Person using laptop

Marta CalhiasWith no background in technology, Marta Calhias began her career as a technical writer in a product company after studying language and communication.

Gaining insight into product management, Marta discovered her niche and today, she is product owner at Stratio, the leading predictive maintenance platform for transport operators. This is her story.

My path into the tech industry was full of interesting twists. I didn’t have any technical background, coming from an arts-based BA degree in Languages and Communications at university. My first internship after university – focusing on media content monitoring – showed me that although I hated speaking in public, I could write. Although I was exposed to a number of different industries, from sport to fashion, it was technology where I found my calling!

Shortly after starting work as a technical writer there, I began to get involved in the product development chain, undertaking several different tasks such as public webinars and quality assurance (QA) tests. Taking responsibility for the software workbooks and product communication, I was forced to overcome my fear of making a presentation in public – and it changed my life! After successfully making my first product presentation, I was invited to do other public presentations, webinars, and so on. I gained self-confidence and felt secure talking with many people every day, which is definitely a core skill.

A flame had been lit and I knew that product management was the path I wanted to follow. However, I needed to plan every detail and, of course, upskill. So, in 2018 I decided to move to a more technical role as a QA tester in another company, where I quickly learned to make test plans and understand the processes behind them. I was working on a very demanding project that required more knowledge, so I undertook project management training, followed by a course in business analysis .

I started to work in another company honing my skills while continuing to do courses, meeting other product and project managers, attending various conferences, reading books and articles. To get to where I am today, I had to learn many new skills, and it wasn’t always easy, but sometimes you have to take those necessary steps and move out of your comfort zones to achieve your dreams.

My fascination with the technology industry came from an interest in problem solving. Stratio, my current company, is focused on how AI can be leveraged to reduce public transport maintenance costs, and make vehicles run more efficiently. I am keen on driving the positive impact the tool has on the wider public, such as creating a more sustainable public transportation sector that is reliable and trusted.

Overcoming tech industry barriers

I’ve been lucky enough to work in environments where I have never been made to feel like I didn’t have the same opportunities as anyone else. Other companies may not have been so welcoming, but I firmly believe that if women keep demonstrating their value to the business then it will become an accepted fact that we have exactly the same potential  as men if given the opportunity. We need to have confidence and to trust in ourselves.

There are many fantastic initiatives out there that encourage women to join the tech industry, and we need to continue and support these efforts. It is important to show that we can move within the technology sector because it can actually benefit from the diversity of the workplace . Although women are still a smaller percentage in the tech world when compared to men, it has shifted immensely and our presence is continuously growing. So we need to reach more women with testimonials, advice and encouragement to join the sector and find their feet.

But what’s important for women looking to get into tech is to find something that they love, define their goals and create a timeline to achieve them. Start with small steps and gain the right skills that will help you get where you need to be.

There are many free resources available, such as training courses, videos and tech whitepapers that can help you learn. The tech world is huge so you have a lot of diversity to choose from.

And finally, believe in yourself and trust your gut – sometimes people know that they can do something, but they won’t go ahead for fear of failing. So trust that you can get it right and fight for what you believe in.

So, what’s ahead?

Product management is a very complex area, with many elements to master. You need to understand the business, have leadership skills and develop experience across a range of different products, as well as taking an interest in new initiatives on the market. With that in mind, the next two to three years for me will involve building my knowledge in this area and completing the move from product owner to product manager. As a product owner I am involved in operational strategy, but I would like to get more into the business, the vision and company strategy.

As someone that comes from a country village, I have a real desire to make my mark on the world and help others achieve their success. I never thought I’d be able to be a product specialist at a tech company working in the city. Showing that this can be accomplished is truly important to me. I hope my example can inspire others to believe in themselves and to work and fight for a life they could never have dreamed of.