What makes this conference valuable to me is that I get to be the dumbest person in most rooms. Because I am a brilliant and multi-talented (read: competent and capable) LKE, one of relatively few out there doing what I’m doing, I enter a lot of rooms as a bit of subject matter expert. People expect me to have answers to their questions. When you add to that that the LegalTech space can be a bit of an echo chamber that hasn’t got over its penchant for silos, its easy to loose touch with the real world. In that sense, events like this one can be really grounding, and at Women of Silicon Roundabout 2019, I got to learn a lot.
Women of Silicon Roundabout 2019 conference
So, a lot changed from 2018 to 2019. It was a lot bigger in every sense – there were more attendees, more stalls and more talks. There were a few changes that stood out.
It went mainstream
It sold out – and I don’t mean in terms of tickets. Last year, the attendees were blue-haired YoPros in jeans, anime tees and converse. This year, I think I spotted two people with unnatural coloured hair, and neither was predominantly blue. Instead, the demographic was professional women in their late 20s to mid 40s, largely middle managers.
The exhibitors leaned into the recruitment fayre
The conference floor was still a recruitment drive, but this time they had really leaned into it. Most people I spoke to weren’t in tech themselves – they were with the HR team – that or marketing. Sure, the companies they represented were tech companies, but you were very much talking to their PR people. Often, the people you were talking to didn’t really understand the jobs for which they were recruiting, which was disappointing. Given that I wasn’t job hunting, this made the floor even more tedious than last year. To add insult to injury, the swag was rubbish, too.
They added a legal clinic!
I was not the only legal person in attendance this year! Not only was there another person working in LawTech, but LexisNexis had a booth (though they fell into the trap above). Best of all, there was a legal clinic upstairs! There were lawyers there to give pro bono advice on everything from tax to employment to making your start up happen. It was an incredible idea, but woefully underutilised. I hope that, next year they give this better publicity, so people know to go prepared with their legal questions.
2019 saw even more talks than 2018. I am glad to report that they did venture beyond ‘come on girls, you can do it really.’ It was still there, but there was enough else that I could reasonably avoid it. This year, the talks were actually really valuable.
What I learnt
Data is queen, and long may she reign
I could have filled most of the conference just by attending talks on data. They covered everything from how to tell a convincing data story, to using your statistics effectively, to a master class in a specific piece of software. A good proportion of the overall turn out were Data Scientists of one sort or another, and so this time around I almost fit in.
Top Tip: think about your data as a story right from the start. Even though you probably don’t know how the story is going to end, considering the narrative you want to tell will help you gather the right data consistently.
Agile is here to stay
I’ve said before that Agile is the hot new toy in the playground this year. You can read my take on being agile and its impact on LKEs in other posts. What this event really drove home for me is that Agile isn’t just a theory, its a way of life – and a reality for most people working in tech these days. Even amongst the converts there are many versions, but if you want to work effectively with developers, you need a basic understanding of agile to understand the way they work.
Top Tip: don’t forget to be human. you are working with and for real people to build something that real people are going to use. If we lose sight of the human element, we’re bound to fail.
You don’t have to be a c-suite exec to get better at being asked difficult questions
I attended a great talk by Bridgid Nzekwu, the well-known journalist and ITV newsreader, on Media Training and PR Management. Now, the talk was aimed at founders and C-Suite execs, of which I’m neither, but I went along anyway because a) I don’t see why I shouldn’t have these skills just because I don’t need them right now, and b) if I were asked to do an interview I would panic, not because i don’t know what i’m talking about, but because I would be so far our of my comfort zone.
Now, I am some way from mastering Bridgid’s five step plan. But just by listening to her talk about what makes a good and bad interview has completely changed my perspective. Instead of being annoyed when John Humphries keeps on at his interviewee about whatever question he’s not getting answered, I think about how, if I were being interviewed, I might address his question in such a way as he will move on and I could also get my point across.
Top Tip: if you have the opportunity to attend these sorts of events, go to talks that are outside your comfort zone – that’s where you have the most to learn. Don’t let the fact you’re not the core, target audience exclude you from learning something new.