Celebrating International Womxn of Tech & Design ft. Iris Otano @ Bank Of America


IWD2021, womxnintech, Technology...

How can we proactively make a change to achieve equality and inclusion in tech? It's International Women's Day in March and Orbis are dedicating the entire month to celebrating the womxn of Tech and Design. If we want more womxn in tech, we have to do more than want. Our team felt we needed to share stories from the industry, told by voices with first-hand experience. All of the exposure International Women's Day kicks up is critical, not just for our own education as a business, but also to support the exposure of gender equality and inclusion in tech. These stories are not told by a company or PR, or any other bias perspective. These are the real womxn of tech shaking up the industry. 

Iris, what has your personal career journey in tech been like?

I have a BS in Computer Science from Fordham but lacked experience or any support to understand how to apply it.  I spent years doubting myself and not knowing what I was good at because I did not want to risk being seen as less capable than others.  Once managers noticed I was always questioning things, they allowed me to run projects and lead change initiatives.  

I used the BS in Comp Science to start a job at Time Warner Cable as an Internet Specialist Level 2, a support role that led me to work at Bloomberg - where I spent 13+ years. From support, project manager,  relationship manager and leading strategic initiatives for different technology departments, including our Data Centers. Because of that, I was able to learn a lot of the technologies and had a way to get a seat at the table (to take notes on what was important) I was also seen by senior leaders and asked to join the Bank to run a few strategic initiatives.    

What do you think tech leaders could do to help support gender equality within their teams? 

Leaders need to show examples themselves to support gender equality. Ultimately they have to show examples of success, they have to provide the same level of access (and perhaps a bit different type of support) to the projects and the work that allows us to be noticed.  

Stop asking women to do the admin work in the team and believe in them to handle the most important work we have in the organization. They might have to remind their talented women that they are enough and they are doing a great job, to combat some of the imposter syndrome.  

They have to at least be aware it exists and be comfortable talking about it, even if they are not experts. In fact, they must commit to understand it and to have a plan for how they will reverse it in their organization.   

Widening that point, how can businesses adapt to ensure they are enhancing women with their careers?

Businesses and executives should be investing in women who are already successful and bringing those leaders to the firm. 

Businesses that are building from the ground level might need a more grass-roots approach: Support and help create a culture in which you “high-five” the leaders who are diverse; promote diverse candidates or at least provide them access to the work or the relationships that can allow them to be seen. 

Top 3 tips for women looking to break into tech or progress from their current position into a tech role?

  • Build friendships and get to know others so you can build a network of people you can call upon to help you navigate the firm, remind you how good you are and give you ideas when you are stuck. 
  • Work on increasing your confidence level using the things you already do. Remember you have all it takes already to be successful. Think about it, you are at least eager to know more, and proud of the quality work you do... Those 2 skills will take you anywhere! 
  • Know where you are and what you need. Sometimes is asking for more work and others is taking a back seat and a break. Whatever you do, don’t get too comfortable in any of the places. You have to think 2-3 steps ahead to build the kind of profile and to raise your hands for work that can promote you.  

In tribute to IWD’s 2021 campaign, what do you choose to challenge?

I am challenging myself to listen to my own advice, to take a look at my career this year and take a leap of faith doing something new. I am ready to explore. 


Fancy joining the discussion?

Orbis Connect are hosting various events dedicated to womxn in tech. 

Iris will be sitting on our panel for the 'Choosing to Lead' event. 

Please join us. 

Sign up here