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

After a decade in the logistics industry, Esther Splinter struggled to deliver the kind of impact she wanted to have at her company. Anderson MacGyver opened her eyes to the endless possibilities technology brings to business information. Now, as consultant, she aims to ignite that same spark within her own client organisations.

Ayman van Bregt is a digital strategist, founder of Ignite.cx and co-founder of the Dutch Social Media Academy. As a trainer and coach, he helps leaders and organisations take the next step in their digital evolution by teaching them how to generate insights from social and digital media and create value for their customers. Ayman has written numerous books on digital marketing and social media, and his knowledge is being applied at several business schools throughout Western Europe. He is a core lecturer for the RightBrains Digital Leadership Programme.

Marcolien de Haan is Vice President IT of Avery Dennison LGM and IHM for about a month now. Before that, she was CIO (Chief Information Officer) of Perfetti Van Melle, making her responsible for all IT. And while Vice President IT of a large company may sound like a dream job, this power woman with a high level of positive energy has by no means reached her limit.

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