Focus on Women in Tech: Winner of the TechWomen100 award, Mari-Ann Ganson
Mari-Ann speaks to us about her tech award win, and the app she is developing. Mari-Ann started the app with Ellora James, and Jamie Smith, who has recently joined the business.
Can you tell me about the industry you’re in and the role you play?
It all started back in high school, in computing technology. We were part of the Apps For Good competition. Which we did in school and we entered and it took off from that. We started working on the app to try to get it lunched after the competition finished. We have been working on and developing that since then.
About the App
It works as a treasure hunt in nature. It’s aimed at children, but essentially anyone can use it!
You can download a walk in your local area, you can search your post code. It then comes up with different routes depending on your accessibility. So, for prams, wheelchairs and dog friendly routes. We have different terrains, it’ll tell you the different levels, so if it’s a more difficult terrain with hills and things, or if it’s an easier one.
It also tells you the time it takes to walk it. As you’re going along, there are different things to find. Once you find it, you hold your camera up to it and it will recognise it. This could be plants, tress, different pieces of wildlife, landmarks in cities. Once you have found it, it will come up with a list of facts about the landmark, or plant. So its educational as well. That was our real focus with schools, the educational facts. Also the health and well being of being outside.
Along the way, there are points you can find, so we are going to have leader boards you can share with your friends, to compete against each other!
There is also the feature of uploading walks, so its user generated. There is a record button, so you walk the trail you want, you can tag things along the way that you see, for others to find and you can upload it at the end. That will help us really get out there, because people can put walks on in their different areas.
Its mostly schools we want to focus on. After that it will be to look at different groups that are linked with children, and how they can maybe use it. Then we’re hoping it will feed out, so maybe if someone has used it at school or brownie unit, they’ll go home, and that’s how we’re hoping it will get to individuals, through word or mouth from the children.
What gave you the idea initially?
When we entered the Apps for Good competition, you create an app that solves a problem. So, we thought about the unhealthy uses of technology, especially in children, spending too much time on games etc. We thought, what can we do to counteract this? This will give a positive view of technology. It’s useful, it’s getting children out and active and learning.
Tell us about you award win, when did you hear and what does it mean to you?
It was fantastic! I was originally a finalist of 200, and we all went to a networking meeting. That was great, to be able to meet everyone and the finalists were announced then. I was just delighted to win it, it was really, really good! It gives you a boost to get recognised for your work, it was lovely.
Why do you think awards like TechWomen100 are so important?
I think they highlight the work that’s been done, and it does encourage other people as well. For those that are maybe thinking of going into the technology industry, maybe a bit unsure. I think seeing people that have been recognised for more, does give people a boost. Hearing their stories of how they got there. Its just giving that recognition around it.
Do you think people have any misconceptions about women in Tech?
Yes sometimes. I think for women its harder to be recognised in the industry because it’s very male-dominated. I think women have to try harder to be recognised as equal. But I think as far as gaining the qualification needed, there’s a misconception that they have to work harder to get the qualifications, and I don’t think that’s the case at all. I think a lot of the time, they have the knowledge there, its just getting it recognised that is the issue.
What challenges have you faced, if any, in your career?
I think one was definitely age. When we started out, we were only 15 when we were at school. There wasn’t really much we could do until we turned 16, and then we were able to create a business and set up an actual company. But even as a company, we couldn’t have a business account with the bank, which we couldn’t have until we were 18. So, we had to get someone to do that for us. Little things like that, I think its age that is the biggest problem that we have noticed. People are surprised, it’s not that common for people to set up businesses when they are that young. I think it’s something that should be encouraged and should be more supported.
I think from the technology side, people have been supportive and amazed at what we have done, I think on the business side is when people think ‘will you manage that?’ and there’s prejudice there.
What do you think would encourage more women to work in the tech industry?
I think recognition is definitely one thing. I think that helps to show that its maybe not as far out of reach as some women think it is. You can do it, if you push for it. I think that’s a big encouragement, seeing that.
I think for myself, when you get an award, it does encourage you. It pushes you to keep going for it. Its just showing something, that should be shown more in schools etc. Like showing them these awards, having people in to do talks. I think its always the case, if you see someone else doing something, you think you can do it to. There’s so much going around saying women can’t go into the industry, they have such a touch time etc, so I think there needs to be positives promoted as well, so it seems more possible.
What advice would you give to other women looking to begin or further their career in the industry?
I think for the beginning, talk to other people, try to get support. We were really encouraged through our school. We got help from the Chamber of Commerce who helped us with the business side of things when we were unsure about the forms to fill out etc, she guided us on that which was good. Get in touch with people who run businesses and have done a start-up before and they will be able to point you in the right direction.
As far as technology – just speak to people in the industry. What have they found, and faced in the industry. I think the more your aware of it, the more you’re prepared for it.
What piece of advice would you give yourself at the start of your career?
I think put in the effort and just go for it. Along the way you have doubts. Be aware that its not going to happen overnight, especially if you’re launching your own product or technology. It takes a long time to produce.
I think that was a misconception of mine, that it would be made quite quickly. It does take years, by the time you’ve found funding, planned it all, found someone to make it. Its quite time taking, but just be aware of that. But go for the opportunity and enjoy it.
Has it been worth all the effort?
Yes, it definitely has. We are at the final part now, there are a few bits we need to fix, which my business partner is taking on. She is studying technology in university, so she’s comfortable to finish it off for us. So that’s the final part, then we can hopefully get it marketed and out there. Once we can see people using it, that will be really good!
Find out more
Visit Mari-Anns website here, where you can find out more about the app!
You can be featured!
We would love to feature you in our series of interviews! Do you work in the tech industry? Are you developing a new healthcare app? We would love to share your story. Contact Harriet at [email protected]