Riham Satti, Co-founder & CEO, MeVitae – Oxford

Please tell us a bit about MeVitae? How was the product developed, what need were you trying to meet? How has the company grown?

Human brains are sub-optimal. Every choice we make is based on several human decision making factors. This is where MeVitae jumps in. The purpose. Augmented Intelligence to unleash human potential. MeVitae leverages data-driven cognitive solutions to solve the world’s biggest employment challenges, from increasing workplace diversity to global mobility, tailored to every company needs. MeVitae are the supported by the likes of European Space Agency, Oxford University, UKTI and more. The company have spent several years building the technology from the ground up and currently the first ever to use neuroscience and space technology to accomplish this, aimed at enterprise tech firms.

How does MeVitae help companies detect bias in their recruitment processes? What knock-on effect could MeVitae have for the tech industry as a whole?

Unconscious bias is one of the main factors causing lack of diversity workforce, though bias training has not proven to be effective. Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook, states ‘The most important thing is to correct for unconscious bias to help us build stronger, more diverse and inclusive companies’. MeVitae identifies and corrects for unconscious bias of the human brain. Bridging eye-tracking with brain activity monitoring (EEG), MeVitae measure, detect and correct for unconscious bias to shortlist candidates for jobs irrespective of social class, race, ethnicity, gender, disabilities, etc. Investing in diversity is crucial to fostering innovation in the workplace. Businesses can strengthen their bottom line through cost reduction, whilst see significant improvements in staff and skills retention, and heightenening their sales performance by 35%. The system has the potential to span across the entire career pipeline; entry level roles to building diverse business leaders. Companies need a whole new diverse talent pool (with respect to ethnicity, gender, disabilities etc.) for economical survival and growth.

More info here: https://www.digitalcatapultcentre.org.uk/ai-detecting-unconscious-bias-recruitment/

From your companies data, what do you think are going to be the next big skills gaps or trends in tech jobs?

Tech skills shortage is looming. In the UK alone, there is a need for 0.7m and 1m tech staff in 2017 and 2020, respectively, contributing to the increasing STEM skill shortfall. With technology pushing forward, there is a fear of machines taking over jobs, though new jobs are being created, for instance data scientists. Data science roles are one of the most demand roles out there, however with a large lag between the education system and employment sector, such skills are hard to come by. MeVitae’s research shows that mathematicians and physicist make great data scientists.

Another big trend in tech jobs is the war for talent. Graduates are shying away from the corporate environment and joining the start-up revolution. MeVitae’s data shows that computer scientists are working at startups more and more, with the top programming languages being C, Java and C++. Seeing companies being acquired or millions or billions of pounds, such as Minecraft, WhatsApp and Nest Labs etc. with a great career progression, exciting environment and job titles that graduates would never get anywhere else, it’s the new nirvana.

In your opinion, how has the technology industry changed in the last 5 – 10 years?

A new global talent management scheme is paramount for managing the numerous talent challenges companies are confronted with. A few years ago social media recruiting was the hot topic in HR. Now it’s about increasing diversity in workforce. The use of technology, such artificial intelligence, natural language processing and more has enable the industry to grow and create a new cognitive ecosystem.

One of the biggest challenges that is the lack of females in the STEM sector, which is slowing changing over the years. STEM is a generally regarded male dominated sector. STEM is unevenly distributed by discipline, for example 79.4% of medicine undergraduate is female in comparison to the 17.4% of computer sciences undergraduates. There are many different factors that interplay and interconnect with each other. These include lack of female roles models, confidence, stereotypical behaviour and preconceptions, gender discrimination and family planning. This skills gap is particularly acute in STEM related industries contributing ~£257 billion turnover to the overall economy. Despite positive signs of economic recovery, one in three employers still struggle to recruit STEM-proficient staff and if there were an equal number of women to men ratio in the workforce then there wouldn’t be any skill shortage.

Can you tell us a bit about the talent and skills landscape in Oxford and how this had affected your business?
The strong academic and entrepreneurial ethos of the city makes Oxford a great place for a tech business to be located. The ability to exploit many networking opportunities and its name aids in this. On the other hand, Oxfordshire is a small city compared to London as everyone knows everyone else but at the same time you are not reaching your full potential. Often the case, I am travelling between both cities. Other reasons why Oxford is a good/bad place for a tech business to be located include:

Positives:
A chance to shine in the UK as the barriers have reduced considerably. Years ago the term start-up was unknown and was often not a career choice (or it was rare). There was a stigma associated with start-ups but now it’s a way to turn your ideas and passions into reality.
The support available for start-ups, from mentorship programs to incubator/accelerator spaces around the UK, specialising in different sectors from fintech to medtech etc.

Negatives:
The UK is still risk-averse, therefore the ethos here is very different from abroad, however, we are progressing nicely and are definitely heading in the right direction.
There needs to be more opportunities to collaborate with universities, start-up and enterprises
There are lots of networking opportunities, but most things are happening in London. Further expansion is needed around the rest of the UK

Why you feel Oxford is a good/bad place to locate as a company due to its talent pool and what kind of talent/diversity of talent you are able to hire
Oxford University is highlighted in recent research (Sage UK) to have produced founders of $1bn unicorn startups over the last 10 years than any other university in Europe. These include founders of Blippar, Linkedin, EventBrite and more.The high calibre of Oxford students makes this an opportune location to find top talent. In fact, I met my co-founder, Vivek Doraiswamy whilst he was studying MSc Computer Science at Oxford and we have been working together ever since.

Over the past year, we have taken part of the Oxford University Micro-Internship Programme and Consultancy Programme, providing students with work experience and employment training. In addition to this, we took over 7 interns through the SEPnet and SpIN internship programme. The well-educated talent base of the city makes Oxford the perfect location for diverse hires from all walks of life. There is a war of talent between startups and enterprises courting the top Oxford talent pool has just commenced.