In this video from Computer Weekly’s annual diversity in tech event, in partnership with Nash Squared and sponsored by NatWest, Suki Fuller, intelligence advisor and fellow at Miribure, gives her acceptance speech as the 2023 Most Influential Woman in UK Tech.
Everyone has influence, Fuller reminds the audience, encouraging people to band together to push for change and make a difference – alongside death and taxes, change is a constant which we all need to embrace.
As well as highlighting the importance of education in developing a well-trained and diverse future workforce, Fuller points out being a woman in tech should not define someone – what we do and how we identify are not the same thing.
“Being a woman in tech is not a job,” she says, hoping in the future there will be no need for events specifically aimed at subsections of the tech population.
Below is a transcript of the video:
“As much as I do often get to speak in front of global audiences, it’s always a lot easier when you haven’t actually had coffee with the people, hung around and chatted with them, and broken bread, you know. A room of 20,000 is a lot easier and being on BBC way easier than this.
“So I did write a few things down, but I probably will forget them. I do want to start out first of all by saying thank you so much to Computer Weekly, and to Nash Squared, and for everybody that voted with me, because it’s always a little overwhelming when you see the support that you have.
“I’m gonna take the flowers because I feel like saying I don’t deserve this, but I do. Take the flowers. A lot of people know me and they think I’m very much an extrovert. And I have this personality that when I am in public, I am an extrovert, but I am not by any means an extrovert. I’m an ambivert. I’m a programmed extrovert from childhood, I was always very introverted, you wouldn’t even know I was in the room, I was reading a book.
“But you learn how to do this. And that’s the other thing that you can learn how to do is influence, it’s about making a difference. It’s not something that you just do one day, you learn how to do it from childhood. And that’s what we really need to teach our children, and those that are growing up in the world is how they can make a difference, and how they can be the influences to change the mindset of people understanding how we can be equal. And so learn how to do that. Teach how to do that, what can you do, and it is really education.
“If there is one thing in the world that I think is needing to be done, it’s education from very early, and it’s reinforcement of that education. Because the gap within technology exists because there was a lack of education. And it continues to be that way. You can’t teach about technology or about maths right now. Because you don’t have the people to teach it. The gap exists because the education was not there for so many.
“It’s not just gonna be fixed overnight. Leveling up can’t happen, because you don’t even have a base level. There’s no foundation. So you have to build the foundation. What we need to do is we need to make sure that the generation that exists now, nobody wants to be a teacher, at least I don’t know anybody does. I did it for a year I taught a university. Ooh, let me tell you, I think little kids are a lot harder than teaching 18 and 19 year olds, but that’s what needs to be done.
“So where the recruitment is in the world, it is about teachers, because we’re going to constantly be topping out. We have to start there. So it is go to those schools, talk to those little kids, and tell them hey, guess what? Everybody wants to call you a nerd because you like maths, guess what? You are the person that is going to be fixing their computer, when they come to you 20 years from now going, ‘I can’t fix this,’ you’re gonna go ‘Oh well, yeah, I’ll fix it for you.’.
“Tell those kids, those are the important skills, learning how to talk about maths, learning how to talk to your friends, explain what we’re doing. That’s what I do in the world.
“As an intelligence analyst, it’s great, you know, you get to look at all the data, you get to say ‘This is likely to happen. This is highly unlikely, and this is definitely not going to happen.’. But what those decision makers decide to do with that information is what’s important. And that’s what we need to be able to translate to people is how important understanding that data, understanding the information and translating it to really reinforce the impact that you can have, as somebody working with this and telling decision makers, this is important. And them understanding the data to reinforce that if you can’t even explain that it’s not really going to make a difference. The dial isn’t going to be moved, nothing will change.
“I always tell everybody that I’m kinda like Tom Hagen in The Godfather, you know, like the consigliere, because I’m not the person out front. As an intelligence analysts, we are not the person or the people out front. We are the supporters, we are back there advising the decision makers. And so I understand not everybody on the [Computer Weekly most influential women in UK tech longlist] can be number one – 652 people, I think, on the [long]list, not everybody is gonna get to be number one.
“But that doesn’t mean that you don’t have influence, that doesn’t mean that you can’t enact change. That does not mean that you cannot be the person speaking into the ear of that decision maker saying, ‘How about we take a look at this? How about we do this differently?’. That’s all that’s needed to make change.
“As we always say: it takes a village to raise a child. Well, guess what, it takes a whole bunch of people to make a change in the world, one person cannot do it. And you know, we have 50 people on the [short]list. We’re 50 people, there are 652 on that long list, every single one of them makes a difference. I’m just one person, I just happened to be here at this spot today. But those 652 people, they are what make the change. And we just have to keep on going.
“I’m sorry, I can start you know, like mini rant, I could do a mini rant. But I’m keeping you away from food. And I know that is very important. I do want to thank Russ Shaw, because it’s really important that we acknowledge our allies and supporters, especially our male ally supporters, because this room is one of those rooms, we’ve got a whole bunch of male allies in this room. And that’s really important. I’m speaking to the converted here, what we need is that they go out and spread it like a virus, cough on people like it’s COVID. Totally inappropriate. But that’s what we really need to do.
“We need to make sure that you have the support from us, when you go out and you speak to people that you, when you go out and you speak to other men, that you can say, ‘Hey, I’m not sure how to approach this,’ you can come to us and we can support you too. Because it’s not just a one way agreement. It’s two ways. We have to support each other. So spread it, spread like a virus.
“Um Jen McKinley, she’s not here. She had to leave earlier, she’s gonna be really mad. But um, she has been probably one of my biggest champions ever. And she’s another person who’s a supporter. She has been my first friend that I made in the tech space when I first moved back to London. Despite the accent, I’m British American. I was born in Balham. But, but she’s been there constantly throughout this journey.
“Sarah Luxford, who is on the Hall of Fame Hall of Fame. She’s on the Hall of Fame. She is the co-founder for the women in tech TLA women in tech group. She’s really the one that sort of pulled me in and said, ‘Hey, I’d like you to get more involved.’. And I was ‘Okay. Sure, I’ll do it.’. And here I am.
“And Flavilla, who has been my my newest little champion, there making me from the GTA, black woman in tech group, because she’s really pushed me to be a little bit more public within this space. And because I’m quite happy to always be the intelligence analyst and be the, the ear that guides others.
“As I always say to women, and sorry for anybody else who does not identify as a woman, but this is what I always tell them. Being a woman is not a career. It’s who we are, it’s not what we do. Being a woman is not a career, we work in tech, we happen to be women, we happen to be men, we happen to identify as however you identify. The fact of the matter is, what we do is tech. Everything else is just how we identify.
“And that’s what we need it to be. We need it to be an event where we can say, ‘Hey, I work in tech,’ and we can celebrate everybody. And that needs to happen. Maybe not in my lifetime. But we don’t ever go to events where it’s men and go oh, some men in tech event. We just have an event and it’s tech. So I want to see the day I want to see the day where we can just have this list. Be a list of celebrating people in tech, and yeah, we’re celebrating women, we’re celebrating everybody, I want this day to come, I’d like it to be, you know, in the next 20 years, so I’m at least around.
“I don’t know, if I’m gonna live past, you know, like 80 or 60, or something. I don’t know, I got some bad habits. I like the food. But um, another piece of feedback I’d like to give as an intelligence professional when I’m working with startups, or with any small organization. I always ask, well, how they’re building their functions. And they want to talk about, ‘Oh, we got a marketing team, we’ve got this team, a sales team.’. Oh, yeah, that’s great. Do you have anybody who’s supporting your DE&I mission? ‘Oh, we’re not gonna do it,’, you know? Okay, well, I can see your growth is not gonna go that far.
“And I usually build that into, you’re asking me about intelligence. And I’m telling you, the intelligent thing to do, in order for you to have an advantage is to build this in now. Because reverse engineering, it only works to a certain degree. But if you’re new, you can build it in now you can build that function in and when you grow, it’s already there. It will spread like wildfire, and your company will grow with something positive, already ingrained. And that’s what we need to make sure it’s happening with our children, make sure it’s ingrained, because then it just becomes part of your personality, just like it will become part of the culture of your organization.
“For those that are existing now, you need to make sure that when you are bringing in new people that they have that mindset, if you got to get rid of your whole HR department, maybe you might need to do that. Sorry, HR people, I don’t mean to get you fired or anything. But you know, that’s what sometimes it is a matter of extreme actions sometimes be billed the reaction, and people don’t like it.
“But change is unpleasant for many. But the only thing that is true, as everybody says death and taxes, actually no people are building cryogenics. So there’s a possibility that might not even happen. But the thing that is very much true about life is that life is change. Those two are synonymous.
“If you are not changing, then you’re probably, can’t even say you’re dead because you decompose when you’re dead. So there’s always change. And that’s what people really need to accept, life is change, change is inevitable, accept it. And that’s what we need to make sure that people start accepting the change that we are bringing in and that we have consistently brought with being equal.
“And I’m going to end now on this thought. I liked the point about being dissidents. Because I really liked the poem too. But you know, this is being recorded. At home, my grandmother’s religion, religious guilt, religious guilt. But the fact of the matter is, everybody in this room is a dissident, because you are actually the ones that are saying this needs to change.
“And we need to make sure that that is really impacted and imparted on the next generation, the generation after us. Whatever the children, I, for me, it really is about children, and I don’t even have kids, it really is about the change that needs to start at a very young age.
“And as somebody who has the things that I have seen the things that I cannot tell you that I’ve seen, being an intelligence analyst, it does, it comes down to that change is the mindset that starts out really young and then reinforced, because that’s where the biggest change occurs.
“So, all right, I’m gonna shut up because I’m thirsty. I need to use the bathroom. I will say really embarrassing things. And I’m wearing heels and everybody that knows me. I like my Adidas and I didn’t wear them at this moment, but I’m going to change it to in about 10 minutes. So thank you.”