Career Woman

How to enter the scary world of technology


Women in tech are usually defined by two key aspects of their work; knowledge of the technology field they are operating in and a fundamental understanding of the software they work. The media often discusses the importance of women who can code, and women who are able to make up part of the 25% of women in the US who fill IT jobs. In 2017, Reuters released research that found only 30% of the 450 technology executives, which were surveyed, had women in leadership positions. This is not surprising, when you consider the traditional difficulties that face women rising in the ranks of any industry, let alone technology.

However, I would argue there is a flaw in the way we identify a ‘woman in technology’. Like any company, to successfully execute not only a concept in the world, but a sustainable business, we need to nurture a group of people who can each influence the segmented aspects of a company – from IT, to finance, legal to building a corporate culture. Each element is just as crucial as the other. You could have the most unique algorithm in the world, but without a corporate structure and strategy that facilitates growth, it will never progress into a high growth company.

With a background in design, the idea of immersing myself in the technology world seemed initially overwhelming and possibly a wrong match. Yet, despite recently co-founding a cryptocurrency exchange and micro investment app, I knew that the skill sets from my non-tech past were just as valuable a contribution as each programmer. Collectively, we have built an app that makes digital currencies easy, for everyday people.

My understanding of how users will adopt technology through design and a stronger user experience helps me in my role and ensures I drive value. Through research, dedication to stepping outside of my comfort zone and a commitment to building the best products, I have been able to help ensure our tech start-up is going from concept to tangible company. Being a designer in a coders world can be scary, as can be a woman in a predominantly male industry, but acceptance of these barriers rather than being discouraged is key.

The emergence of the “start-up culture” has resulted in more opportunities for women, both from tech and non-tech backgrounds, to take part in disruptive companies. My story should bring confidence and inspire other women to explore industries that may not seem an initial match, without discarding previous experience but exploring ways to use that skill set to compliment the technology world. I can see three areas that can cement your role in a successful tech company, whether you do or don’t have the necessary “technical” background.

Review your skills and see how they can best apply within the organisation

My background had been working for a digital advertising and marketing agency, and I dealt predominantly with clients who were not from tech backgrounds. Despite this, I found that what I had learnt and the issues that my prior clients had to overcome with my help, allowed me to have a more meaningful impact in the digital currency space.

An example of this, was my unique insights into UX design and the fundamental role that it plays in user adoption, which helps assist me to ensure our app is usable, easy to navigate and will keep users engaged.

Commit to educating yourself about the industry and product

Not only did I need to educate myself on Bitcoin, Ethereum, Blockchain and the concept of digital currencies in general, I also had to fill my colleagues with confidence that I was the right person for the job. This required me to invest time in reading articles, listening to podcasts and attending meet ups that helped me gain knowledge and also inspired further interest in the industry. Which I still do today. I also attended a Product Owner course that gave access to mentors, and a network of people on a similar journey to me.

Don’t let the fear distract you, you’ve got this!

It’s easy to succumb to nagging thoughts such as ‘This is not my industry, and it’s so overwhelming.’ And while it’s natural to have these thoughts, remind yourself that every person who started in any industry had a momentous journey of learning before them.

And remember; it’s the commitment to that journey, and the ability to ‘do whatever it takes’ that separates those who just talk about it, to those who actually go and do something about it.

We all have our place in the world of tech, from designers to lawyers, to coders and sales, from customer support to C-suite. What’s important to remember is that we all contribute to a common outcome, irrespective of our core, personal skillsets — because we cannot succeed alone.

With that in mind, it’s critical for women who are entering tech, or business in general to keep in mind that what sets you apart is not whether you’re male or female – but what you contribute, what you learn, what you do and the actions you take. Don’t change yourself, trying to fit into the tech world, because it’s the unique flavor you bring that makes you, your team & the mission you’re all collectively on, special.

So, build on what you have, learn and grow through the fear. You’ll be so much better for it!

About Chantelle de la Rey

Chantelle de la Rey is the founder of Lalarey, co-founder of the Blockchain Training Institute and most recently co-founder, Product Owner and lead designer at Amber, Australia’s first micro-investing Digital currency exchange.

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