Sabine Vromans

Sabine Vromans is the Product Director at Smart Robotics, with a background in technology and logistics spanning over 16 years.

Before her current role, she contributed to bol.com for a decade, holding various positions where she led teams, managed strategic logistics projects, and optimized customer service processes. Her earlier career includes consultancy at Dutch Group BV and project management roles at Telfort, KPN, TISCALI Business, and NMHG, sharpening her skills in process optimization and team leadership.

Sabine holds a Master’s degree in Business Administration from Radboud University, underpinning her extensive practical experience with a solid academic foundation. Additionally, she’s certified in ITIL and Prince2, enhancing her proficiency in IT service management and project management.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

Growing up as the middle child with two brothers, and with parents who ran their own construction company, I was immersed in a predominantly masculine environment from an early age. This background provided me with a unique perspective on navigating male-dominated spaces, which has been invaluable in my career. My academic journey took me to the University of Nijmegen, where I earned a master’s in Business Science, further solidifying my foundation in the business world.

My professional path started in the sectors of telecom and e-commerce, where I was constantly at the intersection of technology and business. I’ve always been driven by the potential of technology to deliver substantial value to a company. This passion led me to take on a role focused on innovation in warehouses at my previous job, igniting my interest in robotics—a field I had always been intrigued by.

The transition to a career in robotics, a field I had dreamed of, came naturally. I didn’t hesitate for a moment when the opportunity at Smart Robotics presented itself. Today, I lead a talented team, managing our product portfolio, development roadmaps, and strategic initiatives. Being accustomed to a more masculine upbringing and business environment, the male-dominated world of logistics and robotics doesn’t feel foreign to me. Instead, it’s a space where I feel equipped to lead and innovate, pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in robotics.

Lastly, encouraging girls from a young age to pursue interests in STEM is crucial. By dismantling stereotypes and providing young women with role models in tech, we can gradually shift the landscape to be more welcoming and equitable for women. It’s about creating an ecosystem that supports women at every stage of their journey in tech.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Initially, I believed that a meticulously planned career path was essential for success. However, I realized I wasn’t sure of my ultimate destination. This led me to adopt a new philosophy:

Focus on work that I’m passionate about without being tethered to a rigid plan.

Embracing the unexpected has opened doors to opportunities I hadn’t anticipated. Given the rapid pace of change in the tech industry, I’ve learned that adaptability is more valuable than a fixed, long-term plan.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

While my approach to life and work has traditionally been grounded in rationality, I’ve gradually recognized the significance of trusting my instincts. This evolution in my thinking underscores the importance I place on trust and honesty within my professional sphere. These are not merely desirable traits, but the very pillars upon which I base my interactions and decisions. Without a palpable sense of trust and integrity, I find it challenging to fully engage and deliver my best.

This reliance on gut feelings has served as a protective mechanism, helping me maintain my boundaries and avoid the pitfalls of burnout. It has also empowered me to make tough decisions, such as leaving a position when the job no longer resonated with my core values. To me, work is not just a means to an end, but a pursuit that must stir genuine passion and fulfillment. If a role fails to ignite that spark, I’m compelled to seek environments that align more closely with my aspirations and values, where I can commit wholeheartedly and thrive.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

My biggest achievement is always my last! I often view my latest accomplishment as my greatest.

Currently, that pinnacle is the role I’ve played in the growth and development of Smart Robotics. My pride in this achievement stems not just from the company’s success but from the comprehensive strategy we’ve crafted. This strategy encompasses product development, pricing, and marketing, all intricately designed to support and propel our overarching business objectives.

The journey to build Smart Robotics into a robust entity has been a testament to the collective effort and vision of our team. I have to say, the process of organizing the company to align with our strategic goals has been both challenging and rewarding – it’s this continuous evolution and the tangible impact of our efforts that I find most fulfilling. Each milestone we reach sets a new benchmark for what we can achieve, and it’s this forward momentum that I consider my most significant accomplishment to date.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

Stay close to yourself. Embracing authenticity has always been my guiding principle. I’ve taken the time to understand my strengths and weaknesses, and rather than attempting to overhaul my weaker areas, I’ve focused on leveraging my strengths. This approach has led me to surround myself with a competent team whose skills complement my own, ensuring that all aspects of our work are handled with expertise.

This strategy, coupled with a healthy dose of self-confidence, has been instrumental in my ability to face new challenges head-on. I believe in the power of staying true to oneself and recognizing that the collective strength of a team can turn individual weaknesses into collective assets. This philosophy not only fosters personal growth but also contributes to a thriving, collaborative work environment where everyone is positioned to succeed.

This reliance on gut feelings has served as a protective mechanism, helping me maintain my boundaries and avoid the pitfalls of burnout. It has also empowered me to make tough decisions, such as leaving a position when the job no longer resonated with my core values.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

The most important thing for women to remember is to get to know themselves. Know your strengths and weaknesses, build self confidence, feel confident enough to stay true to yourself in all situations. Everything else follows after this.

To those aspiring to excel in the tech industry, my foremost advice is to cultivate a deep belief in your abilities and maintain an unwavering commitment to your authentic self. This foundation of self-assurance is crucial in navigating the challenges and opportunities that the tech landscape presents.

It’s equally important to channel your efforts and energy into projects and causes that resonate with your values and passions. By aligning your work with what you genuinely believe in, you’ll find a deeper sense of fulfillment and drive, which are key components of lasting success in this dynamic field. Remember, true excellence stems from a combination of self-belief, authenticity, and dedicated effort towards goals that matter to you.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

Absolutely, barriers still exist for women in tech, but acknowledging these challenges is the first step toward overcoming them. From my perspective, creating a more inclusive environment starts with active mentorship and sponsorship. Women in tech benefit immensely from having mentors who can guide them and sponsors who advocate for their advancement.

Moreover, companies need to foster cultures that genuinely value diversity and inclusion, not just in policy but in practice. This means recognizing and rewarding the contributions of women equally and ensuring they have equal access to opportunities for growth and leadership roles.

Lastly, encouraging girls from a young age to pursue interests in STEM is crucial. By dismantling stereotypes and providing young women with role models in tech, we can gradually shift the landscape to be more welcoming and equitable for women. It’s about creating an ecosystem that supports women at every stage of their journey in tech.

Usually, the simple solution is the best solution.

What do you think companies can do to support the progress in their careers for women working in technology?

In my experience, there tends to be a noticeable difference in assertiveness between men and women, particularly regarding promotions and salary negotiations. Many women, myself included, subscribe to the notion that diligence and quality work will naturally lead to recognition and reward. However, this isn’t always the case in practice. To bridge this gap, it’s essential for organizations to have women in managerial and leadership positions. Female leaders can provide a counterbalance, offering diverse perspectives on talent and achievement recognition. This isn’t just about ensuring fairness; it’s about enriching the decision-making process with a broader range of viewpoints, which can lead to more equitable and effective outcomes. It’s about creating an environment where merit is recognized and rewarded, independent of one’s approach to self-advocacy.

There are currently only 21 percent of women working in tech. If you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

It’s often the case that managers gravitate towards hiring candidates who mirror their own backgrounds and characteristics, perhaps unknowingly seeking comfort in familiarity. This tendency can inadvertently narrow the diversity of thought and experience within a team. The key to overcoming this and enhancing the presence of women in tech lies in enlightened management practices. Managers who recognize and value the strengths that diverse perspectives bring to the table are more inclined to seek out candidates who differ from their own profile.

The journey towards increasing female representation in tech is multifaceted, encompassing not only the hiring process but also how individuals are managed and rewarded within the organization. Effective management is about fostering an environment where diverse talents are not only welcomed but are seen as essential components of the team’s success. It’s about creating a culture where the unique contributions of women are acknowledged and celebrated, thereby encouraging their continued growth and retention in the tech industry.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

For women in tech looking to expand their knowledge and networks, I’d recommend a blend of resources that cater to both professional development and personal growth. Podcasts like “The Women in Tech Show” or “She Did It Her Way” offer insights into the experiences of women across different areas of technology, providing both inspiration and practical advice. Networking events, especially those organized by associations like Women Who Code or Girls in Tech, are invaluable for building connections and finding mentorship opportunities.

Books such as “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg and “Reset” by Ellen Pao provide profound perspectives on navigating the tech industry as a woman. Conferences like the Grace Hopper Celebration and the Women in Tech Summit offer not only the chance to learn about the latest in technology but also to meet like-minded individuals and potential mentors.

Other online platforms and websites, including Women in Technology International (WITI) and Ada’s List, serve as excellent forums for discussion, job opportunities, and resources tailored to women in tech. Engaging with these resources can significantly enhance one’s career trajectory and sense of community in the tech field.