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Globetrotter at the centre of the tech revolution – Ragini Annan to share her story at Humber Business Week Elevenses natter

22 April 2024

A woman who progressed from being a childhood runaway to a globetrotter at the centre of the tech revolution of the 1980s will tell her story at one of the standout events of this year’s Humber Business Week.

Ragini Annan

Ragini Annan will also reveal how she immersed herself in the traditions of the Vedic religion and culture as she battled to recover from a series of personal and professional crashes during the 1990s.

Her attendance at the “Awesome Women” Elevenses session with Biz Week founder and Chair of Sewell Group Paul Sewell is likely to be one of the hottest tickets at a festival of business which this year marks its 20th anniversary.

Paul said: “We have never committed to making Elevenses an annual thing but if there’s somebody I come across who I think is interesting we will do it.

“I know Ragini and her husband Scott through the Independent Retailer Owners’ Forum, which goes around the world looking at best practice. After sitting in airports and on planes with them I found she had quite an interesting story to tell and she was happy to come and see us in Hull.”

Ragini was born in Uganda to Indian parents and arrived in the UK in the 1970s. A computer sciences degree from Loughborough University set her on the road to a career in tech and to roles with Mitch Kapor’s Lotus start-up and then with Apple and Steve Jobs. Things began to unravel in the 1990s as she hit a series of personal and professional problems.

Paul said: “I’ll be asking Ragini about her work at the very top, with some of the biggest names in tech, and about how, when everything fell apart, she pursued resolution and renewal through the Vedic culture.”

Paul introduced Elevenses to the Biz Week programme in 2021 and developed the theme of Awesome Women after being joined by broadcaster Steph McGovern, politician Baroness Sayeeda Warsi and Debbie Robinson, the Central England CEO and European Vice President of the Co-op.

He said: “I have been brought up in an area where boards were male, middle aged, middle class and wore suits so I do like it when you find a female who can come and be a role model.

“We have been successful at Sewell Group in recent years and the number of females in the business has grown exponentially. At one point we appointed four new directors and they were all women. They bring a good balance to your top team and your board and they reflect your customer base.

“With women, whether it’s Steph, Sayeeda, Debbie or whoever, if they reach a certain level you will generally find they have had to overcome something more than your average man has had to deal with – and built some resilience along the way.

“The style has gone down very well. I’m not an interviewer but I do like having a natter with people and we always allow maybe 20 minutes at the end to let the audience join in. They never run out of questions.”

Humber Business Week started in 2004 as part of YIBC – the Yorkshire International Business Convention. Paul worked closely with YIBC founder Mike Firth and a stellar cast of speakers which included Bill Clinton, Mikhail Gorbachev, Neil Armstrong and George Foreman. Michele Mone, Rudy Giuliani, Martin Bashir and Prince Andrew are among others who are now remembered rather less fondly. After YIBC stopped, Biz Week continued.

“We built on YIBC and outlived what they did,” said Paul.

“A set of people came together to give their time, organising publicity and linking the events up. It had no governance or public funding and there were just two criteria – any event had to be about business and it had to deliver quality.

“That Business Week is still going strong after 20 years is as pleasing to me as it is critical to our community and economy. A week of business promoting and celebrating what we do, plus reminding people how vital the wealth creating sector is, still feels as relevant as it did in the beginning. Add the learning, the mingling and the fun and one sees why it has been enduringly successful.”

Elevenses – Awesome Females ¬with Ragini Annan will take place at the Sewell Studio in Geneva Way, Hull, at 10.30 for 11am on Tuesday June 4. To book visit https://www.humberbusinessweek.co.uk/