female leader, women leading the way, tech leadership

By Camilla Zucchi, Head of Production @ Nucco Brain (strategic content agency operating at the intersection of technology and storytelling)

As the Head of Production for a tech-led content agency, I have been a fully paid up member of the tech community for over three years now.

And the role has given me valuable insight into what women can bring to the oft-touted bro culture that typically dominates tech businesses.

For women, it often isn’t easy to climb up the tech-land career ladder; and this is especially the case when aiming for a management, rather than specialist, role. If you thought the ground floor was chock-a-block with testosterone-fuelled coders, wait until you take the elevator up to the top. Leadership roles are often even more male-dominated because they’re skewed towards ‘strong’ (a euphemism for ‘masculine’, if I ever heard one) personalities. But sometimes – just sometimes – women in tech manage to level up to leadership. Fortunately, I’ve been lucky enough to be one of this privileged group.

Of course, it helps that my CEO is a true champion of gender equality; someone who isn’t blinkered by the usual parameters of what constitutes a ‘strong’ leader. But, in hindsight, I can now also see that a few different factors have played into my tech-land progression.

One of them is my varied experience in previous work environments. Having a colourful and broad career history – I’ve worked across museums, education, design and architecture – has helped me strengthen the key skills that I rely on in my current tech role.

The design and architecture industries are notoriously male-dominated because they place so much value on ‘strong’ (that word again) characters. Working in this environment taught me about resilience, focus and flexibility: resilience to push back against a sea of men; a laser focus on the project at hand; and the flexibility to jump between tasks and personalities.

Whereas my time spent in museum and education roles has gifted me problem solving skills alongside razor-sharp attention to detail. These skills allow me to navigate the difficult projects and new challenges that arise constantly in an ever-evolving work environment like that of tech.

These qualities have given me a new form of ‘strong’. And it’s not a shouty, badass, bossy or lone genius form of strong because it’s balanced by the softer and more nuanced management skills that are more commonly associated with femininity.

The forward-looking nature of tech means we’re faced with new challenges on a near daily basis. And these challenges are best met by a version of ‘strong’ that manages people and processes in a collaborative – perhaps even ‘soft’ – way.

Soft management turned out to be a critical skill during lockdown. Although remote working was already commonplace in the tech world, the experience of lockdown brought a surge of social and personal issues into the (virtual) workplace: team stress, lack of social interaction, mental health, to name just a few. As Head of Production, my primary focus was to make sure projects were delivered on time and to a high standard. But to achieve this, I had to fully support my stressed-out team by making sure they had the time and flexibility they needed. And I’m just not sure this element of crisis management could have been successfully achieved in tech businesses that are drowning in chauvinism.

Lockdown’s new challenges have, I hope, given tech businesses an opportunity to understand more about how a new form of softer (yet resolutely strong) leadership can make a real impact at a number of levels. I just hope what we’ve learnt during this difficult time can prove to be a blueprint for a brighter future in tech-land.

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