How Women Fit into Tech
Insights From Expert Women Across the Technology Spectrum
It is widely acknowledged that the tech world has a gender imbalance to rectify and a gap to close. Tech’s women are perhaps singled out and applauded, which is good. But what’s especially helpful is to hear directly from women in tech about how they got there, and how others can get there too.
This is partly the mission of FrauenLoop, a forward-thinking and inclusive group founded by Dr. Nakeema Stefflbauer, to bring more women into the tech industry where she sees many open and modern roles, particularly in web development and data science. Berlin-based FrauenLoop offers weekly classes and teaches how coding fits into the software development life cycle, geared towards people who have relocated to the EU. They offer mentoring and accessible workshops, such as “Where do I Fit into Tech?”, which I attended this week in Berlin.
This workshop featured 5 eloquent women from within the tech industry who presented not only their roles but also a deep dive into their skill sets and tips for success. Each speaker presented her preparedness for her position and described work challenges and best practice for getting into their respective roles. They focused on key terminology and both formal and informal requirements to succeed in their positions. What was especially useful was concrete advice about how one can prepare in terms of software, course of study, professional habits, CV highlights, and salary range information specific to Berlin.
The workshop atmosphere was culturally diverse, supportive, professional, and engaging. Hosted in the creative mecca of the Wooga offices in central Berlin, this uplifting session was jam-packed with knowledge and resources, which I aim to share.
What was common ground among the valuable advice?
If changing career paths, focus on transferable skills; Reframe your job title to reflect a shifting business landscape; Confidence is a must – have a growth mindset; Set ego aside and search for best solutions; Communication skills (in writing and presentations) are essential; Negotiation is a skill that can be learned; Learn German if possible; Always put the user first when considering a company’s larger context.
Monica: Community Manager
Monica kicked off the Workshop with the role of Community Manager. Her role blends social media management, marketing management, and community engagement. It requires public relations, user feedback and experience, mediation, and strategic thinking. She emphasized that her role relies on empathy, engagement, negotiation, and creative structure. She shared resources for project management and scheduling social media posts.
Wise words: “The user is the key to success of a company.” A community manager is instrumental in listening to the user and positioning users needs to the company in order to affect change or development.
Pamela: Front-end Developer
Pamela has worn many different hats in her career, and during her path of relocating from Peru to Berlin via Brazil. Her commitment to life-long learning is admirable. Learning is a constant, so prioritize and filter your goals. She says once you are a woman in tech, don’t let others tell you what you can or can’t learn. She explained advantages of various programming languages and how her role requires the ability to translate what people want into software decisions which affect user experience.
One memorable example involved designing large buttons on an app for doctors wearing gloves to be able to stay protected while treating high numbers of Ebola patients during an outbreak. Her role requires building scalable applications and having a good eye for design and UX. Pamela encourages not wasting time on non-valuable features, saying the best solution is the one with zero line of code. Understand a company’s expectations upon hire.
Wise words: “If you don’t have anything more to learn at your job, it’s not challenging enough.” Pamela strongly suggests seeking feedback at regular intervals. “How do you develop in your career if you don’t learn and ask questions?” Exactly right!
Cassandra: Product Management
With an impressive background in business, psychology, IT systems and global product management for semi-conductor technology, Cassandra seemed to easily deliver a solid presentation. She recommends a forward-thinking approach, starting with thorough market research to identify trends and target customers. She says you’re ‘always selling’, if not to the customer, then to a busy sales person to keep your product prioritized. Technical writing in English as well as understandable visual presentations are vital. With a ‘marketing mindset’, be able to connect data points to explain the unique selling proposition. Given the rarity of women in her field – the last conference she attended was 205 men and 4 women – she recently become chair of a committee to change those numbers.
Wise words: “Always focus on the value-add for the customer.” / “Product is important but connect the dots; express the value of the product to the overall company or customer.”
Elena: Data Science
Elena’s transparency in presenting her path to Data Scientist was especially appreciated. Despite her degree in Economics and Management, it was her self-led study of Business Intelligence which helped her get hired, along with her attitude of ‘what can I bring to your business?’. Data science helps you see into business and opens possibilities. Her talk was relatable and encouraging. She explained terms like Machine Learning and Data Distribution with real-world examples. She differentiated roles like Data Analysis and Data Journalism. Elena talked about what platform, tools, and languages everyone in her field use like Kaggel, GitHub, Tableau, and Python. Elena says treat yourself like a project — build yourself and your network.
Wise words: “Don’t ask for less.” / “Get up and do it.”
Azza: Quality Assurance Management
Azza patiently presented at the end of the workshop, and expertly delivered her points rapidly to make up for overtime. Her message was clear: Quality assurance matters. It has real-life impact. Without it follows loss of customers, loss of reputation, loss of business, and potentially loss of life. Every company needs quality procedures involving testing security, performance, and UX.
Azza’s experience comes from dedicated time at IBM Egypt and IBM Sweden, as well as Berlin-based Rocket startup incubator. She now serves as an Agile Coach. For mobile app testing, her goal is “test to break.” In other words, figure out the weak spots, but learn to deliver the news to developers in a constructive way.
Wise words: “There is no bug free product. / Test as much as possible in the time you have.”
Sincere thanks to Nakeema and the five speakers for such an impressive array of experience, advice, and resources. The nearly 40 women in attendance greatly benefited from the talks, one-on-one with speakers, and CV edits. Even an 11-year old daughter who attended told me she really enjoyed all the presentations. Start them young!
Here are links for further research, provided by FrauenLoop:
Hope to see you at a future event.