#YesSheCan spoke to Laura Smith, co-founder of Slanted Theory, a company who turn data into 3D representations!
I always thought I’d grow up to be an artist. I loved drawing and sculpting as a child and I took that with me all the way through the A-Level fine art. During my GCSE’s and A-Level I got heavily into computers. So much so I even taught my teachers how to use the computer in an after school class which they paid me for.
I went to university and did a degree in Information Systems. My love for art and this led to my work in User Experience (UX) development and eventually to a job in a computer science research department. The people I worked with were inspiring and always looking ahead at what could be achieved from the analysis of data. However some of their techniques I just didn’t get. So one day I had an “aha” moment and Slanted Theory was born.
We focus on large scale data visualisation and analysis using virtual, augmented and mixed reality (XR). Our goal is to give analytical super powers to everyone without the need to have a data science or analytical background. We do this by creating 3D visuals you can interactive with, rotate and pull apart to make data discoveries. Sounds mindblowing but just imagine you’re Iron Man and you’ll get the idea.
Data is one of those topics everyone talks about. Companies are always talking about making better decisions based on it, but as we get more devices out there collecting data, teams within organisations analysing it, find themselves with a lot of pressure to keep up with the demand to make sense of it. Organisations are looking for alternatives to help empower their teams to conduct their own analysis, to speed things up. But not everyone has a data science background, so it can be a very daunting subject. We wanted to make analysis easier and more engaging, through visual discovery, literally interacting with the data and exploring it to find hidden insights.
The commercialisation of 3D headsets that didn’t make you feel sick, opened up a whole new world of creativity. Just as we build machines or computers we saw an opportunity to build environments of data, which people could explore at their own pace and in ways more suited to them. XR technology is so versatile. You can create great works of 3D art, create impact through story telling, and lose yourself in exciting virtual worlds, that let you explore in the comfort of your own home. The thought of creating interactive 3D spaces, that almost looked like pieces of art in their own right really excited me. We are still making discoveries about how this technology can be applied. I’m interested in understanding how people find insight in data and how someone interacts with 3D objects, using their hands, their voice, how they move around, in all sorts of domains it is an exciting area to be.
I am a big believer in letting people grow and learn
Sounds really interesting! I assume it hasn’t been an easy journey?
There have been a lot of ups and downs over my career. I am the type of person that likes to explore my ideas. I have had roles that allowed me to look into them and roles where managers have told me I am “getting above my station”. I am a big believer in letting people grow and learn. It’s a goal I have for myself so I hope to instill that in those around me. Get curious, explore, expand your mind. Suffice to say I left those jobs that didn’t give me room to develop.
There aren’t many women in the Tech sector, what are your thoughts on this?
I have a personal interest in Women in Tech. Specifically women of university plus age. I am a founding member of Sheffield Women in Tech. There is still so much fear about moving into what is still considered a male dominated industry, coupled with fear of moving from other careers into the tech industry. I come across a lot of women that still do not consider themselves as in technology because they can’t code for example. I try to encourage people to change that mind set. You can move into tech, from anywhere if you’re willing to learn. Developing any technology is a combination of many skills and disciplines, and just because you can’t code doesn’t mean to say you’re not in the industry or can’t make a move into the industry.
We’re still in awe of your business but what would you say is your biggest achievement?
Starting my own business is so far the biggest thing I am proud of. It took me and still takes me out of my comfort zone. I am learning all the time and making mistakes. Yes the mistakes stress me out, but it’s all learning, and I’ll do better next time.
It’s not all rainbows, you certainly have challenges along the way. I try to keep my mind’s eye on the vision. What am I doing this for and what it’ll look like and mean to me. That keeps me driving forward. You have to enjoy what you do. There are times you won’t, but as long as you enjoy more than you hate it, you’ll make it work. Running a start up can be really stressful. Questions such as where is the next contract coming from, did I do this legal thing right, are we heading in the right direction, did I say the right thing with a potential client? But you have to sit back somethings and think I’ve come a long way from where I was before, and if that client doesn’t go with us, understand why and move on.
Do you have any words of wisdom for our readers?
Don’t second guess yourself. If you see something you like, go for it. Everything is a learning experience, don’t be worried if it doesn’t work out. Something I wish I had done earlier in my career.
Trust yourself, and don’t be afraid to talk about your achievements, or working progresses.
Talk to people. You can get stuck in your own head, and I am terrible for this. Talking helps to keep you calm, destressed, and also inspire ideas. Different perspectives create better things.
Thank you, Laura! What an interesting company!! If this has inspired you then please look at some more of our blogs here!