Savva spoke to B&T about the importance of education to encourage women to join the tech industry, and why she wishes her mobile phone had never been invented!
B&T: Last year was incredibly challenging. How did it transform your professional life?
HS: For me, like most of us, last year was like no other from a personal and professional perspective. Changing work styles to accommodate the world during COVID was challenging, and not knowing what was around the corner meant we had to be prepared for anything. For me, it was also a time to focus on the essential things, like ensuring work colleagues were ok and adjusting to being at home basically full-time. The extra time I was able to spend with my family was really rewarding and that’s something for which I’m very grateful.
While back-to-back Zoom meetings were often a challenge, on the other hand, thank goodness for Zoom because it was often a welcome relief to talk to different people and allowed me to stay connected to the people I care about. Friday drinks in front of a laptop, online trivia nights and virtual coffee breaks with colleagues are a few of the things that will stay with me. In times of adversity, creativity and thinking outside the box kept us all connected. A key learning for me during 2020 was that I have the tools to stay strong and resilient.
In your opinion, where does technology fit into the creative process?
Technology has been a huge enabler in the creative process over the past year, and we’ve seen new tools and opportunities come to our attention as a result. At VMware, our own technology gave us the ability to move our entire workforce to work from home, basically overnight, and still have access to the tools and functions we used in the office.
This made the move from a physical creative process to a virtual experience quite seamless. Previously, for creative collaboration such as training or brainstorming, we would have arranged a physical get-together. We now know that an interactive, creative experience doesn’t always have to be one that we do in-person, thanks to technology. For example, using Zoom breakout rooms to divide larger groups into smaller ones; interactive whiteboarding tools and online mind-mapping for team brainstorms. The range of digital tools available meant the creativity could continue to flow because it allowed us to be interactive in new ways.
What steps can tech businesses take to ensure that they are supporting female leaders and that they feel there is a space for them in the industry?
It’s vitally important that technology companies keep looking for new opportunities to give women a voice. This involves ensuring they’re included in leadership teams, decision-making processes, recruitment, and other highly visible opportunities across the business. It’s important for women to have a profile within the organisation and that there is a range of initiatives that focus on women.
An obvious example is providing flexibility for women (and parents in general) who have school-aged children, so they can take care of their personal priorities as well as being a business leader. At the same time, it’s critical to the success of these initiatives that men are encouraged to become allies to women and have the opportunity to gain an understanding of the unique challenges women face in our industry. To work towards closing the gap, it can’t just be women trying to support women.
What do you think are the most significant obstacles facing women in tech, and do you have ideas about how to overcome them?
With a long history of being predominantly male, there’s still a lot of work to be done to bring true equality into the technology sector. Education is a really important catalyst and it can make a difference from the grassroots, up. From the time they start school, children are now taught technology subjects such as coding in a fun and interactive way. Encouraging more girls to get involved and show their skills in these areas will lead to genuine interest forming in girls from their early years.
When it comes time to select university degrees, we’re starting to see more women participating in STEM courses. This is where it’s important for that encouragement to continue – for educators to highlight the achievements of their female students and help amplify their talents and their voices in the industry. While we still have a lot of work to do, there are gradual changes occurring and as we see more women entering the industry, it’s a natural progression that we will hear more women’s voices, see more women’s skills held up, and experience more women leading.
If you could uninvent one piece of technology, what would it be?
If I could uninvent one thing it would be my mobile phone. Living where you work and being constantly available to everybody including family, friends, and colleagues, has been challenging and I found out quite quickly that I didn’t have a lot of time for myself. I’ve learned that I need to make time for myself and switch off, however, it’s always tempting to read one more email or take one more look at social media when I really shouldn’t!
You can find all of the 2021 winners here.
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