By Shannon Kreps, vice president product marketing at Medius

women in tech, soft skillsIn 1995, I graduated from university and packed my bags to move to Silicon Valley – this was at a time when the ‘dot-com explosion’ was well underway.

My first position was as a buyer in the purchasing department at Oracle and I was happy to get a job working for a tech company. At the time I had no idea that this would inform the rest of my career as well as accelerating my passion for encouraging young women into the world of tech.

Carving out my career

The start of my career journey primarily focused on the back-office procurement function before moving to the education department to train users, managers and technical people around the globe on procurement solutions. I then spent time in product development as a product manager, working with developers to create new functionality at a point when procurement as a function and technology was taking off around me. As time went on, I became very interested in the underlying data that drives decision making. My experience as a sales engineer, which involved doing technical demonstrations of products, gave me the training and opportunity to get down and dirty with the mechanics of how data was stored and accessed as well as how it is tied into real world situations.

Interestingly, I never considered myself ‘technical’ until I found myself discussing terms such as GUI, SQL and how to navigate through applications on a regular basis.

Gender challenges experienced

Throughout the past decade I have often found that I’m the only woman in a leadership position in the room (though I do commend my current boss for having a team with high female representation). At first it was a struggle to get my voice heard as I’d often wait until others had spoken or let others speak over me. Now, I jump right in with my ideas. I still experience self-doubt, but I’ve learnt to just get on with it.

In my experience, the tech industry is changing as there is more of a conscious decision to look for diversity when hiring – even though it’s still hard to get through the process as it’s still very much ‘a who you know’ kind of world. However, there are more women in leadership roles, and I’ve seen the impact in design sessions when women have a voice and talk about real life and not just where a button is placed. These discussions show how more diverse people and opinions makes products better for customers.

Making our voices heard

The future of women within tech is exciting as WE are here and making our voices heard. Not only are we more willing to stand up if we don’t think something’s right but we are also more willing to leave a workplace if we don’t see change. The fact that we have more opportunities available to us is something that previously just didn’t exist, but unfortunately, there are still some things that are the same. For example, I’ve often had to leave an organisation to move up career-wise as I’ve been passed over for promotions while I’ve seen my male colleagues get better titles and salaries time and time again.

I’m a founding member of Data Scientista Society. We are a non-profit group of women with diverse careers in data and analytics, and we strive to support each other as we advance in our careers. We meet monthly and either engage in project-based work, where women work in teams to lead tech topic sessions or we have “book club” focused on women in data. These are books that often talk about the hidden biases against women (and diverse groups) and share the benefits of a widened perspective.

Empowering women in tech

TechGirlz is a non-profit organisation that inspires middle school girls (ages10-14) to explore the possibilities of technology to empower their future careers. I first heard about the organisation at a Women in Tech Summit I attended. At the conference one of the speakers said many women don’t think of themselves as ‘a women in tech’ but if you are working at a tech company and you’re the receptionist, you are a woman in tech, if you are in back-office operations you are still a women in tech, as well as all the other jobs that focus on technology like developers and coders – we are all contributing to create successful technology. It was inspiring because as women we often tend to sell ourselves short.

TechGirlz offers free one day workshops throughout the year to introduce girls to technology and concepts that might not get exposed to on a regular school day. The idea is to let them know that there is a big world is out there – I’ve led workshops on subjects like podcasting, infographics and design thinking and assisted in coding workshops. It’s amazing to see girls open up in a setting where they are all encouraged to speak up and share.

Tech needs you!

For woman looking to forge a career in the tech industry, my advice is just DO IT! Tech needs you – and there are so many places to go. I also believe you don’t have to think of yourself as a technical person to be a woman in tech. Tech needs people who know how to communicate, that can breakdown complex technical concepts and turn them into business speak. Of course, we need coders and developers too so go where your passion and talent takes you.

Shannon KrepsAbout the author

Shannon is the vice president of product marketing at Medius, a global provider of spend management solutions. Shannon started her career as a buyer for Oracle and after 13 years at the Californian-tech company, she added Insight Software, Grant Thornton, and Rizing to her impressive resume. Outside of work Shannon volunteers for TechGirlz, an organisation designed to inspire middle school girls to be future technology leaders.

 


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