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Women in technology: It’s about you, more than ever

You can read the full article here on Medium.

As a former executive at Facebook, I’m frequently asked why more women don’t consider careers in technology, especially given how important women are to the success of the industry.

Consider these facts: Women lead men as adopters of technology and, in the U.S., they own the majority of tech devices; women control $29 trillion in annual consumer spend globally and drive 68% of consumer purchases. Women make up 50% of the U.S. labor force, but just 29% work at a major tech company.

The tech industry is facing a crisis. Companies realize that, in order to build successful products for more and different kinds of people, they must build organizations that know what customers want — but they are falling short in their attempts to build diversity in their teams, particularly when it comes to recruiting women.

Inspiring more women to pursue careers in technology means helping them understand how the industry has changed. Computer programming will always be at the core of any technology solution, and investing in programs that inspire more girls to learn how to code is important, but you must know that careers in tech are blooming in every discipline, not just computer science.

Since I studied business and have a passion for fashion, many people are surprised to learn that I’ve spent the majority of my career in tech. I started out coding software, but I didn’t realize at the time that there were so many other ways I could have entered the field and thrived.

The reality is that technology companies today need talented women with all kinds of “hard” and “soft” skills. There are opportunities for everyone, whether you’re interested in mobile apps or marketing, programming or psychology, analytics or anthropology.

Here are some tips to help you launch your career in technology and succeed once you’re in the door.

1. KNOW WHAT MAKES YOU, YOU

In my coaching + consulting practice, I talk about how important it is for a woman to “know herself to show herself.” I believe the first and most important step in your career journey is to define the kinds of topics, roles, relationships, and environments that bring out the best in you.

In addition to being honest about what you need to be financially secure, ask yourself: What do I value? What types of intellectual challenges give me the most energy? What types of people inspire me to do my best work? How do I want to be of service to the world?

The next step is to find a company whose mission aligns with your core values. If you believe in the company’s purpose, you will be continuously inspired and remain resilient through the many ups and downs that you will face in any job.

Carefully vet your opportunities beyond your normal due diligence. In addition to reviewing an organization’s mission statement, look for videos of company leaders talking about their beliefs and philosophies. Reading about what it’s like to work at Facebook is one thing, but getting a tour of Facebook’s headquarters from Mark Zuckerberg himself provides a much more meaningful perspective.

When you interview, show how and why you align with the company’s mission so that the hiring manager can see how you want to serve the company and the world, rather than how you want the company and world to serve you.

2. HEELS AND HOODIES CAN GO TOGETHER

Creating technology solutions used by billions of people every day requires collaboration between people from different fields with diverse perspectives, not just those with technical backgrounds. They may not always be celebrated in the media, but the unsung heroes in strategy, marketing, sales, research, human resources, and finance, among many other departments, are absolutely vital to the growth of any tech company.

Data show that diverse teams make better decisions and that diversity of thought drives innovation, but it may not always be obvious to hiring managers how your background brings something new and fresh to a team. To make in impression, you’ll not only have to connect the dots between your skills and the requirements of the role, but you’ll also need to communicate your unique approach to generating ideas and solving problems.

Although tech is still known as a “brogrammer culture” it’s essential to embrace your own style. And by “style” I don’t mean just how you dress. Your style comes through in how you think, feel, look and lead. Woman have unique talents and the more you reveal what makes you “you” the more you’ll find success in business — and in life. My confidence blossomed once I embraced my femininity. I found, and believe you will too, that women can succeed in tech whether they’re wearing hoodies or heels.

3. SUCCESS IS NOT A STRAIGHT LINE

One of the benefits of working in tech is that it’s a “test and learn” culture. You can apply this way of thinking to your career, as well. In tech, there is no shortage of projects to work on, so as your interests, experiences, and passions evolve, you can always find new roles or opportunities to match.

Three months into my job at Facebook, my manager encouraged me to build a page so that I could understand how the platform works from our client’s perspective. I tapped into my passion for fashion and beauty to create DB Style. The project not only fueled me creatively but also opened up new opportunities for me professionally.

When DB Style reached 100,000 followers, I built on the momentum and developed programs to advance women’s leadership at the intersection of substance and style. Pursuing my interests added value to the company and eventually evolved into a new, full-time career.

Like you, companies will change over time. And your journey to success will never be linear. Follow where your interests lead you, embrace this “beautifully messy” process and always look to create the environment where you can do your best work and be your best self.

I believe that today’s aspiring young female professional doesn’t just want to make things; she wants to make things possible.

By making it easier for women to express themselves — their whole, authentic selves — more freely and more confidently than ever before, technology companies today are getting better at creating environments in which young women can translate their optimism into opportunity.

Now is a great time for women to pursue careers in technology. And, the future belongs to you, more than ever.

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