Conference season online

October has always been a super busy month for me. I’m usually starting a new OU module and travelling around speaking at conferences and meetups, all while doing my day job, spending time with my family and enjoying my hobbies. Sometimes I’ve not got the balance right! 2019 I remember was particularly hectic. I optimistically submitted conference sessions at the start of the year on a variety of different topics and, as the year went on I was invited to speak at various meetups in the UK and even stepped in to do some last minute presentations where other speakers had dropped out. This time last year I had just finished 8 weeks where I had a week’s holiday, spoken at 5 conferences, 2 breakfast briefings and 8 meet ups, all of which were on slightly different topics!

I really enjoy speaking at these events, otherwise I simply wouldn’t do them! As an attendee I get to learn from my peers and be inspired by steps forward in areas that I just don’t have time to keep up to date on. As a speaker, I get to pass on some of the things I’ve learned over the years in what I hope is an entertaining way, and I always love the conversations after the talks.

This year has, inevitably, been very different. February was my first event, where I spoke at The European Information Security Summit in London on the risks that Deep Fakes pose to the security sector. I spoke to a lot of security professionals at the event who were unaware of how AI was progressing in both voice and face cloning. As an attendee, I learned a lot about the state of security in many of the systems we take for granted. If you can justify the time and cost, attending a conference outside of your area of expertise can be incredibly informative.

A mere few weeks later, and I had several sessions at Big Data and AI World. I had a panel session with the amazing Sue Daley and Vitaliy Yuryev on why basics are often overlooked in data projects, followed a few hours later by my main presentation on learning from projects that go wrong. This was the 12th of March. While the organisers were doing everything they could, practically all the international speakers and attendees had decided not to attend. The sessions were reorganised to prevent large gaps in the program and many of the sessions I had been personally looking forward to were no longer happening. I really enjoyed both my sessions and got some great questions after them, but it was clear that people were nervous about the crowds and conferences and meetups would be on hold from that point onwards.

As I headed home on the train that afternoon I knew I wouldn’t be back in London for a while. My company was considering a trial of homeworking for a few days a week1, but I’d already decided to swap to home working for the foreseeable future and told my team to do the same if they wanted. My team had been at the conference with me and I didn’t realise then that it would be the last time I’d see them2.

March and April would normally be the time that I would be submitting keynote suggestions for the Autumn conference season and spending my evenings talking to University students at meetups and I really missed those interactions.

While I was interviewed over the summer (Humans of AI, Agile Data Science), I really did miss the chance to interact with a wider audience. You can’t respond to questions in a pre-recorded video.

I was delighted when Barclays Eagle Labs asked me if I would rerun a talk on Deep Fakes that I had given in person late in 2019, as a series of three online events. Despite the strangeness of talking into a camera without the feedback of the audience’s faces and the ever present anxiety that one of my neighbours would start noisily doing DIY during the session3, it was great to see so many people take 30 minutes out of their day for three consecutive weeks to learn. After the final session, I got a lot of messages from people who had made their own fakes and really understood both the positive and negative aspects of the technology and thanking me for making it accessible. It’s this type of interaction that makes these events worthwhile. Sadly these sessions were not recorded, but the slides are on my slideshare (Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3) and a variation of the talk that I gave at Tech Exeter in 2019 is available on sitepoint.

At the end of September, one of the events that was cancelled from March was resurrected as an online event sponsored by DevelopHer. I had 5 minutes, which is both an eternity (if you’ve ever heard Just a Minute) and the blink of an eye (if you have more than a single thing you want to say)! I managed to condense the 25 talk on getting into Data Science and AI into (just over) 5 minutes alongside an amazing line up of other women in AI.

What really stood out to me from this event is how many people attended who may not otherwise have been able to go to an in person meetup. Not everyone has the luxury of being able to stay late after work, or travel in for these events, or may not want to even if they could. One of the huge benefits of everything moving online is that it has made many of these events far more accessible, and I hope that this continues in some form.

Post by Bethan Reeves watching my talk at home in comfort 😀

Last week I spoke at the online version of one of my favourite conferences, Minds Mastering Machines. The invite advertised me as one of their veteran speakers :D. I’ve done some heavily technical talks at their event over the past few years, but for 2020 I decided to be a bit lighter and given world events I’m glad I did. One of the things I’ve noticed in all the projects I’ve led, advised on, or done due diligence for, is that testing never seems to be a priority for data science and AI. This is something that drives me crazy so I thought I’d approach it in a light hearted way and try and convert the attendees to testing thinking with a talk titled: Your testing sucks – what should you be doing? I paired seven best practises of testing thinking alongside examples (mostly) from spacecraft. I think it went down well and hopefully it was memorably enough to make people want to make time for testing by remembering the various missions.

My presentation from MCubed. Don’t coerce your data.

While I’ve nothing else planned for this year or even 2021, I intend to speak at more conferences. Even when large gatherings are safe again, I hope that there will still be online streams for those that cannot attend. Let’s keep tech accessible.

Rework London 2019 Part 1

The ReWork Deep Learning summit in London in September has become one of my must have go to conferences. It’s a great mix of academic talks and more practical sessions regarding applications of various types of Ai in business, so I couldn’t miss it this year either. Here’s a summary of Day 1

Continue reading Rework London 2019 Part 1

ReWork Deep Learning London September 2018 part 3

This is part 3 of my summary of ReWork Deep Learning London September 2018. Part 1 can be found here, and part 2 here.

Day 2 of rework started with some fast start up pitches. Due to a meeting at the office I missed all of these and only arrived at the first coffee break. So if you want to check out what 3D Industries, Selerio, DeepZen, Peculium and PipelineAI  are doing check their websites. Continue reading ReWork Deep Learning London September 2018 part 3

ReWork Deep Learning London September 2018 part 2

This is part 2 of my summary of the Rework Deep Learning Summit that took place in London in September 2018, and covers the afternoon of day 1. Part one, which looks at the morning sessions can be found here. Continue reading ReWork Deep Learning London September 2018 part 2

ReWork Deep Learning London September 2018 part 1

Entering the conference (c) ReWork

September is always a busy month in London for AI, but one of the events I always prioritise is ReWork – they manage to pack a lot into two days and I always come away inspired. I was live-tweeting the event, but also made quite a few notes, which I’ve made a bit more verbose below.  This is part one of at least three parts and I’ll add links between the posts as I finish them. Continue reading ReWork Deep Learning London September 2018 part 1

Presentations and speaking at conferences

Me presenting at Continuous Lifecycle London 2018

One of the things I’ve been doing more this year is speaking more at conferences and meetups. I always take the time to speak to the audience afterwards to see if there were aspects they didn’t get or enjoy, so I can hone the presentation for the next time1. Even when under embargo of product details, there’s usually lots of things that you can talk about that the wider community will find interesting and I have been encouraging people to break their presentation fear by talking at meetups.

Following on from my “Being a Panellist” post, I’ve been asked a lot how I go about writing a presentation and what I do to prepare, so I’ve gathered my thoughts here. This isn’t the only way, but it is what works for me! Continue reading Presentations and speaking at conferences

AI Congress London 2018 Day 2

AI Congress (still making me think of  @jack_septic_eye – let me know if you get that…)

If you’ve not read the day 1 summary then you can find that here.

Day 2 had a new host for track A in the form of David D’Souza from CIPD. His opening remarks quoted Asimov and Crichton and encouraging us not be magicians and to step back and think about what we should do rather than just what we could. Continue reading AI Congress London 2018 Day 2

AI Congress London 2018 Day 1

AI Congress (not @jack_septic_eye – I feel I may be in a very small subset of AI professionals who get that…)

London is a hive of AI activity. The UK is positioning itself as a leader in AI technology and you can barely walk around London without passing an AI company or meetup or training course1. If I didn’t actually have a day job, I could fill my time with AI conferences without actually doing much more than my daily commute. That said I am quite picky about the ones I go to. I’d never been to the AI Congress before and liked the diverse set of speakers and topics.  I was lucky that the team at Logikk had invited me as their guest for the two days. So how did it stack up? Well, day 1 was at a much higher level than some of the other conferences I’ve been to, with a lot of implementation and enterprise discussions and far fewer talks on the technical implementations. If you’re senior then these conferences are for you. If you want someone to talk about their latest paper on arxiv then there are far more technical events that will suit you better.

One of the biggest problems I had was that there were three separate tracks and only one of me, so if I didn’t make notes on a particular talk then hopefully the slides will be available after the event at some point. I missed some of the high profile talks, in preference of other speakers, on purpose as I’d already heard those speakers at other events. Continue reading AI Congress London 2018 Day 1

Being a Panellist at a Tech Talk

Being a panellist – expect to be recorded

Following on from the meetup talk I gave on building your own personal brand, I’ve been asked a few questions about speaking at events and being a panellist.  I felt it would be a good idea to write a few posts on this for reference.  This one is particularly about panel sessions. Continue reading Being a Panellist at a Tech Talk

WiDS2017: Women in Data Science Reading

Yesterday I had the great pleasure in being part of the global WiDS2017 event show casing women in all aspects of data science.  The main conference was held at Stanford but over 75 locations world wide had rebroadcasts and local events, of which Reading was one.   In addition to spending a great evening with some amazing women, I was asked to speak in the career panel on my experiences and overall journey. Continue reading WiDS2017: Women in Data Science Reading