computing

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

 

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”.

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.

This is why I do what I do, empowering #womenintech is so important

Please see below email just received today, I have anonymised it and its not related to these lovely ladies in the photo.  I get lots of email/messages like this all the time. We must provide more opportunities for #womenintech.

 

***

Dear Sue

Firstly, I know you are incredibly busy so I definitely do not want to take up too much of your time. I’ll try and be as succinct as possible!

I was looking to see if you could advise me on retraining as a software developer and if there are any schemes, grants, bursaries available. I am a single parent of 3 and left an abusive relationship (my children’s father) just over a year ago. Whilst I have a degree in xxxxxx, I work as a xxxxxxxxxxx in the voluntary sector- which is neither well paid or guaranteed. I am currently renting and with maintenance money not being provided, huge childcare costs and soaring rent rates, myself and my children are incredibly vulnerable. I recognise that it is up to me to do something about this and I am nothing but determined.

A friend suggested coding, the past two weeks I have spent my evening having a go at small intro courses to java and python. to my surprise I was able to complete the tasks and enjoyed them! I understand these were just introductions- and by no means do I think this is coding! Nevertheless I would really like to retrain in software development. I have no savings, and realistically can’t take time out- unless I get some funding- in order to retrain.

There is a 16 week full time coding course running in xxxxxxxxx (where I Live which I have been recommend) It begins in February 2019 and I would really like to join it. I applied for a career development loan but my credit rating was not good enough to qualify.

I wondered if you could advice of any funding that may be open to me? Or just general advice of courses or options that you know of?

I also just wanted to say that you are an amazing woman, who is so inspiring to so many people. It’s a joy to listen to you on Late night Women’s hour and other podcasts.

Many Thanks and warmest wishes

XXXXXXX

 

The two Sue Blacks!!

I was delighted to finally meet the “other Sue Black” a few months ago at Dundee University ❤️ we’ve known each other for years online but never met in person until Sue invited me up to Dundee as a digital expert.

We are often mistaken for each other, I’m a computer scientist and Sue is a forensic scientist, and congratulated for each other’s work 🤣

It was so wonderful to meet, I’m really looking forward to next time.

Turbo charge your career #womenintech mastermind

Turbo charge your career!

I’m always being asked for advice on how to approach particular situations at work/university/college particularly by women and particularly in the tech sector. I want to help as many people as possible so I thought “Why not set up an online group where I can help more people get to where they want to go more quickly?”

So that’s what I’m going to do!

#comingsoon I’m starting a #womenintech Mastermind featuring an online discussion group, webinars, advice sessions, one to one mentoring and a lot more. Add your email here if you are interested:

tinyurl.com/DrBMaster

Talk to you soon!

#tech #mentoring #careergoals #careeradvice #gettingpromoted #skillsshortage #technology

Honorary Doctorate from Royal College of Art presented by Jony Ive

I had a wonderful time today receiving an honorary doctorate from the Royal College of Art ❤️🙏❤️

Massive congratulations to all students graduating today at TheAlbertHall and my fellow honorands Siobhán Davies and Peter Gabriel

#RCAconvocation #lifegoals @siobhandavies #petergabriel

30 years ago I escaped from a violent marriage… #DV

www.youtube.com/watch

30 years ago I escaped from a violent marriage, I ran down the road with my 3 small kids + a suitcase of nappies.

I rebuilt my life after 6m in a @WomensAid refuge, went back to school, changing my/my family’s lives forever. Here’s some of the story…