By @SimonCocking

Enjoyable interview with Dr Sue Black.Top 50 EU #WomenInTech Tech@DailyMirror @guardian Book@SavingBletchley Fdr@savvytechmums @BCSWomen Mentor #girlscancode

How was InspireFest? What were your expectations from it? And what cool / useful things came out of you being over for it?

I was looking forward to it. To hear a new take on tech, and what was important. I had no expectations. I hoped to hear new, interesting things from the sector. It was good it was mainly women speakers, and good to hear women related topics. I recommended some of the speakers so I was familiar with some of the content but this was also great too because they are great stories and it was good to hear about them in more detail.

I loved hearing the life stories. Jocelyn Bell Burnell for example. The story of her Phd, discovering pulsars, but getting no recognition of it. Her supervisor didn’t believe she had found anything and then later claimed the credit for her discovery.  It is good to hear this story, and have it aired again today. Her description illustrated the attitudes in the 1970’s, it was a poignant moment. Overall we heard lots of exciting things and it’s great to see how we have moved on from those attitudes hopefully. Things are much better now. Women are more vocal, though it is still not an equal society.

It was also great to see Lauren Boyle 12 years old and such a positive example. Fantastic to see how confident she was, a really great message and inspiration. It helps show we are moving towards a more equal society.

In the past people were talking about tech, as if it was men against women. However it was rather that it was a very misogynist society, for several 1000 years biased against women. Now society is trying to see how things can be better, a better culture for all. In a less discriminatory society everyone benefits.

What future trends are you excited by?

I have moved from a very technical area, at the micro level, to now looking at the big picture. I am very excited by this. Everyone is becoming more connected, and with this they are becoming more empathetic and understanding of other people and their situation. In the 1970’s for example we got our news primarily from newspapers, often with only tiny coverage of story, a small paragraph buried inside the newspaper. Whereas now, it’s often instantly available on our smartphones, through twitter, facebook, and other social media, uploaded as it is happening. Many many more people are seeing the latest news. This way we see things very quickly, and people are better able to connect. This changes the way we see ourselves and the world around us.

For example with the recent refugee crisis, it now hits our consciousness much quicker, which enables a quicker turnaround too. My facebook page quickly became full of people organising to do something to help the refugees. This is very positive use of tech, connecting people to solve problems, to make the world a better place. This is because greater connectedness and information, help create greater empathy much more quickly and with positive consequences.


You are a tech agony aunt for Daily Mirror, what do you enjoy about doing it?

I love being tech agony aunt. I am really keen to help people to understand benefits of tech. People get stuck on things and can’t get past them, and then give up. I’d like to help as many people as possible to not have this experience.

If you’re in a world where you understand tech, then you don’t see those hurdles . People do get stuck on these hurdles and there is so much to help people to make life better it would be a pity to miss out on this due to an initial issue with the technology they are using.

What issues repeatedly come up on your agony aunt column?

The importance of having a safe password, people concerned about their kids using social media, online security, phishing attacks, their kids safety, and how much screen time are all common concerns. Though children’s screen time has to be considered carefully. There are so many positive things they might be doing on line, like reading the literary classics, or on the other hand playing violent games. People need to define more carefully what they mean when they talking about screen time.

If someone says ‘my child was online for 3 hours on lap top’  this could be good or bad. There are many positive learning opportunities, youtube tutorials for example, hairdressing, bike repair, all sorts. Many people have taught themselves really useful skills from being online so this needs to be factored in when we talk about screen time.

Tech takes away some jobs, but it brings others, so we need to train people in how to use the technology.

What sort of areas should people be trained in, I imagine you envisage something beyond the ECDL?

Yes. To have a basic understanding of tech at a broader level. Coding is good, but it should not just be about coding. Tech training should be at a wider level. How to use social media for example. It would be great if everyone could be trained in how to use it. Also app design, web design, not to a deep level. To understand how it works, to then be able to describe what works for them. It’s important to understand how to be safe online. For example in the tech mums course that we teach, we educate mums about these issues. This awareness can then help lead to jobs in many of the wider areas beyond just IT such as social media communications, support services, business, management and many more.

Blogging, who do you follow / where do you get your news from?

I use twitter and facebook, for getting my news and ideas, from the people that I follow. This is my front line view of what’s happening in the world. If I see something I want to know more about I then research it and drill deeper into it.

As a big user of social media, how do you manage life / work, and online / offline balance?

(Laughs) I am a bit addicted! But it’s not necessarily a bad thing, as it connects me into the world. I wish I’d had it earlier in my life, so I could have understood and looked up many things, much earlier on. In the morning when I wake up the first thing I do is look at my phone to scan the feeds for news.

Then last thing at night I read a book on phone. I’m probably one of those people who look at my phone 250 times a day (laughs again). Not email though. It sucks me in, so I restrict that. Social media is much easier to dip into. Email is too much, and it would take me all day, I get literally 100’s of emails daily so I have to manage how much time I give to it.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

We are at a really exciting time. There is a digital revolution going on in people’s heads and it is affecting the way the world is moving. There are some great things happening. The more connected people become, the more they are able to emphasise with other people’s struggles around the world, and it hopefully means we become kinder, more compassionate, more helpful to each other.

Have a look at @savvytechmums,, to get an idea of what we’re doing. We will also be running a course in Dublin at the Digital Hub in November too.

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