Positive moves in diversity, inclusion and Tech
Vimla: [00:00:00] hi,
I'm Vimla Appadoo
Tim: [00:00:02] And I'm Tim Panton
Vimla: [00:00:03] you're listening to the distributed future podcast where we interview guests to talk about the future and different scenarios, understandings, and ideas of what the future might look like. Today's guest is Shwetal, and we predominantly talked about, Women in tech and representation in the sector and industry. And what, and how technology becomes, can become a equalizer for, different socioeconomic groups. . so obviously this is something that is really, really important to me, and I spend a lot of my spare time, talking about diversity and inclusion and equality. But I'm British and Shwetal Shah isn't. And it was interesting to see from a different perspective what the industry looks like.
And Tim, you obviously work both in the UK and abroad, and do you see the same issues and problems in, in Germany? As you do here?
Tim: [00:00:55] it's kind of difficult to tell because I do a slightly different job than from here, but I do think that it's. This space is a much more, the spaces I end up going to a much more male here than they are in, in, in Germany.
I think, I think the, you know, the color mix is different. but that's partly to do with geography rather than tech. I think. you know, Germany is still relatively white. just in terms of like, having a lot of Eastern European people coming in rather than, you know, kind of colonial history cause the Germany doesn't have the same colonial history.
So I think that's, I think that shifts that the. You know, the color balance, if you want to call it that. But I think in terms of, of diversity, it is generally doing somewhat better in, in, in Germany. But, it's still, there's still a long way to go, particularly in the kind of more, like. I went to a robotics thing the other day and that was very kind of heavily, heavily male centric.
kind of depressing that we're still in that space.
Vimla: [00:02:08] Does it, was it spoken about all addressed?
Tim: [00:02:13] it is in some context of that particular event. It wasn't, but yeah, I mean, although.
yeah. Interesting. It may have been been kind of, constructed rather than like explicitly talked about, but, but yeah, no, it's, it's, it's difficult.
I mean, I don't know. I don't know enough to, to answer your question. Basically my context is different in the two different cities. Yeah. Yeah.
Vimla: [00:02:43] That's, that is good to know as well. I think it was interesting cause I was, I kind of have three different boxes is that I tick, I'm, I'm under 30, I'm from an ethnic minority and I'm a woman.
And I was at the BBC, on Monday, a 50, 50 event where they're trying to get and reach 50% gender equality on their media representation, whether it's, radio or TV. And, I said, you know, what's happening for BAME representation there, so we're gonna, we're gonna focus on that next. So I said, that's really interesting that you are making me choose.
Which I associate with more. So you're making me choose to represent as a female here in order to meet your agenda and not think about my race. because you're tackling it one by one rather than seeing people as a whole. And I think that that's true across, across the tech. Well across any industry, really.
No one nine one kind of sees. Yeah, diversity is that kind of whole, whole mix.
Tim: [00:03:49] Yeah, I think people are starting to see that. it makes it, I think it just from the practical point of view, it makes the kind of statistics gathering. If you, if you're in a very process driven organization like the BBC, then you need management targets and targets and they always end up with you subdividing the thing into artificial.
divisions. Just cause it makes the statistics easier to gather and that, you know, that's constantly bugged me throughout my life. You look at these, these sort of. retreats, statistical breakdowns about, you know, this kind of income is counts in this column, but that kind of income counts in that column, and you're looking at it and think it's just, it's income, you know, why is it different?
And, and so I, I, it doesn't surprise me at all in a process driven organization like BBC. It's still disappointing and somewhat confusing, I imagine for you. But, but I totally see how it happens.
Vimla: [00:04:46] Yeah. Yeah. And the conversation were very much was around numbers and how do we track this? How do we manage it?
How do we prove that we've made a difference? and I, you know, that's, it's good that that's happening because there needs to be some sort of accountability to it. and a big part is changing the way you have the conversation. it still is still frustrating when you kind of, your mix and you don't.
You don't necessarily want to just be one of them.
Tim: [00:05:18] Right, right. No, totally. I mean, and I think, I think it also. In terms of like team building and stuff like that, and actually the end product too, particularly in smaller organizations, I don't think it's helpful. I don't think that that kind of, pigeonholing and categorization of people is, is useful.
I think you're much, you know, your aspect of like the holistic person, particularly in a small team is much more useful and interesting. when the, and that's my context of kind of in software development is like much more than it is to say, Oh, like to tick these, this box, but not that
Vimla: [00:06:02] Yeah, definitely.
so the conversation was really great and I think one of the other biggest takeaways that I kind of was reflecting on was, we can. As much as we want to make changes quick, well, not even quickly, but we want to start the conversation and we want to do things differently and we want to see the change.
You can cut and paste that into different cultures and different contexts. So really being able to understand different. Barriers in place for that to happen around the world is, is more important than just trying to force gender diversity or equality because you can do more damage than good.
Tim: [00:06:38] Thats interesting.
So there's kind of almost like the conversation we had with with Willow all the way back about. About kind of jumping in with your idea about what aid should look like without asking people what it is that they actually wanted.
Vimla: [00:06:53] Yeah, yeah, exactly. because it's different. It's, it's different in different parts of the world, and you've got historical and cultural perspectives that you're battling.
And if you don't understand what they are or how they work, or the details of it, you're not actually going to be able to see a change. And you have to realize that not everyone wants the same thing as well. And that's, that's the difficult part.
Tim: [00:07:19] Yeah. I mean, I'm sort of, I th the example I always look at in this, which I think is, is, is a success, and I talked to Saskia last last time about this, like why is it that the health services manage to shift the G ratio of GPs from, you know, it was 20 something years, 20/30 years ago.
You always saw a male GP. Well, they were very, very few women GPs, and now it's probably more women than men. how did that shift happen? What was the process behind it? I mean, it would be really fun to get somebody on who kind of been in the health service and, and understands how that happened. But Saskia is, that answer was, it was all about changing the working conditions and changing the environment in which people would, going into.
And it wasn't like, I mean, the impression was that it wasn't an active recruitment campaign. It was a matter of fixing the environment for everybody's benefit, and then people would come into it and could come into it.
Vimla: [00:08:21] Yeah. And that's, yeah, that, that's definitely a part of it. And I think there's a big, kind of this big understanding that society moves along with it.
It wasn't just that the, the NHS did these changes. And expected women to be able to go to university and kind of get as well. It was a long, alongside those changes, it became the norm for women's go to university and study those subjects and like feminism shifted.
That's the kind of the cultural perspective is it's a change across society and not just in isolation.
Tim: [00:09:04] Right, right. But not, I mean, I suppose my, my point is that not all of the, not all industries took advantage of that change in society.
Vimla: [00:09:11] Yeah. Oh, I can check, check,
Tim: [00:09:13] track tech managed to kind of completely ignore it.
If anything Tech going backwards in the last. 25 years, which astonishes me. Right. You know, I, and I'm, I sort of, you know, I, I w I, I wonder how we've managed it. like every now and then I kind of wonder like, how do, how do we achieve going backwards? Like how was that done? was it a conscious effort on somebody's part?
Cause it's like, it's amazingly. And our, dispiriting thing to have happened and totally wasteful from everybody's point of view. so at one of our, now I'm trying to think of it though, Stella. One of our interviewees says, I'm not sure she said it on, on the podcast, but it says, you know, well, actually this is because this is the only way that the mediocre can rise to the top.
Vimla: [00:10:04] Yeah, so that's good. I like that. that's, it's really the, it's really interesting and it's, it's challenging for so many different ways. And I was reading, I've just finished reading, invisible women, which is all about the gender data gap. And how, Decisions have been made throughout forever based on ma, the male norm.
Like you, you assume masculine is the norm and then you build for women after or
in those spaces.
Yeah. Yeah. And you know that, that true. That's true across decision making. And. Health care and anything and everything through from the weight of a door to how much paracetamal you should be taking. and it just really, really opened my eyes to, the world isn't built for women.
It just physically isn't. And no one is trying to change that yet. So we still were having the conversations that we're trying to bring them more. Diversity of thinking into organizations and across levels, but we're not going back to the decisions that have already been made to change those. We're not thinking, we know this is wrong, and we know this doesn't work for women, so why are we still just accepting it.
Tim: [00:11:21] There are places where that change is happening. I mean, I think that car design, for example, is a shifting. but it's a ludicrously slow process. And, and, and, you know, and I think you get, again, you get this process driven thing of, well, that's insurable. Like, that's the standard that we have to design to that allows us to get insurance for our products.
And like, you know, the, there's this whole, like you were saying, effectively societal. Construct around it, and you have to unpick all of the things in order for the whole thing to shift.
Vimla: [00:11:55] All of a sudden, it's not just the seatbelt, it's the legislation, it's the manufacturer. It's all of these other things that just take out of a simple change.
Tim: [00:12:04] Right, right, exactly. And there's a ton of behavior in there as well.
Vimla: [00:12:11] it does become an easier conversation as soon as you have one woman in the room. That was and is that this doesn't fit me. Whereas if you've not got that voice there, then you're never going to have that conversation. And so bringing more diversity into the workplace is definitely one half of
one half of the problem.
Tim: [00:12:28] Yeah. I mean, I don't think like, I'm trying to so there were a lot of cases where that's negative, but there are actually cases where, where, you know, people are undervaluing women. For what they can do. I mean, as a. Wonderful case many years ago, a friend of ours is a, is, was a chemical engineer. And like, they, they built this thing and, they put it together wrong.
They hadn't put the catylist into reaction vessel and they're like, Oh God, we're going to have to take this whole thing apart. The team's looking grim, you know, another day's work. Put this, take this thing apart and put the catalyst in the right place. And our friend Carol says, well, that's all right.
I can do that. And rolls up her sleeve. And sure enough, her hand is small enough to fit in the space and put the thing in. And, and you know, this day's Work saved because Carol can can fit in that space where none of the boys can. You're just like, and you're thinking, well, you know, there's a diverse team with a, with a clear benefit.
It's not always like. What worries me about this. A lot of it's talking about, you know, fairness and neg and this quite negative in terms of like, Oh, well these are the disadvantages that women face and less about these are the benefits that a team can get from having a mixed, diverse team. And I. Right. I understand that it's a battle and the like battles tend to be quite negative in terms of the, the way that they're presented, but I worry that we're missing out on the positive too often.
Like, you know, why should a company do this? Well, it's good for you.
Vimla: [00:14:05] Yeah.
I'm not sure I agree. I think. Pushed quite a lot, but I think it's done in vain and that, maybe I agree with you actually that you know, you, you kind of just say to an organization that diversity is good, having different people in your business is good, but it stops there.
And diversity doesn't equal equality. So it's fine having a diverse workforce. But if they're not given, if, if people in that team aren't given the same credibility or their voice still isn't listened to, they might as well not be in the room. And I think that's. That's the shift that needs to happen is that, yeah, we know we need a diversity.
We know it's good for our business, but we're not changing the structures in place to make sure that they have a voice to bend so that we can actually benefit from it.
Tim: [00:14:51] Yeah. Yeah. No, I mean, if, if, if you just like put people in and don't listen to them, you might as well have hired mannequins are the right size.
Like you need to, you need to listen to people, otherwise you don't get their vantage right. And I suppose my perspective is that that should be completely obvious to everyone, but presumably it isn't
Vimla: [00:15:13] and it is hard to change. When I was, when I was working in smaller tech startups and I was.
Under 25 and try to have investment conversations. I've never, I've never felt smaller than that, that it just knowing that I was the opposite of what people expected to see in the room. Yeah. That was probably one of the hardest ones.
Tim: [00:15:37] Yeah. I mean, I think, well, two things I want, one of it is that I don't know what it is, but there was a phase five years ago when all of the VCs were like six foot two.
I didn't understand it, but there was a sort of real tall thing going on in VC land. that's no longer true. There are quite a lot of. Oh. more, well balanced VC teams. They've, they've, there's been a lot of effort in that space recently that I've noticed, which, which is starting to show benefits, I think not.
Entirely. There's still some old school stuff out there, but, know, I think it is chain. I think that world is actually
Vimla: [00:16:18] Yeah.
Tim: [00:16:20] So what, what, what are my takeaways from this? this conversation. You're, you're, you're, you're, I think the main thing I heard you say was that it's a perspective that's like.
From the outside looking in rather than like necessarily, an insider's perspective. Is that fair?
Vimla: [00:16:37] Yeah. I, yeah, and I definitely think one of my biggest pulls, and, sorry, I've presented this as a really negative conversation. I think I say in the podcast, I spend the whole time smiling because it's, it's a really positive take on what is going to happen in the diversity in tech.
and one of my biggest takeaways was actually how. Far ahead, we are in the UK and the amount of opportunities they are to actually change the conversation and change what's happening. And that was definitely one of my, my biggest kind of positive boost from it.
Tim: [00:17:09] Cool. So I mean like it might be a, an inflection point cause I think these things are like you have to get a bunch of the stuff kind of lined up and then suddenly.
It just flips because all of the other bits are in place.
Vimla: [00:17:24] Yeah. Yeah, definitely.
Tim: [00:17:26] Cool.
Well, I'm looking forward to hearing that. Sounds great.
Vimla: [00:17:30] Great. Well, thank you and have a great day. Yeah, you too.
Tim: [00:17:33] Take care.
Vimla: [00:17:36] Welcome. You're listening to the distributed future podcast.I'm Vimla Appadoo and today I have Shwetal here with me. Shwetal would be great if you could introduce yourself to our
Shwetal: [00:17:44] listeners. Hi. I'm and I am based in London right now, and I work at in their innovation team where we help larger clients. With that digital transformation needs, and in my spare time, I also run various initiatives where I can get girls and involved in technology from making documentaries to organizing public science lectures,
Vimla: [00:18:11] so am I right in saying that you've just done your first TEDx talk as well?
Shwetal: [00:18:14] Yes. That was last week.
Vimla: [00:18:16] And how did that go?
Shwetal: [00:18:17] I think it was, it went well. Obviously it's very nerve wracking to be on that stage, doing the TEDx rock. But I think in the end it went well and I hope that the audience, which was young people, were able to get something meaningful out of it.
So have to engineer Geneva.
Vimla: [00:18:36] And what was it that you were, you kind of focused on top?
Shwetal: [00:18:39] So yeah, I focused on my own journey, specifically talking about the obstacles that I've faced over the last six years, moving to a country where I didn't know anyone and trying to find my way here. And then how those very opportunity obstacles are actually just opportunities.
And I just have practical solutions that you could create in order to turn your obstacles around and how that really completely changed my life. So that was the gist of my talk.
Vimla: [00:19:12] That sounds amazing. That sounds incredible. I can't wait to watch it. So tell us a little bit more about the documentaries that you made, because I know that's kind of led you on this amazing journey and you're on the board for the BAFTAs now at the moment.
Shwetal: [00:19:26] So yeah, actually, BAFTAs they select a new jury every year. So just a one off thing and they don't ever invite the same, you jury members again, so, yeah. But I got invited to be a jury member two years ago for their category, and that was really interesting. but you had the trees. So it all started with me getting some grant funding from O2 program, which unfortunately is now shut down.
And basically I got some funding to organize my free public science lectures. And then I started meeting a lot of other young people that the program supported. And I was really inspired by the projects that they were running across the length and breadth of the UK from tackling homophobic bullying in Norridge to helping the homeless people in leads to someone organizing free coding workshops for young kids in South London.
I was really inspired by them and also I'd never. In the mainstream media come across such positive stories of young people. And I thought maybe there is an opportunity here for me to make a documentary. So I, did this with a friend of mine who had a camera and he had to me basically editing film.
Whereas I pretty much the whole thing, I invited the young people, there were, about 11 young people be featured in the documentary, and it was a great experience to learn from them. And then, yeah, I screened the documentary at ThoughtWorks in London and. One of them featured in my documentary was an 11 year old self taught program from South London.
And just last year his mom came to me and she said that he was spotted at the film screening and he won the very first princess Diana award because of that, which was great. And then I submitted that documentary to . A competition about the SDGs, the sustainable development goals. And then I got to my second job at an education technology company because of that.
And then my second documentary was on women in tech because obviously. I've been working in the technology industry, and I always find that there is such a huge gender imbalance. In the field. And so again, like I interviewed about seven women from the mayor of London's offices to facebook to Mozilla, et cetera.
And basically just ask them about their journey and how they could inspire. Other girls around the world to get into tech. And then I came across a film competition called girls impact the world. and I submitted that documentary and I won an award for it last year, and then the documentary at IBM as well.
So, yeah, I initially, these documentaries were just because I thought. There needs to be a better role model representation and also cause I could do something fun in my spare time. Projects really turned into something larger than what I expected they would turn into. So yeah.
Vimla: [00:22:41] Yeah, that sounds absolutely incredible and I completely agree with you in terms of gender representation in technology, but also the kind of the diversity aspect in and of itself.
It's an industry where it's the quickest to. Be able to challenge the status quo, but also has these kind of archaic systems that still exist that they made it really difficult to bring any, any new voices in. the kind of typical bro culture that exists and kind of six days to seep its way across from Silicon Valley,
is, is one of the biggest problems.
But. It's interesting to see how you've really taken a passion for young people and a passion for women and brought that in into your everyday working. what do you think is changing at the moment in, in that.
Shwetal: [00:23:26] I think there is over the last five years, it's amazing that there has been so much talk about diversity and inclusion and especially young people supporting young people like from India.
And in terms of social mobility, when I compare the opportunities that young people have over here, it's just amazing. It doesn't matter where you from in this country, you can actually achieve things and using social media, you can also reach out to people that you don't know and you'd be amazed and surprised how much people are willing to like help you.
And I think it's great for young people in this country to use those opportunities. There are so many leadership development programs and for example is I've just been selected for this program called beyond suffrage, which is to get young women, young women from ethnic minority backgrounds on to boards of charities.
And to get this would never happen, in India, which is my life too. And it's great that there are just so many grass roots initiatives and also. National initiatives happening. So I am actually very positive for young people in this country because despite what's happening politically right now, there are so many charities, so many social enterprises, and so many grassroots level initiatives, which still have a lot of focus on social mobility and helping people.
Vimla: [00:24:57] Yeah. And interms. So, similarly, my kind of parents come and furnished fashion, innovation, immigrant. So my parents come Mauritius and I've always struggled with being able to bridge two cultures and two homes and understanding how to. Help take what I'm learning here and embed things back in nourishes is how do you go about doing that?
Shwetal: [00:25:21] I mean, it's quite hard because culturally, India is way different to the UK, for example. And, for me, again, education is. More important. So one of the reasons why I came here was so that I could maybe one day, either establish a school or set up a scholarship fund to send, underprivileged students from India, go to university.
And actually this year, after six years of like a lot of. Thinking and researching, I came across an amazing organization called scholarship, and they're actually in London. It was founded by someone who is based in London, but the support about 30 scholars every year in India to go do, you know? And I think, again, like the way university structure their works and.
I'm carriers after that work is very different to how it works. Like, yeah, you don't need to go to, you don't need to have a degree in computer science to then go and work in tech, but that's a requirement. You need to study a degree and you can only get jobs in that field and it'll be here. There is such a huge.
Well, positive focus around apprenticeship schemes, again, like people in India country have gap years or we don't really have apprenticeship schemes back then, it's quite hard to like really have this cross border. Like links in terms of transferring, program, which I've worked here very well back in India, but I guess you just need to adapt as the local rules and regulations and then try and help.
So, yeah, I haven't really done much in terms of being able to make a huge difference in India because physically I've been based here, but now with this scholarship. Fund organization. I really hope that I can, start mentoring the students that get those scholarships and then eventually we can also increase the number of scholarships that we give out.
Vimla: [00:27:23] Yeah, that sounds incredible. And you get to go back to India often.
Shwetal: [00:27:28] Not that often because I've been here in this country still dealing with like visa issues and. All of those things. but once I become more settled, I think I'll be visiting India more often.
Vimla: [00:27:41] Oh, that's exciting. That's good. yeah, because you've received the exceptional talent visa.
Shwetal: [00:27:46] Yes. That was last year. Yeah.
Vimla: [00:27:49] Sorry. No, no, you go, sorry. Yeah.
Shwetal: [00:27:51] Was just saying I got my residency simply because she means I'm a lot more settled now and I don't have to like. Deal with the Draconian visa rules anymore.
Vimla: [00:28:01] Yeah. Well, congratulations. I know how difficult it is to try to get the residency here, but tell us a little bit about the exceptional talent visa , because I'm sure there are plenty of listeners that are interested in how you actually go about that and what it means.
Shwetal: [00:28:14] Yeah, I think, with the exceptional talent visa, it's firstly, it's amazing that we have this visa, which endorses, people who want to come to the UK, but they don't have to go by or like being stuck with one company at the mercy of an organization. and I think, for me, what I found was the main things that visa requires is that
Is your ability to not just focus on like the work that you will be doing, but also how you would give back to the community in terms of how are you going to get more people skilled within digital and tech. And you also need to have been recognized somehow. So like either have media articles written about you or if you've won any awards, those count as well.
And I think the biggest tip would be, I think you really have to do a lot of research about the UK tech ecosystem, because ultimately technician wants to know if you really understand how tech ecosystem here works, what sort of, tech programs they have besides just getting a very technical job. And, All of my references were UK based . And I think that helps because your references also need to be well known within the industry. And I think because the panel is made up of people from the UK. They obviously tend to have a better understanding of you get recognized institutions. And I think those are the things that helped me.
But this is just my subjective opinion based upon the application I submitted. And I'm sure like, I think. Bye. Now, tech nation have endorsed over 1000 people for the this visa since 2015 I'm sure different people have different experiences, but I think just having a good idea of the UK tech ecosystem is very crucial to get the sweeter, yeah.
Vimla: [00:30:09] Yeah. I completely agree. I think, and the reason why I think it's amazing is because of how accessible the tech ecosystem is. So it becomes quite, once you meet, once you understand, it becomes quite an easy thing to navigate and get the meetings and talk to people and figure out what you want to do and how you want to do it.
So going back to kind of women in tech and, representation and being a role model, what do you think is going to happen in the future? How do you think things are changing, if at all?
Shwetal: [00:30:39] I think obviously there's a lot of like backlash against large tech companies. and obviously like there have been some documentaries recently about how tech is also interfering with, like.
Political and civil society in a bad way, and monopoly and really like proper capitalism, which is affecting the ethos of young people who mostly tend to be liberal, angelic, cared about making a difference to society. Nothing. It's tech. It's really good in terms of helping mobilize movements, for example, extinction, rebellion, or Gretta Sandberg, and differentiate any of the two mean by mobilizing hundreds and millions of people around the world.
So I think it's in terms of you being able to start a movement and really create a difference, but at the same time, it's also very toxic. And, There have, there has been a rise of mental health problems because of how young kids are. Kids as young as 14 now having mobile phones and being on Instagram, Twitter, and really growing up with impressionable young minds and that affecting their confidence and just mental health in general.
So I think there's obviously and cons, but at the same time. I think if you really, in school, if they could teach young people how to use, social media in a better way, and how they can opportunities, for example, funding for their startup funding for their grassroots projects or enrolling in leadership.
Programs, then that could be a very good leveler tech. I think there's a leveler and it brings people out of poverty and it helps them with social mobility. So it really depends on how people use it. So the owners as much as its own large tech organizations, it's also lots of, it comes down to us at individual levels and really owning the we, the use tech,
Vimla: [00:32:46] I think.
I think you've already hit the nail on the head in the . At the moment, young minds on social media. It's just seen as social media. It's the new way of chatting to your friends, but actually it kind of set out to be a social network. And the idea of networking in the physical realm is who you know, and it's very much which event you can get into the room.
With who, who can invite you to what. And it becomes very archaic, can misogynist and, who, who has the highest paycheck. But actually what social media does and what social networks can do is enable you to connect with those people in a different way. And I don't think that's been talked about enough and actually use this as a skill.
To help you get the conversation you wouldn't have been able to get otherwise. Use it as a way of talking to the people that you wouldn't normally be able to talk to. And that's the bit that's really missed out and I'd love to see focused on in the future.
Shwetal: [00:33:43] Yeah, exactly. And I think the more people who've benefited from.
It talk about it more, it can really help, young people as well. And that was one of the, sub-part of sub team in my TEDx talk where I focused on . So she needs promising maybe this could be incorporated. Cause right now in school with six company, three, four young kids to learn how to code. But what happens when they go like are they actually learning the ethics behind the code?
Are they learning the ethics behind what they are creating? Are they learning. Yeah. And how you use technology in a responsible way. I'm not sure if in schools, and I think that needs to be incorporated into the education curriculum as well.
Vimla: [00:34:31] Yeah. But even just the conversation around it, and I know my, my massive assumption and my limited experience with teenagers is that the conversation just isn't happening.
No one's sitting there going, Oh, I've just uploaded this photo to Instagram. Yeah. Wines, no. What is it going to be used? What's you know is, is that mine who might see it? How might it be used in 10 years? Then all the conversations that are happening, either no. And,
Shwetal: [00:35:03] they don't really, once it's on the internet, people don't really know how it can be used as well.
Yeah. Yeah, definitely.
Vimla: [00:35:11] And it's, it's really scary when you think, when you think about how many young people are on it. And also, I mean, Instagram's probably the best example of where it's connected to Facebook and it's connected to WhatsApp and it's this kind of monolith of data and understanding and profiling.
The everyday users just accept, but we really don't challenge it enough.
Shwetal: [00:35:34] No. Yeah, exactly. Because I think. It's not tangible, right? You being your face on your data, it's not, it's still not as tangible, in terms of, because people don't really, it's only digital and people don't really like feel the bad consequences immediately.
They just don't think about it as seriously.
Vimla: [00:35:57] No, not so. The negative impacts on, like you say, your mental health, that's probably ignored the most because you don't have control over your body's hormone or response to getting a like
Shwetal: [00:36:10] or
Vimla: [00:36:11] you know, the amount of time that you're spending on your phone.
You don't really recognize the impact that's having on your sleep. And then therefore your. Mood the next day or whatever it might be.
Shwetal: [00:36:21] But it's hard to like get a detox from tech. Yeah,
Vimla: [00:36:26] yeah, exactly. And especially when you work in a, it's even harder to, you know, we're, we're doing this call on a Saturday morning, so it's even that thing of where, where do you switch off a wedgie?
Why'd you come to
Shwetal: [00:36:37] London? Yeah, exactly.
Vimla: [00:36:41] And I have a property, you know, the best people to be talking about tech detox right now.
and in terms of that, actually, I, you know, it sounds like you've got, you've got whirlwind of all of this amazing thing, all of these amazing things going on, and it feels like the kind of, line has been blurred between work and play.
And, I personally think that . It's not a bad thing, but how do you see that kind of work life balance shift. In the future?
Shwetal: [00:37:05] yeah, I guess because of tech, people are always on and you're constantly, it's so hard not to immediately check a notification that pops up on your phone. So, but it really again depends on how people define their work life balance and what they really, it's important to them.
I think a lot of companies, especially in the West, are focusing on in Europe. I think the laws are quite good. Where once it's five, you just leave the office. Especially most industrial, you may not in banking or healthcare, but in most of industries, like leave your work at home. If you're not at a very senior level, I.
E. if you're not the CEO, then you can switch off easily. But, I think around the world, that may not be the case. But yeah, in Europe, I think people are quite lucky and I'm not sure if they realize it, but we do get a lot of holiday here. There's a lot of, like. Access to wellbeing, a focus on looking after yourself.
And I think people do have a good work life balance in this country, especially compared to like,
Vimla: [00:38:12] yeah. And do you think, w how do you see that evolving in the future with the way that Tech's developing at the moment?
Shwetal: [00:38:18] I think some industries would, obviously have to then redeploy their stuff and do other jobs or reskill their staff.
To do other things. because the tech would have probably taken over most of the things that they do, what they were doing, especially on the factory floor, for example. and then I think, maybe this might be the era of the rise of humanities, which over the last few decades has lost its appeal, I guess.
But maybe now people's good, a lot of people are talking about trialing. Universal basic income. We have a long way to go before that becomes a universal thing obviously, but I think in the future maybe people might have more time to focus on humanities or on giving back, and maybe it might be a good thing as well.
And who knows. I think I read somewhere that really hardcore technical jobs might become blue collar jobs in the future. That's really
Vimla: [00:39:18] interesting. Yeah. Because there's such a focus on ups, getting people in it now that maybe in 50 years it becomes the norm that everyone's a coder and like the role is completely switch.
and in terms of kind of like, so I, I love you can't see me, but I've been smiling the whole way through this conversation because it's been filled with so much positivity of what. Well, the future looks like and leveling the playing field and really bringing, bringing up voices that don't get heard.
what do you think the biggest challenges will be for that to continue?
Shwetal: [00:39:50] I guess again, like. I think this has, this headline has been going on, going around a lot in terms of challenges everywhere, but opportunity isn't. So think technology and this digital infrastructure has made it very, accessible to everyone, no matter where they live.
Like what did live in the countryside or in a big city, to be able to go online and just see what's out there. But if they don't have the physical infrastructure to help. With the opportunities that digital infrastructure provides, and that's where people really get left behind. For example, just having access to good public transport, which in London, you're quite lucky to have, but outside of London and a lot of smaller towns, you have to rely on driving your own self.
And I think. That could hamper young people who probably either couldn't afford to have a car or who, don't know, who can't drive, to be able to like really go out there and access physical opportunities. But again, like. Digital has made it possible for people to also work remotely and you feel like find mentors online, to access education content on YouTube.
And, which is great because as I mean, as good as Netflix and other subscription channels are, maybe not everyone can afford to pay for those subscriptions, but then you have the likes of, they can still have free education content and there are so many of the, like, I think. Khan Academy and MOOCs, which where you can also have free like online degrees.
So I think it's quite good and there is constant now a new letters as well. Well, yeah, I'm constantly learning and developing yourself, and then you could use that opportunity to like really create something out of yourself. Like for me, it was, I have to, besides the people around me in this country, it's also.
Using like digital in a way that helped me go into places, get into rooms, which I otherwise wouldn't have been able to. And it's all thanks to tech and the focus on young people and women. And I think in the past, I think what I say right now could be very controversial because. I don't speak on behalf of everyone, but for me personally, being an ethnic minority and being a female has been great because there are so many opportunities coming my way.
And there are so many organizations which are very interested in this very, I guess. In this very aspect of helping people who are ethnic minorities, young people, women. And I think that's been really good in terms of getting me into places I probably otherwise wouldn't have. So again, like I don't speak on behalf of everyone, I acknowledge that, there are still, there is still a long way to go in terms of gender equality in terms of ethnic minorities, equality in terms of diversity and inclusion.
That is, Maybe I'm an anomaly. I don't know, but I still feel like I have benefited a lot because of these very things.
Vimla: [00:42:59] Well, it's what you kind of said at the beginning and way where you were talking about your Ted talk. Those obstacles that are put in your way and what would have historically been a massive blocker in challenge can become your biggest opportunities.
And as someone in a similar position as similar position, like a young woman in tech, us, an ethnic minority, I feel very much the same. And I think it's. Been a way of opening a lot of doors to me because more often than not, I am the only one in the room. And it's being able to say that with confidence and you know, calling out and saying that's not okay.
And once you start having those conversations, it kind of, for me, like you say, I can't speak for everyone, but it unlocked all of these. The unlocks all of these doors that I didn't even know were there. and it, it also showed me how difficult those conversations are to have because people just don't peep.
Especially at the beginning of my career, people just weren't ready to hear it. People, one, they didn't, they, they, there was always this undercurrent that you're lucky to be here rather than, Like kind of just accept that you're here and take it as the opportunity rather than trying to make anything
Shwetal: [00:44:07] else.
Yeah. And I think I'm speaking to someone yesterday about it, and they said, UK is still like 40th behind the U S in terms of talks about diversity and inclusion, but it needs. Dotted these, which is still better than many countries where people don't even have these conversations. Though now, in the UK, we have had enough conversations.
It's actually time to have practical solutions and actions to make sure that we are focusing a lot on. Inclusion and diversity, which is just, which isn't just about like your race or your gender, but about neurodiversity as well.
Vimla: [00:44:48] Yeah. Oh yeah. 100%. And you know, every, Ooh, the things that make you different.
It's not just what you can say is everything. I think that's really important. And that's what I always say is. The focus isn't on diversity, it's on inclusion because there's no point being in the room if you can't use your voice. If we're not listened to, you might as well not be there. And I think that's actually one of the biggest challenges for big organizations is actually that's a challenge to the infrastructure and the decision making.
Because. It's easy to get the quota is easy to hire enough people to have a diverse workforce, but until you start changing the way decisions are made, or the system is structured, you're not really including people.
Shwetal: [00:45:30] Yeah.
Vimla: [00:45:31] And how do you kind of bridge the gap between what you do in all your spare time and your day job?
Shwetal: [00:45:37] I think, like I said, because I'm not at the senior level, I don't have to bring any of my work back home with me, which means that I can use my weekends or my evenings, to just focus on things. I really enjoy things that I really want to, make a difference in and care about. So I think, it's quite easy, especially cause when I.
Cause I live abroad. So I don't really have any family here, which means I do have a lot of time to just focus on doing things I really care about. So, yeah, it's, it's been very easy and convenient
Vimla: [00:46:10] and, on a, on a personal note on it, and you don't have to answer this, but how would you, how do you find that kind of, being distant from your family and not having them around?
Shwetal: [00:46:19] been? It's been challenging, obviously. cause you're here by yourself and, it is not easy obviously. Just navigating a culture and a country that you were never born and brought up in and that you want to be like he lived in for five or six years. so it's quite hard, but at the same time, the opportunity there was.
I, because I didn't know anyone. I was compelled to go out and find people. And that opened up this world of amazing people around me. I've learned from this journey, and they've helped me, achieve Heights that I probably wouldn't have. So it has its ups and downs, but again, like life itself has a lot of ups and downs and it's just what you make of it.
Vimla: [00:47:05] And, just out of interest, what do you think has been the biggest cultural difference between living in the UK and growing up in India?
Shwetal: [00:47:12] I think I really love the diversity here in London. It's been great. I think it's a privilege to be around so much diversity because you can learn so much from different cultures and you can enjoy the rich culture.
Cultural diversity as well. I think it's quite easy to be honest. If you move, you're by yourself. Do, navigate this place. It's quite easy to, do a lot of things, meet new people. It's hard to make friends. Obviously that takes time, but it's easy. There isn't much corruption or bureaucracy, and I personally have found it quite easy to, really just be able to navigate society here.
And. I think the only difference is that people here are more individualistic and young people become independent at a very young age, which is different from, India.
Vimla: [00:48:03] Yeah. I've never thought of thoughts about it that way. because you know, typically a 18 you kind of leave home in the UK and that is really young.
Like it's a really young age to kind of go out and figure out how to do everything.
Shwetal: [00:48:17] But I think that's great because you really become so independent from early on. You don't have to rely on your parents or other people and you just become your own person, which I think is very important.
Vimla: [00:48:27] Yeah. Yeah. And understanding like we've been saying, was the things you believe in and what you want to stand for, and just.
Owning your voice and using it in the way that you think is right.
Shwetal: [00:48:38] Yeah. And for that, you have to get out of your immediate circle of friends and family because otherwise you just live in this Echo Chamber. And you don't really challenge anyone because you don't share a different perspective. But when you are compelled to go out and really meet people from different walks of life, it enriches your life in a way that otherwise wouldn't have.
So again, I think that's really important. Hmm.
Vimla: [00:49:02] And I'm actually sorry that just sparked to a kind of thought process for me in terms of echo chambers and being on social media at such a young age. Do you think there's enough of an emphasis, for young people at the moment to kind of, to come up with their own opinions or to really, have a perspective on things?
Shwetal: [00:49:21] again, it depends on, I think if you only rely on social media for that. Probably not the algorithms do the work for you in terms of like showing you articles and things based on what you've liked before. So I think if you actively look for. Different sources of information or different perspectives.
It's quite hard. So yeah. And then you don't obviously get thought that maybe, how do you critically analyze sources of information and how do you not take them at face value? So it really depends. Like if they're getting other perspectives outside of the digital life and in their surroundings, it's not that it's quite hard.
Vimla: [00:50:06] Yeah. Yeah, definitely. And I think, you've just inspired me to go and talk to young people and just ask her why and little bit more, rather than just accepting a, like these trainers or whatever it might be, which I have a level that kind of sets up, but just the why behind it.
What's making you think
What's, what's given you that opinion? Because I think when the people in our generation, they've bridged the gap between, not having social media, then it becoming a really big part of our lives at a younger age. Not as young as it is now, but knowing. Both sides of it in a different way. I think it's interesting to see a
Shwetal: [00:50:42] split because I think most people don't like their own opinions to be challenged, but you have to be around people who will challenge you because you don't want to be around yes people because then you won't to grow.
Vimla: [00:50:57] Yeah. I couldn't agree more. and I think that's an amazing note to end on. So, thank you so much for your time. and yeah, taking, taking time out of your weekend to talk to us on the podcast. it's been great having you on.
Shwetal: [00:51:10] Thank you. Thanks. Thanks.
Vimla: [00:51:11] Thank you so much. Have a great weekend. Bye.