Tech has historically been numerically dominated by men, inadvertently creating a predominantly male-centric culture in the field that has led to dissatisfaction among women in tech, particularly those in technical roles.
According to research conducted by Catalyst:
- Technical women are less satisfied with their supervisory relationships than women in non-technical roles, men in technical roles and men in nontechnical roles.
- Technical women are less satisfied with their companies’ approaches to fairness and voice than women in nontechnical roles, men in technical roles and men in nontechnical roles.
There are many reasons why this is a problem. The driving reasons include fewer women pursuing technical degrees than men and the misperception that you have to be technical to work in tech, even from those within the industry. The latter is certainly not the case. We are very fortunate in Fivetran EMEA to have female representation on each of our technical field teams, each passionate about their role and promoting gender equity in our field.
We sat down with Niamh O'Brien, Sr. Manager of Solution Architecture, Trupti Khamaru, Lead Sales Engineer of Enterprise, Nishtha Sharma, Sr. Sales Engineer, Sara Seylani, Solution Architect and Poonam Agate, Solution Consultant, to hear how they discovered passion for technology and more.
What does being in a technical role mean to you?
Sara: Being technical means different things to different people, and that’s the beauty of it. To me, being technical means being a problem solver and using the more profound expertise you have garnered to solve a variety of issues. Having been in the industry for many years, I know that technical roles combine technical expertise with soft skills, often with an even split.
Trupti: Being technical doesn’t necessarily mean having technical credentials or knowing how to write code. It’s more about one’s ability to remain curious, work through problems and find interesting ways to solve them. It’s a mindset that can be developed over time. Brilliant coders will always be relevant and have their own special place in this industry, but it is people with both hard and soft skills that bring teams together and get things done.
How did you figure out that you would enjoy a technical role?
Niamh: To me, there is nothing more satisfying than coming up with a simple analogy in everyday life to explain the most complex ideas. I have an innate curiosity to understand and analyse the "why" of how things work under the hood. Working in tech provides me with the ultimate job satisfaction as it allows me to problem solve at a speed and scale that's unparalleled.
Poonam: I’ve always had a fascination with all things tech from a very young age, being a competitive video gamer to finding inspiration from my dad who built and implemented solutions for blue chip companies. After university, I enrolled myself into a business intelligence course where I learned the fundamentals of BI theory, SQL and Python. When I recognised how intrinsic SQL and Python are to organisations for their analytical and reporting capabilities, I knew I wanted to pursue a technical role. Today, I work at Fivetran as an Analytics Engineer using these programming languages to design, develop and implement creative solutions for our customers. I’m able to see first hand the direct impact of these solutions to our customers, and it’s incredibly rewarding to know how the solutions I build directly benefits their organisations.
What skills do you think are most important?
Sara: Critical thinking, empathy and clear communication. Critical analytical thinking is vital in a technical role as it assists in solving problems creatively and in out-of-the-box ways. When working in a technical role, you have to become accustomed to the fact that you won’t know all of the answers all of the time. When working in a customer-facing role, you must put your customer first and do what’s best for them.
Empathy goes hand in hand with this. When you can understand why something is important — and this usually relates to another human in some way, shape or form — you can better prioritize their issues. Empathy can buy you time and freedom to ensure that the best resolution is met. It also builds trust with the other person.
Finally, the ability to communicate complex technical information to different audiences is one of the most underrated yet important skills a technical person must possess. The ultra-technical within this field will want to hear about the specific details and the complex ins and outs of the information presented to them. The less technical will want the information given to them clearly, without the need for them to do additional research or hear about unnecessary details. The ability to put on one cap then switch to the other seamlessly is of utmost importance when working in this field.
Trupti: The ability to remain curious, think outside the box and come up with creative solutions to problems are valuable skills in a technical role. Strong commitment to continuous learning and development are also essential in any technical role as technology is always evolving.
What are some of the challenges you have faced in your career and what has helped you overcome them?
Niamh: Imposter syndrome has and continues to be my biggest challenge. What has been the most helpful to me is finding a technical female leader to aspire to; these are few and far in between but those I have met instilled a belief that it is in fact possible to be successful as a woman in tech. Given the scarcity of female leaders in the field; I was fortunate to have male leaders consistently recognize me for my abilities and accomplishments and outwardly support me. I also have the privilege of working with folks like Sara, Trupti, Nishtha and Poonam at Fivetran who are helping to build community and support each other along the way.
Trupti: Getting into tech is hard but staying in tech is harder. The good news is the culture of today’s tech companies, especially at Fivetran, is flexible and collaborative. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of having a support network that will inspire to achieve your true potential in the workplace. At Fivetran, we have various employee resource groups (ERG), and Fivetran Women+ is one of them. This group connects, educates and empowers female employees through advocacy, professional development and intersectional support. Fivetran also has mentorship programs that are highly effective for employee development and overall growth of individuals.
Nishtha: Women in technical roles may encounter doubts and assumptions about their abilities and competence, which can sometimes be discouraging and demotivating. The key to overcoming these challenges for me was to speak up whenever I felt excluded, share my expertise and advocate for myself and others. Additionally, I have cultivated a growth mindset, focusing on the process of learning and improvement rather than fixed notions of ability or talent.
Poonam: Reflecting back on my career, I would say that working in this industry has definitely made me more thick skinned. I’ve learned to not take things too personally or become too emotional as these are traits that are sometimes seen as a sign of weakness. Thankfully at Fivetran, I’m surrounded by an incredible group of women, and the company offers a space for us to come together to discuss our experiences and be drivers for change. I’m also grateful to have an incredibly supportive mentor and manager who is a champion for promoting women in tech and cares deeply about my capabilities, encouraging me towards many opportunities to further establish myself in this field.
What advice would you give to others starting or continuing their careers as females in a technical role?
Sara: If an opportunity presents itself, don’t let your negative self-talk or low confidence talk you out of an opportunity you want. Even when it is scary, doing the thing that scares you most is when you grow the most as a professional and as a person. The worst that can happen is finding an area or skill that you don’t enjoy doing and learning that this is something you don’t want to pursue. The best that can happen is that your own abilities surprise you, you find a new area or skill you thoroughly enjoy doing, and you improve your personal brand.
Niamh: Reach out to fellow females, even if they seem to be the most confident and accomplished people. From my experience, other females are always happy to chat, and you might be surprised by the similarities that you both have in common. My second piece of advice is to look for managers and leaders who understand your value and regularly recognize you for accomplishments and wins.
Trupti: If you are a woman already in tech, inspire other women and help them walk through the door more deliberately. Network and form connections with other men and women in technical roles. This will not only provide you with a supportive community but also increase your exposure to new opportunities. Keep going and you will thrive!
Nishtha: The challenges of learning new skills, navigating complex reports and systems are not exclusive to one gender. Taking risks and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone can lead to growth and opportunities you may not have considered before. Be proactive in seeking out mentorship, advocate your achievements and looking out for fellow females.
Poonam: It’s important to take the time to research and gain the relevant knowledge and experience in order to know what’s best suited for yourself, career as well as your personal interests. This will not only make your career more enjoyable but also more fulfilling and rewarding. The internet is abundant with free resources to further cement your learnings, add context and certify you in those skills. I’m also a firm believer in always asking questions, so never be afraid to speak up and ask clarifying questions on topics that may seem alien to you.