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.
Hi Khulan, what has your personal career journey in tech been like so far?
My journey to tech can be described in three phases:
Firstly, I was not planning to work in tech at all. I studied politics, French, and history in high school and then international relations at university. However, after my first year at university, I quickly realised that this career path was not for me. Unfortunately, I could not choose to change my degree as my university specialised in issues of diplomacy and politics. Thus, I decided I would stick to it and focus on things I could change and develop, such as work experience.
I applied to numerous part-time jobs and internships in different industries until I found where my passion truly was. After countless rejections, I was finally invited to an interview for a Part-Time Marketing & Design assistant role. Bearing in mind that I was still a full-time student at this point, I was expected to design a flyer on the day of the interview using Adobe products.
I did not have the relevant qualifications in order to do this task, but I did not let it faze me. Instead, I took to the task and over a weekend profusely studied Adobe InDesign, Photoshop, and Illustrator by watching Youtube tutorials.
I went to the interview and to my surprise, I passed!
From this I learned that whilst you may not have all the qualifications needed for a role, you should still apply anyway. At the end of the day, everything can be figured out and the fun of it is learning as you go, all you really need is the right attitude and mindset.
The HBR Review found that women don’t apply for jobs unless they’re 100% qualified whereas men apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications.
As a result of this part-time job, I gained enough experience to be able to apply to larger companies and thankfully I landed a one-year internship at Adobe in Solution Consulting which exposed me to tech sales.
One of the biggest things I learned from my experience at Adobe, is that you really don’t need to have a degree in computer science or be technical in any shape or form to work in tech - and that non-technical jobs are equally as valuable.
After working for a year at Adobe, I came to the realisation that tech sales is the career path I wanted to pursue post-graduation so I worked hard to get a job in sales at Google.
What do you think tech leaders could do to help support gender equality within their teams?
For many companies and their leaders gender equality and diversity is considered to be a mere checkbox activity in order to meet a quota.
Rather than looking deeper into building systems for attracting and hiring diverse talent and most importantly, understanding the reasons why they wish to have more gender diverse teams. McKinsey found that gender-diverse teams outperform financially by 25% and ethnically diverse teams outperform financially by 36%. Additionally, it’s not just about gender or ethnic diversity, it’s also about the socio-economic background.
Hence, what I would recommend is to build systems for defining what diversity means to them and what type of diversity can benefit their companies. At the end of the day, having more diverse teams is not only beneficial for the company or the individuals but has a knock-on effect on society as a whole, thus producing a more accepting and open-minded society.
Widening that point, how can businesses adapt to ensure they are enhancing women with their careers?
We become what we see, so businesses should have more women from different ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds in leadership positions. Kamala Harris is the perfect example of this, she has only been in her role for 2 months but already her legacy and achievement are looked upon by women from all over the world and of all ages.
Additionally, it’s important to set up mentorship programs within the company that are unconventional to the traditional mentorship schemes. Traditionally we band together with the same group of people because that’s easy and most comfortable, but really, we should be pushing to get out of our comfort zone and choose mentors that are different from us so that the learning experience is enriching on both sides as well as establishing new communication bridges… At least that was beneficial to me from my experience!
What are your top 3 tips for women looking to break into tech or progress from their current position into a tech role?
- If you are in a non-tech industry, reflect on what your transferable skills are and find yourself a role in tech where those skills are needed.
- If you are a fresh graduate, apply for as many internships as possible to get some experience as you do some online courses in the particular thing you are interested in. I applied to 70+ internships, got only 4 interviews and two offers. That is normal if you don’t come from a degree that’s relevant in tech and have little experience.
- Network as hell! Only by speaking to people in tech, you will understand whether that’s for you and what you need to do to get to specific roles and companies.
In tribute of IWD’s 2021 campaign, what do you choose to challenge?
I challenge companies to rethink and build a system for attracting and hiring diverse talent.
To have diverse teams that thrive, we need to look beyond just gender and race. What universities are we hiring from? Are we hiring people without degrees? Are we hiring people only from certain socio-economic backgrounds?
We need to ask ourselves those types of questions, alongside whether we are ticking the material aspects of diversity.
Thank you Khulan.
Fancy joining the discussion?
Orbis Connect are hosting various events dedicated to IWD and womxn in tech across March 2021.
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