The challenge of having more women in technology leadership roles has been much discussed lately, with the implications of leadership homogeneity being better understood, both in terms of organizations’ ability to compete in a dominated by increasingly diverse customers, but also the development of products and technology platforms that will be limited by a lack of diverse input into the process.
The Team Leader of the Year finalists at this year’s Women in Tech Awards of Excellence have all demonstrated how their leadership has inspired teams and enabled and empowered them to overcome the inevitable obstacles in technology and infrastructure projects and programs. Felicia Ziparo, Lead Data Scientist at Methods Analytics and finalist for Team Leader of the Year, explains why she supports the campaign to amplify the voices of women working in tech, and shares her tips for success.
Why are you supporting Computing’s Women in Tech Excellence campaign?
The challenge of increasing diversity in IT is now a key program across the UK. Although we are far from where we want to be, I believe that the human elements of recognizing and promoting talented women in the industry, sharing success stories and building a community that encourages positive change , play a fundamental role in moving us towards a solution.
How did you get into the computer industry?
After finishing my university studies in astrophysics, I used programming languages to analyze data produced by different telescopes around the world. When I decided to leave Academia, data science was the most logical step to use my skills in a more applied field. It fascinated me to see how my skills could be transferred from an abstract subject like astrophysics to solving everyday problems in the public sector.
What do you think is the main reason why the IT industry is predominantly male, especially in technical roles and leadership positions?
I believe the disparity primarily starts at the start of education, through college, and then choosing a career, which impacts the pipeline of women entering the industry. There is often a lack of female role models who can be proof that it is possible to achieve certain goals and inspire more women to join the tech industry. Women also tend not to apply for roles unless they feel fully qualified, whereas men generally apply even if they don’t have all the skills on the job description, so I think doing taking a leap of faith and being mindful of the language used in job descriptions will also lead to changes.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned in your career?
As daunting as it may seem, things can change.
When I joined Methods Analytics, I was asked to build a data science function establishing standards and best practices in working methods. At first I thought it was impossible and wanted to stay in my comfort zone. I saw no reason for people to listen to a newcomer and change their ways. But I decided to change my perspective and took up the challenge. I started small, trying to understand the reasons behind people’s ways of working and built from there. Eventually, I got to see a data science team forming, while integrating best practices into their daily work.
What are the top three tips for women looking to start a career in IT? / What advice would you give to young women aspiring to take on leadership roles?
First, don’t be afraid to ask questions and voice your opinion. Often the facts are presented from a specific point of view, perhaps affected by inherited processes or a lack of diversity. A fresh perspective can help you see things in a different way and find creative solutions to difficult problems.
Second, learn from your mistakes. If you don’t try, you don’t know if it was a worthwhile experience and you may regret not having done it. Failure is part of the learning process and can be a powerful tool to improve your career.
Finally, create your own network. Building strong relationships helps increase your visibility and raise your profile as a potential leader. Invest time in engaging with a wide range of people in your environment and allow people to get to know you. It also makes the trip much more enjoyable.
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