Today, women are sadly underrepresented in the tech sector: The National Center for Women and Information Technology reported that in the year 2021, only 26% of tech jobs were held by women. During Horizontal Talent’s Women in Leadership webinar series, Rachel Enstrom, Sr. Global Director of Product, Technology and Marketing for Horizontal Talent, Binish Kahn, Vice President of Technology at Fishawack Health, and Tammylynne Jonas, Chief Information Officer at Donaldson discuss making difficult IT decisions during a tight job market.
How can you better leverage your current technology stack?
Our focus, when it comes to tools specifically has been on tools that integrate seamlessly. For example, we’re creating componentized libraries and design systems in close collaboration with the creative team to accelerate marketing velocity. We evaluate people, and we hold people accountable, but we need to start doing that with our tools. Every quarter, optimize, and get a report out. How are they performing? The focus is not how many tools there are, it’s on how the tools integrate seamlessly. When looking through the lens of a client, there needs to be a purpose behind every technology that we’re going to purchase. You’ve got to determine what priority the technology is going to solve.
How do you stay current with the latest trends and technology developments that are happening, and what resources do you rely on?
There are a lot of new technologies that are always coming on the horizon. Our tech teams have to stay up to trend on what’s going on, new languages and new skillsets. Staying up to date with current trends introduces us to what’s out there, what we can try out and how we can try it out on a small scale to see if it will be successful. We’re constantly on our phone, scrolling and absorbing a lot of information in a very condensed format. There are a lot of great resources, whether it’s conferences, tech events, or networking with other likeminded people. Finding relevant sources to look at is important. TLDR is a favorite newsletter for tech information. Everyone has different time and expertise in a certain space, so leverage your partners. Look across a variety of interests, including industries and company sizes. Reading the white papers helps, but sharing ideas and different opportunities with peers are really important.
How are you thinking about growing your team during the uncertain market?
Finding and retaining talent is always challenging, but in recent years it has become even more challenging. Evaluating and determining the right skills and experiences is important. Investing into the remote work model has been very beneficial because it gave us access to talent across the country. We also focus on retention and making sure line managers are equipped with the right tools to develop, support the teams and keep them engaged. There’s been a huge focus on soft skills and the necessity of communication. It’s important to stay connected, make everyone feel included and explain technical and non-technical concepts. We’re all in our homes and our offices, but there’s personal life that keeps you grounded and keeps you connected on a human level. Focusing on employees’ sense of ownership, giving people room to make decisions, manage their own work, as well as embracing that inclusivity where everyone’s ideas are welcome is very important. At Horizontal, we’re trying to develop and identify different training and professional development, so not only soft skills, but technical skills, too.
The most important thing for us is being able to retain knowledge of all the systems that we have in our current state. The biggest opportunity isn’t necessarily that people need to learn the new cutting-edge technology, it’s that we need to not lose the knowledge that we have of our existing system. One of the most important things we do from a training perspective is cross training our existing teams, as it has not only improved our employee engagement but enthusiasm in the workplace. It gives them a better understanding and appreciation for the work that their co-workers do around the world.
What job positions are hot in tech?
We’re starting to see companies hiring for positions around virtual augmented reality/AI, as well as an increase in data analytics positions, full stack engineers and data scientists.
What qualities are needed for success in tech?
Things that differentiate candidates are communication skills, the ability to work independently, flexibility and the ability to manage multiple priorities. What’s popular now will probably shift in the next couple of years as technology improves, so willingness to learn new technologies is one of the most important qualities. Being a problem solver and being empathetic in a collaborative space is important. Be a team player!
How do you think technology hiring will evolve within the next 5-10 years?
As the market evolves, hiring will evolve in general. Having more than one skill is going to make job seekers stand out in the hiring process. AI may be incorporated into the hiring process to remove bias and truly focus on inclusion and diversity.
How can male colleagues be better advocates and allies in supporting women in technology?
The most important thing is to try. Be inclusive, make room for us and give women credit where it’s due. In meetings ask, “Did you have something to say, or do you want to add something?” When women get to a certain point in their career, there’s an assumption that they don’t need anything. It’s still important to actively sponsor, champion and support women in the workplace. Think, what can we do every day to be a better advocate? Women, if you’ve been invited to a meeting, you’ve earned your seat at the table.
What advice would you give women starting off their career in IT?
Advocate for yourself. Speak up, challenge stereotypes and biases when you encounter them. It can be really challenging at first, but you’ll feel more comfortable standing up for yourself if you do it repeatedly. If you look at people’s calendars and see if there’s a meeting you should be in, ping them and ask to join. What’s the worst that can happen?
Ask for honest feedback and be transparent. There can be a disconnect around how performance is being evaluated. Understand how your performance is being evaluated and what criteria people are looking for regarding promotional rolls. Volunteering for extra tasks needs to be recognized. If you’re looking to be the senior, what are the skills or attributes that your leader will be looking for?
What books do you recommend?
- Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg
- You Should Smile More by Anastasia Ryan
- The Power of Onlyness by Nilofer Merchant
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