Tiana Sinclair ‘We need more women to start their own tech businesses’

This week we welcome Tiana Sinclair, an enthusiastic futurist and an advocate of emerging technologies. British-Russian Tiana is a promising young entrepreneur (she founded of EventSlides which will be launching soon), a product consultant and runs Future Tech Track. She tells us about her passion for building digital products, why competitors are as important as mentors and why we need more women to start their own businesses.

If you would like to nominate women and supportive men who are active movers and shakers in the field of digital creativity to share their stories and thoughts with our readers in the coming months please do get in touch

Headshot - Tiana Sinclair

‘So why did I end up in a tech-related career?’

I studied Digital Screen Arts at UCA and it was the theoretical unit that sparked my enthusiasm for technology. Having been fascinated by Shannon’s theory and Moles’ work I loved the idea that one day, given technology will continue evolving as rapidly as it does today, we will be able to transfer infinite amounts of information, quantify and share our actual experiences and use electronic devices as ‘vessels’ for our souls. Science fiction and literature has played a huge role in my development which essentially meant that I was drawing inspiration from people who were either dead or didn’t exist in the first place. There weren’t any female writers I looked up to at the time so Bradbury, Azimov, Orwell and Belyaev became my biggest influencers.

My tutor Liz Wilkinson was probably my first female role model; she introduced me to semiotics and time-based media narratives as well as more specific subjects like digital culture, identity and post-human studies. There was actually a rumor that you had to read the entire 598 paged Cyber Handbook to pass her course!

‘I remember putting on a boiler suit once and sneaking in to watch my mother live in the operation theatre’

I grew up between Russia and UK in a family of a surgeon and electrical engineer. My mother has always been a strong figure and the leader in the family. I remember putting on a boiler suit once and sneaking in to watch her live in the operation theatre – there is something radical about interfering with original organic materials, and also something artistic at the same time (given you get over the nauseous feeling at first); this is where human intelligence dominates over nature. However I was always more interested in finding out how things work and used to spend a lot of evenings listening to my dad explaining electrical conductors and connectivity as well as exploring more futuristic subjects like cosmology and time travel.

‘I can only compare building digital products with creating mini universes’

Obviously I’ve never seriously thought that my interest in the field will ever result in some sort of career journey – I’ve been working in market research prior to my first project gig working on Zynga games releases. I felt that this was definitely the sector I wanted to stay in – I ended up contracting as an agile product manager since. From ideation to mapping user journeys to populating the platform I can only compare building digital products with creating mini universes. Products shouldn’t just be looked at in the context of pure online space. It only takes a few elegant solutions to change the way we behave offline: it’s a stepping stone towards rethinking our dogmas. Just look at how Aibnb has changed our perception of staying in a stranger’s house or how Lyft lets you share rides with others.

‘Having mentors is important but having competitors is no less important’

Having mentors is important but having competitors is no less important. Working in a tech startup does in a way make you a ‘lean mean fighting machine’.  Supporters will help you make the most of who you are but it’s the challengers who will turn you into the person you never thought you could have become.  Critical feedback is crucial from day one: if people who surround you are continuously saying you are on the right track, you might be asking the wrong people.

‘London community is vibrant – going to events is the best way to get immersed in tech sector’

Some people say digital  technology alienates people but it certainly had an opposite effect on me. When I’ve moved to London I’ve registered on Twitter, signed up to Eventbrite and various newsletters and tried to go to all events I could find on there but it was just physically impossible. I think going to events is the best way to get immersed in tech sector. They provide a great overview of what’s out there and allow you to spot the latest hottest companies and trends. London community is especially vibrant – there are around 4 tech events happening each evening so plenty to choose from!

‘I would strongly encourage more women to start their own businesses’

About that time an idea of a resource where you could store all event content came to me – I’ve started to play around with a basic website and eventually ended up building EventSlides which I am excited to be launching this summer.  There are very few women who decide to go down the entrepreneurship route but the female founders I meet are hugely supportive and are always happy to give a hand – I would strongly encourage more women to start their own businesses, even if it’s just something on the side. I also hope tech sector is where we could rethink some of the stereotypes associated with women friendships.

‘There is still a case of sexism in tech’

There is still a case of sexism in tech, particularly when it comes to labour rewards. Its a well-known fact that women are still paid less for doing the same work as men. Asides from employer’s attitudes it’s also because women also tend to undervalue their work and this really needs to be changed. My advice would be looking at resources like Glassdoor before approaching anyone – this will give you some real benchmarks for salaries; do your research: contact existing employees to get some feedback on their experiences.

‘If you are a bit of an inventor at heart the tech sector could really become your new playground!’

Volunteering is also a good way to get immersed in the scene. 2 years ago I’ve connected with the founders of Nine Worlds Geekfest, a fantastic festival that connects the geekiest crowd from all backgrounds. Later I’ve introduced Future Tech Track, an initiative to accelerate adoption of emerging technology and shift towards a more sustainable way of living (included topics like neurosciences, cleantech, robotics, 3d-printing and digital tech)  and I continue to do programming there as well as organise meetups on the side. It’s a non-profit initiative but it cant be more rewarding. Do unpaid work and you’d be surprised how well it pays off in the long term run!

Working in tech isn’t for everyone. You might never have the answer to the question of what is it that you actually do for living. Prepare yourself as you will miss some holidays and birthday parties (I’ve turned my own birthday into a user testing session once – true story!). However it is hugely rewarding and if you are a bit of an inventor at heart the tech sector could really become your new playground.

 

Tiana Sinclair is a UK-based product consultant and founder of EventSlides, a real-time platform for event experiences that has won Web Summit’s alpha competition for startups. Futurist and an advocate of emerging technologies, she runs the Future Tech Track event and annual conference for early technology adopters.  She was recently published in the Future of Business book where she discusses how a range of advanced technology developments could be deployed to augment and preserve the live experience for attendees, event owners, sponsors and planners.

Reach Tiana on Twitter: @tiana60s 

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