To celebrate International Women’s Day 2021, Astley Media is shining a light on some of the fantastic women in tech across the South West.
Laura Crocken Stevens is the Centre Director of Future Space Bristol, an innovation hub located at UWE Bristol which provides flexible space and support for pioneering science and technology start-ups. Laura is an international start-up specialist with 30 years’ experience across a range of technology-based industries. She has also been a trade negotiator for the US government and has lived and worked in Russia and China.
What inspired you to pursue a career in Tech?
My first corporate job in the mid-1990s was with COMSAT which at the time was the sole provider of satellite communication for the US. My role was to develop markets for COMSAT’s Technology Services Division in Asia, and in particular China. The first contract I negotiated was for a satellite overlay network for the city of Wuhan, now a household name, but relatively unknown to most people outside China at the time. The satellite uplink we installed enabled the city to leapfrog expensive terrestrial (cable) networks and provide telecommunications services for hundreds of thousands of people. I realised then how technology had the power to transform society.
Name a woman in tech who inspires you and why?
There are so many interesting women in tech, it’s hard to choose! Two spring to mind – Dr Sue Black, Professor of Computer Science at Durham University and Regina Dugan, CEO of new biomedical non-profit Wellcome Leap. I first heard about Sue Black when my daughter decided she wanted to pursue a degree in computer science. Professor Black’s story is really inspirational. Regina Dugan has a very different, but equally interesting back story. It is fascinating to hear her talk about how to build teams to deliver breakthrough technologies that address global challenges.
Have you faced any challenges while trying to establish yourself as a professional in a traditionally male dominant sector and how did you overcome this?
I think I was very lucky to have a very supportive (male) boss early on in my career. My biggest challenge has been to balance career and family. I hope that one of the outcomes of the pandemic is a new model of work that embraces greater flexibility for both women and men.
What words of advice would you give to women looking to get into the Tech sector but are hesitant due to the lack of diversity?
Find a mentor, work hard, prove yourself on competence, and commit.
What is the best thing about working in Tech in the South West?
The community! It’s incredibly supportive and open to new people.
What advice would you give your younger self about the journey ahead in the Tech industry?
Go all in! This is the most incredibly exciting time for technology (surely every generation says this?). I would love to be starting my career now.