Jess Tyrrell: ‘We need to interest young girls in creating technology rather than consuming it’

We are excited to welcome our third contribution as part of our series dedicated to Women active in Digital Creativity! Here is the story of Jess Tyrrell, Associate Director at the Centre for London think tank, Director of the Connecting Tech City and WeAreDotDotDot (a new online platform connecting young people to opportunities in East London’s Tech City) .

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

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“I think entrepreneurs usually have something in their past that keeps them pushing”

I grew up in a cantankerous household. Both of my parents challenged conventional thinking and both of them were very political. My Mum was a peace campaigner throughout the 80’s and was one of the first women to chain herself to the railings at Greenham Common. She stood up for what she believed in and she taught me you could do anything if you put your mind to it. She is my strongest female role model.

I think entrepreneurs usually have something in their past that keeps them pushing – some kind of dissatisfaction with the status quo.

“Follow your curiosity and get involved with what’s going on around you”

I started my first business in the mid-90’s in Manchester. My sister and I set up a music agency when we were fresh out of Uni and unemployed. We decided to make our own luck.

The business didn’t last long, but we learnt a lot and made connections. We were invited onto an early Internet and Creative Industries course and got sent home with one of the original modems and an email account. The music industry was just starting to get to grips with digital and everyone wanted a website but no-one knew what to charge or how much to pay for one. There was a lot of silly money going around and we felt like pioneers!

Follow your curiosity and get involved with what’s going on around you. If you’re learning and meeting interesting people it’s always going to take you somewhere.

I trained in theatre originally and ended up working in politics. It made sense to me because theatre is a way of telling stories that encourage people to make the world a better place. Digital has made it so much easier to tell stories, to communicate ideas and to connect. It’s made the world much more democratic.

“We need to interest young girls and women in creating technology rather than just consuming it”

I’ve been lucky to work with a number of great leaders. One of them is Amanda Jordan, Co-Chair of Corporate Citizenship, who I worked for twice, most recently on the #iwill campaign which she co-founded, and which is changing the lives of many young people. I admire her because she’s survived in a man’s world without loosing her innate femininity and without compromising her values. She’s always been kind and respectful.

We need to interest young girls and women in creating technology rather than just consuming it. There are so many opportunities! In East London all the tools are there – a whole range of learning programmes and drop-in clubs to go to. What we’re finding is that girls drop off tech or science learning when they cross over into secondary school. You have to get them switched on young and keep them engaged. Digital creativity is crucial. If they know how to make things and solve problems, girls are more likely to see the point.

I’m really excited about products like the kits Technology Will Save Us make, and things like the Makie dolls. They are going help raise a whole new generation of girls who believe that technology is for them.


RL2531-WeAreDotDotDot-Logo-Core-RGB-100pxH-v1Jess Tyrrell is Associate Director at the Centre for London think tank, and Director of the Connecting Tech City project – a collaboration across Tech City to radically scale up the number of local young people accessing digital learning and jobs. Jess was awarded the Tech City Insider 2014 Award for Altruism for her work on this project. Previously Jess ran her own production company Germination. Before that she worked with Amanda Jordan at the Smart Company and co-founded the Digital Society programme at the Institute for Public Policy Research. She worked as part of Tony Blair’s successful 2001 election campaign team.

The Connecting Tech City report launches on March 25th, alongside the platform. You can pre-register at