Pull up a chair and listen: an interview with Bristech’s chairpeople for 2019

by Bobby Marsh

Monday 30th September 2019

Bristech 2019 only four weeks away, it’s time to find out more about a few of the folk involved on the day. I recently pulled up a chair to have a chat with Rich Riley, Hannah Smith, and Salman Iqbal to quiz them about their upcoming roles as Bristech chairpeople.


Rich Riley (pictured, left) is a researcher and developer of machine learning functionality within a gardening app focussing on plant image recognition. Rich believes that the biggest misconception around machine learning is the generic fear that AI will take over the world. With more misunderstandings about machine learning than you can shake a stick at, Rich has reassured us that machines won’t be running the world anytime soon.


Similar to Rich, Salman Iqbal (pictured, right) is also a big fan of machine learning as he spends most of his time researching how machine learning can help improve the software development process. He’s currently working to produce a variety of content on machine learning at scale with one of his friends. They hope to help reduce the time it currently takes for machine learning by optimising and adapting a selection of the current tools available. 


Hannah Smith (pictured, left) is the organiser of WordCamp Bristol, a Wordpress course designed to help anyone from website designers to beginner marketers become master users. With so much confusion surrounding Wordpress, such as the security of the site and whether it is considered ‘serious’, Hannah is pioneering the debunking of these perceptions. 

What interested you in chairing for Bristech?

For Rich, Bristech is essential for the tech community: “We need an environment where multidisciplinary tech lovers get together to share ideas.” He’s attended the event as an audience member in the past and couldn’t wait to get even more involved.

Although Salman has been to many tech conferences, he’s never attended Bristech which appeared on his radar after some of his friends attended and spoke at the conference. Once as he realised the wide breadth of topics and how many high quality speakers feature, he was up for chairing and welcomed with open arms.

As a Wordpress specialist, Hannah became interested in chairing Bristech as a way of expanding her  tech horizons. She’s always been technologically curious and believes it’s important to be open to hearing about a variety of topics as well as a general awareness of new tech trends. Plus it’s great to get the opportunity to grow her Bristol network. 

What’s your least favourite bit of technical jargon?

Salman’s pet peeve is ‘multi-cloud’. He believes that as a phrase, “it tries to capture something extremely difficult to do and hard to achieve, yet people use it as a solution for many problems.” 

For Hannah, her least favourite bit of technical jargon is ‘serverless architecture’. She believes it’s a nonsense term - half laughing, Hannah said, “It’s just a different way of delivering sites/content, it still need a server to send information, it’s not a real thing!”

Rich finds ‘looking forward’ a highly overused phrase and is “definitely a cliche”. 


What are you hoping to see at this year’s conference?

Rich is hoping to see anything to do with AI, robotics, and machine learning - and he won’t be alone, with many people registered from machine learning backgrounds.

Salman is eager to see plenty of engagement between the speakers and audience. He thinks it’s important for everyone at the event to show emotion, response and interest. Our community is the most important aspect of Bristech, so even just by talking to the people around you there is lots to learn and he’s excited to see it. 

In the midst of a global climate emergency, Hannah hopes to see how tech is being used to reduce carbon emissions and tech’s impact on the environment. Hannah is also hotly anticipating the inclusive and welcoming atmosphere Bristech has to offer. As a woman in tech, she wants to be open and visible to help encourage other women to be seen.

Although being a chairperson does not involve giving a talk of their own, all three of our chairpeople believe that being a part of the conversation is just as important as telling other people about their own work and industries. To join in for yourself, head over to our ticket page here.

Hopefully see you at Bristech on the 7th November!


About Bobby

With a background in social media and event marketing, Bobby Marsh is highly creative with a flair for fun impactful content. After working in Nottingham for a few years after graduating, Bobby felt the call of Bristol and returned back to his home city.