Saturday, 9 March 2013

Equality in Technology

Friday the 8th of March was International Women's Day. Companies like The Co-operative Bank, EON and African Development Bank spent the day raising awareness and celebrating the success of women across the world. 

I am really keen on equality in the workplace. A mix of personalities and gender make for a more vibrant and interesting work experience. It made me think about the role of women in technology industries.  I did some internet searching, and found two websites relating to women in IT in the UK. One was crashed, and the other had moved into a social media platform (which tells a story of it's own!). So please excuse the stats I have found relate to the United States only.

In the US fortune 500, 15 percent of companies have women on their board. However, when going into Silicon Valley, the number drops to 7 percent. All of Apple's senior management team are men.

Looking further down the pecking order, the percentage of women working in IT peaked in 1984 with 37.1% of computer science qualifications being awarded to women. This had dropped to 26.7% by 1998. This has held steady, with 27-29% of the US IT workforce being female in 2006.  

So how are women doing when they get an IT job? In 2012, the top three adverse influences on women's career advancement were: Work/Life balance (35%); Confidence/Self-belief (30%); and culture of the organisation (30%). 

From my own observations, I suggest that the lack of confidence and self belief is a lot higher, and may explain the reticence of women to flex their IT muscles. There have been many companies I have worked in where there was a culture of learned helplessness. One company in particular had a clinical archive document scanning system that was operated by a team of women. But when one of the scanners crashed, they rang a man from IT, who would have to walk down a long corridor and two flights of stairs - just to reboot their desktop computer and restart the application!

If more women were to choose a career in IT, I am sure they would set a positive example and raise the expectations on the resolution of some of the more entrenched problems with the IT world - poor communication skills, group thinking mentality and stakeholder management. 

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Book Review - "Getting Started with Talend Open Studio for Data Integration"

Companies can spend thousands of pounds sending their technicians on training courses. Most are money well spent. But there are many people who like to discover new techniques for themselves and prefer home study to the formal office or classroom setting. Also, freelance developers cannot always afford the four-figure costs that modern software houses charge to take their courses.

To fill this gap, there is a burgeoning industry of self-help manuals that introduce you to the software of your choice. Following my recent review of the open source data integration tool - Talend's Open Studio, I thought it might be useful to follow up with a review on an interesting publication that can help you get started using it. 

The book is called "Getting Started with Talend Open Studio for Data Integration" and is written by Jonathan Bowen. It is available as an e-book ($22.94) and also in printed form with free ebook ($44.99). There is also a Kindle version at $19.47. The book can be purchased from,, Barnes and Noble and Safari Books online

Following a brief and important introduction, the instruction starts with showing you how to download Open Studio from Talend's website and guides you through the installation of the software onto your PC. The Talend software comes with example data and jobs. There is an appendix in the book that shows you how to install the sample data. The book effectively uses the sample data to walk you through the basics of file transformation, then moves swiftly on to working with databases.

For the database examples, you will need to download and install MySQL, which is an open source database that can run anywhere. You will also need the tools to administer it. The book gives you the trusted links to download MySQL, but you will need to refer to the MySQL documentation on how to install and get running. However, this is really worth doing. MYSQL is free and very easy to use.

Once you have MySQL running, the rest of the book really flies. You start to learn the really useful stuff for ETL, like connecting to databases, creating and amending tables, filtering, sorting, enriching, normalising and aggregating data. Once you are proficient, the book turns to automation, orchestration, file transferring and the generation of variables. You can then join individual jobs together to make flow processes that can make decisions and take different actions based on many different outcomes. 

If you think that all this sounds complicated, you are going to be shocked. It is not. If I can do it, most people can. You can read about what I did in a weekend with the Open Studio here. However, if you are installing Talend on Mac OS-X or a PC with Ubuntu or any other unix operating system, the book's file paths are for windows computers (i.e. C:\\My Documents etc...) but I'm sure you can work that out.

The whole layout of the book is very straight-forward, with plenty of pictures on how your work should look. The language is simple and free of jargon. Explanations are just the right balance of detail and simplicity. It is obvious that a lot of care and consideration has gone into making each chapter informative yet succinct.

Maybe you wish to deploy and develop Talend for data integration at work. Perhaps you want to be a freelance DI developer.  You may just want to run a little computer project at home. Whatever your requirements, "Getting Started with Talend Open Studio for Data Integration" by Jonathan Bowen is a valuable reference that you will use again and again.

Friday, 1 March 2013

The end of social media?

Are you on Twitter? I am. I like using it to promote these articles. It is a very good way of contacting a large audience, quickly. If you search on twitter "#SocialMedia", you will find endless lists of tweets and articles about the importance of social media for the future of modern businesses.

What is even more interesting, is if you put "#SocialMedia" into any of your tweets, expect to be automatically followed by about a dozen social media gurus! It's an easy way to build followers - if you are into that kind of thing.

It used to be that the only people who were making money out of social media, were the people who were selling social media get rich quick schemes. But the valuation of Facebook at $104 bn last year alluded to the increasing interest of large corporations in what you had for lunch!

When I first used Facebook, it was a large page with all of the content relating to me and the people I knew. As the years have gone by, a bar full of adverts have appeared on the right hand side of my page. Also, the facebook privacy rules keep changing, and I keep having to make sure that they do not use my content to sell other products. Every now and then a note appears saying "Jenny liked McDonalds. Do you like McDonalds?"

I predict that it will not be social media for much longer. It will be corporate media. And all of the fun will have gone from the medium, as every little interaction will prompt manic selling on behalf of interested businesses. The smart people will have moved on to another way of expressing themselves, and this bubble will slowly deflate into the shallow and drab procession that television currently is.