BookMachine Unplugged: Talking Tech


Last night Consultants Helen Harradine and Rhiannon Griffiths attended the BookMachine Unplugged: Talking Tech event. It was an inspiring event, the host Emma Barnes, (Founder & CEO Consonance and MD Snowbooks) explained the agenda was to understand how to be more tech savvy; it left us wondering what more we could be doing!

Lola Odelola, (Software Engineer and Founder of kicked us off by explaining her entry into the tech world was actually post degree, whilst she was job hunting she wanted to build a website to showcase her writing, so she learnt how do it herself; which left her intrigued enough to do a bootcamp for coding. She noticed there was a lot of talk about diversity in the industry, but this seemed to refer to gender only. This led her to start, in which she provides free workshops to black women. She believes we need more empathy in the tech industry, in the way things are built; one example is that screen readers cannot read many web pages. The industry needs to consider what can be done to make things more accessible.

We then got a fantastic insight into a publishing/tech career from Sara O’Connor (Full Stack Developer, Consonance), who went into her current role after being an Editorial Director. Sara spent a lot of her career in children’s books, knowing there must be a better way to do boring and repetitive admin tasks, and now spends her time creating the tools she wishes she had when she was an Editor. Her advice was to find the thing that annoys you the most, to give you the drive to find a solution and fix it! She did not have any coding experience, so she started off with a two week long course and ended up on a three month bootcamp, and eventually went back into publishing where she could put all her skills to use. Sara recommended codebar charity, for free tutorials online, and she recommended Ruby as a programming language to learn, especially for publishing people as it uses nouns and verbs so reads like a book!

Our last speaker was Janneke Niessen, (Entrepreneur, Investor, Boardmember, Inspiring Fifty, Project Prep), who reiterated the fact that if there is a lack of diversity in tech, the future is not inclusive. Things that are being built are not for everyone. Algorithms are not neutral, as they are created by people with bias, and then the data inputted is not neutral. We need role models; if you can see it, you can be it. Janneke actually asked her son what he thought she did as a living, and the answer she got was a princess that dances! She then took the time to video herself whilst working, to be able to show him exactly what she was doing. If you are not seeing people like yourself in the industry, you may not go for it. 65% of kids in school today will have a job that does not exist yet, and there can be too much of a trend of hiring people who fit in a box; we need people who do not fit, so that when a company changes, they are able to change with it. If someone is willing to learn, put in the hours and change it can be so beneficial to the company. Her last piece of advice was that if you need to do something out of your comfort zone, do not think, just say yes. Once you have said yes, the only thing you can do is come up with a plan.

To end we heard again from our host Emma, who had an interesting route into her current role, starting her publishing house after redundancy from a Consultancy. She learnt from the big companies, and realised that she could do more with the admin side of the business, and started to build systems within Excel and then took it from there. She recommended which guides you through the process, all in written word. Emma then encouraged the room to stay in publishing! As we need good people to be in places where they can make a difference.

As always, we thoroughly enjoyed the BookMachine event. What a fantastic insight into the industry with some fascinating speakers and ideas. We look forward to what will come next!