Want to advance your career in tech? It’s all about trust

Woman in tech, and indeed a woman of colour in tech, it’s true that I am often in the minority in the different teams and companies for which I have worked. But equally, I believe that the situation for women in tech is better now than ever.

Technology is an attractive industry for women to work in. There are exciting opportunities to progress and learn, companies are generally much more progressive in their attitudes, and while discrimination still exists, there is much less than there was.

But are women able to advance in their tech careers as quickly as men? I don’t believe there are specific barriers that prevent this, but there are steps that women can take to help the process.

Tech – an attractive sector for women?

At school, I loved arts and science, which led me to want a career in architecture. My Masters was in the fundamentals of design which opened a whole new realm of work as tech was already seeming like an attractive industry.

It felt cool, and it felt new. Apple and Microsoft were creating increasingly designed products, making it attractive and aspirational as a career. It was an industry full of innovation and potential, and even at that stage in my career, I didn't see any barriers to my joining.

In 2022, more women are entering technology than ever, but perhaps not yet in the techier roles. There is nothing wrong with women working in marketing, sales, product management, support or elsewhere in technology. They are still in the industry, and there is no need for women to be made to feel bad because they aren't working as a coder, developer or engineer.

But I do think that will change over time. Computer science is still relatively modern in schools; in my experience, it is just as accessible to girls as it is to boys. Very few girls studied science subjects a generation ago, but that has changed. So will the study of technology and subsequent entrants to the workforce.

Progressing in technology

As a woman of colour in technology, I've been asked if I have ever faced discrimination or prejudice. While I've no doubt that still goes on, in my career, I've been lucky that I haven't come up against that. In Bombay and Zurich, I've worked for progressive companies prioritising talent and hard work over other factors.

They have had a strong ethos that people from all backgrounds are welcome. This goes back to the founder, the type of workplace they want to create, and then the company culture they instil. When they get this right – and in my case, they have – any differences quickly disappear.

But to progress, women certainly need to prove themselves. I found that identifying a strategy for progression really helps. Making a list or Venn diagram – what you are good at, what you like to do and what you want to do in future – can be of huge assistance when looking to advance your career.

For me, it's about trust. The higher you climb, the more trust is needed. Your employer must trust that you can do the job you want, so you must work hard to gain that trust. But it undoubtedly goes both ways – it's a trust transaction between both parties, and the employer needs to demonstrate to the employee that it's the right place for them to work.

Tips for success

Beyond building and growing trust, I can offer three specific tips that can help women advance in the industry:

  1. Find a mentor to help guide you. This can be a colleague, boss or someone you don't even work with – they will be invaluable in helping you in areas such as making decisions and managing conflicts. Furthermore, always keep learning. Skills are not always sufficient. You need all-round awareness across the business to progress. Observing my co-workers has played an important role in my personality development which prepared me for the growth and opportunities I wanted.
  2. Make notes of achievements or learning. Every complimentary email, every piece of praise, and notable achievement are great for boosting confidence. You can go back and review this personal record of achievement when you are looking to prepare for a new role or even if you are having a bad day generally.
  3. Don’t be shy. If your personality type is to be shy, that's fine, but do not let it stop you from asking important questions. Can I have a raise? Can I move teams? What do I need to do to get that promotion? You won't get anywhere by not asking these questions, so always pluck up the coverage to do so.

I am confident that it is getting easier and more common for women and women of colour to work in technology. My own experiences have been positive, and anecdotally I think there has been much progress.

But that doesn’t mean the job is done. By focusing on growing two-way trust and having a clear idea of where they want to get to, women can continue their technology career progression more smoothly.

About the author

Shivani Visen is Head of Design and Product Manager at augmented intelligence solutions provider, Squirro. She started at Squirro as a UX Designer, and after several promotions now heads up the design function, which she has grown into a high-performing entity within the organisation.

If you want to find out more about Shivani, you can connect with her on LinkedIn.