We are Tech Women – Inspirational Woman Series with Wendy

Written for We Are Tech Women and originally published here.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I studied Cognitive Science with a specialization in Human Computer Interaction at UC San Diego. During these years, I was painfully shy and quiet, but found a purpose in my university chapter of Society of Women Engineers. Serving our community of women engineering majors while being mentored by professional women engineers in industry, I found my voice leading and facilitating a group of amazing young women. I continued to find opportunities to foster and grow my voice early in my career as a UX designer, then UX manager, and later as a co-founder of a global product startup, Wizeline. During my time at Wizeline, I led our UX team and created Wizeline Academy, our community initiative to teach tech skills to emerging markets for free. After 6 years growing a product design and development team of nearly 500 people worldwide in San Francisco, Mexico, Vietnam and Thailand, I left to seek my biggest challenge to date – as Group VP of Experience at Publicis Sapient, which is nearly 40 times bigger than my startup!

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

It’s difficult to plan your career when there’s no “industry standard” or role models to refer to! I graduated university and became a web designer before tech design was a popular field. So I’m at the forefront of my discipline, which has gone through so many iterations of job titles – web design, User interface design, User experience design, product design, CX design… It’ll continue to change, but now as a GVP of Experience, I try to make myself visible and available to younger folks in my industry so they see a path and a role for themselves in the future.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

Early in my career in the 2000s, I was always the token woman on every product engineering team. At my second job, one of the male engineers made a point to tell me he was required to shower daily and wear a shirt now that a woman was on the team. I don’t think I realized how uncomfortable I was on my teams at the time, as it wasn’t a time and place in society where gender equality or diversity were topical or even discussed amongst friends.

As my career progressed and inclusion has become more of an open topic in recent years, I’ve used my power and my voice to be a role model for my team members – showing that I am a leader, but also a person. I let my personality shine through my leadership style, so people know they can grow into these roles and retain *themselves* and their values in a corporate environment.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

By my measure, my biggest career achievement has been impacting the lives of the many people who have been on my teams and coaching them to grow into new skills, new roles, and new opportunities. I’ve never been prouder than when my team members are too big for the challenge my team can offer them, and can go flex their new skills in a new role!

By the measure of industry, co-founding my own company and working 24/7 for 6 years to grow an amazing culture and team. I’m proud of this learning experience for myself, but the tangible value is still measured by the success of the people who have grown with me on that journey.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

Success never comes without massive failure. I have a great support system around me in terms of family and friends who are always there for me without judgement and don’t treat career as a competition. Without this support system, I couldn’t get through my personal and professional hardships.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

It is not your skill alone that will help you excel. You need to learn to contribute to the natural communities that form in the workplace and socially. Only when you have meaningful skill-based and community contribution can you master your own career.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

Aboslutely! There are biases against women that exist in all levels of tech, every single day. The barriers can only be overcome when we have normalized what is typically characterized as female. Today, male traits are normalized and we’re challenged to be more like men, but we need to turn the tables and challenge our male colleagues to be more like women. Only then can we come to the table equally.

What do you think companies can do to progress the careers of women working in technology?

If companies want more gender equality, they need to foster an environment where they can hire for those ratios no matter what career level. It’s easy to highlight a near equal ratio of young women in junior tech roles, but what about manager and director level women? Are there policies in place to support women with families to stand as role models in mid-manager positions? Are there women in the C-suite who can have a voice in ensuring these policies are designed, by and for women? Without a range and ratio of female voices across all career levels, we can never close the gap for women in tech.

There is currently only 17% of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

Magic swap to make it 17% men in tech. Let’s see how that works out.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

If you like to spend your downtime on social media like I do on Instagram and Twitter, go follow some empowering women accounts rather than the usual influencers. Get empowered even in, especially in, your downtime. @17.21women, @ladiesgetpaid, @elainewelteroth, @rupikaur_, @girlsatlibrary

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