Collision 2019: Developing Talent for Women in Tech

Collision 2019 offers unique opportunity for Women in Tech

One of North America’s fastest growing tech conferences, Collision 2019, took place in Toronto at the Enercare Centre and this year, 360insights’ Data Scientist, Adele Hedrick, attended.  Also present was Adele’s mentee from Ontario Tech University Luisa Rojas Garcia, a Master of Science in Computer Science student.

These dynamic women leveraged the forum to enhance their professional development skills in digital leadership, network with other women in tech, and to see what similar companies in the channel technology space are doing with data management.

Key highlights and takeaways gleaned from the conference are shared in this post, along with a deeper look at Adele Hedrick’s career path at 360insights, and her involvement with the UOIT Student Mentorship Program.

Committed to a more inclusive tech industry

Collision has become an epicenter for the world’s largest buyers and sellers of technology.  Since 2015, conference organizers have strived to change the gender ratio across their events.  They continue to empower women in tech through networking events, mentorship programs and by offering discounted tickets to women all over the world.  As a grad student from the UOIT, Luisa jumped at the opportunity to attend and took advantage of the specially priced tickets.

Adele noted, “Encouraging women to be a part of Collision 2019 and inviting more female digital leaders to speak at the conference created an open and positive vibe.” 

This year, the female attendee registration rate was over 40%, a significant increase from previous years.  Yet, overall participation by women has not progressed relative to the rapid growth of the tech industry.

Women in digital leadership are changing the norm

Appropriately enough, Adele and Luisa sat in on the Women in Digital Leadership presentation delivered by the President of Cisco Systems Canada, Rola Dagher.  Her discussion focused on mentorship and communication style.  Adele found Rola’s session particularly relevant since it directly related to her work with OnTech.  It offered many notable takeaways, specifically around the differences between mentors and sponsors, and knowing who your audience is to gauge reception and manage perceptions.

For another view of how women in tech are creating their own personal brand and leveraging mentors, read the post featuring Cassie Fuhr, 360insights’ Director of Customer Success.  In this article she shares her experience at the Channel Focus 2019, Women’s Leadership Council event.

Adele also attended a session delivered by the Vector Institute of Artificial Intelligence, a research organization that connects partners and brings together researchers and PHD students.

I would love for 360insights to get involved with the programs offered by the Vector Institute since they are closely affiliated with the universities that are big into AI.”

Real-world data is hard to get and difficult to leverage

An important issue raised at the conference was the difficulty in obtaining real-world data.  Working as a Data Scientist, Adele explains, “Customers do not want to give up their data.”  Even more concerning is the fact that most companies don’t even know how to effectively utilize the data they have access to, and turn it into predictive analytics.

Read our post written by Adele’s colleague and fellow Data Scientist, Nataliya Portman, where she discusses how companies can get beyond channel analytics and move down the path to predictive channel insights.

According to Adele, “Data scientists typically train on “toy” data sets which have been transformed and cleaned.”  As a result, gaining experience with real-world data can only be obtained from working in the industry.  This disconnect usually makes it difficult for a junior Data Scientist to get their first job, and for companies to hire the right talent needed to be successful.

However, there are some resources that are becoming popular.  Adele mentions, “Kaggle and open data websites are some of the resources available to Data Scientists and industry experts to aid in minimizing this disconnect.”

She goes on to add, “Yet, even these data sets need to be prepared in such a way to ensure that the privacy of people contributing is maintained.”

An untapped talent pool in a sea of tech giants

With demand for technology skills far outpacing supply, companies continue to look high and low for talent that can help bridge the gap.  Adele explains, “I feel I’m in the right space in terms of job security.”

According to the 2018 “Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey”, 65% of tech leaders say the skills shortage is the highest they’ve seen in a decade.

After speaking with some of the exhibitors at Collision 2019, Adele recognized this issue to be very true.  Many tech companies find it challenging to recruit and retain skilled candidates.  Especially since colleges are not graduating enough software engineers, coders and other specialized talent to meet current hiring demands.

So, what’s the answer? How can companies close the “tech talent gap” and secure a new generation of data scientists and machine learning engineers to ensure digital succession within their organization?

It all boils down to building up internal talent pools by offering more training and mentorship programs.  This kind of investment helps to develop early talent, and molds enthusiastic, ambitious candidates into high-performing loyal workers who have the exact experience needed for technically specialized jobs.

Adele believes, “360insights’ collaboration with local colleges and universities to recruit recent graduates and co-op students in IT programs, is on the right path to creating a richer pool of adept candidates.”

These efforts will eventually close the tech talent gap for start-ups and growing technology companies seeking a highly skilled workforce.

What’s your career endgame?

Adele initially became involved with the university’s mentorship program for the main purpose of helping recent software engineering grad students become “industry ready”.  She goes on to explain, “I also wanted to expand my network and further augment my coaching skills.”  Adele loves to share knowledge and collaborate with others in the industry.  Her contributions to developing early tech talent is an ideal career endgame.

At the end of March 2019, Adele was matched up with Luisa Garcia, a Computer Science Graduate Teaching Assistant.  As Luisa’s mentor, Adele helps to prepare her for the working world.  She regularly meets with Luisa, at least once a month, to review her resume and offer advice on how to network with others in the tech industry.

The program runs for a full year, and Adele makes the most of her time with Luisa by arranging meetings with people she knows who work at other technology companies in Toronto.  Her goal is to set Luisa on the right career path where she can do her own research and compare potential employers before deciding on a particular organization to work with.

Prior to attending Collision 2019 with Luisa, Adele invited her to the opening of the Accelerator Centre, a world-class programming and mentorship for technology start-ups around the world.  At this premier event, Luisa had the opportunity to meet and network with Jason Atkins, CEO and Founder of 360insights and Bruce Croxton, early stage digital investor and former Dragons’ Den co-host.

Accelerator Grand Opening

Growing up tech

Adele started with 360insights on the Data and Analytics team in 2017 after finishing her Masters program at UOIT.  Previously she received a Bachelor’s degree in Education and pursued a career as a teacher.  However, she found this profession was not a good fit.  She wanted more hands-on experience and the opportunity to grow her career in technology.  She also hoped to share her knowledge with others in the same field.

It was a great day when I finished my thesis and my team celebrated.  You know you have a strong culture when your team demonstrates support by recognizing all of your accomplishments.”

About 360insights

360insights is a global channel incentives and insights leader offering rebate processing, SPIFF programs, MDF & co-op advertising, sales allowances and channel analytics.  The company’s Channel Success Platform™ is the first truly integrated software-as-a-service solution enabling brands to optimize their channel incentives spending.  Based in Whitby, Ontario, the company serves over 150 of the world’s top brands and has expanded to have operations around the USA and UK.  For more information, visit www.360insights.com.