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Produced in partnership with the European PR agency Tyto, we discussed the latest edition of their Tyto Tech 500 Power List, a publication that identifies the most influential figures in technology in the UK, France and Germany.
Andreas Maier, Professor, Friedrich-Alexander University, Erlangen-Nuremberg Jonathan Symcox, Editor at TechBlast and BusinessCloud.
The Tyto Tech 500 Power List is now in its 5th edition and Zoe explained that when they set up this ranking back in 2017, they had a clear aim in mind of looking to identify who are the most influential people in tech at any given moment and wanted to shine a light on this whole idea of influence. She explained there were 3 key findings important to note for this year.
Zoe explained it’s plain to see how pivotal tech is now in solving some of the world’s biggest challenges and you can really see how it reflects the world we’re living in.
Sophie explained that she’s been at ATOS for 3 years. She said ATOS is a large service provider, they support their customers in their digital transformation journey. Sophie’s in charge setting the technology vision for ATOS with their R&D investments, they want to invest where they’ll have the most impact to transform their customers through their digital journey and boost innovation. She explained that she helps inspire customers to get the best use of the technology and foster their technical communities. She said they have an expert scientific community as well as the CTO community, so they’re preparing the skills for the future upcoming technologies. Sophie said she’s been in tech for more than 30 years and has led R&D, which is a great asset for her. She explained that the pivotal aspect of tech is that technology really progresses continuously with natural evolutions. Cloud was one because moving applications to cloud really changed with things and with the upcoming, quantum computing. Sophie said it was a big surprise to be selected as one of the top women in tech to watch and a big honour too and hopes it will inspire other women to come in the tech area.
Andreas explained that he considers himself as an academic and this influencer status is very surprising for him as well. He said at the start of the pandemic they moved many things to social media, started recording lectures, putting them on YouTube and tried to share scientific results with their colleagues’ using tools like Twitter or LinkedIn. He said the audience is growing and they cannot meet on conferences like they used to anymore. He said that was the prime occasion when they would meet each other and share ideas, and now they share them with the world which he said is a good development. Andreas explained with the increase of open science and open access publishing, people can also download articles and follow the research much better.
Jonathan explained that the publications in the U.K. are probably more headline publications such as City A.M in London and the national newspapers and on the list there’s Alex Hern from The Guardian, Simon Duke from the Times. He said they’re influential in a certain way but where TechBlast and BusinessCloud come in is they look at a niche of start-up companies, scale companies and established companies that are in the tech sector. He explained it’s how the technologies are changing how we do business, how we live our lives, and they try and shine a light on those companies of all sizes. Jonathan said they’ve had people lists in the past as well on their publications where they look at female role models in technology, which has a real impact in terms of people getting engaged on social media and understanding who the people are that are trying to change the world. He said they try and reflect movements in business, movements in technology through the people that are in the sector and the companies they’re building.
Zoe explained that social media does go a long way to defining influence in today’s world but that’s only part of it. However, she said what do we mean by this concept of influence? What does that involve? She said some people might say it’s all about your social following but it’s not. She added that at Tyto, as a PR agency, they think about influence as a much more well-rounded or multifaceted concept. She said influence is people who have the power to persuade an audience about something, whatever it might be. Zoe said that one of the things that’s come through on this year’s ranking is the importance of relevance in influence, they are in part influential because they’re relevant and topical, it’s much more than just a social following.
What more needs to be done to allow women to be heard in tech?
Sophie explained that girls need to understand what it means to work in tech. She said there are many roles in tech and we are really living in crucial times where we see all those technologies that have a real social impact in our lives and the lives of our children. For example, how Covid was key in the need for decarbonization. She added on the one hand, the women need to be interested in science, technology and understand that this is an area where they can succeed and have fun. Sophie explained that for boys, it’s more natural, they are interested in it but now technology evolves, it’s more context aware, more immersive experience that girls can understand. Once they understand this is something for them, she said we then need to promote them and encourage them to have a more leadership position. Sophie said we need to understand that leadership does not have to be this immutable stereotype model invented by men, there is a place in the business world for more collaboration, more listening, more empathy, and a more sustainable way to drive economic success.
Andreas added that targeted marketing is also something which is very important. He said they’re running several study programs in computer science, 90% male, 10% female. And then they’re running a study program that they call medical engineering which is 50% male, 50% female, and they are learning very similar things. He said if you frame it right, if you make it accessible, if you create the right learning experience, you can make it much more interesting for female participants. However, it’s hard to keep up with that, and they’re trying to think of new things, but they need role models who show how to be successful in tech as a woman. Zoe added that we must tackle the issue of the women in tech, first and then the influence hopefully will come. She said it will change over time, but it’d be great to have a few more people who can really be seen out there as those to follow or emulate. She explained that it’s about working with the individual and within organisations, we must recognise that everyone does things in a different way, it’s about bosses and more senior people within an organization supporting their team members as individuals and encouraging them in a way that works for them.
Jonathan said journalism has never been more important and the last few years have shown us that. He said they’ve always had a clear focus on speaking with founders and other parties in technology and business and getting under the skin of that business. He said it’s their job to put the perspective on that to say, this is where we see the business, it’s impressive, this is this problem they’re trying to solve, and this is the problems they may face.
Sophie said the pandemic has been a huge accelerator regarding technology because we had to adapt so rapidly to the new ways of living, working, communicating. However, she said it really revealed how dependent we are on digital technology, but it’s also showed us major lags, for example, in cybersecurity and some inability of some businesses to scale because they had to meet rapidly to the changing demands. Sophie said it revealed three main points.
Andreas said he’s not been in a lecture hall for almost two years since the beginning of the pandemic, they teach everything online and it gives them this additional capacity to be able to teach all those new students not just in the lecture, but for the programming exercises and so on. He said they used to have peak hours where the computer rooms were full, or you would have to wait for a tutor for a while. He said it isn’t too bad but all the social things that you do at the university, you don’t want to miss that, so there’s also a big push to go back to lectures
The Tech Space in Germany
Andreas said the whole machine learning element is going to progress further, and they have quite a lot of trust issues with machine learning, so they need to build more dependable systems. He said ethical AI is a big thing and further ahead, quantum computing. He said there’s the quantum machine learning community that’s currently growing with things like the Metaverse and the digital twin.
Jonathan said Metaverse is definitely something that’s been spoken about a lot and his one thing with the Metaverse is it’s not owned by Facebook, it has to be a practical reason for the technology. He added that digital twins is a perfect example of there’s a reason for it. He added that building a virtual world for people to interact isn’t something that would necessarily appeal, with all immersive technologies, there needs to be a real reason to use it. Jonathan said things such as health care and education technology, they see the acceleration in these technologies. He explained that they do innovation rankings on BusinessCloud called Tech50, and they them put across 14 different sectors. Recently they published their head tech 50, which was all about education technology companies that are using technology to help people, which would have been 5 years ahead of where it would have been if hadn’t been a pandemic. Jonathan said there’s going to be an increase in businesses across all sectors experimenting with new technologies, AI has not been around that long so that will come more and more into things as well.
Zoe added that as well as looking at the key sectors that have been around for a long time, they always also keep a bit of a watching eye on emerging sectors and from this year they’re keeping an eye on the quantum tech space, but also space tech and logistics and manufacturing, using tech to be transformational. She said logistics and manufacturing is really one to watch.
Jonathan said they interviewed a business called DeGould, it captures hundreds of images of a vehicle, and it can identify by using artificial intelligence on the cloud any dents, any scratches. It gets to the end of the production line, and it can say, you’ve put the wrong colour grille on that car, or you’ve not put the turbo on the back rather than being rectified for more money down the line and the customer being irate, it gets fixed on the site. That’s one practical example of a start-up, which has seen massive adoption in the last two years.
Zoe added the fact that we’re all identifying these use cases are examples of where tech is being used in every different sector of society, every different type of business, it’s just part of the fabric of life.
Tech Landscape in France
Sophie explained that in Europe as a whole, they’re see a rising need for sovereignty, gaining control over your data. The other trend is the ecosystem, talking about digital twins, it’s linked to it because you want to share data, you want to have data from the real world and be able to deliver seamless services to the customers. She added that there’s a big need for cybersecurity and the threat landscape is extending so we need to protect ourselves. Sophie said it’s nice to see France and Europe renewing interest in developing that approach to foster innovation and work collectively and have leadership on sovereign aspects.
Tech landscape in the UK
Jonathan said the sovereignty thing is important, privacy in general has been in the news cycle for a couple of years now and every app, one of the first questions that you ask is how are you guarding the privacy of your users? And GDPR had a massive impact on that as well. He said it’s also the spread away from cities, they shine a light on the companies around the UK, if you look on from the outside, you think London is the epicentre of technology and yes, it’s a financial powerhouse but a lot of the innovations are springing up around the U.K. He added there’s a move to hybrid working and so people don’t necessarily want to go into the office, so there’ll be a bit of a flattening of the cities and more co-working spaces in the suburbs. Jonathan said we’ll see more people looking for that convenience and that helps you retain the staff as well, that innovation will continue to spread to all corners of the UK.
Looking ahead to the next edition of the Tyto Tech 500 Power List
Zoe explained we’ll see some commonalities and trends emerge over time. She said some of the emerging sectors like quantum and metaverse they’re likely to be talking more about and of course, coming through the pandemic thinking about where we’ll be by the time they launch our next report. She added that when they started in 2017, there was an interesting quote that Jeremy Waite from IBM gave, he was ranked highly on the list and he said that “any true influencer never sets out to be an influencer” and “it’s the responsibility of all of us to influence whatever audience you’ve got, however big or small”. Zoe said we need to think about influence in a human kind of well-rounded way, however small your audience is, someone will be listening. The influence you’ve got shouldn’t all be about getting people to buy more stuff, it’s about meaningful relationships.