ALD Live

October 11, 2011 - Geekiness / Women in Computing

On Friday 7 October, BCSWomen and the organisers of Ada Lovelace Day put on a couple of events in London. The aim of these was to celebrate women in tech by having a women presenters doing lots of cool geeky stuff – this is the second blog post about the evening and you can read all about the Android dev stuff here.

In the evening of 7 October, the Ada Lovelace Day events really started to warm up. We sold out so there were 90 people there, and there was an amazing buzz right from the start. Lots of the daytime attendees had chosen to stay on which was great, whilst it made for a long day it was a really fun one.

There were 8 fantastic speakers on the night – that’s 7 doing short talks, and a truly hilarious compere in Kate Smurthwaite.

I tried to video some of Kate’s compering but it was too hard for me to pull it off with a borrowed hand-held video camera – when I got home & watched the few attempts I’d made, I realised I’d been laughing too much so all you could hear is my goofy guffaw, and all you can see is a shaky blurry image. You’ll just have to take my word for it that she’s really very very funny indeed, and go to see her live if you get the chance.

Then we had Maggie Philbin, yes, you read that right, MAGGIE PHILBIN OFF THE TELLY. I was so very very impressed with the work she’s doing, encouraging kids to think of technology and engineering, but to be 100% honest I was more impressed with the fact that I GOT TO MEET MAGGIE PHILBIN. I was a massive tomorrow’s world fan as a kid. I videoed her entire talk and she’s kindly let me put it up for you all to see.

Next up, Helen Keen talked about astronauts, space, and women. The Mercury 13 is a cul-de-sac of space history that involved women getting the same training and tests as male astronauts, back in the 1950s. You can find out more on the mercury 13 wikipedia page. Apparently there have been more dogs in space than women in space, although the women do tend to fare better than the dogs upon return.

Sue Black then spoke about Twitter, BCSWomen, Bletchley Park and the power of social media. I don’t actually need convincing of this, but if there was anyone in the audience who wasn’t on twitter they probably are now. Nice work, Sue. As an aside, I started this blog with a post about Sue back on ALD 2009 – she’s totally one of my tech heroines:-)

Sarah Pascoe followed with some stand up fun, less geeky than the speakers surrounding her but very funny indeed. I hadn’t realised the stuff about Essex and boob-jobs. Maybe you had to be there…

Gia Milinovich showed us some cool geeky crafty tech based around the lilypad Arduino; I’ve heard about this and seen Leah Beuchey talk on wearable tech and smart clothing but I’d never got that close to it all before. It’s a fascinating topic and one I’d really like to get more into; I’ve never really played with hardware other than cameras. Apparently you need to be able sew and to program in C to do cool stuff, so I am part way there and all I need to do is learn to sew:-)

Helen Arney sung some funny geeky songs, accompanied by her Ukelele. My video of Animals suffered from same issue as I’d had with Kate; the little flip cam doesn’t take good video if I’m convulsing with laughter whilst filming. Helen was one of the performers, but she was also one of the organisers. And it’s thanks to Helen that we had such an amazing lineup. Here’s Helen singing a song about cryogenics on the night:

And the final speaker was Maggie Aderin-Pocock who talked about space, Hubble, and how big things are, with slides of galaxies and the world outside. It was a bit like the total perspective vortex from Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy – finishing on a tour of the universe like that was pretty much designed to blow our minds!

To round off the evening there was booze & food & chatting (Networking, dahlings) in the Atrium at the BCS London offices. Many many thanks to Suw Charman-Anderson and Helen Arney for putting together such a fab lineup, and to Maggie Berry from for helping organise.


  1. Pam says:

    It sounds great!

    I hope to be there next year.

  2. gillian says:

    I chatted with Helen Arney afterwards and she was so chuffed with the event….she seems to want to do some more next year……that would be so brilliant if it happened…..and thanks to all the performers. We had a great night.

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