It was a packed house on Thursday night as Tiliter hosted 50 guests at The Female Lead, an event to celebrate women in tech. We had a blast!
We heard from four incredible and inspiring women who've forged paths to success. We got plenty of valuable advice and takeaways for navigating through a male-dominated culture. And we heard lots of great ideas for how to create a rewarding career in tech.
Our very own Marketing Manager, Melissa Morphet, kicked things off in style, welcoming the audience to the first event at our new HQ. It was great to see a mix of women and men from different industries and business sizes, including some of our wonderful partners.
Daphne Shen, our star moderator for the evening, introduced the speakers, who then gave us a bit of background on themselves. Daphne then dived into the discussion. Here are some highlights from the speakers.
Paulwyn Devasundaram - Product Lead at Tiliter
Paulwyn proved herself to be the perfect ambassador. She began by telling us how she was not given much choice about studying computer science in primary school, and although she hated programming at first, as time went by its power started to reveal itself.
"I realised you could automate so many things and build cool tools to solve problems. A lot of the research I was doing was theoretical, so I was keen to go into industries where I could make a practical difference.'
Paulwyn has felt supported by most of the people she's worked with, and is incredibly grateful for their support, although she does see unconscious bias as playing a role. She has seen first-hand how an idea proposed by one person is not well perceived, whereas someone else might present the same idea in almost the same words, and they are seen more positively because of bias. This can make it difficult for women to move into leadership roles. But she maintains that you can succeed if you're data-driven and objective.
Paulwyn talked about how she loves building products and working with tools that make things better for people and solve real-world problems. That’s what keeps her motivated. She also loves working in a diverse workplace and sees that as a real benefit to the work culture and the products being built. Connecting with different people from all over the world helps to tackle unconscious bias, but Paulwyn still believes systematic change is needed to create real progress and allow everyone to be more productive, regardless of background or difference.
Paulwyn believes that beyond attracting women to work in tech, retention is just as necessary.
"Once you have good people, it's important to retain them. A major reason for women leaving their job is that they don't feel supported in caring for their families."
If she were in charge, Paulwyn would mandate more paid parental leave, more scholarships to encourage people to experiment and try new career pathways in tech, more coaching programs for women to grow their skills and confidence, and free education. She's got our vote!
What advice would Paulwyn give her younger self?
"Grab opportunities. The exciting and best opportunities are the scary ones, so be bold and brave and take them on!"
Davina Adisusila – Head of Engineering at Eucalyptus
For Davina, the apple didn't fall far from the tree when she chose a career in tech, just like her parents. Starting out tinkering with MySpace and Dreamweaver, Davina loved interacting with all this tech, onscreen. And at computer science camp, Davina found her people – nerdy and excited by tech!
Davina enjoys building things from scratch, iterating, starting again. Now that she's in management, she's less hands-on with code but uses her design skills to build teams and use problem-solving to help people build awesome stuff for consumers. She facilitates building and development and feels energised when she sees men supporting women as this filters through the company.
Davina's pathway into tech was a little more traditional although she says that start-ups give women the opportunity to explore different areas.
The future will be more diverse, in Davina's opinion. She hopes that education will allow the younger generation to start learning tech earlier and that tech education will be more practical and easier to apply to real-life situations.
"It will make tech more engaging and tangible if kids see how it can be used in the real world."
Davina works in a diverse workplace, with good female representation across the company — about a 50/50 split. Working in engineering, Davina always felt like she didn't want to be treated differently — she wanted to be part of the crew.
She'd like to see more programs to engage female employees and give them confidence, and to help them feel supported to pursue their interests. She’s grateful that it's happening more today.
Her advice to those just starting?
"Get exposed to many different things. Find out what you like and what you don't like, and don't be afraid to fail."
Anna Cheng - Growth Marketing Manager at Brighte
Anna started her career in Finance, but after two years as a tax accountant, she felt that there was no variety. This fortunately inspired her to take a leap of faith to start her own company at 19.
Her interest in tech started as a high school fangirl, doing 'hacky things'.
"You start with nothing and end up with something that can empower people to make something someone else can use to build something even better for the world. In growth you need to be a problem solver and be curious.”
Anna tells the audience that working in a start-up exposed her to so many different things. Customer, growth, operations, risk, legal — she got a good overview of how a business is run, making her next role much easier. She also believes it's easier to make an impact in a start-up because you truly can go anywhere.
Tech wasn't offered at Anna's school. But she believes it should be compulsory. Offering student programs in start-ups is a great way to build up interest in STEM, she thinks.
From a broader perspective, Anna says that "Inequality for women needs to be addressed, particularly when it comes to superannuation for mothers. There's a big gap, and when it's hard to get back into work, it makes that super gap bigger."
Anna started a marketplace to connect home chefs with consumers in university. She tested this idea by cooking spaghetti in the uni kitchens, experimenting with how much she could charge per portion and whether people would pay for delivery. She advises that you have a strong experiment to run and a framework for how to collect data. Anna would like to see more education for women on term sheets and investing. She advises women to take the opportunity to speak to an angel investor or VC they trust to guide finances.
What would she advise you do to pitch an idea?
"Be structured and present the data. Eliminate the risk of the idea." And when it comes to her key takeaway, it's to "work on the most important project in the company for growth — it pushes your career forward and advances your learning."
What are you waiting for?
We got so much great advice and inspiration from our speakers. We're grateful to them for giving their time to our audience and sharing their thoughts.
Huge thanks to Daphne Shen for moderating what was a very vibrant, informative conversation.
Our Women in Tech Community group on slack is now live, and we'd love to keep the conversation going to inspire and support our sisters in tech. If you'd like to be a part of this thriving community, please contact us here. And if you're the top of the crop in your speciality and want to work for a tech company that supports inclusion and offers you the chance to grow, why not check out our job openings here.