I got into IT somewhat by accident. At school, I was far more interested in history and languages than programming. So how did I find myself in the technology department of one of the largest banks in the world? And is it possible to succeed as a woman in this industry?
Before I came to London, I spent the majority of my professional life initially selling and later implementing e-marketing campaigns. When I started to feel like the world of e-commerce was not exactly for me, I decided to look for a new path. I was fascinated by solutions that brought value to people – things that people chose to use not because of some eye-catching banner, but because of the value that the product brought with it. The world of technology, mostly aimed at helping people, was so fascinating to me that for almost five years, I have been happy to explore this world.
The beginning was difficult. In a meeting at my first job, I understood more or less half. The language barrier was quite a challenge, especially when combined with technical jargon. I looked out of the window at London City, the financial and technological centre of the world, and wondered how not to drown in this far too deep water. From what I understood, I had to deliver a smart city solution for London, Lisbon and Milan. Fortunately, not alone – in the Sharing Cities Project, the project I had the pleasure of co-creating, a consortium of 30 companies took part, joining forces to build six smart cities in Europe (Warsaw, Bourgas and Bordeaux joined the three above cities in the second phase of the project). The goal was to create a solution that best serves residents.
Technology and nature
Both nature and technological solutions strive to make life better. If we take some time to observe nature, we can see that many solutions are simply brilliant. Hardly anyone would be able to come up with, design and successfully implement mechanisms that allow organisms to adapt to life under various conditions. No wonder that nature is an endless source of inspiration for the creators of technology. The very desire to create improvements has a lot in common with Mother Nature – she also constantly strives to make every element of the ecosystem work in the best possible way.
Well-designed and wisely implemented technology works similarly to the brain, which, based on the data collected by the senses, chooses the best solutions. People generate gigabytes of data, and many believe that “data is the new oil”. Today, using data interpretation capabilities such as machine learning and data science, we can use data to continuously improve the quality of life in many dimensions – not only to provide convenience but also, for example, for security. Properly used data may help to increase the detection of crimes or limit acts of vandalism. The range of improvement is huge, as are the types of skills and talents needed to do it.
Multidimensionality is what I like the most in IoT projects. I am fascinated by the fact that they combine the material world with the virtual world and use not only hard skills, such as programming but also soft skills. It is thought that the world of technology is a typically masculine world. But technology is for people, so you cannot create it in isolation from the needs of those who will use it.
Are men and women the same?
A comparison of differences in the personality traits of men and women, conducted in 2001 by Paul Costa, Antonio Terracciano and Robert McCrae, showed that women are more sensitive to others and open to feelings. They are designed to take care of offspring and have a natural need to ensure the well-being of their children. They show their emotions more often than men, and they can interpret them more accurately as well. Who then is best able to understand the needs of people, if not women? My case perfectly illustrates this – one of the factors that influenced my decision to work on the next IoT project was the ability to translate users’ needs into software specifications. The bridge between the world of people and technology is a very exciting adventure.
Although men still dominate in technology-related professions, this trend is changing. According to the research report “Women’s Potential for the Technology Industry”, written in 2015 by the Foundation for Educational Perspectives and Siemens, the percentage of women at technical universities increased from 28% to 37% between 2007 and 2015. In turn, the report “Women in Technology” by the Institute of Innovative Economy shows that companies managed by women are more cost-effective and have an average of 12% higher income. Women more often strive for self-development and set themselves more ambitious goals. Unfortunately, there are still many obstacles that prevent women from working in IT. These include unfavourable opinions of the IT world and the belief of women themselves that this industry is not for them. This conviction exists despite the fact that women have been achieving technological successes for centuries.
IoT is such a wide area that you cannot limit the skills required for it to only one type. In addition, some women move in the world of exact sciences better than men (similarly to how some men work well in roles that require soft skills). For example, let’s talk about Dr. Grace Murray Hopper, called the “mother of computers” due to her contribution to the creation of the first large computer in the US: IBM Harvard Mark 1. Did you know that she created the term “bug” in the sense of a computer program error?
One of the first employees of Apple, who cooperated with Steve Jobs and had a huge impact on the company’s development, was Joanna Hoffman. Susan Wojcicki was the vice president of Google and she introduced products such as Google Images, Google Books and Google Video. Currently, she is the president of YouTube.
These names are only part of the evidence that change is happening. A holistic approach is becoming more and more valued and desired not only in the IT world, but also, for example, in company management. Everything indicates that women are the future of technology. It’s time for them to believe it themselves.