Known for starting an online campaign to save Bletchley Park from financial ruin, Dr Sue Black has added many more strings to her bow over the years. She has since founded Techmums, a programme that helps mothers become familiar with, and learn the basics of, technology and computing.
“I set up Techmums in 2012 with the aim of trying to empower everyone around technology, so to get everyone excited about technology but focusing on mums in the first place,” she said.
“If we get mums on board and excited about technology, then they’ll get the kids on board. The aim is to reach as many people as possible.”
Focusing on mothers in disadvantaged areas, Black wanted to make the biggest impact and open up opportunities to people who might not get them otherwise.
“I think that, in general, they get less opportunities to get access to this sort of thing and also, I think that you can make a bigger difference if you’re working with mums that may be on a low income, maybe on benefits,” she said.
And that trend is set to continue, with funding from Nominet Trust to run a partnership with Home-Start UK. This will help Black and Techmums to target 500 mothers aged between 15 and 24 in five particular areas in the UK.
1m mums by 2020
Black said that she wanted to use Techmums to show women the opportunities that are out there, with a basic understanding of things such as web design, app design and social media.
“We want to reach as many mums as possible so we’re almost finished working on a short online course, taking some of the stuff from our face-to-face course and putting it online, so that mums anywhere in the world can have a go themselves.”
These online courses are available for pre-registration at the moment and are free of charge. Black hopes that this will give the Techmums programme a global reach.
“Our aim is to get to a million mums by 2020,” she said.
As well as face-to-face courses in various locations around the UK, Techmums is also in Tallaght, Dublin as part of An Cosán.
“One of the greatest stories is from An Cosán in Tallaght. Jennifer Wickham is now the digital pathway programme coordinator and she learned about technology through the Techmums programme.”
As if bringing technology, coding and social media to mums all over the UK wasn’t enough, Black has also been made ambassador for Eureka, an interactive children’s museum in the UK.
The role is still very new to Black, but she is no stranger to the museum itself. “I’m really, really keen on fun learning activities,” she said.
“Eureka’s got lots of really interesting exhibits and they’ve got some really great people working there who are doing some really cool stuff, like dressing up and doing magic tricks and stuff like that.”
So, what does all of this have to do with disrupting yourself and becoming successful? Well, Black has previously spoken at Inspirefest about the belief of being able to do anything you set your mind to.
Black believes that the idea behind corporate disruption as the key to success can be brought to an individual level. With that in mind, she will bring the idea of how any one person can disrupt their way to success to Inspirefest this year.
“We hear a lot about disruption in terms of companies and organisations, and it being a way to become more efficient and more effective and do things in a better way.”
“I’m going to be talking about how to do that for yourself, with examples from myself and other people about how you can take a look at what you’re doing, how you’re doing it and re-engineer it to be more successful.”
Having created her own path to success, Black knows a thing or two about self-disruption. Not only did her online campaign lead to her first book, Saving Bletchley Park, but she’s now in the midst of writing her second one.
“Penguin approached me asking me to write The Pelican Guide to Coding, so I’m writing that at the moment.”
Black said it will be a user-friendly guide to coding aimed at adults. “There’ll be chapters on things like cybersecurity, internet of things and the history of computing and then, at the same time, there’ll also be coding lessons.”
Dr Sue Black will be speaking at Inspirefest, Silicon Republic’s international event connecting sci-tech professionals passionate about the future of STEM. Book now to join us from 6 to 8 July in Dublin.