Sunday, 8 March 2020

International Women’s Day - Equal and Valued

Today is International Women's Day and the theme this year is #EachForEqual and on one post from the UK Army they used the tag equal and valued to demonstrate how they feel about women in the Forces.

I am equal and valued.

I have seen and experienced discrimination but not in my career. I have always found encouragement to succeed at whatever I have done. I have had lows in my career but even then others encouraged me to move forward. Much of that encouragement came from strong women but even more from men.

I am equal and valued.

Perhaps I have just worked for organisations that saw that value in women. 30 years ago, after having my daughter I worked for Gloucestershire County Council who had a recruitment drive called 'Women Hold Up Half the Sky', and introduced flexible working for mums way before it was mainstream. I was encouraged, publicly told that being a woman, with a child, was not a barrier to success or even being valued.

When we were taken over by CFM / ICL / Fujitsu, I continued to get the encouragement I needed to succeed, too many to mention but I would call out Graeme Bowmaker and the man at the top Duncan Tate who even on my last day was encouraging me.

I am equal and valued.

Being listened to and my thoughts valued has been the most encouragement I have received and two analysts have been key to that, Ray Wang and Dennis Howlett.

I am equal and valued.

Through my role in usergroups where I have had many ups and downs I have grown, and that has come from making a difference. Encouragement here has been from other leaders, Oracle themselves and feedback from users. Missing many but want to call out Cliff Godwin, Nadia Bendjedou, Jesper Anderson, Steve Miranda, John Schiff, Jeremy Ashley, Meg Bear and Misha Vaughan. Deserving a mention to herself is Fiona Martin who has encouraged me when all I saw was dark and I was at my lowest and now one of my closest friends.

I am equal and valued.

At Certus everyone was valued and an equal part of the success. Famously Mark Sweeny blogged about working mums being part of that formula. He and Tim Warner encouraged me every step of the way as I look to carve the role I wanted and knew was of value.

I am equal and valued.

The Oracle ACE program has been the catalyst for much of my success. Being recognised for what I do, and giving me the platform to share it. I tweeted at the end of last year about the women in the program and at apx 10% of the ACE Directors being women, we may not be equal in numbers but we are equal and valued to our peers. I cannot list those who have supported and encouraged me here, but you can find them all in this list. I will however call out Jennifer Nicholson who makes it all possible

Here is a video I was part at Oracle Open World last October on diversity and inclusion and thank you to Bob Rhubart who pulled all such content together to celebrate #IWD

I am equal and valued.

Accenture, my current employer is well in front on all things diversity and inclusion. We have a female CEO Julie Sweet, and an intent to have parity in our Managing Directors by 2025. I wrote just a few weeks ago about being included in their Insight program, and how whilst I appreciate the program am not sure that for me this was necessary to be all female.

For IWB Accenture hold many events and last year the one in London was amazing. Unfortunately this years fell victim to the Coronavirus but there was so much more going on.

Women who encourage me at Accenture is another long list but Lucia Jarrett, Fiona Clarke, Carrie Brennan and Cynthia Cauley who along with Meg Bear helped me drop the I'm not technical tag.

I am equal and valued.

Life isn't just about work, my spare time is about Scuba Diving and I can never stop thanking Dan Norris for persuading me to take it up, Graham Parmley and Brian Goldthorpe at Davy Jones Diving for making it happen. All men but the buddies I have had that encourage me have mainly be women and I have to mention Helena Zalewska my buddy at home. I hope she will still talk to me now she is poster child for Dive NI.

Last year Davy Jones did a women Day event and I was proud to be part of that. PADI today posted this on women who have made a difference in diving.

I am equal and valued.

So I am I am equal and valued, but I know it isn't the same for everyone. I need to pay that forward and I hope I do by encouraging others in their quest like the STEM talk last month.

I have missed so many people out of the mentions, probably because names are not a skill I have excelled in. I appreciate every single one of you that has made me who I am. I am equal and valued.

Sunday, 1 March 2020

The Joy of a STEM Ambassador

I signed up to be a STEM Ambassador, when I learnt about Bloodhound and how it was 'to inspire a generation'. My thoughts on Women in IT are well known, we will reach parity when girls see technology as a career path for them. It is our job to encourage young people to think of technology as a career not just what drives their phone, or their Xbox. 

The process for STEM ambassadors in the UK, is a series of local hubs, who arrange vetting and training and then encourage you through opportunities to be a local ambassador. For me in N Ireland the local hub is in Belfast at W5, however despite wanting to help, most opportunities there have been when I have been travelling or in London. 

But last Friday, that changed and I did my first careers talk in Coláiste Feirste an Irish language school in Belfast, and once I had checked my lack of Irish wasn't a barrier I signed up.

The building is amazing, it is built around an 18th Century Home of the Riddell family, and we had the careers sessions in the library which used to be the chapel.

The children were all about 13 / 14 and the format of the day was speed dating. There were about 8 ambassadors representing different STEM careers and each group of children spoke to each of us for 5 minutes. These students already have an advantage, they speak two languages fluently, and I tried to make that real for them.

They had a list of suggested questions, ' What do you like most / least? What qualifications do you need?' etc, but a common one not on the list was 'how much are you paid?'. The most common question, 'how did you get into your career?', as it was first on the list, even got asked twice on more than one occasion. The ability to pretend you are listening hasn't reached them yet, but in the main they were engaged and wanted to hear our stories. 

You need to make it relevant to then. Their smartphones didn't exist when they were born, so I got them to imagine poor me, starting in technology when they had only been computers in places like NASA when I was their age. 

The question about what did I not like, I thought I had solved. I asked them what it was like when the apps on their phones didn't work. Interestingly no boy admitted to ever having a problem, except with an Xbox. I forgot this is the generation that simply figures things out. (side story, I had problems with an underwater camera on a scuba trip once. no google available at sea so I asked if anyone else had the same camera. The youngest person on the boat said she would fix it. She told me she didn't have the camera but was from the generation........... DID I FEEL OLD!!!

The day went very quickly and I really enjoyed it. I hope it helped the students.  Accenture encourages things like this and the opportunity to encourage all people to use and love technology, makes me happy.

2020 -Oracle Open World Europe

Oracle Open World Europe is growing, this year it was back in London and Accenture were again a top sponsor.

I had the privilege of working with Tim Warner on our Solution Keynote session for HCM. 

Our session was:

Unlocking the Value of Continuous Innovation in Your HCM Investment
Oracle SaaS delivers innovation every quarter, from small enhancements to new modules. Learning, Recruitment and Digital Assistants are just some of the big ticket items we have seen recently. In this session, hear how Human Capital Management has become a driver for many companies as advances in technology have changed the way enterprises consider hiring, staffing, development and retention and more importantly hear from our clients what Oracle HCM delivers for them and what their plans for unlocking more of the value is.
On the main stage
We wanted to bring customers on stage, representing multiple countries and industries and this was achieved with help from:

Tobias Schellhaas, VP HR DATA MANAGEMENT, Deutsche Post AG
Iain Elvin, Head of Oracle Systems, HM Treasury
Giuseppe Castelli, CORPORATE HR DIRECTOR, Mapei
Koen Mols, HR Excellence Program Lead, ArcelorMittal Europe
On the day Tobias was unable to join us, but Nigel Watson, who has moved into this project from DHL Supply Chain. Nigel is no stranger, we worked with him on the first project and spoke together at Oracle Open World in San Francisco 2017.

Last year, one of the most impressive things I saw at Accenture, was how our CTO publishes 5 as part of the Accenture Technology Vision. Then this is drilled into by each industry and platform, including Oracle. 

The 2020 Accenture Technology Vision has been published since #OOWLON but we looked at the Human+ Worker trend from last year's vision. 

Our customers shared how @OracleHCM helped them unlock their investments and make their workforce more effective. The presentation including all the document links can be downloaded at here.

Tim and I  - we were spotted!
The sessions were mainly in the exhibition hall with the audience wearing headphones. It was better technology than at #OOWSFO but still a bit weird, it does stop the session being as interactive as I would like. Tim and I were scouting around earlier in the day, and were spotted by someone in an earlier session. You can't hide anywhere!

I really enjoyed the session and although the logistics could always get a little better, we got our message across and I had lots of really good customer conversations as a result.

It was also good to see a lot of customers in the audience I have been involved in their cloud projects. I love my job!

The Accenture stand had lots of visitors and I was really pleased to see MyConcerto and our interactive music game. Not because I am any good at it, I'm not. When I was 5th on the leader board you can guarantee no more than 5 people had had a go! MyConcerto is such a differentiator for Accenture, making sense of both the the sales process and delivery. Bringing everything together in a single platform.

Still no better at the Accenture MyConcerto Interactive Game

My great colleague, friend and fellow ACE Director, Julian Dontcheff, also spoke, sharing our research into the Oracle Autonomous Database.

Julian Dontcheff, always the smartest presenter

I was so busy at #OOWLON my twitter was almost no existent but luckily my colleagues were on hand to ensure I was still visible. Thank you Steven De Vlieger for this video, I loved it.

As well as past and present, and hopefully new customers, events are a great place to catch up with friends. Day one was my busy day and I had hoped to do my catching up on day 2, but I was taken ill later in the day and actually ignored some people. I spent the weekend in bed, so I apologise to anyone who got a short or even no response from me. For those I did catch up with, it was great.

Meeting with friends, Super Sai from AIOUG

So #OOWLON was hectic but fun, and it will be back next year. I'll be there, will you?

Loving my job

Friday, 21 February 2020

Being Encouraged - but does it need to be as a woman?

I am a lucky person, I have just celebrated reaching 58 and I'm not ready for retirement yet.

I found being 55 very liberating. I could retire if I wanted to. I told myself I would continue to work whilst I was enjoying what I did, but I didn't see myself looking for anything new.

At that time I worked for Certus and loved it. I love Mark and Tim and the team they had built up at Certus, and I loved our customers. There was no shortage of projects and I loved the diversity. I spent much time advocating Oracle as an ACE Director and that included the privilege and opportunities to speak around the world. 

Certus was acquired by Accenture almost 2 years ago, although we didn't transfer across for another six months. I posted a blog when I reached the one year point and it is funny to read that back now. It has got easier, but I still get lost, not just in the processes, I spent 15 minutes looking for a specific room this morning in London!

I have been through the first appraisal process and it was more successful that I thought it might be. Despite having a well met target of failing more policies than most people know existed, I have delivered value to the organisation and it is recognised. For me that recognition and opportunity is more important than the tangible benefits.

Then just before Christmas I discovered I had been nominated as one of a pool of talent at my grade, to be coached for the next level. Accenture held a 3 day workshop last week in their Madrid Learning Centre to kick of this 'Insight Program'. Recognising how we got there, what is required of us and then beginning the journey to promotion, through skills, encouragement and building a network of peers.

A lot of work had gone on to put us into teams of similar roles and I found it refreshing to be in a group of strong personalities all working in technology applications. I was the only Oracle expert but we all complimentary skills. We will stay in these informal groups for 9 months as we are encouraged to create and own our plans to succeed.

What makes this program unique is that it was for women. I was sceptical at first, if I am going to be promoted, it needs to be because I am the right person, not to fill a quota or for positive discrimination. Day One quelled many of those fears, we were encouraged by successful women who have made the journey before us, sharing their stories, which I suspect would not have been as honest had it been a mixed audience. We looked at the barriers we believe we have to achieving what our organisation thinks we are capable of, and looked at the phycology behind that and strategies fro overcoming them. It was a very encouraging and a very valuable day.

Day two, looked more at the skills we would need in the next role and here I was less convinced. I understand why a diverse workforce is more valuable, and this is what is being promoted. However for example, one workshop was about financial decision making and impact on the business, we worked through a gamification workshop in our groups and it was a lot of fun and very competitive. However by excluding men it wasn't representative of the diverse workshop it was striving to promote.

I was unable to stay to day 3 as I had to run back to London to speak at #OOWLON but I would have preferred perhaps day one restricted to women, remove their perceived barriers and encourage them, and then do the skills workshops as a mixed cohort.

Having said that, I am very honoured to have been selected and look forward to the rest of the program with my Team 23 colleagues and thank those who believe in me. 

My lovely colleagues from around Europe and LATAM, I am not in photo as I had left by then.

Thankyou Accenture for the investment in your talent.

Saturday, 21 December 2019

2019 Sangam - My Thoughts on the conference

My third trip to India and the best yet. Thank you Super Sai for inviting me and the ACE program for the sponsorship.

Sai asked me to speak at Sangam, and told me he wanted something different. He wanted me to cover to SaaS announcements from Oracle Open World and after some discussion we agreed on 'What I had learnt from SaaS customers'.

I travelled to Sangam with Alex Nuijten and Roel Hartman, direct from UKOUG Techfest. It was a good journey although we arrived very early in Hyderabad, which was good for the traffic.

The conference centre was amazing, I loved these mixed use venues. Next to us were several weddings over the 3 days and if you have never seen the excitement of an Indian wedding, make that your resolution for 2020.

Traffic is bad in India, I may have said that before, and is one of the reasons the days are so long at the conference. They pack 3 days of content into two 12 hour days.

I started this with a mention of 'Super Sai' - Sai Penumuru,  he is unbelievable. for the past couple of years he has been living in the UK and yet still runs this growing community like clockwork. he doesn't do it on his own, he has an army of volunteers, but you need a great leader, and he fits that bill perfectly.

The event is well supported with speakers from both Oracle and the ACE Program and Sai certainly makes us work for our supper (and boy, is the food good). There were several panel sessions I took part in and even facilitated the same session as at Code One“Embracing Constant Technical Innovation in Our Daily Life”.

My session on OOW was really just a pathfinder session, what I found important and lots of links to videos and based on my blog at the time.

What I learnt from customers was more interactive and I loved it. Just before the event when I was trying to make sense of my thoughts Martin Widlake blogged about how presentations shouldn't be based on a formula, a challenge I felt so organised my presentation as a list of 'C's'. It was great, lots of questions and validation of what a lot of people were thinking.

Jim Grisanzio from Oracle recorded my thoughts on this and the ACE program, quite long but I think worth a watch.

A big objective this year was to encourage the local Oracle community to engage with the ACE community, or rather step up and be part fo it. There are great knowledge sharers in India who just need some encouragement. We had a full room of people who wanted to know more about the program so I hope this will bear fruit.

I also attended their WIT session with Jenny Tsai from Oracle. It was great to hear both men and women encouraging each other.

The All India Oracle User Group is excellent, and they have posted a video of memories. It was such fun. I have every intention of going again.

After the event Sai had arranged some sight seeing and we had the great Rao as our tour guide and photographer. We got to see Golconda Fort, Qutb Shahi Tombs and Charminar in Hyderabad City.

All too soon it was over and the three of us left for our return journey.

All Change at the Top

The last 15 months have been full of change on the board at Oracle.

Thomas Kurian, who I much admire, left to go to Google.

Mark Hurd, after a long illness, sadly passed away in October.

Larry Ellison hinted that a replacement would be an internal appointment but I was hoping for an external hire and was pleased to see the announcement of Vishal Sikka being appointed.

Latest is Safra Catz being confirmed as the sole CEO, (she previously shared this with Mark).

There will be lots of changes, there is no point changing your board for everything to stay the same.

So I look forward to 2020 to see what it brings in the Oracle world, although I'm not a fan of moving Oracle Open World.

Monday, 18 November 2019

2019 SAOUG - Next Generation

I have always been interested in the Next Generation for our industry.

I love what Oracle do in their Academy, and with UKOUG tried a few initiatives, including free student places at this year's techfest and early this year tried something really different with a university in Australia.

This week at SAOUG I came across another initiative for the next generation and I loved it.

The Oracle cloud graduate program within South Africa gives graduates the opportunity to do oracle training and find a placement with a partner who gives them real work to do.

Ahmed from Edge, The Graduates and Sean Amm from SAOUG

The SAOUG worked with one of those partners, Edge to bring 6 of their placements to the conference.

What an amazing initiative.

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