women in project management

9 min read

Women in Tech series: interviews with project managers

intive

The job market around the world is changing constantly, keeping pace with a cultural and technological transformation of modern society. At intive, we’re dedicating a series of articles to one of the top trending topics: an ever-growing number of women choosing a career in the tech world. In the previous chapter, we shared some experiences of our quality assurance specialists. This time we decided to talk to a couple of our Project Managers to shed some light on their perspective on working in IT. Our three protagonists work in our intive offices in Argentina, Germany and Poland.

Aldana Pere

Aldana Perez, Project Manager (Argentina)

Aldana Pere

My sentiment for the tech world is something that developed quite early and spontaneously. When my brother started a university career, our parents brought home the first desktop. I was 6 years old at the time and became totally fascinated. That was really my thing! It was no surprise that a couple of years later I chose Systems Engineering and followed my passion. Throughout my career, I got to try out different areas of software development. 

Everywhere I went, I looked for challenges and somehow naturally found myself on this project management path. I really like what I do and genuinely appreciate the tech culture and the everyday life in a software company. There’s a particular feeling to it, no doubt.

Being a woman in tech. The biggest software companies in the world like Google, IBM or Intel set annual goals for reaching certain numbers when it comes to women professionals among their international teams. Women entered this stage with some delay, for many different reasons, and now slowly begin to fill the global IT job market and close the – still visible – gap.  On the other hand, men who got used to working in homogenous groups, today gradually start to learn all the benefits of a diversified professional environment. It’s an ongoing process, and it will take some time.

Feeling underestimated or judged due to your gender is something you do come across, sooner or later. Here in Argentina, for some, it still comes as a surprise that women have the very same skills, knowledge and drive as men to work in tech and succeed. There’s this issue of having to prove oneself not just as a professional, but as a capable “women professional.” It’s something we need to overcome as a society, something that needs fixing.

Leading teams is a challenge I love. It means copying with different attitudes and bringing together various personalities. My take on project management is cherishing differences and making the most of a multi-angle perspective. I have a feeling that projects thrive in diversified groups and differences fuel the imagination. So, the more women in teams, the better, for the sake of a balanced and creative environment. I also find women as great facilitators and long-term strategic thinkers.

Women empowerment activities. I support all activities that lead to women empowerment. There’s so much to be done. We’re on the road to an IT employment ratio that more fairly represents our actual presence on the job market. Education is another important topic. If there are any professions that are exclusive for men, a career in IT is definitely not one of them. Girls need not fear entering this field; in fact, they should feel encouraged as it’s a great adventure and it has an amazing impact on today’s world. Back in my student years, I was part of a really narrow group: women summed up to only about 5% of all students on my courses. Fortunately, things are changing year after year.

I think that women should support each other in a workplace until we close this gender gap. There will be a time, worldwide when this will no longer be an issue, but we’re not there yet.

Advice for women in IT. When I look back, I see all the right decisions I made. The mistakes on the road were necessary for my growth, and I’ve learned a lot. If I were to send a message to other women, I’d say: pay close attention to all the chances you get, don’t be afraid and choose with heart. Getting what you want takes a lot of perseverance, patience and focusing on your goals. It’s all worth an occasional rough patch: you’ll grow fast, just stay on the track.

Working as a Project Manager gives me so much satisfaction because I play a small part in other people’s growth. When I realize that under my mentoring and coaching people change and empower themselves, I know I’m doing something right. 

Susanne Maurer

Susanne Maurer, Senior Project Manager (Germany)

Susanne Maurer

I studied Information Sciences and English. I guess you could say that there was a little bit of coding in my blood right from the start, as my father used to work as a system administrator, and in his spare time created websites for his friends. The way things turned out, I didn’t dedicate myself to software development. After having started off in a small IT company, I quickly realized I have good communication skills and like to conceptualize ideas and talk to clients. In smaller professional environments, you get to try different roles, because you have to be flexible. 

Thanks to this, I discovered my own path. In my next job, I continued as a developer, but I was already sure that Project Management was my future. When I got the opportunity to change positions, I didn’t hesitate for a moment.

Being a woman in techIn my professional life, I don’t really differentiate between women and men; I rather focus on personalities and approaches. For the same reason, I don’t see any particular challenges in leading teams consisting mainly or exclusively of men. I always deal with individuals and their character traits, good or bad.

Have to say though, that sometimes women do have to prove first that they have the technological know-how, to be trusted and listened to. I have a feeling that the assumption that they might not understand tech issues as quickly or thoroughly as men are still out there, more or less present, depending on individual stories.

Another thing is legislation and practices regarding parental leaves in different companies. Often people can’t imagine a manager working part-time and performing efficiently. When you start a family, longer time-outs can cause missing out on job opportunities. However, for me, that was never an issue. At intive, I haven’t experienced any problems with part-time management and getting back to my regular duties after maternity-leave. It’s a matter of good time management and trust within the organization, both between you and your supervisor, and you and your team.

What’s the best thing about being a woman in tech? I guess it’s precisely that: being an open-minded woman who’s up-to-date with the latest technologies out there. I’m always proud if friends of mine, who are outside the industry, tell me they’re using an app that I helped to shape.

Women empowerment activitiesI’m not engaged in any women empowerment activities as such. I’m not a fan of quotas of any kind – like I said before, at work I only look at people and their skills, and sex is irrelevant. I also wouldn’t force women to pick a certain career just because there’s a gap in the market. But at the same time, I think that a good mixture of both – male and female – worlds is a good thing in any workplace. Plus, I strongly believe that a good IT education right from the start, in the early school years, is important so that everyone can get a sense of what these new languages and technologies are about. In Germany, there are many women engineers. I always tell my daughters they can be whoever they wish and do whatever they want.

Advice for women in ITIT is a very complex and diverse world, and there’s much more to it than plain engineering. What I like to focus on is the creation, the process of bringing new ideas and things to life. Most women I know love to build stuff – maybe that’s the side of software development and Project Management that is not being highlighted enough. For me, the important part is also working with people. Managing expectations, supervising the process, keeping it all together – I really love it. 

I sometimes think what I’d tell my younger self and I come to one conclusion: “Don’t worry so much.” It’s important to follow your instincts and to find out what you really like.

Paulina Gawlicka

Paulina Gawlicka, Project Manager (Poland)

Paulina Gawlicka

I studied Spatial Economy at the Wrocław University of Environmental and Life Sciences. Right after graduation, I saw myself in planning, doing something creative. I can’t say I’ve planned a career in IT, but new technologies have always been on my radar. When I started working at intive, I already knew I was going to find ways to be creative in a different environment. 

Managing projects means finding ways to accommodate different client needs, figuring out how to communicate with your teams and how to get things done on time but without destructive pressure – staying flexible and effective requires an open mind. I really fell for this, so I got a diploma in Project Management, then I joined Project Management Institute Wrocław Branch, and my career made a turn toward tech.

I have many passions in life, things I love to do whenever I get a chance. I like to paint, and I’d do more of that if I could. I’m also crazy about cycling – I do 50 km rides quite regularly. A different line of work? Sure, I can imagine myself doing something else, maybe interior design or event management. Definitely, anything I’d pick would have a creative string to it. But have to say, I’m really into what I do now and have no regrets.

Being a woman in tech. The tech world in Poland is still largely a man’s world, in terms of the job market. I’ve learned to function in an environment dominated by one sex, but it took some time and patience. I think that some men need more time than others to simply get used to being managed by a woman. It’s a cultural and sociological issue, but in many cases, it also comes down to ego. Actually, learning to put ego aside is one of the most difficult challenges for us all, men and women.

On the other hand, I sometimes feel that some women lack self-assertion. I see professionals undermining their achievements and know-how or questioning their judgment, just because they face this, still rather homogenous, IT environment. And then there are the deeply-rooted assumptions, stereotypes that pop up every now and again. I noticed that women in the tech world have a lot of proving to go through, that they need to prove they’re  more reliable than men. I hope that in the future all women professionals will simply compete with their skills and talents, no matter where they live and work.

I don’t think that there’s something like a women’s perspective on project management: we have the same books, same training, men and women. Every individual has his or her unique point of view, and that’s valuable, the individual mix of traits and experiences.

Women empowerment activities. There are not many women in leadership roles in the tech world, so there’s a lot of catching up to do. I personally support the women’s initiative rolled out by Project Management Institute in Poland. We try to build a platform for women professionals to give them a space for sharing experiences, good and bad, and help them overcome career obstacles. I don’t like the idea of separate events for women as such, but am aware that for some they could present the only occasion to talk freely and openly about the gender gap related management issues. If there was no gap, there would be no need for such meetings.

As a woman in tech, I feel we’re making history here. Producing great digital solutions but also changing the job market for future generations. With more and more women joining in, we’re slowly changing the face of the industry, creating equal opportunities.

Advice for women in IT. It’s such a creative business that changes the world right in front of our eyes. If you feel like being a part of that change, go for it!

What would I tell my younger self? Be more selfish, listen to your needs and trust yourself. Follow your intuition, be kind to others. Take only constructive criticism and don’t pay attention to those who doubt your skills.

Challenge everything!

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