People of Pontoon: Women in Tech – Part 2

Video 10 Nov 2020 . Brianna Kerr

Last week, we introduced thee trailblazing women that hold technology positions at Pontoon. In part two of our Women in Tech series, we hear from three more Pontooners as they discuss their personal career journeys, how they support other women in the field and what we can do to empower the next generation of females in STEAM roles.  

What drove you to pursue a career in technology? 

Kathy Auld:  Oddly enough I studied political science, didn’t want to get stuck behind a computer, natural aptitude for systems and technology. Pursued more and more technical roles because I love solving problems. By taking large problems and breaking them down into smaller ones, I can understand the relationships and tackle them efficiently. Political science is the study of political systems so it overlaps with the way I approach technology. You do not have to write code to be a feminist!  

Sophia Masse: I got my degree in statistics so pretty technical. I fell in love with the idea of using numbers and data to tell stories and predict the future. The idea that data is so powerful and the ability to apply it to different things from talent solutions to sports is fascinating.  

Joanne Slack: I came into the role that I am doing with the CRM team through an internal project. The transformation of the Salesforce project.  

How do we ensure that women and girls are encouraged to pursue careers in steam roles? Is there anything that you do personally in this regard? 

JoI think it’s really important for people to not feel like they have to choose a specific career path purely because of their gender. It’s really important to me because I have 3 daughters. We encourage them to try all activities that they are interested in and expose them to a range of fun and inspiring stories and tech tools. Schools have an important role to play to encourage girls into science and technology and maths. 

SophiaWe must share stories of women in tech and not underestimate how empowering and encouraging that can be for young girls to see. For me, growing up it made a difference to see a woman in a technology role to give me the confidence that I could do it too.  

KathyIt is part of a larger challenge than just the STEAM perspective. All children should be encouraged to go beyond their traditional gender roles in life and in the workplace. We need to expand the definitions of who belongs where. My mom encouraged me by exploring her own curiosity. My parents had pretty traditional gender roles but my dad was open to indulging my curiosity and this drives the creativity required in STEAM roles. Great developer technologist has to take some risks and have a creative vision about the forest and how to plant the trees to build it.  

How has Pontoon enabled you to further your career in tech? 

Sophia: Pontoon gave me the opportunity to be in my data scientist role. I am a data scientist with the business intelligence team and when I originally came to Pontoon there wasn’t that role currently with the company. They created that role and that team and as we advance more with the way we are using data and predictive analytics I have the creative freedom to explore the types of projects we can do to further enhance our offering. It has been great for my learning and my personal and professional development.  

Kathy: Before I joined Pontoon I worked in more technical roles delivering software solutions to customers. I wasn’t spreading technology goodness! My role at Pontoon has let me explore the market of technologies as we are technology agnostic. This has allowed me to broaden my tech expertise. Because I am in a management role, I have been able to improve the tech capabilities of my team and improve and grow the tech capabilities across the org which is essential for our growth in sales and design and successfully bringing solutions to our customers in the market.  

Jo: It’s provided opportunity for me to use my transferable skills into a new role in the technology sector which I wasn’t even anticipating. Pontoon as a company constantly provides opportunities to learn from talented colleagues, to join different groups and network externally in the tech space.  

What empowers you as a woman in a steam role? 

Kathy: Time and time again I have had to prove myself to sceptics. I love proving people wrong. I do not have formal technology training but my systems mindset and problem-solving capabilities have never failed me. It can be discouraging and it is not the right way for everyone. Mentors are crucial. I have had great mentors, male and female who have provided the right level of feedback and autonomy. They have helped me develop my technology capabilities and the power to include and influence the team.  

Jo: Being part of a team of 4 where 75% are women is really empowering. Being part of a business that champions women in tech and empowers women in tech is amazing.   

Sophia:  Being part of a community of strong empowering women. There are obstacles and you do have to go above and beyond to show you have what it takes but being surrounded by women who support and believe in each other gives you the confidence to succeed.  

What steps can we take as individuals and organisations to break down stereotypes and ensure more diverse representation in STEAM roles? 

Jo: I think organisations can partner with education establishments more to encourage the younger generation to show real examples of successful women in tech. It makes the career option a reality. We all have a responsibility to talk about careers in technology more, to highlight women in these roles, particularly at the leadership level.  

Kathy: One of the key things is that organisations definitely have a role as they can invest and multiply their influence. It relies on every individual as well. In the workplace, we need to approach every individual with an open mind and with the belief that they are competent and hired for a good reason. Hiring managers need to recognise cross over skills and where they can be applied. You don’t necessarily need a checklist of qualifications to be successful in a STEAM role.  

Sophia: What we are doing here needs to be done more. We are sharing our stories as women in tech. Diversity makes us stronger whether it’s gender or ethnicity or age any diversity makes teams and companies stronger 

What does the future hold for women in tech? 

Sophia:  They say we only use 10% of our brain. What would be the potential if we used 100%. We can apply this analogy to women in the tech industry. Imagine what we can achieve when we use the other 50% of the workforce that was formerly overlooked. The future holds a lot of greatness and I am excited about it.  

Jo: While the gender gap is closing there is still a long way to go to create an environment that welcomes and champions female talent. This is particularly true in leadership roles. We need to see more encouragement and opportunities for women to take up more of these leadership positions. Only 3% of women say that a career in tech is their first choice. It is all of our responsibility to ensure that all young people, young females have the tools they need to succeed. 

Kathy: My ideal future is undoubtedly one where women and men are not differentiated in the workplace at all. Part 1 is recognising it’s a problem and where it is not. I would love not to have Women in Tech groups on Facebook. We are all responsible for sewing those seeds in our children so that everyone believes a woman’s place is wherever they want to be.  

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