In late October this year, I had the chance to hang out with a massive 11,000 data and Tableau aficionados in Las Vegas for the annual Tableau Conference (TC15).
It was right up my alley. I made new friends, developed new ideas and learned a whole lot. While I was wary of Sin City, at first, I decided to embrace this as a unique opportunity, and just say ‘Yes’. Suffice to say; there was nothing left on my ‘Vegas Bucket List’ when I boarded the flight back home to Sydney.
During TC15 I met so many other like-minded, tech-loving women who are thriving in this industry, and who embrace the professional challenges that come their way. Of course, we noticed that there were many more men than women at the conference, and yes, being a woman in a tech company is often still the exception rather than the norm, but it was nevertheless encouraging to see so many passionate female tech professionals there. They are highly motivated, driven, and tech savvy, and striving to make changes for their organisations and the industry. They are also very effective at connecting with other professionals through business events and social media and are growing their networks for their own and their peers’ benefits.
On Being a Woman in Data
As a women working in the technology industry, and more specifically data analytics and business intelligence, I have always enjoyed sharing my passion and enthusiasm for data and tech.
Throughout my career so far, there have been some lessons I learnt and skills I developed, which helped me greatly, and I would like to share my insights for the benefit of others as they carve out their path in this exciting industry.
But first, allow me to backtrack a little and set the scene of how I got here, because, as with most things in life, it certainly wasn’t a straight path.
I had access to the wondrous world of the Internet from the mid-90s when I started High School (thanks, Dad!) and owned a cell phone from when I was 14. I would be lying if I called myself an early-adopter always at the cutting edge of technology; gadgets were pretty expensive then (and still are). I believe this early exposure sparked my interest in things other than ponies, pizza and movies.
Fast forward a few years, and I found myself studying Psychology, HR, Accounting and Commercial Law in Wellington, with my sights set on some career in Human Capital. Thanks to my choice of Accounting (mainly due to the GFC hitting during my time at university), I came across the ‘Big 4’ and attended a presentation by Deloitte about their consulting firm. This was the first career-related ‘Aha!’ moment, and I applied for a graduate role in their human capital (HC) consulting practice. While my application was successful, I found myself not in HC consulting, but rather in Technology Services, primarily at the other end of the spectrum, and most certainly quite far outside my comfort zone.
Considering the global reputation and established capabilities of Deloitte, I decided to put my trust in them (they seemed to know what they were doing) and went for it. I established very effective and supportive relationships with my peers and managers and was able to quickly add value beyond client deliverables. This, in turn, resulted in new opportunities, including an extensive technical training in India, which was an outstanding experience. While most of these challenges grow, I developed the courage to say yes to all of these opportunities that came my way.
In hindsight, I recognised that being in Technology certainly came with unique and special opportunities in the form of projects and training, which do not exist to that extent in other industries. A search for warmer weather and ‘bigger things’ resulted in a move across the ditch, and in looking for a role in the finance industry to narrow down the subject matter, I was dealing with and work on developing some specialist skills.
Again, I found myself working for a great manager and leader who recognised my skills and capabilities, encouraged me to try out new technologies and, while being aware of my development areas, never doubted my ability to pushed me to learn quickly, adapt and grow and learn.
Having someone in your corner who not only believes in you, but also removes roadblocks so you can do your best work, and who speaks on your behalf when needed, was essential in nurturing my career and helping me gain more confidence even when I had to operate outside my comfort zone.
During my time in the finance industry, I came across Tableau, became a huge fan of the tool and subsequently shifted my focus more towards Data Analytics and Visualisation. With its very active online community or data-loving fans all around the world, I quickly connected with local users and Tableau Software employees and attended some Tableau events. This included one of the first sessions at the Tableau Conference 2015, “Data+Women” featured a panel of prominent women who use data to build careers, serve communities and save lives. The take-home message? To inspire the next generation of young girls to become technology lovers and leaders in a field traditionally dominated by men. #datapluswomen the Melbourne-based conference in March 2015. I had finally found my focus and my ‘professional passion’, and I wanted more. More Data, more Tableau. And I wanted to work with it every day.
Which brings me to today, sitting at my desk at Tridant, whom I joined earlier this year as a consultant focusing on helping clients see and understand their data using Tableau, implementing the tool and teaching others how to use and make the most of it.
Again I have the benefit of a highly supportive management team, of people who were excited when I joined them. I’ve had a bunch of training opportunities over the last six months since I started here, as well as exciting and diverse projects in different industries and locations. My previous roles have led to this, and I have ‘arrived’ with a suitcase full of tools and ideas, which now help me to contribute more to my role and the work environment.
I have been fortunate in that I have never during my career experienced a situation where being a woman was an obstacle or used against me. More often than not, it has been embraced as an opportunity to bring a different perspective internally, and for our clients.
Having become more confident over the years has helped me to become more assertive, a trait that is especially useful in a field where men still make up the majority of the workforce. Asking for the things I want, be it a training opportunity or a pay rise, hasn’t always been easy, but it sure is effective. If you don’t ask, you don’t get, and we have to stop assuming that other people can read our minds.
Previously published on Tridant.com.au