Facebook – what you don’t know!

Facebook is a part of everyday life for many of us, but in the last couple of weeks it has hit the headlines for the wrong reasons.  Users of the site have expressed their dissatisfaction of the complex privacy controls. In response to this Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg commented “sometimes we move too fast – and after listening to recent concerns, we’re responding. Our intention was to give you lots of granular controls; but that may not have been what many of you wanted. We just missed the mark”. Now we’ve heard the news that they were going to make the controls simpler, starting today.

So what are the issues here with privacy and why has it caused such a stir? In short, users can visit the privacy section of the site and opt in and out of certain things – for example allowing photos you have uploaded to only be seen by your friends or people in your network or restricting the visibility of your contact info. The list goes on and on and quite frankly it is very complex – so much so that there is actually a manual you can download which details all the different options you have!

So Facebook plans to make the issue of privacy much easier for users and one particular issue that we believe needs urgent attention is the use of Facebook’s  new social plugins and we came across a shocking piece on this very issue written by Roger Thompson of AVG. The article explains how Roger was surfing the web to catch up on the day’s news when he noticed the site he was on (CNN.COM) had a live feed of his Facebook friends activity! What was odd was Roger was not logged on to either CNN nor had his Facebook account open.

So why was happening? It turns out that hundreds of website are using the social plugins that Facebook introduced at the recent F8 Developers Conference which are designed to show which of your friends are voting ‘like’ on a particular sites news stories – and if you happen to be visiting the  same sites it will show your friends new feeds. But how is this happening if you are not logged into the site in question? The social plugins are using Facebook Connect which was designed to be a ‘Single Sign On’ for the web – in other words you log on to Facebook once, and when you visit other sites, it logs you on to the site using the Facebook credentials already provided!

We certainly didn’t know this and were quite amazed that this was actually happening – the message here and what Roger suggests is “If you want to stop this type of behaviour, and thus do not want to see the stories that your friends are interested in as they visit the web, simply click “Log Out” of Facebook. This is something that no one really does. Simply, closing a Facebook tab or window DOES NOT log you out of Facebook.  I think the user community needs to be educated specifically on this.”

We agree with Roger and have certainly taken note – what do you think? We’d certainly like to know – let’s hope that Facebook addresses this issues soon!

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Are women bad networkers?

Here is a post I wrote recently for Computer Weekly’s WITsend blog:

Are women bad networkers?

In my opinion the answer to this question is, of course, no. At womenintechnology we organise lots of networking events which are always very popular. There was a piece in the Times recently entitled ‘why are women such bad networkers?’ that, understandably, grabbed my attention! Its overall message is: women aren’t confident enough to network, men are better at it, women don’t think it’s important and are therefore to an extent ‘invisible’. There is obviously a bit more to it than that though, you can read the whole article here: http://women.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/women/article7057300.ece.

A few parts of the piece I agree with. Women are not the best at shouting about their talents and achievements in comparison to men, and that is something that we need to improve on in order to get ahead in our careers. However I don’t agree that women are bad networkers; in fact I think women are the ultimate networkers and realise how important it is today.

The article also says “in a business world still dominated by men, networking solely with other women is not much use” – but I don’t think that’s true either. It’s obviously best to network with as many people as possible but networking with women is a great way to gain support, confidence and advice from people who are, or have been, in the same position as you. What do you think?

Power of networking

I recently wrote a guest blog for Vitae on the power of networking; you may want to read it along with the comments here but I’ve also posted it below!

I’m a networker. I love meeting new people, connecting people and being able to help people out. However the word ‘networking’ often fills many people with dread – whether it’s fear of approaching people you don’t know, lack of time or simply not knowing what to do, many people tend to dismiss the idea. At the same time though, we all network in some way. It’s not just about attending networking events, as great as they can be;  it’s about communication, through email, phone or through social media like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.

Networking is useful for your personal life – it helped me when I moved to London not knowing many people and provided me with a great recommendation when I was re-doing my kitchen! But more importantly it’s also an essential career tool. Your promotion or next career move may lie in the hands of someone you could be engaging and networking with.

“Why should I bother networking?” – To pick up valuable information, broaden your perspectives, find a mentor and to get advice from / connect with people in a similar position to you. It’s also a great sales tool to show people your capabilities and it’s a way for you to help people who may then be able to help you some day. Remember that your network doesn’t just consist of those people you know but their contacts too – a friend of a friend may come in handy.

“But I don’t know what to do!” – Think about what you want to achieve, from who, and how. You want to meet people who could help you, so perhaps colleagues, competitors or other professionals in your sector. However at the same time don’t dismiss those that you don’t think can help you straight away, as you never know when they may be a useful contact. Think about what they could provide for you and vice versa as networking is about giving as well as taking a look at different types of networking events and decide which is the best for you.

“Have you got any networking tips?” – When it comes to face to face networking make sure you look the part, and be aware of body language – smile and approach people to invite people to talk to you. Have a few opening questions ready to start the conversation and be interesting and listen. Most importantly make sure you follow up by sending an email for example – this will make sure you maximise on networking opportunities and don’t instantly forget each other. Also use social networking to keep in touch with contacts old and new.

Networking takes time and is an ongoing process that allows you to share ideas and information. But it can be hugely beneficial and it’s a tool that no professional can ignore. Give it a go – good luck!

Networking events in December 2009

Although we’re not hosting any more networking events this year, there are plenty of events being run by other organisations that you can go along to during December. We believe networking is one of the most important things you can do for your career enhancement / progression so have a look through this list of events (they’re all happening in London so apologies to everyone outside of the capital) and get along to those which are of interest to you.

As ever please contact the relevant organiser if you have any questions and if you’d like to see other events listings, click here: http://www.womenintechnology.co.uk/events/

Tuesday 1st December: City Women’s Network: Female FTSE Report 2009 – Where to from here?

Wednesday 2nd December: Management Today – IT Innovation Debate (breakfast meeting)

Thursday 3rd December: Inspiring Women Series: Plug into Mentoring

Friday 4th December: CIO Executive Council Women in IT Networking Breakfast

Tuesday 8th December: MasterCard European Women’s Leadership Network

Tuesday 8th December: Women in Telecoms and Technology Group (WiTT) Meeting

Thursday 10th December: BCSWomen Christmas Networking Event

Tuesday 15th December: WES Shape the Future: Step up to the Challenge – networking and celebration of women in STEM

And we’ll look forward to seeing you at our events in 2010!

Thanks so much!

Women’s networks

Is it the end of the road for women’s networks? Elizabeth Harrin from The Glass Hammer blog wrote an interesting piece last week based on this question after attending an event hosted by Morgan Stanley, which I also happened to go to. It’s certainly an interesting question – women’s groups, networks etc always seem to be a controversial topic as many query whether they do more harm than good.

See Elizabeth’s post here for the full story, but in a nutshell it revolves around this quote: “We have to stop bringing groups of women together to talk about what we know is going wrong….We have to convince our companies to stop fixing the women. The underlying assumption with all of those programmes [mentoring, executive coaching, etc] is that there must be something wrong with women.”

Being a women’s network, of course we are going to defend them! But, with good reason. The first point I would make is that the woman behind these words, Avivah Wittenberg-Cox, seems to be referring to “women-only” groups. And I would say I agree that these are not the most constructive ways of encouraging progress. Womenintechnology is women orientated but not exclusive – in fact we always encourage men to attend our events and love it when they do! I also agree that women discussing what is going wrong is not a particularly helpful activity. Our events and training courses often do discuss the problems that women face and allow them to share experiences, but we then provide advice to help these women tackle these problems in the future. We often gear them towards skills we know that women – in general – struggle with.

Then comes the ‘but’. I don’t think it’s true that the underlying assumption is that there must be something wrong with women. Networking groups, mentoring, coaching and other female orientated groups and networks exist because it is no secret that there are inequalities in the workplace. Their aim is to provide support to women who often feel isolated in a male dominated environment and help them feel more confident and happy in their work. What’s wrong with that?

There are many interesting responses to Elizabeth’s blog that are also worth a read. What do you think? Leave your comments here.

Female events

wtechSeeing as one of our main focuses is events and training geared towards women in IT, I read the recent blog entry “Do Women Want Female-Only Tech Events?” with interest. It’s understandable that female technologists can feel slightly patronised when invited to a women only event; they often pose questions like ‘why should we be treated any different?’ And if this post is anything to go by, ‘why should we pay for the privilege of going to an event which happens to be attended by women?’ But I agree that these are valid questions!

I can only comment from my own experience, which is that anything for ‘women only’ is not a particularly great idea. Our events are instead tailored to women but very much open to men too – in fact, we’d love for more men to attend! The fact of the matter is that there are issues that effect women in the workplace more than men and so addressing these problems for a female audience is often necessary; for example, events that we’ve held in the past include building a confident brand, achieving as a woman in technology and political savvy. However this doesn’t mean that no men are welcome, that the event is going to be based on gender stereotypes or that we will charge a small fortune for the privilege of an all women meeting.

The purpose of our female focussed events is to empower women with knowledge that can help them in their careers whilst helping them to meet other technical women. This allows attendees to build up a bank of useful contacts, chat to people in similar circumstances as themselves, get advice and generally feel part of a bigger community in what is a very male dominated industry. And that’s why I think they’re a great idea! Many women that have come to our events in the past have commented on how much they enjoy going to a female event, but often women will need to go to one to get a taste of what it’s like before they make their mind up. They may not be for everyone and I’d certainly recommend going to mixed events too – but if they’re done properly, events for women in IT are a must.

Career challenges?

Just a reminder that W-Tech will be held on 24th June at the IET in London by womenintechnology.co.uk and the BCS. It promises to be a very informative and enjoyable event, with a day full of career development workshops which will tackle a wide range of issues that women in IT face in their careers. These range from how to behave in an all male team to political savvy and there will be an opportunity to meet a selection of top IT employers. This will be followed by an evening networking session and a panel discussion of successful women in technology. And even better, it’s completely free to attend!

Whether you’re a graduate, IT professional, returner or an employer wishing to grab a last minute exhibiting spot, please visit www.wtech-event.co.uk for more information and to register. Hope to see you there!