To celebrate International Women’s Day, our recent webinar on "The Future of Women in Tech" explored some of the varied paths available to women looking to build a career in technology.
No two career journeys are the same and our most recent webinar looked at how women are carving out amazing careers and breaking down the gender imbalance in today’s technology industry.
The session was entitled, "The Future of Women in Tech: Exceeding Expectations and Inspiring Change," and is available now to watch on-demand.
It's packed with professional insights and real-life experiences from three Brightspot employees: Lisa Beaudoin, Chief Customer Officer and Brightspot Co-founder; Anastasia Chernyavskaya, Principal Software Engineer; and Catherine Chilton, Product Manager.
I don’t think that women in technology can always look up the leadership chain of command, as it’s still fairly male-dominated, and so they do need to look outwards to other women and networks.
Getting into technology
Each of our speakers came to the technology sector from different directions. Lisa graduated with a degree in fine art and went on to design school. This led to a degree in communication design and her love of reading pushed her towards technology related to content, publishing and media.
Anastasia’s path wasn’t so linear and after graduating from university in Russia with a degree in English and literature, she decided to turn her longstanding passion for technology into a career. It was quite a gear change, but seven years later she now works directly with clients such as Amazon and National Public Radio.
For Catherine, technology had always been in the background because both her parents have enjoyed successful careers in the sector.
She studied e-commerce at the University of Virginia and classes in product and project management really helped her to hit the ground running after she graduated and joined Brightspot.
Webinar chair, Jenny Sylvers, Digital Marketing Manager at Brightspot, hits the nail on the head when she says: “It’s really interesting how all three of you are from very different backgrounds and yet you all still found your path to work in technology. I think the variety is very representative of a lot of women’s paths to technology.”
Highlights and learning opportunities
Anastasia feels her seven years in the technology sector have been one big learning opportunity.
She encourages others, if they can, to explore different areas of the industry and says there are all sorts of courses and learning options available.
“I love that people can go and try things and see what interests them,” she says. “You can try being a project manager. You can switch gears and try being a software engineer. You can try design.”
Increasingly, she thinks versatility and a broad knowledge base are important building blocks to have when building a career.
For Catherine, an ongoing professional highlight has been the first project she worked on from its initial concept phase.
The hands-on learning has been invaluable, and she says: “It’s been a great learning experience. I’ve grown with the project and feel I’ve got a great breadth of knowledge and worked with a lot of really great features, people and teams.”
The people aspect of the technology sector is something that often gets overlooked, but it’s something Lisa has relished over the years.
She comments: “The projects that really exposed me to different types of work, people and collaboration are probably the most influential of my career. I’ve got more memories of the people than the actual projects.”
For anyone coming new to the industry, it’s worth remembering just how important people, partnership and collaboration are in technology.
It’s amazing when someone specializes in one area, but living in 2021 we need to be very versatile and we need to know a lot of different things. The world is big and everything is so global that being stuck on one particular thing is not an option anymore.
Networks and mentors
Building on the theme of shared experience, all our participants were enthusiastic about reaching out and learning from others.
The technology sector is still male dominated and so it’s not always easy to find female mentors. But don’t let that stop you. Lisa says: “Make sure you create a network around you and don’t just look up; look out and around.
“There are a lot of amazing women doing things that can really help you move forward and validate an idea or help you solve a problem that you might not be able to do on your own or within your own company.”
And just who inspires our panelists? Well, Lisa says she has a real interest in the impact that wearables are having on the health and wellness sector.
“I follow Aashima Gupta, Director, Global Healthcare Strategy and Solutions at Google Cloud. She’s a computer science graduate and furthered her education at Harvard Medical School. She is really at the forefront with Google on health and wellness, especially as it relates to wearables.”
Catherine adds: “I’m really inspired by Kimberly Bryant, the founder and CEO of Black Girls Code. I think her organization is really credible and has a really important goal.”
But inspiration does not just come from the older and wiser heads in technology industry. “I tend to watch new sectors outside of those I am currently in, and generally younger people,” says Lisa.
“I have nothing against people of my age, but I think the younger generations are really bringing new perspectives and energy into the technology industry.”
While our speakers have had different career experiences, they’ve faced many of the same challenges.
Are you prone to self-doubt and a vocal inner critique? Well, you’re not alone.
Anastasia says: “Being able to listen to your inner critic and to see where you could have done better is a great quality, but being able to silence that voice for a minute or calm it down for a little bit is something that we all need to work on from time to time.”
Worried about failure? If so, you’re in good company.
Lisa says: “One of the biggest lessons for me is the acceptance of failure as part of your job and using all the times you fail as a stepping stone to somewhere that’s more positive."
“I used to be a bit paralyzed by failure and I used to avoid it and not step into a challenge if I didn’t think I could be perfect and exceed all expectations.”
She adds: “I don’t think you’re as likely to put yourself out there and take risks if you’re afraid of failure.”
If you want to hear our panelists’ advice in full, then watch the webinar.
But before you go, here’s a final word from Catherine: “Try not to let anyone intimidate you. It’s something I’ve always struggled with myself, but I think it’s an important skill to be able to recognize that there’s nothing to be afraid of and that you’ve got this. Go shine.”