Session: "The Only One in the Room"
Being a woman in a STEM field and then working in IT for over 20 years, I was often the only woman in the room.
Living in Austria, most of the time I was not just the only woman but often also the only person of color in the room.
By telling my story and talking about the inner and outer obstacles I faced, I would like to illustrate why „being the only one in the room” can be hard sometimes, is sometimes funny but really isn’t as scary as many women may think.
And I would like to talk about the fact that being different can be your advantage. Diversity is a driver of innovation and being different gives you a unique perspective that you bring to the table. Not trying to adapt but shining your own light on a problem will often lead to new and creative outcomes.
The perception of the roles available in IT and the way women are often cautioned from pursuing a career in STEM and technology are reasons for the sad scarcity of female talent we are currently seeing. But what we are also seeing now is that the industry has taken note of the benefits of a diverse workforce.
I would like to use this opportunity to talk about the power that lies in a diverse background and encourage more women that are already working in the field to make themselves visible and heard to encourage young girls and women to follow in our footsteps.
The pandemic has changed the way we work in ways that offer a lot of opportunities to shape the day more around the individual and often competing work–life requirements that women/people have. Remote working and flexible work hours which are common in IT could uniquely suit women’s wish to harmonize the different aspects of their lives, giving them more options to craft a career around their personal desires.
Now is THE time to use the momentum of the movement and the change that is being driven both by the base and on the management level to set out on a career in the field.
I want to encourage as many women as possible to walk this path and diversify not only the workforce but especially the technology we are creating.
- Your uniqueness is your advantage - be a force that shapes the world in your likeness
- Embrace diversity; Being different gives you the power to create new solutions and paths
- Don't be afraid to be the center of attention, use it to your advantage
- Support others who are like you, lift each other up
- Find a network of like minded people, there is so much power in a joint idea and common goals
I was born in Vienna, Austria and grew up in Lagos, Nigeria where my family moved when I was 8. I returned to Europe when I was 19 and studied Chemistry at the University of Vienna where I acquired a PhD in Theoretical Chemistry.
While working on my thesis I worked with Unix systems and the first Linux Systems. I learned a lot about how computers work and about programming. This was just around the time when the Internet became available, and I was fascinated by the possibilities of this new technology. I soon decided that this was the career I wanted to pursue. In the following years, I worked in different roles in the field. In the early days as a Web developer, then as a Unix specialist in a software company, then as a systems engineer at an IBM partner company. By chance I got the opportunity to move into the vendor space where I worked as a Systems Engineer and Channel Systems Engineer at Riverbed, then as a Solution Architect for Radware and currently I am employed as a Senior Solution Engineer for Networking and Security at VMware.
In all these roles I have had the opportunity to work with great technology and great people. Now beside my day job, I also work on making more women consider a career in tech by creating more visibility for "Women in IT" and spotlighting them on my "Women in Technology" YouTube channel.