In the run-up to national women’s equality day Women’s Day on the 8th March 2018, we are paying homage to 7 women who have made a name for themselves in the world of technology. We are honouring women leaders in technology, who are quietly making a difference in their field. In this series, the women in tech industry personally share their experiences and challenges while also giving us a glimpse into the lessons that they have learnt along the way. In her own words, Amy Winters shares her story.
I am a material designer, inventor and founder of wearable tech studio Rainbow Winters which develops soft materials, which interact with external influences such as light, sound, speed and moisture. I trained in Theatre Design at Central Saint Martins and I recently (in 2017) completed my Doctorate in Programmable Materials at the Royal College of Art.
During my Doctoral studies at the RCA, I identified and cultivated a design-led approach towards the invention of materials for soft robotics. Mainly, focusing on interactive materials – assembled from bio-engineered technologies such as an electro-active polymer, pneumatic and hydraulic actuator systems.
With an insatiable curiosity for research, the challenges that I have you encountered were working with laboratories without a formal technical education. I overcame the problem by a ‘thinking-through-making’ approach which enabled me to reach a certain degree of technical fluency and also freedom within my work. Also, I have not lacked in mentors who have helped me grow along the way. My school-day inspirational textiles tutor Anne Stewart and more recently Anne Toomey (former PhD supervisor) at the RCA motivated, encouraged and believed in me.
As a woman, I must admit that I have never felt held back by the field of technology. I think that this could be because there are so many leaders, influencers and inventors within my field that are women. So if you are a woman who would like to break into technology, prototype and make something! Don’t worry if the prototype fails, looks ugly or seems pointless. Keep thinking through physical prototyping, seeking out feedback and reflecting. Then repeat.
The most significant transformation in technology that I have witnessed in my career is the democratisation of technology. The idea that almost any skill can now be learned from a youtube video is fascinating. This is breaking down barriers between the ‘experts’ and ‘non-experts’ and opening up unforeseen opportunities for creative experimentation. The next transformation in the tech industry for me, raises the question of what could textile design discipline offer technology? Especially as new computational developments become softer, smaller and more tactile. How could we enable undiscovered fashion tech abilities, within the material designer and as a process of knowledge transfer? This discipline encompasses a whole range of tools and tacit knowledge just waiting to disrupt the tech industry.