The Dot Project is at WebSummit in the vibrant city of Lisbon this week. WebSummit is known as the largest tech summit in the world with over 65,000 people flocking to the city to showcase the latest technology trends and products. Earlier this year tickets went on sale specifically for ‘Women in Tech’ providing an accessible price for women in technology roles. We’re keeping track of our main highlights in this day by day blog post, follow us on twitter (@dotprojectco) and Instagram (@catainsworth) for more updates:
Day 1 (Monday 6th November)
Women in Tech for Good
After a successful gender diversity event in Bath we thought we’d bring Tech for Good to Lisbon since at the moment there is no meetup in this city. One of the core aims of the Tech for Good movement is to organically grow the global community through locally led meetup groups, bringing together individuals who are interested in using technology to achieve social impact. Our meetup brought together 25 women working in diverse areas such as ethical fashion, virtual reality for peacebuilding, research and product design. We are so pleased that this meetup has inspired an application to Netsquared for a Tech for Good meetup in Lisbon so hopefully that will be launching soon!
We can make the difference
We were lucky to receive tickets to the opening night of the event and the speakers were amazing. The lack of women represented both on the speaker lineup and in the Lisbon startups who took to the stage was noticeable (a goal for next time) but Margrethe Vestager (European Commissioner for Competition) gave an inspiring talk on the challenges and opportunities for technology competition in Europe reminding us that:
“When you grow you shouldn’t deny others to challenge you as this inspires further innovation” Margrethe Vestager, WebSummit 2017.
It was an honour to see Steven Hawking take the stage to talk on the topic of artificial intelligence and the role we play in ensuring that AI is harnessed for positive change and evolution. Hawking encouraged us to acknowledge that embracing AI requires an openness to accept the unknown and be ready for the unexpected since:
“We can not predict what we can achieve when our minds are enhanced by artificial intelligence” Steven Hawking, WebSummit 2017.
For me (Cat) seeing Antonio Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations, take to the stage was an exciting moment. I first worked for the UN around 7 years ago, when we barely talked about the potential for technology for solving the worlds most complex problems. Now it feels like the beginning of a new chapter of social responsibility and change when the leader of the United Nations insists that:
“The development of technology can, and should, be a force for good” Antonio Guterres, WebSummit 2017.
The message from the openning night was clear – we the people have the potential to make positive and lasting change. To do this we must collaborate and be aware of the potential risks and failures our initiatives may encounter. Most importantly it’s about responding in a human way to ensure we are using technology most effectively, just as Margrethe Vestager so succinctly said:
“Society is about people, not technology” Margrethe Vestager, WebSummit 2017.
Day 2 (Tuesday 7th November)
After a refreshing run round the hills of the city we spent most of the day in Planet: tech. This area of the conference brings together the world’s leading startups, business giants, and influencers from the fields of sustainability, environmental tech and tech for social impact.
Exploring the world today
It was an absolute privellege to start the day listening to Alexandra Cousteau, film-maker, explorer and environmental activist. Inspired by her father and grand-father Alexandra has been a pioneer in sustainable management of ocean and water resources for a healthy planet and productive societies.
I can honestly say that during her short time on stage she dramatically shifted the way I will see the world and planet earth in the future. Alexandra believes strongly that we must change the stories that we tell about the future of our environment. She has seen first hand how damaging and overwhelming it can be to speak about damage to the environment in a negative way. Instead she champions storytelling which provides a vision and aspiration for the future, so that we are motivated to work towards that future and make changes, however small, to the way we treat the environment.
“Live your life to have impact in order to make the world a better place for your children” Alexandra Cousteau, WebSummit 2017
Jon Bowermaster asked the question “What does exploration look like today?”, the response:
“Exploration of ideas is the next frontier” Alexandra Cousteau, WebSummit 2017
Women in Tech lounge
As part of the Summit there is a Women in Tech lounge where mentors, champions and advocates for women in tech can gather. This is a place for both men and women to talk about the challenges and opportunities of diversity in technology. This years lounge was run by Booking.com who were asking attendees to share their opinions:
So far it is emerging that people feel the technology industry is more exclusive than inclusive. We feel that this can, and should be changed, so we’ll be thinking about how this can be achieved in our local region in the UK.
One initiative which is focusing on proactively changing perceptions and attitudes towards women in technology is Imaginify. We met them to discuss our experiences and perspectives on being a woman in tech as part of their research to understand challenges and barriers. The Imaginify message is clear:
Be brave and be brilliant
Building stronger communities
We met with a small inspiring group who are interested in using technology to improve the lives of refugees. All of the initiatives round the table are at an early stage in their journey but the energy and passion to make a lasting and sustainable change was very clear. Everyone expressed a vision to build stronger, more resilient and more open communities in the UK and beyond. Gemma Mortensen from the More in Common initiatives shared updates on recent research carried out across Europe which will hopefully be informed to develop practical approaches at the community level. There is a huge potential for transformative change at the community level so we’re keen to see how these ideas progress moving forwards.
Day 3 (Wednesday November 8th)
With over 65,000 people in an already vivacious city the energy in Lisbon has been electric over the past few days. We were looking forward to heading back into the conference after a good breakfast to keep us on our feet all day!
Our perceptions of politicians
During the conference a number of speakers from the USA felt compelled to personally apologise for the election of Donald Trump to the White House. Meanwhile, in light of recent discoveries, in the UK there’s been an unexpected cabinet reshuffle as certain MPs resign. The state of politics is being described as turbulent and whilst this is not the place for in-depth political review it’s impossible to separate technology and politics completely.
Technology has the power, if used appropriately, to create large scale change. Therefore it makes sense that those working in the technology sector influence and share information with leading politicians and political parties to ensure technology is used as a force for good. And yet, when asked the question ‘What is the biggest threat to our planet?’ the opinion of WebSummit attendees is emerging as follows:
It seems that when we talk about political change, what we actually want is politicians to change. Where’s the catalyst for this change? Within the next generation of citizens.
Collaboration, identity and empathy
On centre stage Jemima Kiss interviewed Stewart Butterfield, co-founder and CEO of Slack. At The Dot Project we absolutely love Slack. We work best as a partnership, our complementary skills and natural way of working is a very good fit. However I (Cat) currently live in Scotland whilst Annie lives in Bath and often our daily schedules mean that we’re not sitting behind a computer everyday from 9 – 5. It’s important for us to maintain regular dialogue as this is where our best ideas come from so Slack allows us to do this no matter where we are in the world.
Jemima observed that core values of Slack seem to be collaboration, identity and empathy. Stewart explained that these values are core to building a strong foundation of trust and belonging. This really resonates with us as we believe that integrating empathy throughout our approach will lead to better working relationships and ultimately better impact.
“We are the last generation of human beings to know life without the internet” Stewart Butterfield, WebSummit 2017
A safer world
Do you know what happened on 12th May 2017? 100 countries were hit by a huge security attack, 100 countries within 24 hours. The trigger for this attack was not a gun, it was an innocent looking link within an email which, when opened, wreaked havoc across the globe. Brad Smith, Microsoft President and CLO, rallied the crowd on centre stage to build a more secure planet by calling on governments and world leaders to establish a ‘Digital’ Geneva Convention. By using neutrality and a sense of empathy we have the power to use our voice to ensure governments and citizens are accountable and responsible in the digital age.
“Cyber security needs to be a great cause to make the planet a safer place” Brad Smith, WebSummit 2017
In the evening we headed to the Female Leadership: Cooperation, Purpose & Impact event run by the Newmanity Project. Filipa Larangeira moderated a brilliant panel of women from diverse backgrounds sharing their personal stories and advice. It’s impossible to convey the energy and passion present in the room last night so here’s a few key quotes from the panelists:
It’s important to have courage, don’t shy away from male only groups go and join them. In order to see more female voices on stage and advocating for women in technology WE need to lead that change, be the missing role models – Daria Vodopianova, WebSummit 2017
My business partner is male and we work very well together, he values my intelligence and experience which is hugely empowering – Cathy Skinner, WebSummit 2017
Surround yourself with people who empower you. Who encourage you to be the best version of yourself – Carolina Cruz, WebSummit 2017
I worry about not being good enough, not being a good mum and how to balance work with family life. But I know I am strong, incredibly strong, having a child has taught me this so I do believe I can achieve – Elena Kolevska, WebSummit 2017
Relationships with my clients are very important, I build relationships by not only talking about the work but also understanding what my client enjoys, what they are passionate about, this leads to a richer conversation and much better work – Jocelyn Mandryk, WebSummit 2017
Start with yourself, you will not achieve your full potential until you love yourself thoroughly. This might take time but it is so important to shaping a positive future – Filipa Larangeira, WebSummit 2017