Inspiring Women in Tech: Ada Lovelace, first Computer Programmer

Another worthy addition to our blog series on Inspirational Women in Tech, today we focus on Ada Lovelace – as today is  Ada Lovelace Day, which was started in Britain in 2009 as part of #DayoftheGirl. At Akoni we are inspired by women in technology and hope to see more women enter the sector drive innovation – just as she did.

Rejected at birth by her father, the famous poet, Lord Byron, who was only interested in being a father to a son, the one-month-old Augusta Ada Byron was whisked away to her maternal grandmother’s home in Kirkby Mallory, by her mother, Anne Isabella Milbanke.

There, she was largely brought up by her maternal grandmother, Lady Milbanke, who doted on her. The young Lovelace was encouraged to pursue her love of science and mathematics by her mother, as it countered the “insanity” that she had potentially inherited from father.

The young child was fragile, even suffering a bout of measles which left her paralysed and bedridden for an extended period of time. During her recovery period, the young Ada decided that she wanted to invent a way of flying. The twelve year old Ada went about this task with a clear and systematic plan. She investigated the construction of wings, studying the anatomy of birds, exploring different materials (oilsilk, wires and feathers) to build these out of – drawing on her mathematical skills to calculate the right proportions. Steam would be used in the final stage. Ada produced a fully illustrated book, “Flyology” which mapped out the entire project, illustrating her findings and inventions with plates. Perhaps she told Babbage about this production – he used to affectionately refer to her as “Lady Fairy”. She was clearly an individual, not afraid to go against the grain from the start.

Her tutors in mathematics and science included some of the best brain around – William Frend, William King, Augustus De Morgan and Mary Somerville. De Morgan said that she was “an original mathematical investigator, perhaps of first-rate eminence“. It was Mary Somerville, who became a great friend to Ada, that introduced her to Charles Babbage, a mathematician, philosopher, mechanical engineer, inventor of the concept of a programmable computer.

Babbage introduced her to his prototype machine – the Difference Engine, which entranced her. Impressed by Lovelace’s mathematical and analytical abilities, he asked her to translate the Italian mathematician Luigi Menabrea’s article on his latest machine – his Analytical Engine.

In her extensive notes on the article, Lovelace emphasised the difference between this machine and previous calculating machines – regarding this latest machine as a breakthrough, with massive potential because of its ability to be programmed to solve problems of any complexity.

Her notes also included, in great detail, a method for calculating a sequence of Bernoulli numbers using the Analytical Engine – which could have run correctly if it had been built. Based on this algorithm, Ada Lovelace is now widely considered the first computer programmer, and her method is recognised as the world’s first computer programme.

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Portrait of Ada by Margaret Sarah Carpenter 1836

Lovelace held imagination and intuition in high regard, integrating them into her scientific and mathematical explorations and concepts. Her “poetical science” led her to ask human questions – “basic assumptions” about the Analytical Engine and future inventions – how society and individuals would relate to technology as a tool.  She valued metaphysics as much as mathematics, viewing both as tools for exploring “the unseen worlds around us”.

The remarkable Augusta Ada King-Noel, Countess of Lovelace (née Byron), died of uterine cancer in 1852 at the age of 36, leaving behind three children and her husband, William King-Noel, 1st Earl of Lovelace. 

Lovelace’s astonishing intelligence, her original thought and the fact that she accomplished so much in an era when women were not given much credibility or voice was remarkable. Her self-belief from an early age is exactly what many young girls need more of today – a value that the Akoni team admire and encourage.

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Women on Top: Positive Effects on Business

Democrat candidate for the US presidency, Hillary Clinton, has said in the past that she wants to be known as the “Small Business President”. During her impressive performance on Monday’s extraordinary Presidential Debate, she made it clear that she was determined to make to small business a priority, should she be elected to office. Clinton vowed to make “starting a small business in the United States as easy as opening a lemonade stand”, which certainly spoke to a wide economic sector and a significant voting body.

Clinton has a personal affinity with the small business owner, afterall, her father was one. He owned as small printing business, and it provided for the family. “ When my dad ran his small printing business—he printed drapery fabrics in Chicago—it put food on the table; it gave us a good, solid, middle-class home and lifestyle. And I don’t think it’s old-fashioned to say that’s what I want for every family that wants to work for that here in our country today.”

If she takes over the reigns from Obama, Hillary Clinton’s strategy for promoting the growth and support of small business in the USA will be made up of several exciting features, many of which the UK government can relate to. (see http://www. great business.gov.uk/).

Her strategy includes, briefly: more accessible funding; streamlining the process of the licensing startups; revising taxes for small business; and incentivising healthcare benefits for small business employees; opening up new markets and promoting trade; providing recourse for small businesses that get “stiffed” – or aren’t paid by their dues (Trump is famous for not paying his contractors); by providing incubators and training and support for business owners; and making the government more user-friendly, making a 24-hour response time to small businesses with questions about federal regulations and access to capital programs, standard.

Back on this side of the ocean, Theresa May has been vocal in her support of small business since becoming the UK PM. She recognises that Britain’s 5.4 million small and medium sized businesses provide people with jobs, put food on families’ tables and underpin the strength of our economy and listening to, and working with smaller firms is the answer to building an economy.

Like Clinton, May is keen to promote the global expansion of UK small business elsewhere, and Brexit provides UK small business with a golden opportunity to do just this. “I also want those firms, across all the sectors of our economy, to be able to take advantage of the opportunities presented by Brexit, such as exporting to new destinations.”

The British Prime Minister has recently disbanded the business advisory group, which was set up by Cameron during the 2010 coalition, with a view to making the body more representative. The new members, Number 10 has said, will come from business big and small. This is another example of May showing her support of SMEs, and has been welcomed by small business leaders including the Federation of Small Businesses, saying that they hope for a larger voice now that the Brexit negotiations are taking place.

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Strong women at the top (l – r, above – below): Scotland’s Nicola Sturgeon, UK PM Theresa May, Angela Merkel, PM of Germany and US Presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton. (Pic source: http://atlanticsentinel.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Nicola-Sturgeon-Theresa-May-Angela-Merkel-Hillary-Clinton.jpg)

According to a recent new study, a third of British women in business have felt that they had been positively affected by strong women leaders. Clinton, along with PM Theresa May, Scotland’s Nicola Sturgeon and Germany’s adept Angela Merkel, amongst others, are having a marked effect on women worldwide – and on business in the UK. Crunch’s operations director, Justine Cobb, said “It’s fascinating to see that the female business community in the UK is feeling buoyed by the rise in female political leaders.”

This group of political heroines are leading by example and this is translating into economic growth in the UK. Backed up by the data collected, Crunch found that the number of women starting their own businesses had grown 42 per cent since 2010, and almost a third of all the new businesses are now founded by women. Obviously, a third is still someway to half, but at least the progress is in an upward direction.

In times of economic uncertainty, it is clear to see how valuable competent role models are, and how they can become catalysts for change in society. With inspired examples of what is possible in one’s sight, it is easier to set positive changes in our personal lives motion. The sooner that female leadership is normalised in society, the better for young girls around the world. Let’s hope that the “Small Business President” becomes just that. The small business community is watching the race for the Oval Office in hope – and with bated breath.

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Andy Murray: Tech Startup Champion

Winning gold for the second time at the Rio Olympics has cemented the Team Great Britain hero’s place in the annuls of sporting icons. The current reigning men’s senior singles Wimbledon champion, has a string of tennis titles to his name, 39 to be precise. He has recently added a title of another kind to his name: that of Advisor in the business of tech startups.

Even if his flag-bearing skills are in question, (and please forgive me, I couldn’t resist including this clip) his business skills certainly aren’t.

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Being a wily Scotsman, Andy Murray (@Andy_Murray) is putting his talent for spotting opportunity to work – only this time it’s off the court – by investing in tech.

“Giving recognition and support to British entrepreneurs is really important to me, especially those who are the driving force behind growth-focused businesses,” Murray said in a statement.

“Every one of these entrepreneurs is passionate and dedicated to succeeding and I’m excited to have invested in their future growth.”

His talent for investing in tech startups has cemented a long-term relationship with Seedrs, where he is an advises on areas of strategic interest, as well as being an active investor himself. The Seedrs platform allows people to invest upwards of £10,000 into companies that they like the look of in exchange for equity.

Murray has invested in fifteen startups to date – with focuses as wide ranging as a dog-tracking GPS device (Dog Tracker Nano), to Beeline – a GPS navigating device and app for cyclists to beauty – blow LTD – a London-based beauty on demand service.

“Andy is a great example of an investor who understands early stage investment and the importance of building a diverse investment portfolio aligned with a wider investment strategy. Seedrs was named the most active investor in private companies in the UK last month, and our continued growth and leading position in the market are testament to our reputation and the support from people like Andy,” said Jeff Lynn, CEO and Co-founder of Seedrs.

If his tennis career is anything to go by, this man is bound to succeed.

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http://businesslife.ba.com/Media/images

He’s been in the game since the tender age of 3, when his mother, Judy, would take him to their local tennis courts in Glasgow. He played in his first competitive tournament at age five and by the time he was eight he was competing with adults in the Central District Tennis League.

The world-ranked number two has competitiveness in his genes – his brother, Jamie is a two-time Grand Slam winner and a Davis Cup champion, currently the world No. 4 doubles player and a former doubles world No. 1. His mum, Judith “Judy” Murray (née Erskine) is a Scottish tennis champ herself, having won 64 titles in Scotland during her junior and senior career.

The young Andy Murray could have easily followed in the footsteps of his maternal grandfather, Roy Erskine, who played professional football for the Hibernian Football Club in the 1950’s – deciding to focus on his tennis career in, despite having been invited to train with Rangers Football Club at their School of Excellence.

In 2012, by beating Novak Djokovic at the US Open, incredible tenacity and grit resulted in Murray being the first British player since 1977 and the first British man since 1936, to win a Grand Slam singles tournament. In 2013, Murray was the first British player to win the Wimbledon Championships, and entrenched his influence over SW19 winning again in 2016, becoming the first British man to win multiple Wimbledon singles titles since 1935.

On or off the court, this man is a true champion who is bound to conquer whatever he turns his attention to, because he has a fiercely competitive will and the work ethic to back this up.

Feature image: http://cdn.crowdfundinsider.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Andy-Murray.png

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Inspiring Women in Tech Series #3: Eileen Burbidge, MBE

Eileen Burbidge (@eileentso) has a knack for being in the right place at the right time. “I saw really smart people get nothing but others who hit the jackpot — even though they weren’t that hard-working but because they had timed it right. One of my guiding principles now is that the best you can do is try to increase your exposure to luck and recognise lucky options.”

One can be presented with opportunities, but securing them is another talent altogether. Describing herself as an “accidental venture capitalist”, Ms Burbidge credits her progress with being naturally curious and adventurous, her workaholic tendencies, good communication skills and quick thinking.

Her Chinese parents (her father was an engineer and her mother worked in finance) instilled in her a tough work ethic from an early age. In an article by Ben Rooney, Eileen says that she couldn’t see what the big fuss about Tiger Moms was. She laughs now, but said that she thought that was how everyone was raised. “My parents had this view that they had to work much harder than non-immigrants. They impressed the same view upon us as kids. ‘You are not going to get the breaks when anyone looks at you,’ they would say, ‘so you have to prove that you belong there.’

In the US, for Burbidge, the fact that she was a woman was secondary to the fact that she was ethnically different. “I have had more to prove, and more to overcome, looking Chinese, than I have for being female. I grew up thinking that if I were white, I could do whatever I wanted. I thought white girls had it easy. It never even occurred to me that white girls would say they were disadvantaged.

As one can imagine, Burbidge is passionate about being a great example of how women can thrive in the tech world. She says that women should use the fact that they are a minority to their advantage  – “being conspicuous can be an opportunity to stand out“, and revels in memories about when she has been in meetings as a token female and has ended up flooring the men around the table with her intelligent contributions. She has said many times that being a woman has not been a hinderance to her in this field, and that in fact it is an industry where you can create whoever you want to be behind the computer screen.

Eileen-Burbidge

Burbidge studied computer science at the University of Illinois, “before it was trendy”, and started her career in San Francisco working for a telecoms company. This was the start of the tech boom in Silicon Valley and she rode the tech boom wave, becoming Market Development Manager at Apple Computer. Between 1996 and 2003, Burbidge lived the life, likening the atmosphere in Silicon Valley to Wall Street in the 70’s. She moved across to London in 2004, thinking that gaining international experience would be a good idea, expecting to return to the US after 2 years. Lucky for London, she stayed. “It’s so much more fulfilling to work in tech in the UK because it is earlier in its life cycle and you can shape it more.

Her career path took her to iconic tech companies which were relatively new – Skype, Yahoo and Ambient Sound Investments. She went on to co-found White Bear Yard with Stefan Glaenzer and Robert Dighero, who became her partners at Passion Capital, a leading early-stage technology and internet VC firm, which was launched in 2011.

Apart from working at Passion Captial, Eileen acts as board director for DueDil, Digital Shadows, wireWAX, Lulu and other portfolio companies. When assessing potential startups to invest in, her criteria for possible  are rather interesting: be friendly to the receptionist. Relationships are important. People are your company. How you treat people is vital. Burbidge looks for dedicated individuals who are willing to put in the hours and the passion required to make a success of their ideas.

The London tech scene has exploded, with the digital economy growing a third faster than the UK economy as a whole. Earlier this year, the Tech City cluster of businesses reported that 1.56 million people were employed in digital companies in the UK, with 328,000 of those in London.Digital is already 10 per cent of UK GDP and it is forecast to be 15 per cent in 2017… (It’s) the sector with the greatest job creation compared to the national average and we have 10 times as much venture financing coming into London tech as we had five years ago…. it’s fantastic that the Government has recognised it — economic growth is consistent with its mantra as a government but also in terms of job creation.” 

Listen to Eileen Burbidge being interviewed by TechCrunch here:

Despite the Brexit vote, Burbidge remains positive. The UK, and London “remains the biggest tech centre in Europe and continues to attract the best talent and companies from all over the world. These are attractive factors for any investor and there will be plenty of opportunities for investment in the coming months and years ahead,” she responded to a recent report by the investment database Pitchbook for London & Partners, the promotional body for the London Mayor’s office.

With the passionate-about-tech Eileen Burbidge here as Chair of TechCity UK, as HM Treasury’s Special Envoy for FinTech and Tech Ambassador for the Mayor of London.our official Tech Ambassador – are we surprised the message for UK’s tech scene’s future is a bright one?

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 Featured photograph by Techworld.com

 

 

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Inspiring Women in Tech Series #2: Gemma Godfrey

Gemma Godfrey is a woman who has it all. She’s got fans across the world who hang on her every word across various media platforms for the latest investment advice; great smile, great hair (which has it’s own Twitter account); a husband who is a film producer and a beautiful son, who is a regular star feature in her Instagram posts. Now she also has a FinTech startup called Moo.la, which was (no surprise here) recently named as one of the top ten FinTech companies to watch this year.

Godfrey started out at Goldman Sachs as an intern, worked her way up through the corporate world, working for GAM as a Fund Manager, as Chairman of the Investment Committee at Credo Capital and Head of Investment Strategy for Brooks Macdonald – all the while contributing on Sky Business News, CNBC, the BBC and writing for Huffington Post, The Telegraph and The Times and various other publications. She was also Founder and Editor for The Investment Insight, giving online insight into the how’s, who’s, when’s and why’s of investing for five years. She is Board Advisor to Templars and CLU School of Management.

Godfrey was named among the “savviest” on Wall Street by the Wall Street Journal, the City of London’s “Commentator of the Year”, and most popular Business Influencer on social media in the New York Shorty Awards in 2014.

You can see why she’s popular – just take the topic of her December 2013 TEDxWallStreet talk, entitled How to Kiss. “Today I’m going to teach you to kiss. At work. On TV. In life or death situations. I’m going to show you how. And then when we go our separate ways you’re going to kiss with other people more than you’ve ever done before!”

It was a business talk, of course. Kiss stood for Kiss was Keep It Simple Stupid, by the way.

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Gemma Godfrey speaking at TEDxWallStreet, 13 December, 2013: “How To Kiss”

Watch here : Gemma Godfrey – TEDxWallStreet, 13 Dec 2013

Her advice for tomorrow’s leaders? In an article by Marisa Nadolny in her article, Godfrey’s Law of Success: Follow your Passion, the answer is,“Follow your passion, and success will come more naturally… People try to funnel themselves into what they think is an appropriate place,” she explains, “but it’s better to follow what they’re good at. A lot of people will force themselves to do something they think they should do, with little success.”

One of last week’s StrongJones blogs Inspiring Women in Tech Series #1: Lady Judge buys into Tech Startup featured British and American boardroom lioness, Lady Barbara Judge, CBE, who said that she regretted not having studied maths or science at University, as she felt that she had been playing catchup her whole life. Lucky for Godfrey, her passion was science. “Having a scientific background, you’re used to taking the complicated and complex and presenting it in an accessible way,” says Godfrey. Possibly one of her most valuable skills throughout her career.

Godfrey says it was a “pure love of the subject” that fuelled her interest in physics at a young age. She credits her father with cultivating her scientific curiosity – she holds a degree in Quantum Physics from the University of Leeds.

Selected by the BBC as one of the world’s Top 100 Women, the unstoppable Godfrey was profiled by the Sunday Times on the ascent of women in the boardroom – something that is under the spotlight right now, in the British banking and finance industries.

Jayne-Anne Gadhia, CEO of Virgin Money, was asked by the then Economic Secretary to the Treasury, Harriett Baldwin, to lead a Review focussing on the representation of women in senior managerial roles in the Financial Services industry. When the Review was released in March this year, it showed that in the UK, “New Financial’s sample of 200 firms active in UK Financial Services showed an average of 23% female representation on Boards, but only 14% on Executive Committees. Only 50% of women, compared to 70% of men believe they have an equal opportunity to advance regardless of their personal characteristics or circumstances.” Pretty appalling stuff.

Courageous women like Gemma Godfrey are pure gold. We couldn’t have a more inspiring person – who literally seems to fizz with eneregy and passion – to shakeup things, and spur on the aspiring FinTech women out there.

“The big thing that motivates me, is this feeling that you want to have an impact, you want to make a difference,” says Gemma, “I’ve always felt like that, wanting to work in smaller teams and be able to actually shape something. … I’ve realised I’ve spent the last few years waiting for somebody else to do this, and I thought I would join them! But there aren’t really that many people out there who’re doing this. This is a great opportunity to do it myself.” @gcgodfrey

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Inspiring Women in Tech Series #1: Lady Judge buys into Tech Startup

“Lady Judge” sounds like a female heroine character from comic book series. She even looks like one – her trademark high-collared immaculately white Victorian style blouse under the tailored black suit. Her blonde hair neatly pinned up. At the same time very feminine and incredible capable – one senses her determination – her undeniable steely strength. The minute I heard of her, I have been fascinated by the brilliant Lady Barbara Thomas Judge, CBE.

A one-time chair of the UK Atomic Energy Authority, her current interests span energy and infrastructure as well as pensions. This Queen B for Business hit the headlines this week in what some would imagine is a surprising move – and one showing hugely positive faith in the future of tech start-ups in the UK. Judge is swapping her position as Pension Protection Fund Chair for another kind of Chair – as the head of 2-month-old UK based start-up, hibob. Thrilled Ronni Zehavi, co-founder and CEO of hibob, says: “Lady Barbara’s track-record in supporting British SMEs and the pension industry is second to none.”

“Small and medium sized businesses are the backbone of our economy,” said Lady Judge. “Yet the daily pressure they face to remain compliant and retain their staff is huge.”

Interestingly, Judge was working as a part-time computer programmer at University in Pennsylvania around 1966. Her influential and well-respected mother, Marcia Singer, worked as associate dean of the New York Institute of Technology. Judge sees her mother as the number one inspiration to the young Barbara Sue Singer. “She… taught women in the 1950s and 1960s that they should work because they have a brain, and that they should earn their own money because money brings independence. She taught me to get back on the horse if I fell off.”

Women are scarce in the lofty boardrooms that Lady Judge has made her territory, and her mission is to encourage women in business to succeed. One way she does this is by making policy to place at least one other woman on the same board, and ideally at least three of them.

On CNN she told Ananpour, “One woman is an oddity, two is ok – but at three you’re not “women”, rather it’s just “people”, and once you’re just people the dynamic changes.” Have a look at this interview with Amanpour on CNN in 2015 – where Lady Judge’s determination to bring more women to the boardroom is made clear:

Watch: CNN Amanpour Lady Judge interview 2015/04/13

Judge has even suggested that business be forced to use quotas (even though she doesn’t agree with quotas, generally) to top up female representation in business boards. “Women are great multi-taskers and very smart. They bring diversity to the board table.”

She strongly advocates that studying science and mathematics is the way forward for women. “A woman can boost her prospects by studying maths or accountancy. If a young woman studies maths, she will earn a third more than if she did not. I studied history and believe I have been playing catch up my whole life.”

In an interview in 2015 with Director Magazine, she said that her aim is to “…die at my desk”.

Well, let’s hope that won’t happen for a very long time!

Join me for my blog on the next Inspirational Woman in Tech #2 next week!

Heather Greig (These views are entirely my own.)