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International Women's Day - Kathrin Lion


Did you always want to get into the tech industry? How did it all come about?

I started my career in the tech industry when I first started at Facebook 5.5 years ago. It wasn't something I necessarily planned but I always had an interest in the industry. If I didn't hold myself back, then I think I would have gone into engineering but I felt like the business side of things was a much safer route to go down.

What has been the driving force to get you where you are today?

The growth mindset and always being open to learning new things - that's what got me to where I am today. I have been thrown into the deep end a couple of times with a change of industry, focus or environment and I love that. If I do the same thing over and over, and I start feeling like I completely know the industry I am in, then I will get to a place where I want to try something new! 

That's when TalentBox reached out with the opportunity at Sprinklr! The complexity of the selling at Sprinklr is quite new to me. It's such a huge product suite that I feel even in 5 years' time, I still won’t have learnt everything there is to know about our platform. The sales cycle can be very complex and challenging and I absolutely love that.

So always wanting to learn and be better at what it is I am doing is my main driving force.

Do you notice a lack of women in technology? If so, why do you think that’s the case?

Yes absolutely. I am 1 of 2 women in the central European sales team compared to around 20 men. We are actively trying to hire more women but we are finding it really tough - there are not many of us out there! The market is very competitive as it is so finding people for these roles is very difficult. 

I think a lot of women hold themselves back from going after those big opportunities. If you had asked me a year ago if I would apply for this specific role at Sprinklr, I probably wouldn’t have! Only because I would have felt that my skill set wasn’t quite there yet! It took TalentBox reaching out to me and giving me the confidence of my own capability and showing me that it was a good fit. From the moment I started interviewing there, it was clear to me that I could do the job. 

Generally speaking, I think men have the tendency to apply for roles even if they’re not completely there yet because they simply believe they can handle it. But women hold themselves back until they feel they can do everything on the job description. That can be a huge mistake - the reality is, most people are learning on the go! 

Have you experienced any biases in the tech industry? 

In many ways! My first one goes back to Facebook. I applied for that role rather than being headhunted. There was definitely an air of superiority stemming from some of the people who were headhunted. You then start thinking, am I less worthy of this role because I applied directly? But you just have to build your confidence in your own capabilities and disregard the bias that some people may have concerning you – proving someone wrong can also be a great source of motivation.

In meetings, especially when you’re the only woman in a room full of men, sometimes you can notice the attention drifting and when people ask questions, it sometimes feels like they haven’t even paid attention to you It makes you question things - is it because I am speaking? Is it my content? Am I presenting in a way that isn't very engaging? When you then start paying attention to whether it happens to your male colleagues in the same setting, and it doesn’t – it can be discouraging or upsetting.

It's hard when you experience it and it's hard to bring attention to it. I think it's something that happens subconsciously so if you bring attention to it, it could easily be dismissed because the ‘offenders’ are simply not aware of it. The reality is that it is happening and until you get someone else to recognise it, you can easily think you're imagining it! It's something that's very hard to measure or quantify but it's definitely happening.
If you bring your manager into a situation who is male and has the right title, then you immediately get the attention you require. They can say exactly the same as you, but it will carry more weight because they are a male. 

Has it ever put you off working in the industry?

To be honest, I think it probably happens in most industries to a certain extent. I experienced it at an internship away from the tech industry so it's happening across multiple sectors. You can’t let it put you off going for what you want, that's what women need to hear and need to learn! 

How we can encourage more women to enter the tech workforce?

Proactively having more conversations and sharing experiences. It's important to have networks for just women, so they involve each other and can easily recommend each other into various positions. Everyone needs to be proactive - talk to women, talk to young girls and tell them about the roles and industry and show them the exciting side of Tech and that it's not just a role for men!

It can sometimes feel like a men’s world – and we as women must be each other’s best advocates!

Do you think company initiatives to encourage hiring women have worked? If not, why?

Representation is so important! Having women in those roles and actively talking about their experiences; how they are doing, the environment and how they are dealing with the day to day business. I think it really helps and makes it very relatable for the ‘everyday woman’. If they have the same skill set and experience, they then begin to start envisioning themselves in the role and that's key!

I have offered myself to help with interviews or be readily available to talk to any women interviewing. At this stage, it's important for them to speak to another woman in the company to get a better understanding of their own experience - they will ask very different questions and it could be a huge pull factor! 

What advice would you give to a woman considering a career in the tech industry? 

Some of the best advice I ever received was from a man in the tech industry - He said to me “you’re really smart, but a lot of people won’t see that because you assume they already know what you know”. So when you’re talking to anyone, really explain each of your points, don't jump from A to Z, explain the whole process - explain your thought process, communicate your journey and ask them if they understand you. Don't just assume. When you do that, you can actually pivot and change the direction of the interview instead of worrying if you made a mistake.

Another piece of advice - ask as many questions as you can! Asking questions is not a sign of you not knowing something, especially if you are asking smart and intelligent questions! It's a sign of curiosity and wanting to grow.
Finally, just go for it! The worst thing that can happen is that you get a ‘No’. Stop doubting yourself or thinking you are not worth it - put yourself out there and see what happens!

Posted by: Talent Box