A few years back, someone worked out how to transport mattresses more easily (vacuum-packed and rolled up in a box), and suddenly a bazillion online mattress companies sprang up out of nowhere.
Casper, Eve, Otty, Simba — they all seemed to have the same 100-night money-back guarantee, similar ads, and no differentiators beyond a signature colour they’d each chosen.
Like a lot of people, I didn’t much fancy the prospect of paying hundreds of pounds to find out if a bed was any good, and half suspected they were all selling the same white-label mattress with a brand name slapped on top.
I tried a double Casper mattress for a few months, and didn’t especially like it. So when Otty offered me the chance to try theirs instead, I took my chance to see if it really is all the same product.
Spoiler: it’s not.
The 100-night trial
It sounds like a medieval ritual to win a princess’s hand in marriage, but the 100-night trial is a fixture of online mattress companies. Basically, you plump for the mattress, and if after 100 nights (three-and-a-bit months) you hate it, they’ll take it back.
Obviously, it’s designed to ease you into what is otherwise a massive, scary purchase. Given how few of us bother to return a pair of shoes, which is small and lightweight and doesn’t have to be hauled out of your bed, I wouldn’t be surprised if the companies are counting on a little bit of laziness too.
When you’ve just moved in and can’t find the bedding
I’ve had my Otty mattress for just over 100 nights now, and I’m ready to call it. Here’s what I think.
The Otty mattress arrives like a plastic-covered pancake rolled up in a box. Mine was delivered by an appealingly-named company called Keen & Able, who kept me really well updated on when exactly it would arrive. They also helped me get it to the right room.
From there, you undo the box, and use the included handy cutting tool to slice open the plastic wrapping (note: this is at least as satisfying as sliding your open scissors through wrapping paper. You know what I’m talking about). Then, you leave it in place on your bed to expand.
At first, it smells a bit weird, and you shouldn’t faceplant it until it’s had at least a few hours to breathe. If it looks thin at this point, it’s because it’s been vacuum packed and needs to inflate itself, like a loaf of fresh bread rising in the oven (there are a lot of bread comparisons in this review. Never write when hungry).
Once it’s expanded to its full size (up to 24 hours, but you can get on it any time after 2 hours), feel free to throw yourself face-down on it. I did, several times.
The Otty hybrid mattress costs £499 for a double, which is what I have. That seems like a lot of money to me, mostly because I’m a freelancer renting in London and consider £4.99 a lot for a pint. Like most people, the brand of mattress I’ve mostly had up to now is Landlord’s Choice, otherwise known as “what is the cheapest thing I can buy without actively infesting my buy-to-let flat with bedbugs?”
However, I’m also aware that a brand new double can be had from Ikea for a fair bit less (for instance, we have this one in Zack’s bedroom, and it’s pretty comfy for £120). So, what’s the difference?
Well, most of the cheaper mattresses are full of springs. That’s not in itself a bad thing, but when there are two of you on a mattress, a bed of springs can bow down with the weight and create a ravine in the middle that you both fall into (called ‘roll together’). That’s why people pay more for ‘pocket sprung’ mattresses, where each spring has its own little fabric den and isn’t influenced by the others.
Moose tests the springiness
Also, springs vary a lot in quality. Some of them are fine, some will stick through the fabric and poke you in the ribs within a couple of years (or months). You’re also meant to flip them over or turn them round every six months or so, to try and wear them out evenly rather than just where you sleep. I used to be a hotel chambermaid, and believe me, trying to do this on your own is even worse for your spine than a bad mattress.
The Otty mattress is a hybrid, which means it has both springs (the good, pocket kind) and foam. The springs are apparently 5x the size of other brands’ springs, which is a weird metric to get competitive about but I’m guessing it’s considered a good thing since it’s prominently mentioned in the mattress bumf.
On top of the springs is a layer of reflex foam, and on top of that is a layer of memory foam infused with cooling gel. The springs are there for back and joint support, and the foam is for comfort.
I reckon my bum dips way further down than that
The mattress equates to a firmness rating of 7.5 out of 10, which makes it medium-firm. My Casper mattress was rated 6, and I definitely prefer the Otty in terms of support and soothing joint pain (thanks, fibromyalgia).
The cooling gel, however, is somewhat wasted on me. It’s one of the big selling points of the mattress, and I know scientifically a lot of people find a cooler environment helps them sleep better. But not me. I’ve got half a thyroid and Raynaud’s syndrome, so I’m permanently freezing and have my electric blanket on every single day, even in the summer.
You can still use an Otty mattress with an electric blanket, thankfully, because I’d have died by now if not. Despite my need for warmth, the cooling gel isn’t a complete waste — it also helps the mattress not to retain too much heat and get really sweaty, which is apparently a thing with memory foam (grim).
Otty also makes two types of pillow: the Deluxe and the Adjustable. I have two of the Deluxe pillows, and Otty often does offers where you can get two of them free with your mattress purchase.
The pillows are pleasingly firm and rectangular: they look beautifully neat and tidy on your bed.
However, they’re a bit too high for my liking (obviously you only use one: both at once would be way too far off the mattress!), and they don’t quite fit into my pillowcases (although the covers are washable).
While I haven’t replaced my standard pillow for laying down on, I have found the perfect use for the Otty pillows: as backrests against the headboard or wall while you’re sitting up in bed reading. They are perfect for this, and have made my nighttime reading sessions much comfier.
Is the Otty mattress nice to lay on?
Comfort-wise, the hybrid mattress is superb. Whether it’s just me, me and the cat, or me and Zack and the cat in my bed, it stays level and doesn’t bunch up or cause canyons. It doesn’t get too hot, even with my old-lady electric blanket on, and the cover comes off easily for machine washing.
Because of the (soft but supportive) foam layer at the top, you don’t ever have to flip it over, although it is useful to rotate it 180 degrees every six months or so. That feature was a big relief to me: I hate flipping mattresses. (Otty also recommends you rotate it every month for the first few, but effort).
It’s a thick, good-quality mattress to lie on, and can quite happily handle things like you putting all your weight on one knee — doing that on an old Landlord’s Choice mattress once snapped the bed slats, because the mattress was about the thickness of a slice of Tesco Value toast.
I’ve slept on hotel mattresses and very pricey Dreams jobbies that were considerably less comfortable than this. It’s a reliable all-round choice for people who need something that’ll take the strain off their joints, let them sink into a deep, comfy sleep, and feel like they’re floating on a strangely supportive cloud. If you like your bedroom cool, even better.
At the end of my 100-night trial, would I return the Otty mattress? Absolutely not. I knew I wouldn’t from night 1, when I slept so well that my lungs were tired from breathing so deeply the next day (that’s how I know when I’ve been dead to the world).
The Otty hybrid mattress feels like a freshly baked loaf: warm, soft, and with just the right amount of springback when you squeeze it.
Code First: Girls is one of our very favourite organisations. Why? Because they’re actively working to increase the number of women in tech, and absolutely smashing it.
Over the last three years, Code First: Girls has delivered over five million pounds’ worth of free tech education, and taught more than 8,000 women how to code for free.
We chatted to CEO and all-round superwoman Amali de Alwis to find out how she made that happen.
Hey, Amali! Those are some incredible numbers you’ve achieved so far with Code First: Girls. Can you tell us how you got there?
Our combination of dedicated instructors across the country, incredibly supportive partners, and our overall motivation to make these figures into a reality have all been key.
Our mission has also been supported by increased public awareness of the need for a more gender-balanced tech workforce. Last year, we saw incredible kickback across a host of industries with the #PayMeToo movement, and we’re proud of how Code First: Girls has been able to contribute to improving diversity and inclusion in the tech workforce.
We’ve all heard about the ‘Confidence Gap’: the idea that women are held back in the workplace by a lack of confidence in their own abilities. Is that something you relate to?
Having self-doubt or questioning your abilities is something that transcends industries and can apply to both men and women. However, in the tech environment, I feel it is exacerbated by the fact that on a physical level, there are many instances where women can find themselves grossly outnumbered by men in a team or meeting.
Literally being the only woman in the room can naturally be a bit daunting, especially if you start to go down a path of comparison or feeling the need to conform.
Code First: Girls at Microsoft Reactor
Diversity isn’t just about making a company look good. In your experience, how do companies benefit from diverse hiring?
Where do I begin! There is so much value in having diverse teams in tech. As the situation currently stands, the majority of the software and tech products being designed are made by men, when for many products, at least half of their users are women.
Having a team that is gender diverse opens up a whole other spectrum of thinking and problem solving, insights that may have never entered the discourse otherwise. The same can be said for having cultural and other types of diversity in the tech workforce.
“Our students don’t need any previous qualifications”
Having a pool of people with different views, backgrounds, and upbringings means you have whole new skillsets being applied to problem-solving.
Thankfully, I think many tech companies are now beginning to see the kind of competitive edge having internal diversity can bring, and are starting to work to try and improve.
In the UK, Code First: Girls teaches more women to code than universities do. Why do you think that is?
As an organisation that sits outside of the traditional education system, we had a blank slate to design training programmes that met needs that weren’t being fulfilled, without the pre-existing limitations that a traditional university might face.
Courses are taught in the evenings to fit around people’s existing lives
For example, our students don’t need any previous qualifications, and the courses are coursework rather than exam based. Additionally, courses are taught in the evenings to fit around people’s existing lives, and are delivered by passionate individuals with a practical focus. And of course one of the biggest advantages – the community courses are free!
That combined with the amazing support that we get from our volunteers, instructors and partners like Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Trainline, Goldman Sachs, OVH and KKR, means that we’ve reduced a lot of the barriers that would traditionally exist for young women who want to learn to code, and we can deliver courses that are practical and informed by businesses who actually hire tech talent.
Are you planning to expand to other countries?
It’s definitely something we’re thinking about, but for right now for our free coding courses only operate in the UK and Ireland. Especially with the significant growth of courses related to our 2020 campaign, we will be focusing our community-side activities on the campaign in the coming 12 months before thinking about any further expansion, including geographic.
We do however work with some great companies on global commercial projects. For example, we recently wrapped up the first year of the fantastic Code Like a Girl ‘train the trainer’ programme with Vodafone, which helped Vodafone run coding courses for girls aged 14-18 across 24 countries. Those types of projects are really exciting, and we hope to do more like that in the coming year.
Amali shows off the new BT programme she’s been working on
Sounds like you’ve had a terrific year. What’s next?
We already have so many exciting things lined up! We will be continuing to run hundreds of free coding courses for young women across the UK as part of our 2020 campaign. Additionally, we’re just finishing off an amazing programme with BT, which sees us training 30 women of all ages for free, with BT guaranteeing all women who successfully complete the programme a job offer.
I am also one of London Tech Week’s ambassadors this year, and we’ll be helping them to think about how London can continue to be a global leader in tech, and do so in a way that supports the amazing diversity and abilities we have here.
And of course, we’ll have our Annual Conference, Northern conference, ‘Hack your career events’, ‘Ones to Watch’ list and our Fintech mentoring programme which we run with Bank of America Merrill Lynch, as well as all our commercial work with companies to help train their staff and create more diverse tech workforces.
So lots keeping us busy, and plenty of ways for people to get involved, whatever their interest in us.
Remember when I was on a mission to fix my finances with chatbots? That was almost two years ago now, and I’m still finding AI chatbots a massive help in keeping on top of my money situation.
One of my favourite financial chatbots is Plum, which has since launched an investment service too. And I think it’ll be the catalyst for getting people who don’t have a clue where to start with investing to not only consider it, but actually get going.
What does Plum do again?
Plum came out of a competition between two friends to see who could save the most. One put away the amount of money left in his current account at the end of the month (apparently some people have money left at the end of the month?) and the other was a smartypants about it and wrote a program to automatically sock away little bits of money here and there, calculated on what he could comfortably afford.
The second friend saved twice as much as the first, and his program became Plum. It’s now an AI-driven Facebook chatbot that’s free to use, and if you’re rightly thinking “you want me to entrust my banking information to a chatbot?“, rest assured. Plum uses bank-level security (details here), doesn’t store or have access to your login information, and I can personally vouch for it — I’ve asked lots of questions, and have had no problems in the almost two years I’ve been using the bot.
You can read more about Plum’s saving services in my post about how I use money chatbots, but the tweet version is that people saved £20m in 2017 just through a chatbot taking odd bits of change here and there.
Not bad, but the investment side of the service means you can actually make money on the money you’ve socked away. And that sounded too good to be true, so obviously I signed up.
How does investing with a chatbot even work?
Once you’re set up with Plum, it’s really easy to try out the investment service.
Open up a chat with Plum as normal through Facebook Messenger, and say ‘invest’. Plum will know what you’re getting at.
Tap that button and Plum will walk you through the process. It’s all made very easy to understand — this is the kind of info you can expect:
You open a Stocks & Shares ISA (or a General Investment Account if you already have one) with Plum, then decide how much you’d like to invest and what you want to invest in. It’s all done by chat, really easily. There’s no jargon and always more info on hand if you want it.
You get six options for investment, split between three Basic Funds and three Advanced Funds. This keeps it manageable but with enough options that you still get to choose what’s important to you.
The Basic Fund options are Conservative, Balanced, and Growth. They’re all explained clearly but basically it just depends how much risk you want to take with your money — as you might have guessed, Conservative is the least risky but with the lowest return, and Growth is the opposite. Balanced sits right in the middle and will suit most people.
If you want a bit more input, choose an Advanced Fund. These are split into three areas: you can invest in tech, ethical or emerging markets. Again, it’s all well explained and easy to understand, even for beginners.
How much is this gonna cost me?
This isn’t investing for rich people, so it’s not going to cost you loads of money. It’s supposed to make you money, so that’d be counterintuitive really.
You can invest any amount from £1 upwards, so you don’t need a big nest egg to start with.
There’s a fee of £1 a month, and the first month is free so you can try it out and see if you like it. There’s also an annual fee of 0.15% and a fund fee of between 0.22 and 0.9%. Pretty small fry, but if you’re worried about it wiping out your profits, don’t be — if you’re not investing enough to outweigh the fees, Plum will send you a message to let you know and explain how to cash out if you don’t want to continue.
You can check on your investments anytime by saying ‘investments’ to Plum on Messenger. From there, you can see the funds you’ve chosen and how they’re doing, and you can also deposit or withdraw money by typing the relevant words (Plum usually shows you clickable options so you don’t have to remember the commands).
You can click those words in blue rather than typing the command, it’s quicker.
I’ve really enjoyed dipping my toe into the world of investments through Plum. It’s ridiculously easy and also a great way to learn about investing in bite-sized chunks of information. It feels fun rather than overwhelming.
It’s obviously not going to be the most competitive way to invest, but I’d say it’s the most convenient, and if you find you like it, you can always move on to other types of investing once you’ve learnt a bit.
I’d definitely recommend giving Plum investments a go. The first month’s free, and it’s so easy that anyone who can handle Facebook messaging can do it. (You will need a Facebook account though — so if you left because of #DeleteFacebook, you’re out of luck for the moment I’m afraid).
I’d also recommend joining Investment Academy, Plum’s really friendly Facebook group for people finding their feet with investing.
Ready to make your first ever investment? Let’s go.
This article is sponsored by our friends at Ailsa Bay. We only write sponsored posts about things we actually like.
There has always been a sense of timelessness to whisky. More so than any other liquor, it’s the feeling that whisky has always been in some way or another that makes it more appealing.
Maybe it’s the misty-eyed origin stories pasted reverentially across advertising, or just the brown nectar’s perpetual supporting role in our societal storytelling.
Cowboys drink it, love the stuff. So do spies, politicians, ad men, sports stars, and humble office workers. Whether it’s to celebrate or commiserate, whisky is a universal sign of expression unbounded by class, origin, or occupation. It’s history in a highball.
Which is why our ears pricked up at the mention of a ‘futuristic’ whisky (futurwhiskic? No? OK), imbued with tech and innovation.
In their own words, Ailsa Bay is “a group of creative distiller-scientists whose mission is to bring you the future of whisky using experimentation, technology, precision distilling, blockchain and methods we haven’t even imagined… yet.”
Yep, blockchain whisky, it’s a thing. It’s pretty tasty, too.
Ailsa Bay’s distillery in the Lowlands on the Clyde Coast of Scotland prides itself on delivering the most scientifically-advanced whisky-making process anywhere on the planet.
Using data points to adapt and control the nature of their spirits, Ailsa’s experts are able to create perfectly-balanced flavours in ways that haven’t been seen before, even with the bajillions of whisky producers crowding the market these days.
A lot of the magic is down to their unique micro-maturation process.
First, they fill Hudson Baby Bourbon casks for six to nine months. It’s pretty cramped in there, which makes the spirit mature faster. Then, it’s moved into American Oak casks for several years. By starting the spirit in casks rather than just finishing it there, the team is able to layer a complex matrix of flavours to create their precision distilled, perfectly balanced single malt Scotch whisky.
Besides being the first distillery in the world to do things this way, Ailsa Bay has also come up with a new way of measuring whisky that they display on the bottle.
They put the PPM, or Phenol Parts per Million, on the bottle to let you know how peaty the whisky is, and then they add their own measurement for sweetness: SPPM, or Sweetness Parts Per Million. The two figures together give you an idea of how the peatiness of their blend is counterbalanced by sweetness.
It’s an impressively technological and forward-thinking way to tackle the production of a spirit so commonly associated with history, legacy, and old-school sensibilities. So many distillers pride themselves on doing things the old-fashioned way that some of the more modern techniques have been left unexplored. In that sense, Ailsa Bay is a breath of fresh air — or rather, a sip of fresh whisky.
Their branding says it all really: a mixture of scientific lines and symbols, like a monochromed opening to Breaking Bad, and trippy generative art that wouldn’t look out of place in the V&A.
It’s designed to depict the data generated from the five stages of Ailsa Bay’s whisky-making process but, to look at it more conceptually, there’s a poetry to combining the symbolism of scientific wizardry with old-school artistic imagery. A recognition of whisky’s deep-rooted historic origins, and Ailsa Bay’s bold new vision for the liquor.
Techy taste test
It’s tough being the person who has to taste-test whisky on behalf of Gadgette, but I was happy to take one (or several) for the team.
And I can honestly say Ailsa Bay more than delivers. It runs a complex flavour gauntlet from start to finish, opening with a scent that mixes wood smoke with oak, tempered with hints of candied orange peel — then smoothly transitions into a blend of peat and rich vanilla oak, meandering between the fruit, smoke, and creamy toffee, before finishing with a memorable mixture of sweet peaty oakiness.
Like any good whiskey, Ailsa Bay’s sweet smoke single malt blends perfectly into a wide range of cocktails, though it’s particularly well suited for whisky soda and whisky wine.
We also found that it mixed wonderfully with cloudy lemon soda (we used the fancypants Red Bull Organics one), with the bitterness of the lemon playing joyfully with the sweetness and smoke.
Running a tech blog, we’re pretty used to seeing cool new startups disrupt stale old industries, but whisky was a new one even for us. And it’s a triumph. Even if you don’t give a fig how it’s made, give it a taste if you get the chance — all that science really does lead to a better sip.
We’ve got another brilliant interview for you in our ‘Women With Awesome Jobs‘ series: Emma McGuigan, Group Technology Officer of Communications, Media & Technology at Accenture. (Is it just us or do the job titles get longer every time?!).
We sat down with Emma at the annual CBI conference, just before she went on stage to deliver a really inspiring talk about embracing next-generation technology.
Here’s how it went.
One of the speakers on the Young Leaders panel at the conference mentioned that an apprentice he hired performed badly at the interview, but has nonetheless become a fantastic worker in his first three months. Do you think the interview format is outdated, are we just encouraging people to be good at interviews but not jobs? What can we do instead?
The interview format is outdated. It’s a bit like the fact I think we over-examine our young people. I think we’re creating people who can pass exams and perform well in an interview and know what to wear and how to write a CV, but without really getting to the essence of who somebody is and what they can contribute to an organisation.
And then we layer on all of our subconscious biases, which we all have. And it’s doomed, because at best we’re going to hire people who are little bit different but who have remarkably similar attitudes to ourselves, or similar skillsets to ourselves. It’s flawed.
I think we should be looking to use all the technology that’s available to us. To think really differently about how we articulate the role and the skills and behaviours in particular. Because I think you can retrain a skill, but behaviours are inherent and much harder to shift. If you have somebody who is really a creative thinker but they’re not very expressive, that can be a difficult one to pull out. But we can use intelligent assessments, we can use tools to assess visual keys and clues and micro-expressions, and all of this technology is available today.
We need to make sure we’re using that technology at scale and that we’re helping our interviewers, because you have to have this connection, you have to make sure that the interviewee feels like they could belong in this culture and that feels right to you.
So I don’t think you can remove the need to connect with people in person, but you can give both sides more tools to be successful in how they do it.
Is that something Accenture is doing already?
We’ve been doing it to some extent. I have a global role so I see what’s being used globally, and we’re using AI to monitor what’s going on by recording interviews and then assessing them afterwards.
In the UK, we’re already using tools to help better assess capabilities – particularly for the younger routes like apprentices and entry-level jobs – to really help assess their skills and strengths.
We also use the Gallup Strengths Finder survey with some of our candidates, even before they have a job with us, so we can understand their strengths. Then you can understand how somebody might complement your own strengths, rather than just looking for people who share your outlook and your aspirations.
You’ve previously said that as a young child, it was drummed into you that your gender would play no part in your future career. Can you talk about how that’s informed your parenting, and what advice you’d give for parents trying to raise children who won’t feel stifled by gender roles?
I think it’s really important that as a parent we allow our children to experience a whole spectrum of activities. From the stereotyped activities of their own gender through to the stereotyped activities of the others and everything else in between.
I have three kids, a daughter and two boys, and it’s really interesting – my boys have the largest collection of teddy bears you could ever imagine! They still quite proudly take their teddy bears on school trips, including my twelve-year-old. He thinks nothing of it.
I think it’s about creating environments as a parent to allow your children to be safe, to experience things safely, and to have the confidence to take themselves outside of the home. It’s really hard because we don’t want our children to be ridiculed or worse, bullied in schools. And so you want them to conform. But you don’t want them to conform to a point where they are being obstructive to their authentic selves.
That’s a hard bridge to make, but one I think it’s really important we strive for. Every parent has the opportunity to introduce their child to every activity, to every colour, and to open the door to whatever that means for that child.
Personally, I’ve found a lot of people buy stereotypical toys for my nieces, and I’m not sure what to do about that. Should parents tell them not to?
No, because it’s important children understand that’s where some people are. But you can empower them by buying them Lego and science kits and rickety old bits of bike which need to be rebuilt.
You can empower boys when they’re given only boys’ toys by giving them teddies, and encouragement to get into art and crafts and baking. I think you as the parent can help influence your children to understand that that it’s all good, but actually there is this society which is going to make them feel like maybe they should be doing one particular thing.
And so rather than stop people doing that, I want people to be able to engage with my children in a way that feels natural. But I want to balance it by using that experience to help explore with my child what the world looks like, so they’re more rounded and more able to understand the different backgrounds of the people and children that they interact with.
One of the problems I found with getting into tech is that careers teachers at school and university just didn’t know about tech jobs. The industry moves much faster than education can. What can we do to help girls find out about what jobs there actually are in tech, and how to get there?
Businesses have to take the accountability to reach out, and go and tell girls about tech. Those of us –particularly women – we need to take that job and make it our own. And we need to take the men with us so they want to do it too, because actually I don’t think it would take very long to change.
Image: Emma McGuigan/Twitter
A really extreme example would be foot-binding in China: it died in a generation. A campaign of education and understanding about what it was really doing meant people dropped it. It’s a torch to us all to show how quickly you can change a social norm – and we’re dealing with a social norm here.
So while teachers are always going to struggle to keep up with technology-sector businesses moving so fast, actually if we made it a much more open dialogue – if we all just continue to drive the energy and commitment that we all have in our careers into bringing others in – if every woman in tech brought another girl into tech every year, how quickly would this problem be over?
And then look to the people who inspire, like you with your blog [yay Gadgette!] and people like Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE from Stemettes, if we could take those people too then it would so help to amplify their messages and support them. We could change this really quickly.
You’ve been at Accenture since the mid-90s. Can you tell us about what it’s like to work there, in terms of culture and work-life balance?
As you said, I’ve been there a long time and the culture has changed hugely. The reason I’m still there is because there’s always a fresh challenge, almost every day there’s a fresh challenge. Certainly whenever I’ve thought “Ooh, maybe I’ve plateaued, maybe I’m a bit bored” somebody always came with something new before I had really had time to look elsewhere.
So there’s that constant stimulation which is really important. And the second thing has been the people that you work with: we are an organisation where people want to help each other be successful. And so you never thought, can I trust that person because they’re really only interested in themselves, or they’re going to put me down. Actually people really uphold human nature to want to help each other.
We reward based on helping each other as much as individual success. It’s about team success, and that’s been really important to me.
When I then add in that I spent ten years working a four-day week while my children were really young, and was able to take a leave of absence before I had children so I could go travel the world, which was important to me – there are a lot of opportunities for you to find your self-expression and define your own career journey.
I think the people who struggle [at Accenture] are the people who don’t have the motivation to do that, and I think we’re less good with people who are uncertain or want more of a specified career journey. I think that’s not who we are, so the people who tend to have the longevity are the people who really think about that journey for the long-term, and their own journey, and really cutting their own path. It’s interesting because I think quite often that’s not what we look like from the outside, but that’s certainly been my experience.
Can you tell us about any programmes at Accenture for women and BAME people?
We’ve seen a huge shift in our programmes. I can still remember in probably the late nineties, we started off our women’s networks. I was really junior compared with everybody else and I was very excited, I went because it was a great way to network with these more senior women.
And very quickly that became a thing, and there were all these programmes, and then we said “well it’s not just about gender, it’s about ethnicity.” I’ve seen a real shift in the last five years to really be inclusive of everyone.
For example, the Accent On Women network sponsors a programme around parenting, which is open to everybody [not just women]. It’s a real shift to it being everybody’s problem to drive change, not just the minority, and I find that really inspiring.
We knew it was what we needed to do for a while, but working out a way to get there is not so easy.
How do we prepare young people for tech jobs that don’t exist yet? How can proactive young people gain the skills they’ll need for jobs that haven’t even been invented yet?Image: Emma McGuigan/LinkedIn
I love this question.
We need young people who are good at solving problems, who are open to different ideas, who are ready to collaborate and who are ready to recognise they’re going to have to learn for the rest of their life.
It’s about being curious, it’s about reading, it’s about adjusting your own perspective. Growing your skills. And that that’s a continual programme, there’s no degree and then you’re done.
It’s about really having that open-mindedness and working with a broad spectrum of skills, and diverse people from different backgrounds and different perspectives, which is very different from where we’ve come from.
[Be] good at problem-solving and have an idea about where you’re heading.
What tech products do you find useful? Gadgets, apps, productivity tools?
I love my smartphone because it’s everything: it’s my office, in my handbag, in my pocket – I quite often don’t have a bag. The freedom it gives you just liberates you, I can do calls at the school gate and nobody knows I’m at the school gate. I don’t think that tech has encroached upon my private life because actually tech has freed me up.
I’m also a bit of a Twitter fan. And I absolutely love Netflix on my phone. It’s good because you can be somewhere, tired, and instead of pretending to do some work, you can switch off and watch something, zone out, and then you’re ready to go again.
Everyone’s heard of Lean In, but what are some of your most-recommended non-fiction books? Not necessarily about women in tech, just in general, things that spoke to you?
I really like Andy McAfee’s ‘Second Machine Age,’ it really talks to the whole way that we are rethinking the way we’re working because of tech disruption.
I’m also waiting for a book to come out called ‘The Infinite Game,’ because it isn’t about winning – it’s about how there is no race, there’s no race to win, it goes on forever. I’ve seen the author talk and do his pitch about his book, and I love this notion because we use a lot of language in business that’s very combative about winning, and I love this thought of “what are you all on? There’s no finish line! You’ve got to just keep going.” So I’m really intrigued by his book.
This article is sponsored by our friends at Amazon UK, the Home of Black Friday.
I unashamedly embrace most annual holidays (except Blue Monday, Blue Monday can get in the bin), including Halloween, Christmas, and now that it’s a thing here, Black Friday.
Amazon has been pioneering Black Friday in the UK, which has made some people grumpy, but honestly how is it a bad thing to have a sale before Christmas for a change? The people moaning about it are often the same ones who’ll complain that the Christmas present they bought their dog was cheaper the week after Christmas, so… doesn’t this redress the balance?
Amazon UK invited me to their Home of Black Friday popup in Shoreditch, and honestly I was blown away. Partly because I’d somehow convinced myself it was in Boxpark and was therefore expecting something the size of a shipping container, whereas it is actually massive. There are rooms off rooms off rooms.
Located at 3-10 Shoreditch High Street, just a quick dash across the road from Liverpool Street Station, the Home of Black Friday popup has tonnes of Amazon stuff to play with, free treatments, gigs (Sophie Ellis-Bextor was on tonight), workshops, and so much Christmas cheer that I saw the actual Grinch leaving with a goody bag.
Here’s some of the stuff I saw on my visit.
Here’s how you know you’re in the right place
There’s a big swing shaped like the logo in the window (yes, I went on it)
There’s an intensely festive room with snowfall and a disco ball, soundtracked with Christmas songs by Alexa
Amazon’s partnered with a load of cool brands including Lego…
…and PlayStation, so you can try out their new stuff for Christmas 2018. Astro Bot for PSVR looks AMAZING btw
Rocket League on the big screen
The beauty section! Oh yes.
Getting my unbelievably short nails painted all fancy (it’s free)
You can get your beard or moustache groomed by the lovely chaps from Mo Bros. Sadly mine isn’t long enough
See you in 5 hours
The Prime Now screening room, where you can chill and watch Prime Video stuff for basically ever
The Amazon Lockers game, where you pick a number and sometimes a locker opens with a prize inside!
Tweet on the hashtag and you get a free drink. A very *merry* Christmas!
If you’re down Shoreditch way and fancy some Christmas joy, do stop in. There are games; loads of chances to win stuff; free hair, nail and beard treatments; workshops from Amazon Handmade sellers; free drinks; snow and Christmas tunes. It’s open all through Black Friday weekend (until the 25th of November), just drop in.
I’ll see you in the snowy Alexa room, because I basically live there now.
I’m lucky that I get to travel a lot with my job (although don’t imagine it’s all glam beaches and swim-up bars: it’s mostly the inside of conference rooms!), so I often have to think about how I’m going to get online from different parts of the world.
I deliberately chose Three for my mobile network because they had Feel At Home (now called ‘Go Roam’ which is definitely worse), which lets you use your mobile data without extra charges in some other countries. But the keyword is ‘some’: I quickly found that places like Japan and Turkey aren’t (currently) covered. Mobile data roaming is unbelievably expensive (I once managed to run up a £72 bill in about two minutes in China), so I still needed a solution.
Skyroam Solis is the answer to my prayers. It’s a circular orange box that lets you take 4G internet wherever you go. It also makes you the most popular person on the holiday, because you always have WiFi.
How it works
Carrying the little orange box is like having a virtual SIM card for 130+ countries. The company has negotiated deals with mobile providers in all kinds of places, but you don’t have to worry about how that all works: just make sure it definitely covers where you’re going if it’s somewhere a bit obscure (you hipster). It really does cover a lot of places, and everywhere I’ve been for work since getting one has been covered.
Skyroaming on the beach in Turkey
To connect, you just turn on the Solis and use the details on the sticker underneath to connect like any other WiFi network. You can connect up to 5 devices (laptops, tablets, smartphones etc) to the hotspot, which is enough for even me and my many phones. For most people, it’ll be enough for them and friends or family, which makes it cheaper if you split the costs.
When you first turn it on (especially in a new country), it’ll take the Solis a couple of minutes to connect. Press the big WiFi button on the top and when the light stops spinning and turns solid, it’s made a connection you’re good to go. There’s a smartphone app so you can check how much data you’ve got left and add more, too.
Prices and data
Skyroam Solis (or Skyrim, or Skyfall, or whatever I was calling it that day – things I like tend to end up with lots of nicknames) isn’t the cheapest, but like the engagement ring camera box, you have the option of either buying or renting, which is smart. WiFi is priced up separately, and you can load it on by the day, the month, per GB – whatever suits.
Personally, I travel a lot, so buying the Solis makes sense as it makes the data cheaper over time. The unit itself is £135, and then I tend to buy the unlimited WiFi day passes for £7 each (they’re £9 each if you’re renting). Honestly, for the peace of mind of knowing you’re going to have 24-hour WiFi everywhere you go, it’s so worth it: especially when you’ve got yourself lost in a country where you don’t speak the language, and firing up Google Maps and Translate would rinse your phone bill.
It’s worth noting that there are some negative reviews on Amazon UK which mention the WiFi slowing down after 500MB of use. I asked Skyroam about this, and they explained that the slowing down was an issue on the previous 24-hour pass system, but on the GoData (GB-by-GB) plan, or on the 24-hour passes under the new fair use system, it’s not a problem anymore. Sadly the Amazon reviews haven’t caught up, which I’m guessing puts a lot of people off trying what I’ve found to be a very good product.
The hotspot box even includes a 6,200 mAh phone battery with a USB-C connection, so you can charge your phone from it when it’s running low. That’s enough to fully charge most phones twice, if not more. To recharge the box itself, you just plug it in like a phone, but the battery lasts all day anyway.
For me, Skyroam Solis is an absolute must-have for anyone who travels often. I even use it to get online in UK airports on the way there, so I don’t have to use the horrible insecure public WiFi they offer. It doesn’t work on planes, though (nice try).
For the last month, the Galaxy Note 9 has been my daily driver. Within an hour of using it, I hated my old phone (which I won’t name because it’s not really the phone’s fault) and never wanted to go back.
Obviously, being a tech reviewer, most of the stuff I use has to go back eventually (I’m not a millionaire, believe it or not), but I wanted to write a love note (get it) to this amazing piece of tech before I put it in the post.
There are a lot of Androids on the market, and I recommend all sorts of handsets to all kinds of people. But I love the Note 9 because as far as I’m concerned, no other phone is an all-rounder like this one. Certain phones will fulfil certain needs better, but if you’re looking for a people-pleaser, a guaranteed success, the Note 9 is it.
Why? Here are 9 reasons.
1. It’s big to the eyes, but not in the hand
When I first got the Note 9, a lot of people commented that it’d be too big. But it isn’t, even with my tiny hands. The 6.4-inch screen sounds massive, and it is, but with such tiny bezels (black borders around the edges) and the rounded sides, it doesn’t feel big at all. The handset is about the same size as a lot of phones with a smaller screen.
It’s also well-designed to be comfortable to hold, so you really don’t feel the size and weight very often. Films and TV look incredible on the quad-HD+ infinity display, and the curved edges really give it that immersive feel. It’s mesmerising.
2. Its stylus is amazing for beating your friends at Drawful
I’m not much of an artist, but I really like having the option of the S-Pen stylus that’s tucked away inside the handset. It’s really easy to remove: you push it inwards like an Ikea drawer and it pops out. The phone also automatically brings up shortcuts to the main things people do with a stylus when you pop it out, which is handy.
Personally, I mostly use it for things like doodling on Instagram stories. I also had a go at Inktober (see previous comment about not being much of an artist – but I still enjoyed it), and best of all, I had a way easier time at the smartphone drawing game Drawful against friends who were all using small screens and fat fingers. Winner.
A quick sketch I did with the S-Pen for Inktober Day 1, ‘Poison’
3. The cameras are superb
No surprise to anyone who’s used a Samsung flagship recently. Both the 8MP selfie camera and the dual 12MP rear snappers take beautiful images in all kinds of light environments. It’s been reassuring knowing I have this on me when a photo opportunity comes up.
(I was one of the few to get a good shot on such a grey day #London)
4. The battery lasts ages, and it has wireless charging
People whose phones don’t do wireless charging always tell me they don’t want it anyway, because it’s ‘slow’. Well, Samsung’s is pretty quick, but if your phone’s just sitting on the charger while you work (or on your bedside table while you recharge yourself), does it even matter?
Wireless charging is cool, it’s useful, and I always miss it when I’m using a phone without it.
That said, the Note 9’s battery lasts me all day despite that huge screen, and as you can probably imagine, I use my phone constantly.
5. It has a proper headphone jack
Yeah, I’m not on board with Bluetooth or USB-C headphones just yet. I’ll make the switch eventually, but for now, I really like that I can plug in all my existing headphones without a freakin’ dongle.
6. The software is effortless
One of the things I love about the more recent Samsungs is that while they do add extra stuff to Android, it’s mostly useful. SO MANY Androids have a load of rubbish on them that you can’t uninstall, or that fundamentally changes the experience – like forcing you to keep your icons on home screens, or replacing the swipe-up app drawer with an ugly button. And don’t get me started on some of the icon skins!
The Note 9 doesn’t yet have 9.0 Pie, the latest version of Android, which is disappointing. But it does manage to make 8.1 Oreo feel like the next best thing, and all the handy little software tweaks feel well-designed. The Note 9 is scheduled to get Pie around the beginning of 2019, which isn’t as long as it sounds!
7. It’s surprisingly resilient
I’m a clums (no, that’s not a typo, I just think if you’re clumsy, you’re a clums). My poor phones get dropped a lot, and my flat has hard flooring. Eep.
Despite some truly cringe-making drops and that giant, curvy screen, the Note 9 hasn’t sustained so much as a dent since I’ve had it. I should probably have put it in a case nonetheless, though.
8. It’s waterproof
Another one of those features that you don’t think about most of the time, but you’re grateful for occasionally. It’s really nice to know that if I drop my phone in the sink, or take it out in the rain, it’s not going to glitch on me.
I should probably stop taking it in the bath, though, just for my own sanity. It’s meant to be a break!
9. It’s beautiful
My review model is the dark blue, with a lovely bright yellow stylus. It’s nice, as is Lavender, but have you seen the copper version? My god.
It’s not the most important thing about a phone, but when you’re dropping the best part of a grand on a pocket computer, it’s OK to want it to please your eyes. And while the screen definitely does that on any version of the Note 9, the copper version is where our hearts really sing.
Sadly, it doesn’t seem to be on sale in the UK (officially at least), so we’ll have to wait and see if it pops up sometime before Christmas. In the meantime, you’ve still got some gorgeous choices:
Me too. If you’ve been noodling on whether or not to get a Note 9, I can tell you from experience that you won’t be sorry if you do – despite the eye-watering outright cost of £849 (for 128GB). Samsung does monthly financing options, and of course there’s always mobile contracts to save you paying all that upfront.
I’ve got to move onto my next review model, but the Note 9 will have a special place in my heart – at least until the S10 next year.