Q&A with Version 1's Ellie Macbeth

  • Q. As a senior Business Analyst with Version 1 what does your typical day look like?

    One of my favorite things about my job is that there actually isn't a typical day for a business analyst given there is so much variety in the role. I’m currently working as a portfolio product manager for one of our big public sector clients to ensure that all of their digital requirements are aligned to their strategic goals and objectives and that there isn't any overlap or duplication of effort.

    This typically involves talking to many individuals in a variety of roles across an organisation to find out what it is they do, asking them what their day job looks like, what things they would like to improve, what things they really hate doing and would like to get rid of so our development teams can effectively deliver the best digital solutions to solve their problems.

    Q. Your LinkedIn profile states you are an advocate for ‘evidence-based decision making’ Can you expand on this for our readers?

    Prior to working in Version 1 I worked as a crime analyst so I was working with data and did quite a lot of analysis using old-fashioned Excel spreadsheets, longhand stats and charts before we had a much more powerful technology to help us with the analysis. In the past much of the decision making process was based on was professional judgment and this expertise was based on learned experience. Quite often a lot of crucial information was in somebody's head and obviously that wasn't exactly accessible to everyone who needed the information.

    Once the technology was able to go into big data, algorithms and machine learning there seemed to be a tangible shift in perception that you didn't need human beings to make decisions anymore. We could just turn to all this information and spit the answers out the other end, however we now realise we actually need a bit of both. The context of the data needs to be understood, why it was collected, why it's stored in the way it is, what the business problem is that you're trying to fix and how the data can help that. As business analysts we sit in that middle ground between those two extremes. It's about bringing the two together where you're going to get real benefit and improve decision making.

    Q. From a personal viewpoint, what or who was it that inspired you to get more involved in elevating the profile of women in tech?

    Having worked in the same job for 18 years in the public sector I made the change and crossed over into the tech industry. The Women in Tech Network and Version 1 supported this transition and made me appreciate just how much the skills and knowledge I brought from a different background were transferable and valuable.

    I’ve also been inspired from meeting all the women that are involved in our network and hearing their stories coming from different backgrounds. From teachers to musicians, they all bring knowledge and experience and that diversity of thought enriches the technology sector.

    In my previous job, I was in a fairly male-dominated environment and I think it's important to help shake things up for people who maybe are unsure how to do it for themselves. It’s particularly important for younger generations and we absolutely need to make sure that girls and young women are looking at tech as an option. When I was younger I was dissuaded from some of the STEM subjects, probably because my teachers were all male in those subjects which made think, "I don't really know if that's for me".

    Q. Version 1 has been a strong supporter of women in tech both internally as an employer and as a sponsor for numerous women in tech events – can you tell us more about some of these initiatives?

    Women in Tech is an incredibly active network in Version 1 as I said it's one of the things that really supported me in my transition and we are committed to increasing the number of women who participate.

    We have lunchtime events in the office where we have inspirational people coming in and just recently Gillian Armstrong from AWS spoke to us about how AI is shaping user experience. Events like these are great opportunities to provide useful insights into the different roles that other women in tech are doing and we can then provide pathways to help support those who wish to develop their careers into new areas.

    We also have had topics that are more personal such as talks around menopause and mental health as well as social events like drink and draw evenings where everyone can get to know one another and build a network of support. In August, I hosted our women in tech panel which we also opened to the public so we are encouraging women from other organizations as well. We want to try and encourage that network across all women in tech in Northern Ireland.

    Q. What can we expect from the women in tech conference this year and who do you think should definitely attend?

    I think everybody should consider attending!

    Genuinely, we have an exciting lineup of speakers and panellists, including Version 1's Eve Brennan who will be talking about the importance of Diversity in the Development of Technology and AI. It’s an exciting agenda planned and this year we will be looking at the climate of change. We will be considering that topic in two ways, one in terms of our tech companies being more environmentally friendly and sustainable and exploring what tools can be made providing solutions to tackle climate change issues.

    On the other hand, we are covering the climate of change within the tech industry. That entails giving an overview of breaking down the stereotypes of what women are in terms of social stereotypes such as mothers and wives and challenging the idea of certain jobs are for certain genders.

    There will be sessions on giving women some of the skills they need to progress within their careers. While some may already be working in tech we will give them ideas and guidance on how they can develop further in their careers.

    So there's obviously a lot going on and I think there will be something for everybody but It's not just for women, we need men to be there too. We don't work in all-women environments, nor do we want to, however it's about increasing diversity and making sure that we have support across the organization and the industry for our activities to benefit everyone.

    To attend this year's Women in Tech conference, visit here

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