Did you always want to get into the tech industry? How did it all come about?
I very much fell into it! I am originally from Pakistan and there you very much have the option of either becoming a doctor, an engineer or you go into banking. I was not interested in going into banking and I didn't want to be a doctor so I ended up going into engineering. I went to the US for Grad School and I really enjoyed Computer Science so it all went from there. I knew I didn't want to be a Software Engineer - the Presales role was much more appealing to me as you have the best of both worlds, business and tech. You work with customers and you’re always working with the latest tech so I love it and it's always exciting!
What has been the driving force to get you where you are today?
I have been lucky to have a lot of great managers! When I had kids it was definitely hard sometimes being a single mum and juggling my role but my managers supported me throughout and made it very easy for me. If I didn't have such supportive managers then it would have been very difficult for me to have such an amazing career in tech the way I have.
Do you notice a lack of women in technology? If so, why do you think that’s the case?
I do notice a huge lack of women in technology. Most of the time, I have been the only female in my team. This is the first role where I have one other female on the team, other than that it's just been me!
I think the reason comes from there still being a lot of “bro” culture across the industry so you have to deal with what comes as a result of that. Another reason could be flexibility. Not all managers are going to give you that flexible working environment where you can juggle a few things, especially children. Especially in Presales and pre-pandemic, I was often travelling for work. Again, my manager was incredible; he always made sure I had plenty of notice to ensure I could make arrangements and if there was ever a time I couldn't go, then he made it easy for me to stay in my role and still be effective!
You have to provide a supportive working environment for women, one that will be very different from what men need.
Have you experienced any biases in the tech industry?
The issues arise more when dealing with customers. I have often found customers to be very dismissive on calls and generally just prefer to speak to a male colleague. There have been times I have had to ask a male colleague to join a call and then tell them exactly what to say to ensure the call is a success. You’re not going to change minds or cultural ways so you just have to work with it.
There have been multiple times in my career that I would have to leave early to pick my children up from daycare. There would always be comments from male colleagues about me leaving “Look at you, it must be nice, always leaving early” but what they wouldn't know is that I would be working until midnight after my children are in bed to make up for any lost time.
Has there been a time when these bias have put you off working in the tech industry?
Not really but mainly because of the support of my managers. The other people making the snide comments don't matter. You have to channel any feelings that you have into your work and let that do the talking. Let your work shine! I have been given awards from colleagues - they know I’m a hard worker so I don't need to prove anything to anyone, my work speaks for itself!
Do you think company initiatives to encourage hiring women have worked? If not, why?
I think it is important to have women on the panel. There have been so many times that I have been in interviews and throughout the whole process, haven’t come across a single woman. Straight away this tells me that across the company, the representation of women is extremely low.
For me as a single mum, it is more important to have the flexibility rather than a lot of other perks the company would offer. If I didn't have that flexibility, then it wouldn’t have been possible for me to have had the career I did.