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Celebrating Women in Tech: Advice & Insights

March is Women’s History Month, a month-long celebration of women who have paved the way, broken down barriers, and made lasting contributions to society. Many of whom are unsung. This year’s theme for International Women's Day was “Choose to Challenge” to call out gender bias and inequality and help create a more inclusive world. 

Women have been largely excluded from the tech industry despite the fact that it was women who were the “original computers'' and whose math skills launched the digital age. Thanks to advocacy and events like International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, the gender gap is starting to close and women who have paved the way are starting to be recognized for their contributions. Women like Jean E. Sammet, the first woman to be awarded a PhD. in computer science. Jean developed the FORMAC programming language in 1962 and was one of the developers of the influential COBOL programming language. Or Radia Perlman, who invented the spanning-tree protocol, which is fundamental to the operation of network bridges still used today. 

And then there are women who made it a point to change the industry for women. Like Dame Stephanie Shirley, who founded a software development company in the UK in 1962 with mainly women as employees (unheard of at the time). Shirley pioneered many of the modern workplace practices that we enjoy today like flexible work schedules and employee shareholder options. Or like Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code and Debbie Sterling of GoldieBlox

whose programs reach girls at an early age and get them interested in STEM. 

We are fortunate to have some brilliant women on our team we want to celebrate for Women’s History Month! Here are some insights on how they got into the industry, who inspires them, and how others can help make the industry inclusive for all.

Jenny Evans, Head of Marketing

Jenny-EvansJenny has been at J2 for almost a year but has been at Siemens for 7 years. She manages Global Marketing for J2 Innovations and is the brilliant mind behind our branding refresh, new positioning, and new website. Jenny has worked in the engineering industry since the beginning of her career. 

“Although I probably didn’t make a conscious decision to start in marketing communications for  engineering companies, I definitely made a conscious decision to stay in the industry. I find it fulfilling to take complex concepts and explain them in accessible ways – plus I am in awe of the incredibly clever engineers working all over the world, doing incredible things. There are always great stories to tell!”

What women inspire your work or personal life?

I have met so many hard-working inspirational women! Even now, the majority of child care responsibility is still on women meaning they often face having to put their career aspirations on hold plus deal with the physical and mental pressures that come with a family. A colleague of mine recently had to manage her child and receive a life-changing diagnosis – the sheer strength she had to manage this alongside being creative and successful at work is incredible. So many women I know don’t give themselves enough credit for just how incredible they are.

How can others make the industry more inclusive for all?

One of the best leaders I know told me that the hardest thing to do is to give and receive feedback as sometimes it isn’t always positive. In order to challenge many incidences of inequality, we must all start to feel more comfortable with this feedback loop – the more we do it, the easier it gets. It is something that I am still working on, but I will aim to give feedback if myself or anyone else is spoken over or disregarded in a meeting and encourage others to speak up instead.

What advice would you give to other women who want to work in the industry?

Go for it! Believe in yourself. Accept that you will come across people who will underestimate you but hard work, determination and treating others as you would like to be treated is always the best way. Work should be rewarding and fun – if it’s not, there is something wrong.

Also, build a network around you – whether in person or virtually. Your network can support you and provide advice and experience. You never know when you will all need each other.

How can the industry ensure we are fostering female talent?

I think it is a bit of a shame that it’s taken a crisis like Covid-19 to show many industries that it’s possible to work flexibly from home – many parents have been asking for this for years and instead have been perceived negatively. Luckily Siemens has always been progressive and already had many great initiatives and policies in place.

Now there is no reason that any company can’t offer flexibility to those in roles where it is possible to work from home. Modern life with caring responsibilities is tough and adding a commute into the mix, for example, can be the difference between having a productive or tired employee.

 

Sarah Padilla, Front-end Developer

Sarah PadillaSarah has worked at J2 for four years as a front-end developer for our Glue Team. Sarah was first exposed to programming in high school when she took a web-development class as an elective. 

“Originally, I wanted to be an artist but, after learning to code, I decided I would pursue computer science as a major. In college, I redesigned my sorority’s website and around that time, I came across the opportunity to work at J2 as a software developer. I started off in my position by making Ractive components in the graphics builder. I was happy to find that I could incorporate my passion for design into my job.” 

Here’s a little taste of what Sarah does as part of the Glue Team.

What women inspire your work or personal life?

Influence from women educators put me on the path of my computer science career. During my undergraduate studies, I had a professor -- Dr. Seta -- who actively promoted STEAM programs in education. During my time as her teaching assistant, I came to see her as a role model for women in STEM. She is passionate, both in her own work and in her support for young women in the field.

How can others make the industry more inclusive for all?

Men and women think differently, and it is important that the industry includes the female perspective. What we need is a system -- of shared values, communication, and practices -- that best utilizes our diverse perspectives. This will require active listening and problem-solving beyond our job descriptions. It is a challenge but it certainly is a worthwhile one.

What advice would you give to other women who want to work in the industry?

I would advise women who want to be a part of the industry to believe in yourself. The journey can be difficult but that shouldn't be a reason to not pursue your interests. It’s a rewarding career that is constantly evolving and is always interesting. So far, it has been fantastic to be a part of this industry.  

How can the industry ensure we are fostering female talent?

The industry should reach out to young women as early as high school. It is very important to foster female talent at this formative age. Students often make career choices before choosing a major and applying to colleges. Early outreach would help the industry ensure its own growth in the next generation of STEM women.

 

Ioana Petrescu, Quality & Testing Director

Ioana PetrescuIoana has worked at J2 for just over 9 years and is our Quality & Testing Director and EMEA Office Lead where she ensures that our software performance standards are maintained and

customer requirements are consistently met. Her foray into the industry came from a bachelor degree project on smart homes. 

What women inspire your work or personal life?

I won't share actual names, but I will say that some are well known by everybody while some other are just the small people that are just saying their stories and paying it forward from what they learned. All hands experience is something priceless.

What advice would you give to other women who want to work in the industry?

Dedication and drive are some of the key elements that any woman has in all of her life aspects: from family, personal development, kids well being. If the same are applied to this industry there is no way you won't be noticed especially as a woman.

 

Iulia Patras, QA Engineer

Iulia PatrasIulia has worked for J2 for two years now and is a QA Tester who works with Ioana. She’s always loved a good puzzle and so when it came time to choose a career path, she realized technology would be a great place to focus and hone her skill set.

How can others make the industry more inclusive for all?

Embrace people's uniqueness and individuality as human beings and pay attention to other needs in such a way that will make them feel accepted and make them comfortable enough to share their thoughts without hesitation.

What advice would you give to other women who want to work in the industry?

Be brave, express your intentions, prepare to embrace every challenge even if at first glance it looks too difficult. Somehow the solution will arise on the way. Don't stop to be curious about your passion. You will find people who will encourage you to develop, and you will be surrounded by some of the smartest, most passionate people.

How can the industry ensure we are fostering female talent?

Take a good glance at the graduate pool. Invest in junior talent, reach out to the community of women and make them aware of career events. Or, create careers events that will allow women the opportunity to: meet top employers face to face, grow their professional networks, engage with skills sessions, and hear inspirational talks.

 

B. Scott Muench

Scott joined J2 Innovations as a partner in 2011, and is now Vice President of Customer Experience. He has a wide range of responsibilities including evangelism, business development, training, and operational excellence. Scott is well known as an industry expert in smarthomes and smart buildings. He is a past president of ASHRAE, and is currently a board member for Project Haystack. Scott attended Clarkson University for Mechanical Engineering and graduated with a BS/Business in Organizational Innovation.

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