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10 Leaders and Innovators Inspiring Diversity in Tech

· Abigail Beall · Opinion

The more diverse the technology industry is, the better it becomes.

Renee Hunt, Sky

Sky celebrates diversity. That’s why they’ve committed to a target of ‘20 and 5, by 2025’. 20% Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic representation and 5% Black representation. Come work for Sky.

The tech industry is growing faster than the rest of the UK economy, but not everyone is equally represented, which is why we need role models like these…

Only 15% of the digital tech workforce in the UK are from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds. In an industry that, historically, has been dominated by white men, it can be difficult for people of colour to see themselves in a tech career, which is why it’s so important to champion diversity and celebrate people like these. They’re an inspiration, not to just to us, but to the next generation of tech leaders.

Melanie Kate Selvon Ellyard, Senior Manager for the Yorkshire, Humber & Tees Valley UK Network at British Business Bank and Founder of Include-Me

Leeds Enterprise Partnership Melanie Ellyard

Melanie has a long history of supporting tech start-ups. In her current role at British Business Bank, she works closely with key stakeholders in the local ecosystem to understand the challenges facing the region and create a more diverse finance market for SMEs to grow and succeed. 

She’s also the founder of Include-Me, a not-for-profit helping to diversify entrepreneur opportunities, particularly in tech and STEM for women, under-represented communities and those with limited financial means. “As a mixed-race Northern girl from a very working-class background, it was a very scary thing to do,” she told us. “I did this to support underrepresented groups in tech and more broadly in STEM. The response was overwhelming and the collective reach of the diverse contacts, from the business world, offering support was incredible.”

Renee Hunt, Director of Group Digital Platforms at Sky

Renee Hunt, Sky

As the Director of Group Digital Platforms at Sky, Renee is directly responsible for 200 digital engineers. She has over 30 years of experience in technology, having started her career in the US Army Signal Corp and moved into the private sector after an MBA from the University of Texas. She’s delivered technology programmes all over the world in a variety of industries, including media, telecoms, finance and defence.

Renee is very active in Sky’s Women in Tech initiative. She’s committed to helping bring more women ‘back into tech’ and making the industry more inclusive overall. Renee champions candidates from all backgrounds and believes that a diverse workforce makes better technology because the more people you represent, the better your products become for everyone.

Revannth N Murugesan, Founder and CEO of Antonym Ltd

Revannth Murugesan, Antonym Ltd

Antonym is an electric self-driving transportation start-up based in NEXUS that develops intelligent and sustainable trucks for the logistics industry. With a combination of AI and 3D printing, Antonym helps fleet operators cut costs and carbon dioxide emissions from diesel trucks.

The company’s CEO and founder, Revannth was born and brought up in India. He set up his first business at the age of 11 using a 3D printer he received as a birthday gift to print custom electronic accessories and sell them on eBay. After studying civil and structural engineering at one of the top universities in India, he came to the UK to do a master’s in International Business at the University of Leeds Business School. “I came in contact with SPARK Start-up support programme at the University of Leeds who helped me with turning my single-line business idea to what it is now,” he explained.

Mohamed Nabha, Founder of OKTACO

Mohamed Nabha, OKTACO

After graduating from the University of Leeds with a master’s in advertising and design, Mohamed had the chance to work closely with tech start-ups, which helped him appreciate the significance of data analysis and how it reshapes cultures built around brands. That’s why, in 2018, he started OKTACO, a design and branding studio that does everything from animation to website development, UX design and online marketing.

OKTACO works with local and international clients including VET-AI, AI Tech North, Volkswagen and World Bank. “We apply our diverse practice and knowledge to brands of all shapes and sizes and always make sure we deliver their unique ideas with impact and success,” Mohamed told us. “OKTACO has been working with innovative companies and start-ups who are keeping their eyes on the future and disrupting the industries of AI, machine learning, RPA and augmented reality.”

Elsie Reed, Business Intelligence Manager at Capita and CEO of The Tech Ladder

Elsie Reed, Founder Tech Ladder

After studying banking and finance in Nigeria, Elsie moved to America, but she couldn’t get a job. When a friend introduced her to IT, she decided to enroll in a systems engineering course, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Elsie now has 20 years of experience as a database administrator, project manager and business intelligence consultant. She holds an MBA and a master’s degree in information systems management. On top of all that, in May 2019 she co-founded The Tech Ladder, a not-for-profit that helps underprivileged adults in Beeston better their lives through technology education. “The reason I’m committed to helping people is because I know what it means to be without food. I am where I am today because someone believed in me and helped me put my CV online,” she told us.

Tanja Lichtensteiger, Engineering Manager at Sky Betting & Gaming

Tanja Lichtensteiger, Sky Betting & Gaming

Tanja was born in the Philippines while it was under the Marcos dictatorship. She started coding at 8 years old, and now, almost three decades on, she manages and leads the Software Engineering squads at Sky Betting & Gaming and influences their technology strategy.

With 19 years of professional experience building software, Tanja believes in the positive impact of technology on our lives and our futures. “It’s important that we all have a hand in how that future is shaped and diversity of thought is essential in that approach,” she explained. “Technology is a great enabler, which can help connect and mobilise people as a force for good and engineers need to realise the burden of responsibility they carry because of that.”

Saif Rahmat, Managing Consultant for Cloud Cloud, Data & Digital Acceleration at Credera

Saif Rahmat, DMW Group

Saif Rahmat works in the Leeds office of Credera, a consultancy firm focused on strategy, transformation, data and technology. After 18 years in systems administration, Saif’s experience covers everything from IT architecture to application rationalisation. He’s led transformation and migration programmes in both private and public sectors, helping businesses to harness the power of technology.

Saif has worked as a technical architect across national governmental programmes to implement alternative cloud service providers. Most recently within Credera, Saif worked on an NHS Digital programme that was Europe’s largest network transition of its kind. As part of this, Credera helped achieve cost savings of around £75 million on like-for-like services for the NHS.

Suman Bala, Lead Senior QA at Sky

Suman Bala, Sky

Suman realised very early in her career that her passion lay in testing. When she graduated with a degree in Computer Science Engineering, everyone said she should become a developer, but even then, she knew how important testing was to building quality products and she’s made it her mission to help others see the value it offers.

After working her way up the ladder at Samsung and Premier Farnell, Suman moved to Sky, where she’s a Lead Senior QA. They’ve given her the freedom to change people’s mindsets – and not just when it comes to testing. She’s an active member of their Diversity and Inclusion group, the co-founder of the Accessibility Guild and a regular speaker at national and international events, because representation matters.

Mohua Siddique, Business Development and Innovation Manager at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

Mohua Siddique, Translate MedTech

Mohua Siddique has a background in public health. She’s worked on asylum seeker projects in Greece and on public and sexual health interventions in Bangladesh. More recently, she’s been organising training and awarding funding to help researchers develop their innovation skills at Translate MedTech, a programme aimed at enhancing medical technology innovation.

Now, as Business Development and Innovation Manager at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, Mohua is continuing in her mission to support healthcare research and innovation. She’s passionate about women in tech and keen to close the gender gap, “So much of this world has been designed without us, so we need to make sure our ideas are developed as the world becomes more and more technologically advanced.”

Reema Vadoliya, Analytics Data Engineer at The Data Shed

Reema Vadoliya, INC360

Reema studied Maths at the University of Leeds, then worked as a data analyst for icelolly.com. After two years, she became a data engineer at The Data Shed, a commercially focused data tech business that helps companies to demystify the world of data and get actionable insights that will improve their bottom line.

In July 2019, Reema helped Steph Varley to launch INC360, a social enterprise that supports young people who are experiencing loneliness by using immersive video technology. Whether their service users are children in hospital or visitors at a respite centre, INC360 provides temporary relief and mental health advice in a safe, accessible way.