Dublin is the place to be on 6 and 7 July with these headline speakers all taking to the Inspirefest stage.
The sci-tech celebration that is Inspirefest is almost upon us. Taking over the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre for two days in Dublin’s Silicon Docks, accompanied by evening and Saturday Fringe events in surrounding high-profile office spaces, Inspirefest will be inescapable as of 6 July.
Thankfully, the highly curated single-stage set-up at Inspirefest means attendees don’t have to make any difficult decisions between speakers in the line-up that they want to see most. The other side of that coin is that there are so many great speakers to catch, you may never leave your seat.
Here are just 10 of the speakers who’ll be visiting Dublin this July, some of whom are speaking in Ireland for the very first time at this event.
Silicon Valley’s diversity problem has been flung into an interrogative spotlight of late, but there was a time that the US centre of innovation escaped this scrutiny and quietly ignored the issues. It’s thanks to outspoken people who found themselves in the thick of an unequal playing field that diversity gaps are now seeing the light of day, and with that recognition has come an impetus for change.
Tracy Chou is one of the instigators of this shifting perspective in Silicon Valley. In 2013, she wrote a Medium post that challenged tech employers to reveal the number of women engineers they had on staff, demanding that these figures not be hidden away. Now, she is both a software engineer and the co-founder of a movement at Project Include, and will present a keynote on ‘Engineering Inclusion’ at Inspirefest.
Taking the stage to discuss ‘A Life in Science’ is Dr France A Córdova, who actually started out studying English before switching to science and a PhD in astrophysics at Caltech. In 1993, she became the first woman to hold the position of chief scientist at NASA, where she helped to shape the science strategy of the organisation. She recently told Claire O’Connell how she introduced her boss to “a new field called astrobiology”.
In 2014, former US president Barack Obama nominated Córdova as director of the National Science Foundation, a position she still holds with the new administration.
Omar Abbosh is Accenture’s chief strategy officer, responsible for overseeing strategy for the entire global business. “This includes scenarios such as: how do we grow in China? What do we do about the phenomenon of public cloud? What should Accenture think about developments in the retail banking sector?” he told Siliconrepublic.com.
Amid all these new questions, Abbosh advises companies to be the disrupter, not the disrupted. “My talk basically is all about what is going on in the world and why. Why does it lead to disruption and what should companies do about it?”
Dr Anita Sands has had a stellar career and, at Inspirefest, she’ll be presenting a keynote on her personal journey in leadership. Currently, Sands sits on the board at three Silicon Valley public companies: Symantec, Service Now and Pure Storage. Prior to that, she spent a decade in the financial services sector, becoming the youngest ever senior vice-president at the Royal Bank of Canada. By 33, she was COO for UBS Wealth Management Americas.
“Over the course of my career, I’ve ‘pivoted’ quite a bit and have moved across disciplines and countries,” said the Louth native, who has seemingly innumerable talents, with a PhD in atomic and molecular physics, a diploma in piano, an expedition to Antarctica, and an all-Ireland public-speaking championship all under her belt.
Returning favourite Sharon Vosmek will be omnipresent at Inspirefest 2017. Astia, the investment community she leads, is hosting a lunchtime showcase and investor masterclass, while Vosmek will both be speaking and interviewing on stage.
Known for keeping it real and never shy of delivering hard truths, with what some would call ‘colourful’ language, Vosmek’s is always a voice that commands an audience’s attention. Ahead of her return to Inspirefest, she discussed the topic du jour – Uber’s toxic work culture – with Siliconrepublic.com editor John Kennedy.
In conversation with Vosmek will be Arlan Hamilton, an urgent new voice in venture capital funding. Hamilton has journeyed from homelessness to managing a $5m fund for under-represented founders, such as women, people of colour and LGBTQ people – three groups with which she herself identifies.
“I like to say that black is the new bitcoin,” she recently declared, predicting a pivotal moment when investors will suddenly realise the value that she has seen all along. Be there to learn how she started with zero connections but 100pc determination to found Backstage Capital.
Rhianna Pratchett is an award-winning scriptwriter, story designer and ‘general narrative paramedic’. She was the lead writer on Tomb Raider, among many other blockbuster credits, and has contributed to several books on games writing.
She’ll be sharing the stage with Inspirefest favourite and BAFTA award-winning game designer Brenda Romero, in a discussion on storytelling. Pratchett wants game developers to embrace storytelling and improve how interactive narrative is defined, integrated and received.
Hacker, start-up co-founder, CEO and now ‘website security czar’ at Symantec, Tarah Wheeler’s keynote on ‘Infosec for a Brave New World’ has never been more pertinent, with global cyberattacks making headlines on a regular basis.
Wheeler joined Symantec to help the infosec company connect more effectively with the independent hacker community. Her own company, Fizzmint, offers end-to-end employee management and her book, Women in Tech, features practical advice for women looking to advance their tech career.
Raju Narisetti is another returning visitor to the Inspirefest stage. Named Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2007, Narisetti has held some of the most crucial jobs in US media, up to his current role as CEO at Gizmodo Media Group.
Not only does Narisetti have his finger on the pulse of change, he does not shirk from tough decisions, as John Kennedy discovered when speaking with him on diversity, the future of media and navigating Trump’s America – a conversation they will continue with an audience soon.
Joining Kennedy and Narisetti will be Longford native Anne-Marie Tomchak, who has worked for a variety of European media outlets, including the BBC and RTÉ, and now finds herself based in London as the editor of Mashable UK. A digital innovator with a track record for producing original journalism, Tomchak was behind a world exclusive, revealing that the viral ‘Syria Hero Boy’ video was faked.
One of Tomchak’s guiding principles is to “step out of the bubble” and broaden your horizons socially and professionally. “It is easy to get caught in your own echo chamber, so I go to conferences on lots of different topics,” she told Claire O’Connell. “It’s a great way to get access to the greatest minds and get up to speed in what other organisations are doing, and you get to meet new people and build new relationships.”
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