Women in Tech: Starting your Career
expertlead's Women in Tech online panel discussion took place recently with four high-achieving women in the tech industry. They shared their insights on how to overcome your fears to kickstart your career in tech, and overcome the stereotypes about women in Tech. They all come from diverse, equally important fields in tech. In this article, we introduce you to the panelists, summarise the key takeaways from the discussion, and address questions that were discussed during the panel.
Coming from a marketing and consultancy background, Laura changed her path to being more tech-focused and founded Studio Landschek. She provides her clients with innovative advice on design thinking, design sprints, and agile leadership tools. She also co-founded Decode One, which is an educational management platform helping employees and founders stay ahead of the curve on innovation trends. Laura became self-employed in 2018 and she loves the freedom it gives her.
Ekaterina has years of experience in Data Science, she comes from a mathematical background and has always been interested in tech topics. She’s the founder of Nina Space, a company that uses AI and satellite image recognition to help in avoiding and reducing the risk of forest fires. Ekaterina worked in different fields in tech such as DevOps and backend development until she found her passion in space and satellite technologies. She became self-employed in 2016 as she always knew she would not be an employee for long.
Marianne discovered her passion for technology as a child. She grew up with the idea that she will become a programmer and she naturally grew into her role. She’s a backend web developer using PHP and TYPO3. She became a freelancer because she wanted to travel the world and have the flexibility to work from anywhere. Her job is her passion, and she enjoys the perks it gives her.
Chilja comes from an entrepreneurial family, the women in her family all ended up self-employed and she knew that would be her path as well. She became self-employed in 2019 as an Android Software Engineer. Chilja has always been good at mathematics, after taking a programming course in the US she realized how natural it comes to her and knew that it will be her future. She chose Android development as she loves how interactive it can be.
Throughout the panel discussion, the women presented their strengths, career paths & struggles as a female IT professional, and how they overcame them by being kind, professional, and diligent.
Here are some of the questions that were asked throughout the panel:
1. What was your biggest challenge throughout your tech freelance career?
Changing from employee to freelancer is the easy part. Once you are sure of your decision then the change will be smooth. Difficulties might come later on, for example, Laura mentioned how hard it was for her to sell herself in the beginning and by learning to do so, she discovered her career focus.
Ekaterina stressed the importance of knowing the labor law of freelancing before jumping into it. Incidences can happen at an unexpected time and knowing the law is like wearing a steel armor.
Marianne had a hard time in the beginning, especially when it came to finding a platform that offered her suitable projects and took her skills and travel lifestyle into consideration Chilja also agreed on the importance of having a platform to supply you with projects when you kick off your freelancing career, especially if your network is not extensive.
2. How to position yourself professionally and sell yourself?
Ekaterina gave an interesting comment on this question, she mentioned how she worked for NGOs and startups in social and environmental topics and how these experiences helped her become more employable. Her tip was to try to connect with the “why” of the company you apply to, this facilitates the interview process even if you do not obtain the full required skill set.
When starting her Career as a freelancer, Laura placed a lot of emphasis on her communication skills. She believes that being able to communicate one's skills is essential to securing interesting projects. Laura advises to use networking events as a way to strengthen your communication skills.
3. What can you suggest to women who are only starting their careers in the tech industry?
Ekaterina mentioned how important it is to take your time to grow your skills and not to let others’ criticism startle you. Stay professional and kind in all scenarios. Laura agreed on the importance of not letting your emotions overwhelm you when receiving unfriendly feedback. At that moment, stop, breathe, collect yourself, and then respond. It needs to be a passion and a job you love. If it is not for you then “Move on and be yourself”.
Chilja said that you really need to want to be in the tech sector and to have the will for it. Otherwise, it might become tedious.
Marianne talked about the benefit of having female role models to help gain confidence and reassurance in your skills. Therefore, Global movements such as Women in Tech are a real inspiration for women kickstarting their careers.
4. What is your experience in general so far about being a Woman in Tech?
Laura talked about how she faced many obstacles throughout her career but her motivation and passion for her job made her overcome these obstacles and learn from any failure that occurred along the way. Having a positive mindset in these situations is a key driver.
Although Marianne always worked in gender-neutral companies where she did not feel discriminated against, she did feel that her experience was underestimated when being in situations where people did not know her. For example, when she visited tech conferences, others expected her to be in design rather than being a back-end developer.
Chilja mentioned that it is a typical stereotype of the world we live in that women are not expected to be engineers, and she faced several scenarios where she felt she had to prove herself first and wait till the others got to know her until she felt like she was treated as an equal.
Ekaterina talked about her career journey and how it is rewarding to use AI as a tool to help find solutions to the environmental and social topics she is passionate about.
The panel discussion then ended with giving last tips and recommendations…
Tech is colorful and has several fields to discover. Try to find where you fit best. The stereotypical image of Tech people being introverts in a field for men only has changed.
The speakers encouraged women everywhere to not be afraid of starting their career in Tech. In the future, they hope to work in mixed tech teams that are balanced between males and females as it would become more enjoyable.
Not taking negative or positive feedback personally is key to maintaining professional behavior while working. When faced with an obstacle, take a moment to breathe.
Whether you are an employee or a freelancer, knowing your labor rights is important to protect yourself and to avoid harassment in the workplace, whether mental or sexual harassment. Learn to be firm and say, “This is not okay”.
Even though this last tip is common to hear, it still holds true: Find a field you are passionate about, there is nothing wrong with trying out different fields and failing. You only learn from your experiences.
Mar 2021 - 5 min read
Prof. Tamara Pawluk
Tamara is a professor in Intercultural Business Management and is finishing her PhD Thesis on Diversity Best Business Practices. She gained her practical experience as Talent Manager for IT Professionals at Accenture. In her role as the Head of Freelancer Management at expertlead Tamara is using her combined 11 years of university teaching and practical experience to support our freelancers in their career in the best possible way.