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We need to debunk the myths about who belongs in tech

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

At Oracle Digital in Amsterdam, Denise Edwards and Eline Brandt team up to guide their customers through their digital transformation. As young women and Millennials working in the tech industry, they hope to change public perceptions about who belongs in tech.

What does a typical workday look like at Oracle?

Denise: As an account manager, I focus on building relationships and finding new customers to join us on the journey to the cloud. Every day, I search my networks and social media for potential clients and speak with them about how Oracle’s products can help them achieve their goals. Within our team, every account manager is paired with a sales consultant. When the conversation gets technical, Eline jumps in to discuss the specifics. We work closely together to engage new clients and get partners on board.

Eline: While Denise focuses on the people part, I focus on the technical aspects of our solutions. For example, I jump in when the customer wants to know what specific product might work best or discuss a particular infrastructure or architecture. On a day-to-day basis, I spend my time demoing products, working at partner events and reading up on the latest innovations. Because I support seven sales reps, I work with really social people every day. For me, this is why working at Oracle is so much fun: I get to work on the technical side and be a total nerd, but I also get the social interaction I want in my work environment.

What can be done to promote a culture of diversity and inclusion within the tech industry?

Denise: Several months ago, I hosted a guest lecture for a group of students. When I asked whether anyone was interested in working in tech, there was very little enthusiasm. The students asked questions like, ‘Don’t I have to study engineering for that?’ and ‘What does that even mean?’ Young people today seem to have a limited idea of what working in tech really means. We need to show them that there are many different careers and opportunities within the field. We can start right now by providing strong role models and sharing the stories of young, vibrant people working in tech.

Eline: Most people think technology careers are for engineers and developers, or in other words, really analytical people. And it’s true, these people are important. But there’s a big gap between the technology and the solution the end customer wants – and there isn’t just one position in-between, there are a gazillion. Growing up, I always loved technology, but I never thought I was good enough to do it as a career. While I was building WordPress sites, my friends were out there writing code and building websites from scratch. I’ve since learned that many different personalities and skillsets can add value in the tech industry. It’s just a matter of finding where you belong. So to all the young women out there who are interested in tech, don’t hold yourself back because you lack knowledge or you think you’re not good enough. There’s room within this field for all different kinds of people.

What advice do you have for students as they graduate and begin their careers?

Eline: After I started working, I found that you end up in this black hole. You worked your entire life towards graduating, and then suddenly, you’re done. You have to set new goals. I think it’s important to be aware that everybody hits this point. I thought I was alone until I started discussing it with my friends, and then I realised that we were all lost. We are now three years out from university, and we might seem like we know where we’re going, but we don’t. We’re just trying new things and figuring out what works for us and what doesn’t.

Denise: It’s true, and that’s why it’s so important to be open-minded as you start your career. After I finished my master’s in business, I thought, ‘Okay, now what? What do I want to do with my education?’ I’m still thinking about it, and I think this is a generation-wide challenge. I started with a job in recruiting and then worked as a consultant for documentary filming before I ended up at LinkedIn, which was my first exposure to the tech industry. I immediately loved the fast-paced industry and how much I learned every day. In my experience, the only way you’re going to find the right fit is to pursue your interests, try different things and hope to get closer every time.

Be inspired

Jeroen van der Velden is an expert in organisational development and strategy. As an Associate Strategy Professor at Nyenrode Business University and the Co-Director of the Nyenrode Strategy Centre, he leads courses on digital transformation, strategy alignment, new business models and new ways of working. For more than 25 years, he has advised organisations across various sectors on strategic issues related to organisational development and teamwork. As a researcher, he focuses on strategy alignment and the effects of information technology in organisational environments. He is a core lecturer for the RightBrains Digital Leadership Programme.

Jan Veldsink has more than 25 years of experience in digital technology. He has a passion for technology and people, and his areas of expertise include artificial intelligence (AI), intelligent systems, robotics, cyber security, and organisational and group dynamics. As a technical researcher and long-time lecturer at Nyenrode Business University, he teaches core classes and leads student teams in identifying new AI application areas. As a speaker, senior advisor, trainer and coach, his mission is to help teams and organisations develop a safe and sustainable environment.

Within KPN Digital, Karin Croon helped lead the shift towards the agile and self-organising way of working. She and her colleagues, Claudia Hoogwerf and Liubov Kononenko, discuss how this organisational and cultural transformation made room for innovation and enabled them to become more customer-oriented, productive and resilient in a fast-changing and disruptive environment.

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