Women in Tech Australia 2018: Five speakers tell us their experiences at this year's event

WiTA speakers

This year, over 800 people attended our Women in Tech Australia event in Sydney. The two-day conference was filled with fascinating talks from successful women in tech, practical workshops, and networking opportunities. 

After the event we spoke to five speakers who helped make it all possible, and asked what motivates them to help drive diversity in the tech sector.

 

Why did you get involved with Women in Tech Australia?

Tayler Feigl, Channel Development Manager APAC, Datto, Inc.:

"I am passionate about supporting and encouraging women – especially young women – looking to start a career in the technology sector. I have experienced some of the challenges young confident women face when trying to quickly progress their career in what is a male-dominated space. The Women in Tech Australia series is the perfect platform to meet other people in a similar position, listen in on some seriously inspirational sessions, and to challenge yourself to think bigger!"

Tanuja Reddy, Agile Project Manager, Endeavour Energy: 

"I have always wanted to connect people. Women in Tech Australia seemed to be the best place to start. I have always believed in sharing my knowledge and experiences, it will not only improve my skills but also help me to learn and think in a different perspective. My session was on Scaled Agile Framework. Scale Agile Framework reflects the latest in Lean-Agile thinking, more visibly incorporating scalable DevOps and the Continuous Delivery Pipeline. It demonstrates advancements in configurability, implementation guidance, and enhanced capabilities for improving the user experience and accelerating time-to-market."

Rupert Colchester, Head of Blockchain and Practice Leader, IBM:

"I'm very passionate about raising the awareness of blockchain tech across all of society. Ironically, trust in the technology most associated with 'building trust' is probably the single biggest key to accelerating our progress over the coming couple of years. Furthermore, despite it being such a new area, reports already suggest there are many more men in crypto and blockchain than women - and I want to help fix that early - there is no excuse nor reason to wait."

 

How would you describe your experience of being at Women in Tech Australia? 

Faten Healy, Inside Solutions Engineer, GitHub:

"I have attended lots of tech events in my 12 years in the industry, but I have never been to a conference with over 900 women in tech. In the conferences and events that I have attended, women were represented with 10% at most. It is an exceptional event and I would highly recommend it for all women in Australia working in the tech industry."

Barbara Harvey, Creative Director, Symes Group: 

"Attending and being involved in WIT this year was incredible, I was buzzing from the atmosphere, friends made, and the rich and insightful ideas shared. On day 1, I was the chairperson for the Agile and Design Thinking track. The speakers were from a range of industries and backgrounds spanning from design to tertiary education. Each speaker presented their unique experience in the field in a creative way. Lynn Hamilton in her talk Is Architecture the Antithesis of Agile?, for example, showcased her entire presentation through stick figures, Julie Lee in her talk Design Thinking & Agile: Where What Meets How used Lego figures. Most of the audience were not in the Design/Agile space so it was a great opportunity for learning and understanding how principles of Design/Agile work and might be applied to different settings.

On day 2, I was the chairperson for the Career and Professional Development track.  The sessions were hosted in an enormous room which housed over 300 people. At times it was standing room only, such was the popularity of the topics.  The How to Exude Authority in Meetings session was a definite crowd pleaser and, for me personally, Asma Gulbaz's Success as an Immigrant Down Under was inspirational. Asma reminded me of the vast opportunity we have in Australia and we need to take advantage of it to have a successful and fulfilling career."

Tayler Feigl: 

"An abundance of support and positive energy from all the attendees. Eye-opening to see all the awesome things other women in the IT space are doing across such a wide range of industries and sectors. As a speaker, I can tell you that I have never presented to such an open and encouraging audience, I loved every second."

 

What do you see as your role in promoting women in the tech sector?

Barbara Harvey:

"Not being in tech myself, my involvement in events such as WIT means that I can learn about and then subsequently share the success of the amazing women that I encounter. As a leadership consultant, I am always looking for great leaders, great case studies to use in the Symes Group workshops that are current and relevant to Australian audiences. So, coming to events such as WIT I can fill up the playbook.

Sharing the event on social media means that my network which is hugely non-tech are exposed to the fact that there are thousands of women in tech celebrating their achievements and knowledge."

Rupert Colchester:

"I'm very passionate about the importance of diverse and inclusive teams, and as a young(ish) leader with the opportunity to do so, I am challenging myself to build up IBM's Blockchain team in Australia and New Zealand in this manner right from the word 'go'."

Faten Healy:

"I always like to get involved in programmes to encourage more women to get into the tech world. Lack of interest in technology never seems to be the issue with women in tech, the challenge is making women feel welcome in the industry. At the moment, I am a facilitator at Tech Ready Women and participate at many other STEM events."

 

Can you tell us a bit about how you started down your current career path?

Tanuja Reddy:

"I started my career as a Software Programmer in 2004 and, in the initial stages of my career, worked 14 to 16 hours a day, which helped me to understand the practical world of Information Technology. I moved to the US in 2006 and have learnt so much working in different organisations. I have always been ambitious and set goals from myself. There has been more than one person who has motivated me down the path to become a Lead, get training in Project Management, and start managing teams. I moved to Australia in 2016 and it’s been great since then working as an Agile Project Manager."

Tayler Feigl:

"I studied Accounting and Business Management at University, after which I went on holiday and made 2 great friends from Hong Kong who insisted I come visit them. From the moment I landed in HK I loved everything about the city and started applying for jobs left right and centre because I didn’t want to leave – then secured an unpaid internship with a start-up called PassKit. This 6-week internship turned into full time employment – I was now living and working in Hong Kong for a mobile wallet start-up that had just secured round B funding! One thing led to another, and I ended up having to move back to Australia; now addicted to the start-up tech world, I only applied for roles in IT companies with smaller-sized teams – and became Datto Sydney’s first Partner Success Manager for APAC."

Barbara Harvey: 

"Where do I start?! I recently presented my career path at our Supercharge your Career programme/event and it confirmed that I have not had a career path at all, more like a gym jungle as Sheryl Sandberg refers to or maybe it's been a maze! I graduated from University with a degree in Economics (Social Sciences) when I was 21 and even though I really enjoyed studying and learning I had no idea what my career would be and, in fact, was more fulfilled by the part-time work I had done over the studying years than my first "official" job that used my degree.   

The reason for this was the part-time work – in hospitality – had played to my strengths which I have since learned is the key to discovering your "career path".   My work now is a combination of everything I love, working with people, sharing the stories of others, learning, learning, learning, and being in service of others. Along the way I have had my own business – a casting agency – which I built from the ground up, published a children’s book, run a drama school in South Africa and worked and lived in Europe and the Caribbean as a cook on superyachts! To outsiders, it may seem like a random collection of things that I have done, but the reality is that each step led me to where I am today. For example, it was when I was building my casting agency that I met Symes Group CEO/Founder Jessica Symes. We worked together via her drama school and developed a symbiotic relationship of young talent supply and development and we also became great friends."

 

What's a typical day like for you?

Tayler Feigl: 

"International meetings with the Business Development teams or Singapore team (virtual), internal meetings with the Sydney Sales or Marketing teams (face to face) and external meetings with clients/vendors (combo F2F or virtual). Internal Event planning – this involves everything from securing sponsorship from other vendors, locking in agendas and speakers, venues, messaging, and content. Liaising with the marketing team to have all the content and online aspects created. Delivering on Datto sponsorship requirements i.e. who will represent Datto at conferences and the topics of speeches/sessions. Researching/reading about what’s going on in the marketplace and what’s top news within the industry. Finding new ways to reach more net new business in the APAC region and further grow on our existing book of business."

Faten Healy:

"One of the best parts about my job is that I don't really have a typical day. In a day, I could be developing new client strategies, visiting customers and presenting solutions, speaking at events for internal enablement sessions for my co-workers or teaching the fundamentals of coding. It forces me to push my own limits and think outside the box. It is rewarding to be able to work closely with our customers to resolve and deliver solutions that help achieve their business goals."

Barbara Harvey:

"I don't think that exists for me. Partly because I am instinctively an unstructured person who finds routine challenging but also because I work part time, flexibly and have a busy home life with lots of goings on! Our work at Symes Group is really varied- sometimes it requires huge days of delivery, other times it's client management and some days I am making brochures!

Currently, I am working from home preparing the workbooks, presentation power points and outlines for our upcoming sessions for the Graduate Learning arm of the Graduate Programme at a leading organisation in Australia.  At the end of the month I will be delivering some of the sessions at the graduate event and Jessica Symes and I will be supporting the NFP initiative "The Virangana Project" by assisting female entrepreneurs from India with presentation skills to elevate their pitch for investment.  

I have 3 gorgeous kids, 9, 7, and a very cute 14-month-old baby. One day I am at the class play, another I am at toddler playgroup and the next I am at Barangaroo teaching creativity! This means that often I start working at 4 am to do my work before anyone is awake in my house (unless of course the creaking floorboards wake the baby!) But I like it like that because I get to live my dream life and I am grateful to Jess and Symes Group for providing the platform for that to happen."

 

What motivates you to achieve great things in your work?

Tanuja Reddy:

"Everyone who I meet motivates me in one way or another, continuous learning motivates me, I always look up to the leaders. My parents are my inspiration. My Dad always told me never be afraid of a failure, there is always another chance. Another inspiration is Marissa Mayer, (former CEO of Yahoo)."

Faten Healy:

"I love technology and the impact it has on people’s lives. It is great how technology and automation can improve our daily tasks/work. Let’s take an example with GitHub, the platform where developers can create, share, and ship the best code possible. It enables developers to collaborate on code and do what they love most, instead of wasting their time on building tools."

Tayler Feigl:

"Success motivates me. For me, success is defined as challenging myself every day to do things that push me outside my comfort zone, building my skill set, and having fun while doing it all! When you understand and recognise your core strengths and then continue to push the boundaries of your comfort zone with these core strengths as the foundation, you can achieve AMAZING things - you’ll even impress yourself!"

Why are women so crucial to the continued growth of the tech industry?

Faten Healy:

"Women and men are equal users of technology. But unfortunately, women do not participate equally in the developing. This needs to change as women can bring a lot of fresh and different ideas to the table, which makes it more interesting and beneficial to everyone involved in building software."

Tanuja Reddy:

"I strongly believe women are born with a talent of multi-tasking, they do it effectively and efficiently. They are more compassionate, which actually helps the organisations build trust with the services they provide. They deserve a chance to prove it."

Tayler Feigl:

"Women represent 50% of the global population on earth, we are a critical part of shaping the future of technology that will change our lives in ways that we can’t even comprehend. Women bring different inherent strengths to the industry, as do men. Having balanced input from a range of EQ and IQ across the board is crucial in delivering extraordinary output!"

What advice would you give to those starting out in a career in tech?

Rupert Colchester:

"Find areas that genuinely interest you and pursue them with intent. Find managers and leaders that you respect and instinctively want to emulate and learn all you can from them and others as you go."

Faten Healy:

"My 2 main pieces of advice would be “continuous learning” and “network support”. As everything moves fast these days, you cannot rely only on your educational degree. You will have to stay up to date with the latest in the industry and upskill all the time. 

We are all busy with our daily tasks but dedicating a small percentage of your time every day/week for personal development is a good step forward. Continuous learning can be achieved via short courses that you can undertake as well as conferences, events, and hackathons that you can attend such as Women in Tech.

Build your network and surround yourself by people who you can learn from their experiences and if they are willing to be your mentor, that’s a big win." 

Barbara Harvey: 

"My advice to anyone in the early stages of your career is to focus on learning and growth in a broad sense and less on a fixed career path. We now know that careers no longer have a linear trajectory and we also know we are set to live a long life! Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott's book The 100-Year Life – Living and Working in an Age of Longevity has some interesting insights about seizing opportunity and finding your path.

When you are in the first stages of your career it is a huge opportunity to experiment and try things out, I encourage you to investigate different things.  The stretch room for growth and small failures is huge so now is the time to try different paths, sign up for groups at your organisation, support a variety of charity events, play sports, etc.

As you get older you tend to have more perceived limits around what you can do, this might be financial like a mortgage or social/personal like family and friends, even though I firmly believe change and transformation can happen at any time in your career there is no doubt, being flexible and shifting early on in your career is easier. 

I also think that learning should not be limited to your field or area of work, read and learn broadly, and develop and hone your communication, relationship skills and self-understanding as these are the skills which will see you through your entire career.

If you are joining Tech from another industry, say mid-career, my advice would be 'know your value' and respect the experience of your peers but don't be intimidated by it. Sonya Coroccon in her presentation The Little "i" in Innovation – Saving Time by Design shared that she has only recently stepped in to coding, having accrued years of experience in other fields. She shared a fantastic story of being at an interview where her experience in coding was questioned and she could advocate herself as not only capable in coding but was the right candidate for the job because she might not be as experienced in how to build an application but she had a deeper understanding of the what and the why than her fellow peers due to her background in psychology. I thought that was a great story to share with the audience."