My Bristech: Catching up with speakers past (Part 3)

by Emily Perkins

Wednesday 18th September, Bristol, UK


The full programme of speakers is about to be announced (and we’re waiting with bated breath) but until the selection panel reveals the full speaker list, I spoke to two of our past speakers (see Bristech 2018) to reflect on the day last year and hear about their life “post-Bristech”.

The first of our speakers is Cecilia Thirlway (Pictured, left).

Cecilia is a strategic communications consultant, researcher, writer, and lecturer at the University of Bristol - and a Fellow of the RSA in her spare time. Her passion for technology and innovation has led her to write widely on the subject, some of which you can read here and here.

Describing himself as a ‘tech tinkerer’, Stig Telfer (Pictured, right) is CTO at StackHPC, cloud infrastructure with a twist. Stig has a background in R&D working for various prominent technology companies, particularly in HPC and software-defined networking, and you can read his offerings on OpenStack here.


What WERE your favourite memories of the day?

For Cecilia, it was simple: “Getting a laugh at the first joke in my presentation!”

It’s never easy to step onto a stage to speak to a group of people you’ve never met, and Cecilia experienced the warmth and camaraderie of the Bristech community straight away. After all, we’ve all wanted to share our passions before, and doing so as a keynote speaker is an exciting moment.

Stig, on the other hand, had a very similar favourite memory: “Mingling with the Bristolian tech crowd.”

For being named the most productive city in the UK (above London) in the latest TechNation report and for the two tech unicorn companies flourishing in the region, it’s clear that Bristol is a hot-bed for creativity and innovation.


What surprised you about Bristech 2018?

“I was surprised at how friendly, welcoming, and supportive it was,” admitted Cecelia. Bristech has been running as a monthly meetup since 2011, and the annual conference dates from 2015. Nevertheless, newcomers to Bristech events can be surprised about just how welcoming they are.

For Stig, it was the size of Bristech that surprised him.

“It was a huge event,” he remembers, “with a vibrant atmosphere!”

Is there anything worse than attending a stultifying conference? The Bristech organisers work closely with the Watershed team to set the scene, but the most important people on the day are the audiences. Without the enthusiasm and passion from the floor, speakers like Stig have a harder time to raise their game.

What would you say to people considering sending in an idea for a talk for Bristech 2019?

“Do it!” Cecilia encourages. “Don’t wait until you’ve got something polished. When the CFP opens for Bristech 2020, send in your idea and work it up further. There’s nothing like a deadline to focus the mind…”

It’s true - and that’s half the fun of Bristech. Speaking at an event is a bit like the pole jump: at some point, you’ve just got to run at it and hope that you soar over the bar. If you don’t, there’s a welcoming crowd at Bristech to catch you as you come down (not that we encourage crowd surfing).

From Stig’s perspective, “Bristech is a great opportunity to reach people outside of your sphere of focus. The audience is tech-savvy but a broad church. Some people hearing your talk will have fresh eyes and fresh ideas that might cause you to see things differently.”

Just make sure that what you want to talk about is going to resonate with people. Cecilia has this excellent piece of advice:

“Make sure your talk has a compelling title. People choose which one to go to based on titles alone, most of the time.”


What’s life like post-Bristech?

It’s almost a year since Bristech 2018, and while the video recordings of all the talks are available online, I wanted to know what our speakers have been doing since then.

Stig has been busy, and his speaking calendar has grown: he spoke at the Cloud-Native Wales Meetup in Cardiff which he describes as ‘excellent’ - high praise for our friends over the bridge.

For Cecilia, the benefits have been twofold: “I’ve had many people say they’ve watched bits of my talk on YouTube, and one piece of new business has come to me as a direct result.” Outstanding.

We are always on the lookout for authentic voices to speak at both meetup events.

Bristech Conference 2019 will be on Thursday 7th November 2019 at the Watershed, Bristol. Tickets are on sale.


About Emily

Emily has worked in technology branding and comms for years (she won’t say how many). Her passions are in stories desperate to be told, social media, and cheese. Not necessarily in that order. When not at Bristech, you can find her as the Associate Director at OggaDoon.