European Women in Tech 2022

Products built by only men will represent 50% of the world’s population.

European Women in Tech 2022

posted in productivity on  • 

Products built by only men will represent 50% of the world’s population.
That’s an issue! Unless you are building, euh…

Within the 20 years of working as a woman in IT, I am used to being part of the minority, female professionals. I graduated as the only female in the class of “Analyst programmer” and never had more than a handful of colleagues with the same gender.

Did this trigger the urge of visiting the European women in Technology event in Amsterdam? Yeah… slightly afraid of being the only one in the conference…

Conference Building
The conference building

After some issues finding the correct building in the Amsterdam RAI (Don’t start with the typical: “Yeah, woman and orientation…” Because I worked so closely with men for over more than 2 decades, I know this is not gender related ;-) ) I was amazed by the quantity of female attendees.

The second thing I was amazed of was the number of keynote, deep dives and workshops that were given by, yes: Only female leaders.

“Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) should be embedded in the WHOLE company, not only HR”

The biggest topic of the conference was Diversity and Inclusion. This is all about the value of having gender, race and age diversity within your company. Gillian Tans, former Ceo of phrased this very well by stating “Diversity drives more innovation and more creativity in your company. It should be embedded in the whole company, not only in recruiting new employees.“

Why do we need this focus? To be able to represent a more realistic diversity, a diversity more in balance with the real world’s population.

The question is: How? Tine Slabbinck, Manager of Toyota Belgium, explained how Toyota managed to double their female managers within 3 year by endorsing and guiding all female IT employees with mentors and starting a female community.

“Quotas are good because they give attention to the issue, but can also scare potential female candidates away from applying”

A lot of companies focus on raising the diversity with quotas and mentorship. Gillian Tans commented: The Quotas are good to give attention to the issue, but with the risk women might fail because they are only hired because of the quotas. Watching these women fail can scare potential female candidates away from applying. Quotas are also most of the time a “top down” strategy, the advice of Gillian Tans is to try “bottom up”, as this is the only way it can be owned by the whole company.

Taking more time in the hiring process, at Vinted this takes up to 2 to 3 months, also increases the chance of hiring a great female employee. Taking time in the hiring process prevents you from having a lot of headaches in trying to move an underperforming employee towards another team so it’s not your issue anymore, or efforts in saying goodbye after a hobbling journey.

“If you don’t receive a diverse selection of potential candidates, send your recruiters back to work”

Carol Parillon, chief data architect at Shell, stated in her topic “Data driven architecture: The rise of the data product” that a strong data culture puts employees in the center.

Shell worked for over 10 years on the data foundations and are now in the stage of a data driven governance: This is when the business owns the data, not the ‘data department’ somewhere hiding in a dark corner of the company’s building. Some numbers to really get blown away: Shell owns 2.7 trillion rows of data, 100 million customers and has +150 data architects. The next shift they are facing now is the move from centralized to decentralized data and bringing Data as a Product towards the customers.

Because of this data driven governance, employees will make data driven decisions and endorse the company’s growth. By having diverse employees you can accelerate your business even more as they will represent, again, the global humanity. “Send your recruiters back to work if they only come up with male candidates, they don’t represent the real world”

Another topic that really got my attention was from Aurelija Pletiene, Director of engineering at Vinted: Drama free collaboration between Business & IT. Drama queens and kings can block your business development and decision making process for ages.

“Eliminate the drama between business and IT: put them both in one team”

If you ever worked in, or with, an IT team you will for sure relate to the drama that can be created by communication issues: The IT team thinks they work so hard to develop and support a service and business doesn’t understand a word of what they are exactly doing.

When including business in the team, Vinted learned that the issues in communication decreased severely. Even in the Infrastructure team they added a business representative and ended up with: Work hard, Have fun, No drama.

This approach fully supports my idea of what a best performing agile product team should look like: able to design and develop a product without the need of a crowd of ‘business stakeholders’. Business should be included in the team. Stakeholders are the customers / end users.

“Get into the heart of the onion to understand the value of your project” Rita Kaur, EMAE sales leader of Tiktok, enriched us all in her topic “What Could I Possibly Learn From Salespeople” with 3 great tips to enhance your career as a woman in Tech.

1 Ask better questions

To be able to communicate better to business it’s important to understand the real value you are bringing, not just the task you need to execute. Peel the onion until you get into the heart of it, what are we really trying to accomplish? If you understand the real Why, the best solutions will come up.

2 Listen, to the unspoken

The majority of communication is non verbal: It’s not WHAT we say that matters the most, it’s HOW we say it. We are all emotional human beings, also the ones at c-level ;-) If you listen more actively, slow down the communication and really listen, you can build trust towards each other. If you ever read Patrick Lencioni - The FIVE Dysfunctions of a Team - you will know trust is the base of good collaboration.

3 Communicate the value, not the task

If you can communicate on the value, business will understand at last what you are doing behind those big screens the whole day. Communicating the added value to the business will endorse the value you and your team are bringing to the company.

“If you kill your darling but don’t lose the team”

The third main focus was Empathy: One of the major values you bring in the company when hiring more women than a handful of outliers. (A side note to this was stated: also don’t switch the balance: You really don’t want to have 90% of women in the company.)

Some great deepdive was given by Claudia Vicol - director Of Engineering at A.P Moller - Maersk - “How to kill your darlings”

We all know someone that created this great tool, a long time ago, that became the backbone of the company, and that single person is keeping the tool alive. If you are lucky enough, the tool is kept alive by a team, not a single person. A good leader should, if it’s only one person keeping the tool alive, have big red alerts all over the place and create a way this support would be taken over by a support team. Reducing risks has a high value towards the business.

‘Keeping the tool alive’ is not always the best solution: If the tool doesn’t have any reason or value to stay alive: Kill it with fire!

But be aware and conscious about the risk it’s someone else’s baby: For this person/team this is personal. Don’t make the mistake of assessing the value by yourself: Involve the team/person, so they understand they matter, also without the tool they supported for a long time quantified with the number of empty pizza boxes and hours late at night. They will feel appreciated and have energy to move forward to the next great product with more value for the company.

“Yes, I will”

I didn’t manage to follow all the sessions and for sure I forgot to mention half of the great inspiring talks, as they were with so many in a very short timeframe. Also very interesting topics about the value of the new web 3.0: the Metaverse and all topics related to products, gaming and observability instead of monitoring reached my brains in 30min/topic. Time to process these wonderful new insights for some days.

Am I willing to dive again into the European Women in Technology summit next year? Hell yeah, Girl power in tech rules!

Believe in yourself

Other interesting reads
Tags: war-story tech-talk