With Maggie Philbin, radio and television presenter

With Maggie Philbin, radio and television presenter












A few weeks ago, I was a panelist on the topic of women in tech, at the BBC. There were three panelists and then chairing it all was Maggie Philbin, who has a long history as a science and technology presenter at the BBC and now also runs TeenTech. She graciously let me get a picture with her after the event! I posted it on Facebook and got a deluge of positive responses and questions, online and in real life. Such as:

When will it be broadcast?

The panel was for a BBC internal staff development event called DigiCon week, during which BBC employees organised various knowledge sharing activities, which sometimes involved external people like me. It was recorded purely for internal distribution, they assured me, and is not going to be broadcast. Since it was my first speaking engagement and I was very nervous, I’m actually quite glad about that.

How did it come about?

The organiser put out a call for panelists on a mailing list I’m on. I did not volunteer, and so that would have been the end of that. My manager at my last job, however, responded with a list of suggested speakers, and included me on it. Fast forward a few months, and I received an email inviting me to be on the panel. With the opportunity having dropped into my lap, I promptly accepted and then spent the next few days alternately terrified and in denial about what I had just gotten myself into.

How did you have time?

The first term, called Michaelmas at the University of Cambridge, is packed with required courses. We have class from 9-12:30 and 2-5:30, with a short coffee break in the middle of each session. Even putting aside the attendance policy, you don’t want to miss class because the pace and amount of material covered is significant. Happily, this panel was scheduled for a Friday when we only had small-group career sessions, so I could easily arrange mine to accommodate a day trip to London.

What did you talk about?

An hour flies by, and I think we all felt there were points we didn’t have time to even touch on. Panels are interesting because you bring your own experiences and opinions, and, if all goes well, you also learn from the other panelists and the audience. The panelists were all women in tech, and we had vigorous discussions on single-sex education, quotas in hiring, and #gamergate, among other topics. When we did our intros, I talked about how my career as a web developer started, which was very much by chance. Vocalising that, combined with things heard around Cambridge Judge Business School, has gotten me thinking more about luck in careers (and in life), specifically how important it is, and how to maximise it for ourselves and others. Watch this space!

Has it changed anything?

My husband and I had this little exchange after I went to a tech recruitment event just a few days ago:

Him: “Tell me about the panel. Were you on it?”

Me: “Oh no, I was just an attendee.”

Him: “Well, I can’t always tell these days!”

He was half-joking, but there’s something to it. At a recent career event, I talked to an MBA alum about his Cambridge Judge experience. He said it wasn’t any one big epiphany that happened, but a number of small shifts so that at the end of it, you look back and see that you’re different, but it’s hard to pinpoint exactly how. I think I’m starting to feel that too.