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Our Member Spotlights are a place for us to find out a little bit more about the awesome individuals who make up The Data Lab Community - their background, the challenges they've faced, the values they hold, and their top tips for other members. This week, we caught up with Anne Widdop, Founder and CEO of Fuze Tech Services and The VR Hive.
Hi Anne! Can you tell us a bit about your background?
I have over 30 years experience working in business and technology - with experience ranging from small enterprises to some of the world’s largest companies. I joined IBM in the 90’s and enjoyed a very successful career rising to a senior position. In 2012, I left my role as a Global Director to start up my own business – Fuze Tech Services. I have always tried to balance my corporate responsibilities with unpaid work, and I've held a number of high profile positions: as vice-chair of a UK governmental advisory body on Women in Science, Engineering and Technology (SET); I established and chaired the Scottish Women in SET at Napier University and Chaired the Helix Trust (£43M Urban Transformation project) which delivered the world famous Kelpies. I'm also a passionate advocate for the Highlands, where I live, and for start-up companies.
What's the biggest challenge that you've faced in the last year?
In the last year I've pivoted my business significantly, in order to save jobs. I am driving a new initiative called The VR Hive. It's been really challenging raising the funds needed and I'm just at the start of the journey.
The VR hub delivers soft skill training through virtual reality - why do you think this is so important?
The world has changed as a result of CV-19 and technological advances have yet to support remote working and learning. Students deserve 1st class learning experiences that can be accessed remotely. The technology exists which enables the development of adaptive, reactive immersive learning environments. Video conferencing training is passive, ineffective and fatigue inducing. Traditional click-through eLearning is failing (it has a really high dropout rate). Further innovation is also needed to develop a genuinely new pedagogy of soft skills learning provision; an area widely recognised as being underserved and yet one most employers agree matters as much, if not more, that hard skills. I'm passionate about contributing to moving education (and assessments) into the 21st century!
What are you working on at the moment that really excites you?
I'm working on bringing gaming strategy and immersive technology to education and I'm passionate about challenging the way students are assessed. Can you imagine if you could get nationally recognised qualifications from playing video games? That's what I want to achieve! I'm so excited about the AI, gaming technology we are developing. I've been in tech for a very long time and I just love what's achievable now.
What is your top tip for aspiring data professionals?
Don't get stuck in a silo, try different things and above all collaborate.
If you could start your career over, what would you do differently?
Not a lot, I'm happy with what I have achieved and the different directions I have taken.
What resource would you recommend to our community?
The Data Lab values are Support, Respect, Innovate & Grow - which one resonates with you most at the moment and why?
Innovate! We need to shout about what Scotland can do, we have outstanding people and we need to reclaim our place on the world stage as engineers, designers and thinkers.
What's the most inspirational use of data/AI you have seen to help society?
Technology developments in medicine are amazing. Using AI to diagnose, to detect/predict cancers, AR to train health professionals and clinicians can now virtually share skills during live surgical procedures! I love it.
Lastly, how could you help other members of the community?
I'm happy to coach, mentor and support people at any stage of their career, especially those under-respesented in STEM. For most of my career I've been the only female in the room, it can be a lonely place. Ultimately, I want to create well paid technical and scientific jobs in Scotland. Watch this space!
Massive thanks again to Anne for taking the time to chat to us, we're delighted to you with us in the community.