The challenge of getting more women into leadership roles in technology has been much debated lately, with the implications of leadership homogeneity being widely understood, both in terms of organizations’ ability to compete in a marketplace of increasingly diverse customers driven, as well as the development of technology products and platforms constrained by a lack of diverse input into the process.
The Team Leader of the Year category finalists at this year’s Women in Tech Excellence Awards all demonstrated how their leadership has inspired, empowered and empowered teams to overcome the obstacles that are inevitable in technology and infrastructure projects and programs. Felicia Ziparo, Lead Data Scientist at Methods Analytics and Team Leader of the Year finalist, explains why she supports the campaign to amplify the voices of women working in technology and shares her advice for success.
Why do you support Computing’s Women in Tech Excellence Campaign?
The challenge of increasing diversity in IT is now a major agenda across the UK. While we’re far from where we want to be, I believe the human elements of recognizing and nurturing talented women in the industry, sharing success stories, and building a community that fosters positive change are fundamental to move us forward towards a solution.
How did you get into the IT industry?
After completing my university degree in astrophysics, I had used programming languages to analyze data produced by various telescopes around the world. When I decided to leave the academy, data science was the most logical step to apply my skills to a more applied field. I was fascinated by 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, particularly in technical and managerial roles?
I think the inequality starts mainly in the early stages of education, through college and then to career choices, affecting the pipeline of women entering the industry. There is often a lack of female role models who can prove that certain goals can be achieved and inspire more women to enter the tech industry. Women also tend not to apply for jobs unless they feel fully qualified, while men generally apply even if they don’t have all the skills of the job description, so I think they’re more confident and up the language used in the job descriptions will also lead to changes.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned in your career?
As scary as it seems, things can change.
When I came to Methods Analytics, I was asked to build a data science function that sets standards and best practices for how it works. At first I thought this was impossible and wanted to stay in my comfort zone. I saw no reason why people should listen to a newcomer and change their habits. But I decided to change my perspective and accepted the challenge. I started small trying to understand the rationale for how people work and built from there. Eventually, I was able to see a data science team form as they incorporated best practices into their day-to-day work.
What are the top three tips for women looking to start a career in IT? / What advice would you give to young women who want to take on leadership positions?
First of all, don’t be afraid to ask questions and give your opinion. Facts are often disclosed from a certain perspective, which may be influenced by legacy processes or a lack of diversity. A fresh perspective can help you see things differently and find creative solutions to challenging problems.
Second, learn from your mistakes. If you don’t try, you won’t know if the experience was worth it and you might regret not doing 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 interacting with a variety of people around you and allow people to get to know you. It also makes the ride much more comfortable.