The first thing my mother asked when I told her I was setting up my own company DSRPTN was “but who will do your filing for you?” I had to tell her that I could not remember the last time that I actually filed anything physically. She was also concerned about where my office would be located because it’s difficult to grasp that setting up your own business can be a very easy process and all you really need is a few bits of good kit.
My tech has mostly been provided by my employers over the past number of years latterly MacBookAir and iPhone in GDS (and prior to that in City Hall, MacBookPro and Blackberry) so have not had to choose kit for myself for quite some time.
Over the past number of months I’d been jealously eyeing up @Paul_Clarke’s array of Samsung phones and thinking the unthinkable (like could I actually break free of iPhone?). So of course I turned to twitter to get some thoughts and thanks to @psd for his endorsement of Nexus 4 I am now a very proud owner. I'm loving it all the more because it’s half the price of the Samsung Galaxy 4 which aligned with the fact that I’ve chosen not to get into a contract situation that ties me in for two years is all the better.
I’ve chosen Ovivo Mobile for my provider. I met Ovivo founder @dariushzand when I was working on The London Datastore and I remember a great conversation we had over coffee with David Fowler (then CTO of Huawei Europe and now COO for Cable and Wireless, Guernsey). It was great to hear Dariush talk with such enthusiasm and zeal about his ambition to disrupt the Mobile Network Operator Model. I’m kind of keen on disrupters so I’m happy to give him my business. For a once off payment of £15.00 you get SIM card and monthly package of 150 mins 150 texts and 400MB of data - all for free (hurrah! just have to look at some advertising in return). I'm waiting to port over my number after Easter so won’t start using properly until then but I’m already impressed with their level of customer service (take a look at their twitter stream @ovivomobile to see customer feedback).
And finally then what about laptop? Well its official I have left the Apple family and chosen the Samsung Chrome Book. So far so good. It’s zippy, light and fast. The only thing I am struggling with at the moment is finding some good, user-friendly, online presentation software (I’m a bit of a keynote addict and can’t see anything that matches on quality and ease of use) but I remain an optimist about these things. I also anticipate some teething problems with compatibility between google docs (I know from my time in government that some folks can’t always access) but I’m taking a let’s cross that bridge when we come to it attitude.
So phone, provider and laptop all for just a little over £500 means start up costs are incredibly low and not eating a huge chunck from cashflow. I’m reckoning staying in the Apple family would have cost me at least four times that amount - and frankly - not worth it - not when their competitors are rapidly catching up with Apple on the design side. And honestly I was getting a bit tired of all that lock in. So here’s to freedom!
I had a long-standing commitment to speak at International Women’s Day in Dublin thanks to an invitation from Eithne Harley in Accenture Ireland. They run a very successful annual event that draws quite a crowd and this year was no exception. There were about 800 women in the audience (and some men too) to celebrate the day and I was part of the Lets Get Digital Panel.
Co-incidentally, during the week I’d also met Caroline Criado-Perez with @teacamplondon and @nettienoodles to learn more about her project @thewomensroomuk which is creating a database of women experts/speakers. You know this is necessary if Women’s Hour recently had two men on the programme to talk about women in tech (read Emma Mulqueeny @hubmum writing about that here)
So all in all #IWDrds was an opportunity to revisit some of my own views from my university days when I was an ardent feminist with regulation haircut and a path worn to the "wimmins" room in the Quay Co-Op in Cork (seriously we did spell it like that).
Back then it was all the “personal is the political, property is theft, marriage is prostitution” narrative. And it was fun, as it always is, being a student challenging the dominant ideology of the day, trying things on for size like a new coat. It was intellectually stretching and difficult trying to understand where you stood on a spectrum of political and ideological beliefs (with the added bonus of driving your parents completely insane).
Although I loved much of the debate and discussion and of course the women I met, I became disillusioned with the emphasis on groupthink. I got a little bored with the endless debates about what it meant to be a “real” feminist. It seemed that you couldn’t be a real feminist if you weren’t also a separatist.
I didn’t think that boded too well for me (I didn’t think boys were that bad or at least not all of them) so as I moved from university into the workforce I softened my stance a little and just got on with the business of being the best I could be regardless of my gender.
Fast forward to 2013 and I am in the RDS Dublin waiting to go into the main hall to speak when I spot a very beautiful women in a very nice dress, wearing a sash that says “Dublin Rose”. So internally I’m like “what? oh-pl-eas-e….it’s 2013 what’s the story here”?
Let’s just say I am suitably chastened and properly mortified with myself. If the drive to conformity was the thing that alienated me from organized feminism in the 1980’s then I’d just made the same judgment about Arlene O'Neill.
Because that would be Dr Arlene O’Neill, Dublin Rose and Nanoscientist (here she is talking about her research) who made it clear in her comments from the platform that she has no issue with glamour or geekery – she just doesn’t see the need to choose between the two. She might have been chased out of the “wimmins” room back in the 80’s so I’m glad to say that our understanding of what it is to have choice and diversity as women is a little more mature nowadays.
Almost as a bookend the delegates also heard from former TD and author Mary O' Rourke who was clearly relaxed and in great storytelling form. When asked did she think women could have it all she just laughed and said “no” and spent some time talking about the fondness she had for other women TD’s regardless of their political party during her time in Dail Eireann – and the support that they gave each other in a very male environment.
I also enjoyed the presentation from Ann O'Dea CEO and editor at large for Silicon Republic who took the opportunity to launch Women Invent Tomorrow an initiative to promote the work of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths). I’d never met Ann in real life so that was a lovely bonus.
So young nanoscientist, elder stateswoman, digitally savvy women all on a platform together in Dublin made a strong statement about how things are changing for #mnanaheireann. Full list of the let’s get digital participants here
I’m glad I spent International Women’s Day 2013 with the women in my home country. Many of them there are pushing boundaries (both personal and professional) using social. Some have just started and some are veterans, so in the spirit of sisterhood give them a follow:
@EithneHarley, @littlebirdyy, @marie_prior,
@PaulaNeary1, @BridBBA @maryrose, @lynchce,
@RitaTobin, @claremiudail, @MelissaJCurry,
@twitsense, @VGodolphin, @ginagalligan,
@KforKritka, @cathyfly, @transponstergrl,
@fabiola_stein, @LucyBroph @ruthakennedy,
And finally thanks to @KrishnaDe for the pictures and the best quote of the day;
PS Happy Mothers Day
Ooh it’s scary but exciting that @MTBracken yesterday sent an email to everyone in GDS to say that I’m leaving on 15th March. I’ve been in GDS just over a year but I’ve been in Government a hell of a lot longer so I thought I’d use this opportunity to say something about what I’ve learned about government.
People don’t go into government to do bad
You’d be forgiven for thinking that public servants/civil servants go into government to do bad. When you see the media stereotypes you think jobsworth, computer says no, job-for-life (no hoper).
I have a different view. Both my maternal and paternal grandparents were in public service as were, my aunts, my uncles, my father and my sister (as civil servants and teachers mostly).
When my father was a young civil servant his first posting was to a very (very) rural part of Ireland (Glengarrif in County Cork). There was a long-standing meme in our home about an old woman my father helped to access her widows pension. She was so grateful she waited at the side of the road for five days for his car to pass again to thank him with a present.
He of course had to explain she didn’t need to give him anything for “just doing his job”. At a time in Ireland, when people in public life (the bank, the clergy, teachers or public servants) were seen as having power that “ordinary” people should be grateful for, the concept of “service as job” is something that has never left me.
Democracy is not always what you think
And yes on the flip side there are those who seek to uphold their own silos and empires even though they don’t face the electorate at the ballot box. In my years in government I have generally found politicians more willing to take risks than officials (depending where you are on the electoral cycle) but in the main what I’ve experienced is both official and politician trying to bolt 19th Century systems of governance onto the mainframe of our 21st Century reality.
When you take the red pill everything looks like The Matrix
You will remember the scene when Morpheus offers Neo the red pill or the blue pill. If he takes the blue pill everything stays the same – if he takes the red pill (like Alice in Wonderland) he falls through the rabbit hole and sees things like they really are. We are at a juncture in society and technology where the system (and government) keep taking the blue pill struggling to deal with a new generation who swallowed the red one years ago. It’s a bit like the arrival of email - I still remember colleagues who used their PC monitors as a place to stick post-it-notes (this computer-email-thingy-will-never-catch-on).
With passion and leadership change is possible
I’ve been very fortunate in government to have had opportunities to both lead and serve. Tom Steinberg once said to me all it takes is finding the one person “who cares”. He didn’t quite say that. He said “all it takes is finding the person who gives a toss”. (I still currently work for government so can’t say exactly what he said but you get the drift). And it’s true our public service/civil service is full of people who give a toss.
And that’s where I exit
I have also been fortunate to work for people who really cared. In Dublin, Willie Soffe (former County Manager Fingal County Council), Leo Boland (former Chief Executive London Borough of Barnet and City Hall) Mike Bracken (Executive Director GDS). And I’ve been really fortunate to collaborate with a host of people who care deeply about the public realm @countculture, @jaggaree, @tobybarnes, @psd @janethughes, @tomskitomski,
@madprof, @paul_clarke to name but a few.
All my colleagues @gdsteam who work for government every day, because they want to make a difference. These are people who don’t expect someone to sit at the side of the road to give them presents. They are individuals who work everyday to be of service, to make something that will make life better for people. In other words – a whole organization – that well - gives a toss.
Where you will find me
In Placr helping my old friend Jonathan Raper bring the company to the next level (it's really exciting joining a startup I’ve been watching with keen interest for some time). I’ve also set up my own company Disruption Ltd and one of my first clients will be the Connected Digital Economy Catapult where I will be working for Neil Crockett their CEO.
There are so many people I would like to thank it would be impossible to name check them all. But if I have to name a sector to whom I want to give a special shout out then it has to be to the journalists that I have worked with over the past year (you know who you are). They have been amazing critical friends. They have not offered an easy ride but they are not the stereotype of “gottcha” either.
If the mantra of of Silicon Valley is “you have to collaborate to compete” then my mantra for government and media is that we have to “collaborate to comprehend”.
Government is hard.
That’s what I have learned.
I will be sad to leave it.
But I’m glad to have been of it too
Update: Thank you so much for all the very kind good wishes on Twitter it's been humbling.