Six women share their inspirational journeys into Canada's competitive tech industry
Today is International Women’s Day, a day when we celebrate the achievements of women throughout history and call attention to the gender biases that still exist around the world.
This year, through the theme of DigitALL: Innovation and Technology for Gender Equality, UN Women is spotlighting women and girls around the world who are championing the advancement of transformative technology and digital education.
We’ve teamed up with TELUS to spotlight six inspiring women who are making their mark in the tech world. We asked about their day-to-day roles, how they got started, what this year’s International Women’s Day theme means to them, and, of course, their best advice for other women pursuing a career in the technology space. Keep reading and prepare to be inspired.
Maibel Rafferty works for TELUS Digital, where she leads multiple software delivery teams that build web applications used by millions of TELUS customers every day.
“My days consist of digital strategy sessions, coaching and developing our team members to perform at their highest potential, and delivering software that makes up telus.com.”
Interested in science from a very young age, Maibel first pursued a career in biotechnology, but later transitioned into the telecommunications sector as she was very inspired by the rapid growth of the industry.
Her advice for aspiring women in tech? “Go for it, be the role model that you might not have had, and open doors for others. We are as capable, we bring in different perspectives, and we get stuff done. Be confident in who you are, your expertise and capabilities and in what you bring to the table.”
Nina Haghighati is a data scientist at TELUS and works as part of the AI Accelerator team, using data analytics to enhance customer satisfaction.
Nina’s passion for technology started during her first year of high school. “My love for coding was ignited during a computer class where we were tasked with creating a program that animated a boat travelling across a screen. I was driven to excel in the project, dedicating countless hours to perfecting every detail. When I finally saw the boat in motion, I knew without a doubt that programming was my calling.”
Using tech and innovation for gender equality is one of the things that Nina and her team at TELUS focus on by identifying gender bias in data collection and definition.
“Bias can stem from an unequal representation of genders in data or unequal application of definitions. These biases have been persistent, making them hard to detect. For example, in HVAC [heating, ventilation, and air conditioning] for offices, temperature standards were traditionally based on men’s body temperature and clothing, but can be revised for both genders.”
Tricia Eng is a program office manager in TELUS’ Emergency Response and Business Continuity team, which is dedicated to managing and preparing for operational risks that occur from natural disasters, pandemics and other major events.
“I’m responsible for leading a climate-focused program working with our network planning, build, and maintenance teams. Together, we identify opportunities and implement initiatives to proactively mitigate against natural disaster impacts to the physical TELUS network infrastructure so that customers can remain connected to communication services 24/7.”
Tricia’s tips for women aspiring to break into the tech industry are to stay curious and keep learning. “Seek out leaders who you admire and want to learn specific skills and capabilities from, and who, in turn, will champion you.”
Danielle Melia is a senior design specialist in the Chief Technology Office at TELUS. Her role involves designing and supporting the IP voice core network with a focus on business voice services and carrier interconnections.
“Every day is different and there is always a new problem to solve. It challenges me technically, and there are many opportunities to learn cutting-edge technologies.”
Danielle has had a passion for technology from a very young age, recalling watching her dad build computers on the weekend. “In high school, I worked in retail, selling laptops and networking equipment, and our onsite computer repair tech taught me about the different schooling and certifications you can do. After that conversation, I began looking into various colleges’ IT programs but I had no idea I would end up doing what I do today.”
Now, her team at TELUS has formed a diversity and inclusion committee made up of women in various roles and teams across Canada. “We collaborate to work towards how we can improve not just TELUS, but also the tech industry for women.”
Her advice to those wanting to pursue a career in tech is to be confident, open to learning and not silo yourself into a specific technology.
As Vice-President of Network, Engineering, and Operations, Anne Martin leads a team of over 1,000, responsible for the engineering, build and field operations of TELUS’ wireline network.
“I’m surrounded by exceptional women role models at TELUS who inspire me every day and have supported my personal career development and growth. This is why, as a leader, I’m passionate about advocating for our team members – ensuring they have a network of women to reach out to who can support them to be their best selves and succeed through sponsorship and mentorship opportunities.”
After 13 years at TELUS, the biggest lesson Anne has learned is having confidence in yourself and your ideas. “Confidence is important, and you need to know you’re an equal player even when the room is full of men. Real, tangible changes are taking place to attract diverse talent as companies realise there is value to diversity of thought and different backgrounds. Here at TELUS, hard work and perseverance will pay off regardless of any perceived disadvantages.”
As Vice-President of Business and Enterprise Services, Carla Thomas supports a global team delivering innovative technology solutions for business customers at TELUS, where she has enjoyed a fulfilling 18-year career.
“As a leader, I’m mindful of seeking out different perspectives to challenge my own views. Listening actively, asking for feedback, reflecting on my biases and privileges, and leading with vulnerability and empathy can really help in driving meaningful change.”
Her biggest tip for women starting out in the tech world is to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. “We often let the fear of the unknown, of failure, and gender stereotypes limit what we’re truly capable of. Getting out of our comfort zones is essential to success in STEM, along with building relationships and a network of sponsors, mentors, and peers who are committed to helping you succeed.”
Carla also views authenticity as a crucial quality for success. “Be authentic and true to yourself,” she says. “It’s difficult to develop your capabilities when you are suppressing your true values and style. Technology moves fast, therefore curiosity is essential. Use your personal passions, persistence, and hunger to learn to think big and aim high, and success will follow.”
This story originally appeared on DailyHive.
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