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How We Can Build a More Inclusive Future in Tech

Posted in:  Highspot News

“Tech belongs to everybody.” This is one of the guiding principles behind the Women in Tech (WiT) Regatta, an event dedicated to advancing diversity within the industry. It’s also something we at Highspot passionately believe in.

Building a diverse team is core to how we grow as a business. As part of that commitment, we are honored to not only be sponsoring this year’s virtual WiT Regatta — but to have many of our incredible employees speaking at the event.

In advance of the WiT Regatta, we asked several of these speakers to share their vision for the future of tech, what it means to build a diverse workforce, and advice for anyone looking to make the jump into the industry. Here’s what they had to say.

Learning to Persevere with Devon Bennetts

What was your journey into tech?

Before moving into tech, I was working as a mechanical engineer developing medical devices — but I found myself gravitating more and more towards computer science. It was a whole new world where you could pivot, iterate, and experiment quickly. That was really appealing to me because I had been working on products that took over a year to launch, from beginning to end. After spending a lot of time debating whether or not I would be able to make it in the tech industry, I took the leap and joined Amazon as a product manager.

How should leadership approach hiring and developing diverse teams?

One of the most important things you can do is partner with your recruiting teams to create a diverse pipeline, track metrics thoughtfully and intentionally, and progress towards your diversity goals. It’s also important to support people once they’re hired — as a leader, ask yourself how can you make sure their voices are amplified? How can you become a trusted partner? How can you make sure people feel comfortable sharing feedback or questions? How can you create space for diversity in every meeting you attend?

What advice would you give to someone looking to join the tech industry?

When you first join the tech industry, from a non-tech background, you will likely be in a constant cycle of questioning whether or not you have the skills to be successful. You will need to get comfortable being uncomfortable. My advice is to jump head-first into any problem you are given. Do your research. Become an expert in that space. If you are still feeling blocked, break the problem you are working on down into smaller, more manageable problems and try your best to solve each of those smaller problems.

When you’re getting started, Google is your best friend — especially because there is so much vocabulary that is specific to software development. Over time, you’ll go from frantically taking notes in meetings, to being able to understand the conversation, to leading it. It takes time and effort and you won’t get it right the first time, but if you stick with it, you’ll get there.

Investing in Your People, At Every Stage with Kat Perreira

What was your journey into tech?

I joined tech from an academic role. I had been teaching myself programming in my free time and applied to Ada Developers Academy at the encouragement of a friend. I wasn’t expecting anything to come of it — but I was accepted, loved it, and through that program, I joined Highspot as a frontend engineer.

What’s something businesses can do to support women?

I think a lot of companies start out with strong, diverse pipelines, but then those women get burned out — they decide it’s not worth it to keep fighting to be in the room. By the time you reach senior roles, there aren’t enough female candidates. As a result, leadership doesn’t often reflect our world.

Businesses need to invest in creating an environment that keeps women in the pipeline to leadership roles, whether that’s mentorship for new employees, more support for senior roles, or just giving people the space to be themselves. And this is true for all underrepresented minorities — not just women.

What advice would you give to someone looking to join the tech industry?

For folks coming from non-business backgrounds, you’re not only learning the language of tech, but the language of business. And that can be very intimidating — but like anything else, it’s learnable. If you have a drive for this industry, then that’s the only thing that matters. There is a place for you here.

Pursuing Your Dreams, No Matter What with Genevieve Sarmiento

What was your journey into tech like?

When I was first trying to figure out what major to choose, my parents pushed me to go into the medical field. However, I realized that I really enjoy thinking about and solving problems, especially if it involves math, logic, or puzzles. As a kid, I was fortunate to have a school that exposed me to using computers early on. I have always wondered about how things work and have been interested in building things, so I decided to go for computer engineering. Starting the journey was a bit scary since I did not know anyone in tech at that time, and I was not sure what this career entailed. Despite the learning curve and uncertainties, I found that nothing is more exciting than building ideas into reality through coding!

Why have you stayed in the tech industry?

When I was at school, I was one of a handful of women in my classes. And it was the same at my first few jobs — mostly men. Even though I was not the same as the majority, I knew that I had to keep going. If I quit because it was difficult, then that defeats the purpose of why I pursued this career in the first place, plus there would be even fewer women in tech.

I love solving problems, and the tech industry has a lot of opportunities to solve hard and impactful problems. The field has a ton of challenges, but I try to view them as growth opportunities and focus on learning more and solving more problems. I pushed to pursue my dreams because it was the right thing to do and because I can make a difference.

What advice would you give to someone looking to join the tech industry?

When I first started out in tech, my colleague pointed out that I was coding with feelings — as shown by my immense joy from seeing my code work as expected or the unintentional frown when I see errors. We know that being emotional is a stereotype frequently attached to women, but instead of letting the stereotypes define me, I decided to embrace it. Those traits can help me be better at my job — as a software developer and as a manager, having empathy and compassion are important in understanding the perspective of our product users and in leading my team effectively.

Don’t let what makes you different define you — let it lift you up.

Join Highspot at WiT Regatta

Ready for more inspiration, advice, and opportunities to connect with the people changing tech for the better? Join Devon, Kat, Genevieve, and the Highspot team at the virtual WiT Regatta from August 10 through August 20.