of British to the worst of British. I’m utterly ashamed of what’s happening here now with Brexit, to me it feels like the UK at a pivotal time in history with all the amazing opportunities that are out there, is committing suicide in front of the world. At a time when we should be joining together and collaborating with other countries to make the world a better place to live in for us all, we are throwing away opportunity under the lie of making Britain great again. What an utter disgrace.