« Desert Island Discs

Dr Sue Black

2018-05-20 | 🔗
Dr. Sue Black is a computer scientist, academic and social entrepreneur. She was instrumental in saving Bletchley Park, the home of vital codebreaking during the second world war. Currently an honorary professor at UCL, she founded BCS Women for women in science and the social enterprise Tech Mums, which teaches parents about computing. She is also on an advisory board for the government's digital services. Born in Fareham, Hampshire, she was 12 when her mother died of a brain haemorrhage. She left school and home at the earliest legal age, 16, and by the age of 20 she was the mother of three children. She returned to education by taking a maths access course at night school which led to a degree in computing from London South Bank University in 1993. She gained a PhD in software engineering in 2001 and became a lecturer. She was Head of Department of Computing Science at the University of Westminster before leaving in 2012 to become a technology evangelist. In 2016 She was awarded the Order of the British Empire for services to for services to technology. Presenter: Kirsty Young Producer: Cathy Drysdale.
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
This is the bbc hello, I'm kirsty young welcome to desert on an discs where, every week I asked my guests to choose the eight tracks, the book and the luxury item that they want to take with them if they were cast away on a desert island for rights reasons, the music on these podcast versions is shorter than in the original broadcast. You can find over two thousand more additions to listen to and download on a desert. Island discs website My customary this week is the computer scientist and social entrepreneur doktor sue black she's done will really. Rather most heat or some of the highlights she
instrumental in saving blissfully park in shooting britons. Were to code breaking sight, was preserved for the nation, her hard work, encouraging women into the tech sector is impressive to she set up. Industry initiative that scene over ten thousand females, skill up and learn to code. She's also defend an organization called tech mums enabling women to get computer savvy to better understand what the kids are up to online and she is a member of the government's advisory board for all things. Digital. Given that maths is her biting passion. I wonder what early odds she I've given herself on doing so well, she left homeless sixteen was married by the time she was twenty and just five years later, was living in a women's refuge with her three young kids. She says always say to people. If I can do is so can you all? I did was worker, where I wanted to be and put one foot in front of the other until I got their welcome thought soup
Most of us, I think, can understand that very straightforward logic, life so often since we are you, somebody was great dogged determination. I guess I must pay yet looking back I've, my life now I get resilience is keeping going seems to be a fundamental part of my personality. You do a few bits of. I think it would be fair to college if you can, gently evangelize about something you evangelize about the tech sector, you have this next stage ritual before you go on stage. Is the uncompleted or something I read about it too. I was that just a rumour I really want to share with an audience some of the things that I- and I just heard that if you do so superman, pies or superwoman pays put your arms up in the air in a like this, which of course one thing we know jerry, garcia, united, say positive things yourself, like I'm completely awesome, and when I was on stage actually
last year in orlando her I had an audience of sixteen thousand women intact and I got them all to say, I'm going to change the world your arm, keen on positive statements. I love your hair very very, very pink why wiping one actually supposed to be read. not a definite britain's ok, because I dont my every two weeks- bright, red or my amazing here to suggest us, but then over the two weeks fights one week when I went to see her she said I found this color, I think you're going to like it and she brought here. just like salaries? Are we not like yeah? Let's do it and spin that color ever since time for your music doktor super tell us about this. First, one bodies it unwise. Importantly, my fast track is ass. The diva from berlin is opera, norma sung by maria callous, very long I'm a guy that long. After I came out of the women's refuges, she was living in a council, flattened bricks and with my three children trying to work out what I was
to do with my life. Now is a single parent, and one of the sea days I bought was maria Kalis greatest hates must have heard her singing on something up. Oh my god, she's got an amazing voice and because I once more about opera I bought a book which was all about the best recordings of lots of famous operas and found that the best recording was forty or fifty pounds which, in those days I was living on benefits I couldn't afford, and two three years later I was on holiday in hungary with my kids and we just happened to walk past record store and I just thought went out to see if I've got that see day and my had it. I was completely amazed and it was, I think, ten pounds so I bought it and This reminds me of me and my kids not having money but still being happy and enjoy
good custody even billina open on some, thereby money tell us with the orchestra chorus of dealt here too, and a skeleton milano conducted by tulia surfing doktor suit, like I read that currently only around about seventeen percent is that right of employees in the uk tech sector are female. Snap was the problem. Why does not just one so people say to me quite often have things changed in the last twenty years and if we go by the stocks and no sometimes the tool, which is very depressing, but there has been a massive sea change in opinion.
The business world's media are really interested in this. As an issue now know now, you ve been at it for twenty, We see here so tell me about the response that you have met. So when I set up basis, women quite low people were very much against me. Setting up a group which was only for women, which I really wanted it to be I'd gone to academic conference is being computer scientists that popular ninety percent Male and temp, some famous- and I don't really realise that- was an issue till I went to a women in science conference in brussels in ninety ninety eight, which was about a hundred women, and I just had the most amazing time ever. My phd supervisor said to me: you ve, got to go and talk. People are conferences, because it's not only what you know. It's who you know so I just got their network and Males very shy. That's like the worse than you could ask me today and went into this conference. It was very busy I didn't even have to pick out people to talk to because everyone was talking to each other, and I guess that's because I was in the majority and so that kind of changed. My life really
tell me about your next choice, not to suit like my next choice is failing myself by Nicky menage featuring beyond, say I just absolutely love making an arch. Ambien sake has already feel, don't got and taken it. Let us take your time. Because they they they just start? empowered and may help all of us to feel empowered to? I love their messaging? They just varies. Wrong independent women who are just encouraging everyone, all other women to be strong and independent too, and I love that message I feel I must say, mother limits must fulfil unless it is a game. I know you want what digital pop up just a word, male or female not differ laptop well stop occurring.
Can't think I'm pretty good. Thinking always keep them the point being somehow get a bit up in making an orange featuring beyond, say, unfeeling, myself and sue black you're a geek before the term was really ever invented. How, and when did your love of number stars about seven or eight days to get like sixpence await pocket money. I think, and I used to save up my sixpences until we went to the local shopping center and then run into. W h smith over to the mass textbooks section. I didn't think you enormously the asteroids, and I mean I just loved puzzle, Maize is riddles, just absolutely loved them from when I could read a couple of years before just as you were starting schools of a crucial time and again, kids like your mother, had twins that must been very busy family wise,
I can remember them coming home from hospital. My dad would you call me you like as previously and also my that system. My aunt faith and I remember her taking me to a dog show she was a dog rate at so she allows to show one of her dogs, the age of five and, I remember running round with a dog was called a top joys tar, a chip away. became known as the light you see on cross. I definitely one uprising was kind of congratulated for doing well The defining moment of your life of your young life least came when you were twelve in your mother died of want to ask about this in a moment, but for now it can be difficult for people to have early memories of a parent who has died. Funding you have set us a strong sense of your mother as another kind of, but I didn't wish. I could remember more united kind of depresses man.
that in our she brought me till I was twelve and I've got very fleeting, vague memories. You known as let me Mr watson, I was fourteen, so if I died, which he hardly remember anything about me, that seems crazy. So my main memories are of her cooking nice food to remember she could try and you still at home by bread and then, and then also are destroyed, having the kind of period took with my mom just before she died. I feel I suddenly got quite close to her here. That's a big moment in an adolescent. Girls like we're gonna have move your music not to see black. Tell me about this. It's your third they sung san Francisco buys got. Mackenzie is one of those moments from childhood. When I remember the song that was playing at the time, this is, I think, on the way back home after
taking Torah around the dog show. So I just have this memory of lying on a blanket and back my own car with terror. The dog we just one apprise are: could just remember sunshine: the trees kind of life lingering either of you, the sunlight and on hearing this song come on the radio and thinking I once again to san francisco, which quite funny now considering what
scott mackenzie with san francisco, you we were chasing doing this and so like you were saying you also remember to just sharing memories of of
your mother, which are relatively scant we're, but you said she's to make her own wine yeah. She did. I can remember going in stopping the car, but there were lots of goals. Bushes. My mom wants to make wine from goes flowers I carefully, as we will begin lighted, but their prickly bushes, or I am member picking loads of yellow flowers helping her. She died, then, when she was very young, she has in our midst thirties thirty four here, She died of a brain hemorrhage. You were at home, your father was there, I think you're young siblings, were there. You were the ones who, with her, room looking after she had this terrible headache, the that's a big responsibility for somebody who's? Twelve. I guess I yet I was sat with her in the bedroom and my dad was looking up my brother and sister as they would have been six seven and she was saying things like, oh god, please let me die so obviously that was very traumatic for may anonymously, terrible for her and then our member, then you know, then she wasn't spain
king anymore, so I thought he was probably unconscious. I'd I'd read all of my parents: medical textbooks by that time, because our both trained general and psychiatric nurses- and you know I knew that something was seriously wrong it just wasn't ahead. I can, and my dad's calls for ambulance. An ambulance came out. They said they wouldn't take her away because they thought she had a migraine, the basically she was lying there. I think about eight hours. I mean you know my memory sure I don't know exactly how long it, was, but it was a very long time later on my dad called an ambulance again and this time they did take it hospital by think by then deny there was no hope pretty. they took her away in the ambulance on understanding at the end of the garden path. With my sister, my sister's hits me she coming back was no don't think so that was, I think, on saturday, and then I think, on the tuesday bedside switch the life support machine after that, since the last over server.
People in the same circumstances, now you know parents were given all sorts of advice and we hope often support about how best to deal with their children. In that situation, what happened in your family elsie was awful, but but not that difficult, then I think in a way we all got close. It's my job. then for a bit. It was only months after that really when he was starting a new life with my stepmother that All of that went away, and I think it was at that point. Actually that was the most difficult in a way because when my mom died, had my dad's, but then, when my dad's Sri married my kind of felt like an orphan, then ready so from the age of thirteen. I suppose that tragedy of of your mother's early days mean. Are. You can look at it now with respect What effect do you think it it had then, and it has now when your personality, what I think that its scope
may the I've at the end of the day only got myself to rely on really say. If I want to make something happened, I need to get on with it. Let's take a break superman, let's have some use. It tell me about this, your fourth sire. Next home is ever fall in love by bus cooks this reminds me of being about sixteen and leaving home, finding a new life really where I was free time. When I feel like I escaped, I escaped from an awful place and the baskets with a first, and I ever went to sea in chelmsford. Anything I think was my screen. Seventy eight with my friend kate, who now, sharing a bedroom with, in a month s house
since books before Was seventeen soup like when you move to london and you had just a few levels because of the disruption of your home life? You went to work in a crash. You were working among refugees. What were you fledgling ambitions for yourself,
at that time in your life. I think at that time I just wanted to get away from essex. I really wants me to london. I felt very kind of culturally stifled in essex, most people around me. you were great, but no one was reading the books. I was reading a can of discussions about art and always like trying to read lay miserable you know, and there was no one else around me that that was reading books like that you had a goat nursing. One point: didn't you yet it wasn't for you. Why not? What was the problem so I went with refugees from vietnam four year, which absolutely loved, but I thought to myself like got: have some sort of career in allows gangs whose eighteen I think that our assembly, in my family, a nurses so that seemed like a safe bet. I suppose I have the minimum requirements, which was five. I levels I think, but from the first wake up really hated, my gotten more of a love being
nurse when your student, as is basically washing paypal. You know and there's nothing wrong with that, but I was a real we shy just eighteen year old and the staff nurses would make light of it by certainly didn't feel comfortable with doing it by the time you twenty you yourself were responsible for by that time it all already had a daughter. They out twin boys, yet you're married by that time by twenty five you'd floods, your first marriage, you are living with these three young children in a refuge that is a decade of tat, one than a decade of turbulence. If we look back at you know losing your mother when you were just twelve at that point in your life, you know when you walk, in the woman's refuge each morning with these three young kids, who were only looking to you nobody else to take care of them. Where did you hope come from? Where is your optimism when I think again, I'd escaped so await escaped genome?
the first evening and Andy was. I was quite traumatize, of course, but the next day in I remember we ve been given not ten pounds by some food or something in the morning walking down finding a local karlov going in buying some provisions. I was between the double buggy and my daughter, is it a three wrote holding onto the buggy? You know everything's going round. Man and my head you. How am I going to cope with that sort of thing, but also it was kind of light. Gray and terror the same time the relief of not being in the absolute lay. I remember actually feeding physically sake. I think so the emotional former of ill somehow, after that, it was over morning and I was walking along in our thinking ghip. I don't have to worry about all of that stuff, that's kind of hanging around my life. You know my ex husbands kind of temper and trying to predict his moods and stuff That's what I'd have to worry about that any more, and I was now in complete control, so there,
as I was walking up a hail, I just started thinking I can do this. I can do this and it always said to me: you know you can't survive without me and I just thought I can do. I can survive we're not you're gloody gainer, but tell me what that's what we're gonna here then we are on your fists and made an indian. Some are chosen is stray outcomes him by anyway. I loved hip, hop from went first knew about it and when eyes. They married we'd, both listen to him up and left it and then an army to refuse- and we got council flat breaks down- and I got the kids into play grape school, none of light. What am I gonna do with my life now and decided to go back into education, so I whence he university and loads of my friends, there was in computing lots of guys loved a pop as well, which was great and with one of my friends motion, we went to see and w outbreaks academy you are now about to witness this threat.
what it's all about them. Now candlelit stood out of I you said tat to a suit like you chose, not because it was memories of a gig. You can't you when you wrote college and I want to just rewind a little bit because surely we have a lot to thank the teachers of the world for but sir, there is one teacher in particular when you were starting a college at the end of the eighties nineteen eighty that serves a special mention. He encourage you to do something called polly maths. I went along too so that college saying that want to do. I level mass and tat is to teach
echo woody data and yet he said I don't think you should do I level mass, because you just get aboard. Why don't you do there's plenty mass course? So, actually from me, that was perfect because it men when Emma was at school and salmon Ali were play gray. By had about twenty. I was awake that I kids do studying and then I could get a babysitter twice weeks. I could go to the classes in the evenings and also, I would get see, investing entrance every one year more than two years and as an academic, no wait when you work was younger people do you recognize a lot of? Let's see young women like you some time, three tech moms in my social enterprise teaching technology too much As you know, some of the members are obviously not very well off, possibly living on benefits with several kids in some might be single parents he were yeah like. I was yeah it's funny because at the time to sit up take moms, I thought I was trying to get everyone excited about technology which I was, but it wasn't until we started actually
again and going out to schools like in tell hamlets and teaching stuff. I design and wept I see two months in the area that I've started realizing. How actually these mumsie, like me, Twenty years ago, a maybe that's what was kind of in the back of my mind when I was setting tech moms out, was to provide a course fool me twenty is a guy in because the whole government departments devoted to working out how we can get people difficult circumstances out of those difficult circumstances. able them to get into a world with her no longer depends on welfare. If, if you had a message to the people who are working we do that will get what you say, something you ve been there and you ve done it. Yeah we're going to it. People are find out what they need, because one of the issues I think we have is that most people working government are middle class and why am I come from a traditionally middle class background? Now, of course, I know that not everybody and I know that there is
focus on diversity it, but at the same time most people working in positions of authority will have been too universe. and so possibly don't have the life experience of being in very reduce financial circumstances, I'm just having to work out how to live their lives and provide for their family, and I suppose, because I've lived through it. I know how to do that in our and that's basically by treating people as regular human beings and talking to them about what would work for them. Then going out and working with them and encouraging them in helping to boost their confidence and bring them to see where they could get to tell me about your next track, your six So my next trackers smells like team spirit by nirvana, and I chose this because This reminds me of a really happy time. We had this amount, day. Where thou may my friend my cool, you had a car, we went the bait, someone living on account, sustained bricks. This again to the beach was a very exciting.
is a sunny day. May Michael assigned the front and the kids in the back and this track came. And I just remember where it gets to a certain point in the song, all the kids in innocent in the fact decide head funding in the back of the car, and I just thought this is it. This is just maize, and I love it. They're gonna smells like team spirit, memory, soup, local, you, three kids head banging
look for kids. Of course you met daughter, pull fellow computer scientist and academic back in two thousand and four and a little while later when he proposed it made headway. Tell me what happened a little world something as eleven years people living on less than a couple of years ago. On the twenty ninth of February hated sat next to me and said: look at this, so I looked at screen on his laptop and it was an enigma machine. Simulator me said: click anti crypt, so I clicked on de credits and the
message came out? Will you marry me- and I, like- oh, my goodness, sadly happened and wore a cool that, like the coolest way possible, to propose to me after all, suffer I've done with leslie park. So as tweeting grassy like crazy- and it was picked up, I think by the BBC first and then all the nationalists- and you know I'd run the campaigns say bluntly part for three years and in all that time I never got that much publicity for anything that I was trying to do. You know about the fact that the work that was done their shortened the war by two years- saving twenty two million lives that wasn't as biggest story as Paul proposing two main has the british media for you. When it comes to, Let slip like because, as as I introduce you to that, you knew tat were fundamental to making sure this place didn't full to reckon rear, and now it's got sizes of visitors every year the movies been me. What was in the beginning, the cap. Should you about the story. I went up and fascinating thousand three
and at that time we know much about bless you park too, so I just knew the coat break. His word there and I thought what we like. Fifty o blokes work there, basically wearing three decades smoking pipes during the times, crossword may be a bit of code breaking on the side that was kind of flight. My vision of what happened there and I walked around the sides bumped into these guys who are rebuilding cheerings bombed machines, a machine that you see in the imitation game. The fails ask me why I was ass? I said I sound basis where men and women in computing and they said Did you know that more than half people that work to a women sounds like know how many people worked here and there more than ten thousand dollars like. How can I not know about that. Being a computer scientist women always going on about women in technology. How do you not know that story?
so I managed to race and funding to run and all history project to record the memories of the women that work there and at the launch of that. The directive at the time said thoughts, but she thought was teaching on a financial knife edge this in two thousand and eight and that if they and get some funding and soon he thought they'd clothes and if they closed I'd, never open again. So I thought that's terrible. We ve got to do something about this place, can't close, and by that time I was head of her computer science department at the university of westminster. I'm out all the heads in professor competing in the country saying we ve got to say fleshly park got them to sign a letter which was sent into the times and then contacted the bbc in our life suddenly got lots of publicity within just a week or so started using twitter and realise that you know there were lots of people out there who cared about leslie park. I just had to find them. I saw my
in jobs. Raising awareness that blush part was open. Ass, a museum begrimed lane money that sustains them at least then anyway, was people coming to visit and paying on the gate and also the fundamental contribution that bloody part made during the second world which most people didn't know, then, while they do not yet ready over the next track. Your seventh so my next track is yellow by co play when I first got together with poor one husband. I was content, people aren t go and he's lighted co play he likes that rock. So why use say was. I don't know why you like this changing to music, because it's a slight change. Didn't you know all this on fire. I now only like co play, I have to admit and we ve been say them a few times and unruly enjoyed an kind of yellow by co plays. I also stop they
They saw things was, it was coldly very, definitely not that will cost you gonna set her course statelier em similar in the light of the ongoing sure, your own personal data around facebook. Right now I mentioned techno this organization that you set up and help run what're you teach. Children and mum's now about social media that you weren't before, because we understand things differently now. He, I guess I'm another thing. We ve changed that much really because the message we try to get across is to be your best.
self social media- to think about the I let anybody in the world could be reading what you're putting out there so don't put anything to personal which could affect your royal, His life in some negative way will encourage mom's to use if they feel comfortable with it. Now, if they don't, as parents, you have to edge, self about, what's going on the worst case scenario: may is a mom says to their kids you're not out to you social media, because I'm worried about it, you know- and you can see why you would say that. But the thing is your kids are then at some point, by going to use because of their friends using it and my work, nightmare is kids use it kids get into trouble in. I may maybe something terrible happen. But then they can't tell their mum that it's happened, because they would have meant always le monde that there they wouldn't use water bows. I mean this seduction of facebook and other time. Social media- is so great and would it brings to our life in the way that allows us to be connected
it's been designed in such a way that the seduction is so great that, although there is this very load- background noise, yanza that people will still discount because their life is almost built around these yet ones. Now. What do you make of? That is a difficult time for all of us to work I what to do- and I don't feel like I know exactly what we should do, because we're all kind of learning as we go along really but the way I see it again if, if you're any posting stuff that you mine's anyone in the world saying then you'll probably be fine. There is also the point that we are all in it together is not light, is just a few people, Exposing details about their life, the kind of say Fifty in a way, is in the fact that we are all doing it. I'm gonna put on my hanno some unknown facebook user. Ok! Well, that's by Angela, why my life's good? Yet? But it is an interesting people. Most can't imagine somebody you having without face began life yeah, but I can totally imaginary and it's you choice. I think, may be coming from a background where I had nobody one of the things I
love about technologies. It connects meets. All of my friend sure I just love that I love that can see my son and his family. My grandson in singapore can see what they're doing cipher may. That is very important, but that doesn't mean it should be important for everybody. One last little question we ve been sitting. you're talking to each other for good long, while my without any devices has that feeling a bit it. She won't get my nor finer tell me what am I gonna do so my eyes track is the hills by the weekend. I think that we can do a phenomenal talent- and this is my favorite track of his because it makes me think of my youngest daughter, leah, she's forte, we didn't say kiss I'm in the car. Alright, I for one of the other and as one london, it that's particularly route, and for some reason. Wherever we are just before the road is lying, comes on shouts out there
his moms favorite line really loud and is just hilariously funding- and this is the he went and we're not gonna get that line. Bertha ego is about my rush, it with high, which is amazing. I just love my life and my family, my friend. So it reminds me of that and I just love the weekends music industry in particular the who
SAM the weekend as soon I'm going to give you another books, I give everybody, you might know the complete works of shakespeare and the bible that gets take one other book alone with some to this island. Are you going to choose? I never did I level mass. So I thought I keep my mind occupy, I would really like to taken a level mass textbook on a pencil. I want denied you, that's what will your luxury be, so my luxury has to be some red head. I because I want to feel like myself. If I can have red haired- ok, it's yours at which of the eight tracks, would you say that you have to save one I've decided on the hills by the weekend, because that will make me think of layer of my kids of my family and us having a great time together. Nothing is yours, then thought to sue black. Thank you very much for that. Is he a desert island discs? Thank you very much
I really hope you enjoy my conversation There were two given heart association with bletchley park. You might be interested to listen to my interview with one of the women who work there during the war the delightful PAMELA rose. She was ninety seven when I spoke to her back in twin, If this thing you also find dame wendy hall in the desert undisguised archives. When she spoke to me in twenty fourteen, she was very clear sighted about what the key issues would be for us coming up in the world of take. The most important thing is that we get to grips with the issues of how we manage our personal data and who manages the internet. This is a really difficult,
question, because, actually nobody does it's very like you can lose use an analogy with what we're trying to do with tackling climate change that you have to come to an agreement as a world on what you gonna do and we'll way off way off out out. Do that in terms of how we run this thing, for the good of humanity going forward. So this is a really serious issue and I'm just been made a member of a new global commission on internet governance, which is that the two brief to try and come up with some sense we'll suggestions as to what we might try and agree to, and I think it's largely about openness and transparency in terms of people, knowing what happens to their data and knowing rights we have as as individuals in this world and what responsibilities our governments have looking into the much more short term.
ten years time are we gonna look back and sort of riley, not our heads in the olden days when people used to use facebook and twitter. Well, that's a soda question. I we set asked you didn't think about because nobody knows there So in a hundred years time, will they still be using social networks communicate? Well, they won't call them. Social networks were star and we could have chips in our brains by then. I think there is one fundamental though we as human beings, absently loved, communicate. I remember with by school friends. found a way to do what we call today has had conference. I can't remember whose phone how to vote on it, but we used to call each other up me to help each other am ass. Her work on this at a conference causes in the sixties and the worst thing. You can do to human beings, put them in solitary confinement, so I think the lieutenant you will change and we ve got to get to grips with the ethical issues and the regulatory issues or it could go horribly
all dame Wendy whole. I'm sure you know this, but you can download a program and those of pan. The reason, of course, talk to sue black listen to whenever you want. You can do that via the desert island websites or via your usual podcast provider, and as always, it would be great if you could write them as it really helps. Other people find us. My guess next time is a comedian and writer David video. I do hope, join us, I'm doctor Hannah and I'm doctor
the full and, if your trapped on your desire, lend you may well need some scientific tips and tricks to help you survive and a curious cases of rather fitting fry is on hand to help where we take questions from listeners such as what is the shop is thing: how can you make the perfect cup of tea and has Keith spin conspiring to create a secret so make weapon yet not really terrible useful for survival vat one, but it might help pass the time download the key these cases of rather fitting fry it from your usual podcast, provided this is the bbc.
Transcript generated on 2022-06-11.