A few months back, as members of dualoop’s team, we decided to take action and show our values by organizing an event here at dualoop’s office in Bruxelles, to celebrate International Women's Rights Day: “Women in Tech Talk”.
The event aimed to provide a platform for accomplished women to share their stories, insights, doubts, questions, and experiences, and at the same time draw attention to the obstacles that women face in the male-dominated IT sector.
The Women's Talk event featured three speakers, Alexandra Bendicakova, Catarina Keereman, and Myriam Broeders, each bringing their unique perspectives and expertise to the table.
The event covered a broad range of topics related to their respective fields, from effective leadership strategies to the importance of social impact in business, highlighting at the same time the urgent need for more gender diversity in the technology industry, with valuable and original lessons for attendees to take away.
The final speaker, Myriam Broeders, is the Chief Technology Officer for Microsoft in Belgium and Luxembourg. With over 15 years of experience, she has established herself as a prominent figure in the tech industry!
In her presentation, she talked about her background, her experiences with mentoring and coaching, and her thoughts on the importance of diversity and inclusion in tech.
Myriam Broeders grew up in a small village in Belgium, where she dreamed of becoming a pilot as a kid.
However, she realized that she was not cut out for the job, but she decided to follow her passion anyway and ended up in the tech industry.
After working her way up, she became the Chief Technology Officer for Microsoft, where she now focuses on sustainability as part of a diversity and inclusion workgroup….and ironically her office is at the airport!
Her professional journey was not without challenges, including struggling to find work in HR, starting in a company with only nine employees, and dealing with stereotypes as a woman in a male-dominant organization: but jokes and prejudices never made her doubt her choices.
Apart from her rich professional life, Myriam is a dedicated mother to three sons and also finds time to enjoy her hobbies such as long bike rides, attending concerts, reading novels, and spending time with her dog Pavlov, in her words “the cutest dog in the world”!
Throughout her long journey, Myriam was mentored by others, but she also had the opportunity to mentor people herself: mentoring is all about sharing knowledge, skills, and experience to help others grow and develop, and it’s essential to ask for help when needed, as it makes it easier to learn and build things.
At the same time is crucial to help colleagues in need, as it’s the only way to achieve progress and not leave anything behind!
Myriam Broeders' passion is creating an environment for people to excel and setting people up for success. She finds it truly valuable to be a part of someone's journey and help them through tough periods as she believes that the main focus of mentoring should be on helping others without expecting anything in return.
In the end, she also gave five keys to success that have worked for her, and may also work for you!
- The first key to success is “dream big and be ambitious”.
This includes making a plan for that ambition, as taking even small but valid steps in that direction can make it more likely to be achieved.
- The second key to success is to “stay curious”, which helped her learn from others and pick up things she didn't know before.
Being curious, acquiring experience from others, and taking it into account when making decisions, can change your way of thinking about solutions!
- The third key to success is “never stop learning”, there is always something new to learn but it can be overwhelming.
The best approach is to prioritize and focus on one's passion, going deeper into that area: Microsoft's motto is to "be a learn-it-all”, not a “know-it-all"!
- The fourth key to success is “take time for reflection”. Every year, she would take the full summer off and reflect on whether she wanted to continue or if she needed a change in September.
Taking time for reflection always helped her start something new and boosted her career!
- The fifth and final key to success is “do what you love and come as you are”, doing what you love and loving what you do are important, but it is also important to be able to be yourself.
In all aspects of life, including work and personal life, it is essential to be able to be who you are without having to change for others!
To dream big, stay curious, never stop learning, take time for reflection, and be true to yourself, have helped Myriam succeed in her career…surely it could help you all as well!
Ninah Jeetoo, the talent scout at dualoop, set the tone for the event by sharing a fascinating experience she lived during her experience in the IT world.
Having organized over 300 interviews these years, she was surprised by the number of women who had signed up for them….can you guess how many? Only one woman!Nobody at the event could guess, and the whole audience was shocked by this underwhelming revelation, exactly like Ninah before that experience.
She felt this was not acceptable and talked to her manager about it, which led to the idea of organizing the Women In Tech Talk event, inspired by TED Talks and which aims to explore how the right ideas and behaviours can bring positive changes in women’s balance between professional and personal life!
Ninah then presented the first of the three speakers featured in the event, Catarina Keereman: a professional figure with 10 years of experience in the tech industry, who is also a mother who has not given up on her personal life.
Catarina discussed her journey as a woman in tech. She started her career as a consultant and then joined an analytics startup where she did a variety of tasks, including product marketing and implementing solutions travelling all over the world. Finally, she got to the thing she is most passionate about: software product management, as she’s currently working as a CTO at Riaktr, sales, and distribution software.
To end her speech, Catarina shared her insights on three pieces of advice she learned in her journey in this professional field:
- “Use your leadership style as a strength”.
According to the “Predictive Index test”, Catarina was not the ideal candidate for a key leadership role in her company.
The management team was looking for someone dominant, assertive, driving, extroverted, did not need a lot of structure, and wanted a lot of variety and flexibility…sadly, the opposite of her personality traits!
Despite this, she got the role and over time she realized that her leadership style enabled her to build consensus and alignment between different departments in the company, also helping with fact-based decision-making and stability for the team.
- “Be confident in your potential”.
Catarina shared statistics from various studies that indicate a confidence gap between men and women, particularly in the tech industry.For example, less than 4 out of 10 women in tech think they are as competent as their male colleagues, compared to 6 out of 10 men.Her perspective is that women should be more confident in their potential and not let their confidence gap hold them back!
- “Find your career champions”.
Career champions are people who support, challenge, and provide you with opportunities for growth and development.
Catarina was lucky enough to find a mentor who helped her navigate the challenges of being a woman in tech and encouraged her to pursue new opportunities.
Every woman should not be afraid to seek out advocates who can help her achieve her goals, try to find the perfect mentor for you!
Re-telling us about her career and giving the advice she learned in this field, she mainly emphasized the importance of these three points: using your leadership style as a strength, being confident in your potential, and finding career champions who can support you in your journey.
Alexandra Bendicakova, the second speaker, is a consultant at dualoop. She is a successful and entrepreneurial woman with a rich background: she created a successful startup, made experience in raising money, and managed developers’ teams while being CPO and co-founder.
Years ago she met Timoté Geimer, the CEO of dualoop, and decided to join him and follow his philosophy in Product Management.With over five years of experience as a product manager, she is now on a mission for dualoop helping Oper to scale and deliver the best value to their customers.
During the Women in Tech Talk, she started by showing the audience a curve that illustrates the overestimation of one's ability to complete a task: you are given a task and only then do you realize that you don't know everything about it, and then you start to learn until you actually understand it.
It’s a well-known graph, but what most people don’t know is that it applies more to men than women. Women are more likely to underestimate themselves because of imposter syndrome. For her, the journey with product management started in her childhood. She discovered her love for Excel sheets analyzing everything around her, eventually leading her to become an expert in her field.
Years later, a previous mentor suggested that she pursue a master's degree: but this wasn't enough to fulfil her ambitions!Alexandra was then introduced to design thinking, and with the help of her partner created her own startup: Lilo Health.
She explained how she used it as an opportunity to learn and grow, stressing the importance of finding a problem worth solving and ensuring the solution is relevant to oneself and others. Alexandra was a CPO at Lilo Health and managed a team of developers: she gained confidence in her abilities and became more comfortable with taking on new challenges in her career.
Alexandra then shared three pieces of “post-it bits of advice” that helped her gain more confidence in communication with others…one of her biggest past challenges!
- Practice over-communication while keeping it short and to the point, especially when working with remote teams in tech.
Over-communication helps avoid misunderstandings and problems in delivery and aligning expectations!
- Set realistic expectations that do not self-sabotage.
Alexandra has often set unrealistic goals for herself, resulting in her having to work during the night or early morning to get everything done.
Setting realistic expectations and communicating them accordingly can help her (and you!) avoid such situations.
- Communication is not easy for anyone, and it's essential to maintain a positive environment to facilitate effective communication and resolve conflicts.
Misunderstandings can lead to conflicts, ruin relationships and hinder progress: a positive environment is essential for effective communication, conflict resolution, and overall progress!
Additionally, Alexandra shared bonus advice: "Join dualoop!”There, she found women and men's ratio close to 50%, and there are ample opportunities to learn, get challenged, and grow.
She believes that staying passionate and doing what one loves, using that passion for building a product, and training communication skills are also essential for success…and at dualoop she found a chance to do just that!
In today’s society is great to hear about events such as the Women In Tech Talk organized by dualoop on International Women's Rights Day!
Catarina Keereman provided the audience with three pieces of advice she learned from her experience: use your leadership style as a strength, be confident in your potential, and find career champions who can support your growth and development.
Alexandra Bendicakova, on the other hand, spoke about her experience with imposter syndrome and emphasized the importance of finding a problem worth solving and creating one's product as the best way to learn new skills and gain confidence, with some advice on one of the biggest challenges she faced: efficient communication.
The third speaker, Myriam Broeders, shared her experience as a successful entrepreneur woman who also gives importance to her family and free time, with the five keys to success which worked for her and she wishes will work for her audience too.
The speakers brought to the table a wealth of knowledge and experience on a wide range of topics related to their respective fields. From effective leadership strategies to social impact in business and navigating the challenges of being a woman in the tech industry, attendees were treated to valuable insights.
Altogether, the event was a great opportunity to learn, connect, and inspire change!