Sheree Atcheson, global ambassador, Women Who Code speaking at Inspirefest
Sheree Atcheson, global ambassador, Women Who Code. Image: Conor McCabe Photography

Sheree Atcheson: ‘The tech industry doesn’t just have one face’

13 Jul 2018

Sheree Atcheson announced at Inspirefest 2018 that she has been promoted to global ambassador at Women Who Code.

Throughout the two days of Inspirefest 2018, the audience was inspired, delighted and amazed by the various speakers on stage.

In addition to all of that, some of the speakers gave incredibly moving speeches, one of which was delivered by Sheree Atcheson.

Atcheson is no stranger to the tech influencer scene. She was named one of the UK’s most influential women in technology by Computer Weekly last year and she’s on the longlist again this year. She also works as a tech business consultant at Deloitte.

Atcheson revealed during her talk at Inspirefest that she has just become a board-appointed global ambassador for Women Who Code, which she has worked with since she was 22.

Through Women Who Code, she is dedicated to helping women excel in their tech careers and eliminating gender bias. The initiative has run more than 7,000 events globally and it is based in more than 60 cities, with a 55-city wait-list.

However, the core of Atcheson’s Inspirefest talk was not about Women Who Code, it was about something that she admitted she hadn’t spoken about on stage before.

“This is a very different session from what I usually talk about,” she said. “It’s a bit more personal.”

Atcheson is Sri Lankan by birth, but was adopted by an Irish couple at three weeks old, along with her brother, and so had a rural Irish upbringing in Co Tyrone.

Last year, she travelled to Sri Lanka on her honeymoon with her husband and ended up in a place called Kandy, which is where her birth certificate said she was from, making it an emotional journey.

“It’s very surreal being in a place where I was born not too far away,” she said. And so, she decided to see if she could find her biological mother.

However, when the information on her birth certificate turned out to be inaccurate, this proved more difficult than expected. Atcheson even noted that it meant she had been spelling her middle name (which is also her social media handle) wrong the entire time.

Her story came to a tear-jerking climax when she finally found her birth mother. The emotional response from Atcheson on stage from showing the pictures of the reunion prompted the supportive Inspirefest audience to cheer her on. “That bloody picture!” she laughed.

Representation matters

Atcheson went on to talk about how she decided to give back to the Sri Lankan community, to showcase incredible role models so that there could be diversity and visibility for everyone.

“Representation matters. We can’t continually talk about diversity and hire diversity, but only promote conformity,” she said.

She spoke about the importance of diverse people not needing to look so far for role models – this led her to found I Am Lanka, a social responsibility project that shines a light on the local and global Sri Lankan change-makers.

An illustration of Sheree Atcheson by Liza Donnelly.

An illustration of Sheree Atcheson on stage at Inspirefest 2018. Image: Liza Donnelly

Atcheson brought it all back to the tech industry. “The tech industry is so diverse, it’s so fluid, it’s so unique and we have to embrace diversity in technology because the tech industry does not have one face.

“We are all races, we are all genders, we are all religions, we are everything – and, for that reason, dealing with unexpected responsibility and representation matters.”

Inspirefest is Silicon Republic’s international event celebrating the point where science, technology and the arts collide. Ultra Early Bird tickets for Inspirefest 2019 are available now.

Jenny Darmody
By Jenny Darmody

Jenny Darmody became the editor of Silicon Republic in 2023, having worked as the deputy editor since February 2020. When she’s not writing about the science and tech industry, she’s writing short stories and attempting novels. She continuously buys more books than she can read in a lifetime and pretty stationery is her kryptonite. She also believes seagulls to be the root of all evil and her baking is the stuff of legends.

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