Clare Sudbery, lead consultant developer at Thoughtworks, joins us at this year's Women of Silicon Roundabout event, where she will be treating attendees to a technical workshop, sharing some of the skills and experiences she has gained from over 18 years in the world of software engineering.
We asked Clare what attendees can expect to learn from her workshop in June, why women are crucial to the continued growth of the tech industry, and what her one piece of advice would be for her younger self.
Could you tell us a bit about the workshop you’ll be leading at this year’s Women of Silicon Roundabout?
It’s all about how to test software. There are lots of different ways to do this, and lots of factors to consider. The workshop aims to bring people together across all the different software roles and take an overview from a team perspective, explaining some of the terminology and issues involved in decision making.
What excites you the most about the tech industry right now?
I’m really excited about there being so much discussion around the issue of under-represented groups in tech. I’m loving all the clubs and scholarships springing up, with the aim of enticing women into tech.
I’m also excited by progressive web apps, and the promise they bring of device-independent software. And I find machine learning very exciting, as long as the ethical considerations are taken seriously.
Why are women so crucial to the continued growth of the tech industry?
Everybody is crucial. Diversity is crucial. Users of tech are as diverse as humanity is, and our industry should reflect that. Given that women are pretty much 50% of the earth’s working population, there is a vast reservoir of untapped potential right there. And it’s not just potential for humanity, it’s potential for women - to find new ways of achieving meaningful fulfilment in the workplace.
What, in your opinion and experience, are some of the most effective ways to bring about more diversity and inclusion in the workplace?
I believe that Agile and XP – particularly the practice of pair programming – when handled well, can make a big difference to the experience of under-represented groups - I wrote a paper on this topic for XP 2016.
But more generally, I think organisations need to have ongoing and explicit internal conversations: About how to behave in a way that allows and encourages everybody to be their authentic selves in the workplace. About how to create a working environment where people are never judged for being different. Part of this is about training people to be aware of their own implicit biases, without judgement, so that they can consciously counteract those biases when screening interviewees and advertising vacancies.
Did you have any role models growing up? How were they important to you in your career?
I think my most important role models can be split into two groups:
1) All the clever women in my family (my mother has a maths degree from Cambridge) who showed little interest in conforming to stereotypes. I think this allowed me to believe that women could be clever too, and that women did not have to behave as society expects. I think it’s difficult to overestimate how big an impact that had on my ability to pursue a career in tech without giving up.
2) All the strong funny angry women I have encountered as a political activist. Women fighting to make the world a better place, and not taking any nonsense. So many of them, arguing against people trying to tell them they should behave in a certain way. Not lying down. They have given me something to aim for whenever I’ve doubted myself or been faced with prejudice in any form.
If there was one piece of advice you could give your younger self, what would it be?
Never stop asking questions. Never believe you are stupid. Remember you can always learn new things, and lack of experience does not have to be something to hide or feel shame about. Never be afraid to take risks or learn new stuff, and most of all have as many adventures as you can.