Influencer Julia Hardy talked to Compelo about her passion for tech, retro gadgets, and being an unstoppable female in the gaming world.

The host of Engadget UK’s newly debuted Tech Hunters, Julia Hardy is a pro at navigating the disruptive tech landscape.

However, Hardy is far more than a TV personality. She’s also a cultural ambassador of impressive caliber.

Consequently, she translates her zest for anything online and gaming-related into an experience we can all participate in.

TV and radio presenter, writer, and tech sleuth. Hardy is a powerhouse of insight for gamers, gadget-lovers, and enthusiasts.

Furthermore, she’s a vital supporter of women in tech. As such, Julia Hardy enlightens audiences as to the mysogyny that continues in the industry.

Check out our interview with Hardy to learn more about her leadership and enthusiasm in the tech world.

To get to know her even better, catch her on Tech Hunters every Tuesday.

Julia Hardy, a tech tornado

Did you always want to be in the tech and gaming industries? Talk us through your career journey.

Julia Hardy: Technology always surrounded me, as my dad was an electronics engineer. My family home growing up was a graveyard for vending machines and boxes of printed circuit boards. Tech for me was always about play, I’d selotape numeric keypads to my bedroom door and pretend I lived in a future time where I had a coded door so that my brothers couldn’t get in my room. My family always had computers and consoles and I was always around it of playing with friends.

When I first started presenting it was for a Sky Rock music channel. I spent a lot of time interviewing bands. They wanted to start a show doing gig news and reviews and I asked them if we could do gaming and film too as I both interested me. I ended up producing the show as well as presenting and it was my first foray into working in gaming.

After that I landed a TV show on Bravo about video games (with tech starting to becoming a natural extension of that) and then after that went to Jamal Edwards’ SBTV to run their games and gadgets channel. During that time representatives asked me to go on Sky News’ Sunrise every week to talk about technology. [It] was so much fun and it made me learn a lot about the tech outside of what I already knew. Plus nothing helps you learn fast like being on a live news show!

Why do you think so few women are getting into tech and gaming?

Julia Hardy: I think the numbers for women in tech seems much larger than in video games, certainly in terms of high profile positions. There have been some great communities in technology that have really supported women getting into the field. In video games we do have some groups who support women, but not nearly as many. [Many know] video game culture as toxic at times, to the point of actual violence being threatened. That sticks in women’s minds and is hard to shake.

When I did my TED talk last year, and I should say generally I don’t get nervous in those situations, but due to the fact I was talking about sexism and misogyny it felt very different. Because I knew in the back of my mind, as a female discussing this, if I put a foot wrong that tiny percentage of men who fear women speaking up might attack. And I’ve seen what they have done, and it’s not pretty. This stays in your mind, especially whilst writing it. Rather than just focusing on the task at hand you end up filling your mind with other concerns. And if it bothers me (and I’m pretty Hardy when it comes to all that) then how much more must it be affecting other women?

Things are shifting though even since last year. More women are speaking up and not backing down. It’s part of the reason I always chose too, it felt like a disservice to other women to not. If my voice can inspire others to brave it out then its 100% worth all the hassle.

Do you think society’s conversations around sexism, and gender pay gap in the workplace are sometimes excessive? Or should we continue to discuss these issues?

Julia Hardy: I don’t think it’s ever an ‘excessive’ discussion if the points still remain and are unsolved as of yet. [To some], it might seem unnecessary, but it’s not if you are affected by it. I don’t agree with limiting what someone wants to speak about (as long as it’s not abusive), if someone wants to go onto a forum or Twitter and moan about Captain Kirk or football ad nasueam go ahead! I’d never say don’t speak about something that is important to you.

I do find it a little frustrating (in fact almost as frustrating as sexism/misogyny) when people say it doesn’t exist. Or we’re being ‘sensitive.’ If a man came up to me and said ‘Julia, here are the most terrible things about being a man…’ My first reaction would not be ‘no it’s not’ or ‘you’re just imagining it, that’s not really how it is.’ I also wouldn’t presume to know what it’s like to be a man. I have no idea. It would be nice to [trust], or [believe each other] in the first part, then we can pick it all apart. But people wonder why women get angry! Try contradicting someone the next time they tell you about something they’ve personally experienced. Trust me, any man, woman or child would get mighty annoyed.

We need to keep these lines of communication open, to really better understand each other and to also start to pick apart all the weird things [society] has brainwashed us into thinking. Don’t even get me started on gender roles…those things are a hugely responsible for so many problems we have today.

What are some of the most exciting and strangest products you’ve worked on over your career?

Julia Hardy: I focus a lot of my work on consumer tech, so nothing as exciting as super-cutting edge tech. I do remember the first time I got to try (this time’s) Virtual Reality with the Oculus Rift tech demo at E3 a few years back. It was such a simple demo, you’re standing outside a huge castle and it’s so huge, I’m almost tipping my head right back to see the top of it. You go inside and there is this mega-giant lava lord who gets up from his throne and just looks at you. Nothing actually happens apart from he just stands there, but seeing him tower above you, you felt tiny and so intimidated.

We are so used to [living] on the top of the food chain and not having anything really threaten us with size, but this was such a primal sensation. I thought, ‘yes! I can totally see the potential for VR this time.’ It was like seeing an amazing art installation, where you can’t help but feel, it’s so visceral your body just reacts. [I’m] constantly impressed over and over with the VR I have seen, so I’m excited to see how everyone else adopts it!

Is Tech Hunters a journey into retro tech, or does it also explore the world’s fascination with disruptive technology?

Julia Hardy: Tech Hunters is a love letter to all nerdy gamer/tech-heads like me. It’s to people who were around and involved in tech growing up and have very fond memories of the products. There were so many seminal moments in technology and it’s been a great reminder to me doing the show of just how powerful those moments were, even for a young mind at the time.

On the surface it’s a bit like a techie cross between Antiques Roadshow and Scraphead Challenge. Both of those shows come from people who love what they do and have a real soft spot for the tech involved. The series is a mix of pure nostalgia, tech that changed everything. Some that was just a total unmitigated disaster (which is always fun). So there is something for everyone.

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