Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Homeworker's day out - TedxGranta - Part One

I usually work from home wearing my not-a-yummy-mummy clothes and chatting to colleagues through professional online forums, so when I won a place at TEDxGranta, I was thrilled at the chance of getting out, networking and finding out how ideas and creativity can change the world. As a creative I'm all for it and there was even a bit of technology thrown in! So I fished out some suitable clothes from the back of my wardrobe, entrusted my toddler to my partner and trotted off on my high-heeled boots towards Churchill College. I live close to it so it was a pleasant walk down leafy roads (less pleasant at the end of the day when it was dark and wet).

A quick glance at the programme suggested that the ideas had  far-reaching consequences in terms of tackling poverty, environmental damage and even political ideologies, so the idea I submitted to win the place paled in comparison. In a nutshell, my idea is to promote homeworking as it can save families and the planet (think of carbon savings).  I know, it sounds corny but I know lots of parents who want to work from home to be with their children. Those who managed had to overhaul their career and jump through hoops (you can read some stories here) and taking a big paycut in many instances. Personally, working from home is the only way I can volunteer for my various charities, look after my daughter when she is not at preschool and earn money. I'm not asking for the moon, but it has been hard as employers' mindset are still stuck in the Industrial Age when workers needed to be seen attending to their machines (I am being kind here, I did mention Dark Ages in a LinkedIn discussion). I know some jobs cannot be done from home, but my old job would have been perfect for a homeworker - I was spending hours staring at a screen with limited interaction. So why not doing it from home? Because most media companies want the freelancer to go inhouse even if the freelancer doesn't have a 'team role' and doesn't attend meetings. But enough of this and let's go back to TEDxGranta's Cambridge conference.

I was so inspired I took several pages of notes. It was very intense and I have material for several blog posts, so expect more in the coming days! The conference was structured in three sessions with conversation breaks. Session 1 was about New Angles, which included:
  • a video of H. Rosling carrying the intriguing message "If you have a democracy, people will vote for washing machines" (a great speech exposing the hypocrisy of green campaigners and our patronising attitude towards developing countries)
  • an empowering live speech by J. Barnes on why we need to take control of our medical history and records
  • a video of C. Breazel on personal robots (we all loved the furry one and I daydreamed of a mummy robot reading Goldilocks and the Three Bears to my little girl three times in a row without blinking)
  • D. Lynas on arts as creative recycling (a theme very close to my heart) and extraordinary projects, like the walking house
  • a video of L. Donnelly on changing the world using humour, something I resort to when supporting stressed mums at breastfeeding clinics
  • a live speech by J. Tillotson on how fashion combined with technology can foster wellbeing (I'd call it aromafashiontherapy)
  • a video called So What Does It All Mean, about the progression of  information technology and communications (the Fatboy Slim tune is quite catchy) and
  • a video of T. Porter, A Call to Men (I love the man box concept and I'm glad my partner has been around so much to help me raise our little girl).
Then there was a conversation break. I rushed to the toilet to avoid queues and went upstairs to start networking. As this was my second professional networking event in the past two years, I was a bit nervous but having had a chat with a few friendly women before the first session started, it was less nerve racking. I did stick to my usual strategy... find somebody on their own and engage them in a conversation. I didn't have a particular agenda, I just wanted to sound people out on homeworking and throughout the day I got a few opinions on it, mostly positive and, surprisingly (from a consultant), one firmly and vehemently against. Yes, I know, not all jobs can be done from home but writing and proofing can be done from home and I hope that UK businesses will realise this (I'm mostly exporting my services abroad at the moment). Tune in for the next two sessions... I promise I won't mention homeworking unless it's relevant!

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