November 03, 2011 - Comments Off on Leeds Girl Geek Dinner: Definitely Does Compute

Leeds Girl Geek Dinner: Definitely Does Compute

I headed along to the Mint hotel last night to get my geek on at the Leeds Girl Geeks dinner.

Having not been to one before I wasn’t quite sure what to expect or whether I’d be termed geeky enough to fit in.  Nothing to worry about though, as on arrival I was warmly greeted by Imran, who recognised me from our conversations on Twitter (yes a chap runs @leedsgirlgeeks Twitter handle, but along with Monica & Linda – Girl Geeks is open and friendly) and sent me upstairs to get networking near the bar.

I met a kindred spirit in @sabrinajohnson as we got chatting about having various online identities, blogs, hobbies and commitments.  If juggling numerous roles, responsibilities and tasks equals geek chic then Sabrina and I reckon we’ve got it- while Sabrina works as an in house Tech PR she also runs a shoe blog!

I also got talking to the lovely, friendly Liisa Suidt, who is New Media Director at Vivid Creative and a creative bubbly character herself.  We had a good giggle about life in general and after meeting up with @onlineprpixie (aka Jess Hodkinson in house PR for Daniel Footwear) we made our way into the main event.

Bagging ourselves a top spot at a table in front of the speaking area we went for the buffet, which was a damn fine spread of delicious fodder!  So nice that I conveniently emptied my brain of everything my personal trainer has ever told me about carbs and tucked in.

Over dinner our table was definitely a talkative one with loads of really interesting, bright and friendly girls in residence! Namely Rebekah Bullock, a Freelance Creative, Leia Bassett, a Marketing professional, Julia Calver, Michelle Lanham, Jackie Mulligan and Rosie Gamble of Leeds Met, Jess and Liisa.

The first speaker gave us a chance to rest our voices and listen to hers, and Kathyrn Grace was definitely worth a listen.  Her relaxed and open speaking style drew everyone in straight away as she covered how she and the team at Everything Everywhere approach service design for Orange.  Kathryn explained how putting the customer rather than the business at the centre of service design makes it work.  Having taken two years to get to where they are now, their focus is now on getting the customer experience right. With a 16 strong team, Kathyrn admits it can be a massive challenge to get people out of the square box way of thinking and more into the attitude of ‘when something works it works’.  With people’s traditional timings of what they do shifting across the board now is the time for the holistic approach, and I think that this is evident in how successfully Orange have moved from a product to a service driven company.

Kathryn’s talk finished with some questions and if you, like me, are interested in hearing more about service design or getting in touch with Kathryn she has a group in Leeds @sdleeds on Twitter.  They are hosting a drinks evening on 29th November, as she stated in her closing statement ‘we’ve done the thinking now we can do the drinking!’ :)

A quick break for coffee and cheesecake (which was yummy) and it was time to hear what Elizabeth Sanderson had to say.  Elizabeth is a roller derby enthusiast which helps her let off steam from her career as Web Services Manager at Leeds City Council.  She talked us through the agile, scrum project management approach that they are taking to redesigning the website.  She was very witty and insightful as a speaker, giving us all a great idea of what it is like to work for the Council.  The scrum plan focusses on bringing together everyone to work to a common direction, and it sounded like it was working a treat.

Elizabeth is very good at painting a picture of her working life.  She explained that there are currently 400 publishers to the website at the moment, there is brand new content on the way (that’s right they are not migrating anything!) and a brand new web service.   They are undertaking regular sprints where they look at little bits of the project and have constant dialogue with all project stakeholders.  The key message from Elizabeth’s talk was that everyone working together was key- she moved offices to be closer to IT and really get the communications going.  Follow @Lizziesanderson on Twitter and we can look forward to the new website next year!

All in all it was a thoroughly enjoyable event and I’m already looking forward to the next one! In the meantime I’ll be keeping an eye on what’s next :)