Asia Larkin is product manager at ecommerce tech specialists, Rokt, where she is responsible for reporting product, identifying customer pain points, and product feature scoping.
However, tech isn’t necessarily where she’d envisioned her professional life would lead. After initially gaining a foot in the HR side of things, connections and natural enthusiasm would lead her to tech, specifically the field of blockchain technology.
Since then, Larkin found her niche and has gone from strength-to-strength as co-founder of blockchain specialists, Blockchain Developer, and as the current product manager at Rokt.
With Rokt generously sponsoring the upcoming B&T Women Leading Tech Awards, we decided to catch up with the American-turned-Aussie blockchain buff to talk about her start in the field, why businesses should embrace diversity, and why it’s imperative we start encouraging girls of primary school age to embrace STEM.
B&T: What inspired Rokt to be a sponsor and become involved with the Women Leading Tech Awards?
Larkin: We’re heavily invested in bringing more women into tech, and into our organisation. I know our leadership team is very focused on making sure women feel comfortable applying. A lot of their hiring and interviewing practices [have been] assessed to ensure we’re not inadvertently excluding women, or making women feel like they can’t apply or be involved. We’re involved with Women Leading Tech to encourage women to enter the field and hopefully encourage women to apply at Rokt.
What inspired you to become involved in the tech sector?
I started out in the HR field after I graduated from uni. Over time, I did a lot of different things, but none of them were quite the right fit. I was working here in Sydney at an environmental consultancy in a tech writer/ project administrator capacity, and by night I was working for a startup called Blockchain Developer, which my dad started. I wasn’t a PM then, I was an account manager. That’s how I became involved in technology and started learning what blockchain is.
That’s [also] how I got exposed to product management. I’d never even heard of the field before starting out as an account manager for Blockchain Developer. Through that process, I realised ‘Oh wait, that’s what I want to do!’. No one had ever mentioned this to me – why would they? And how would I have known without being exposed to it in some way? If you’re not running in those circles already you just don’t know what opportunities are available to you.
I became interested in technology and product management seeing it from the account management perspective. Through that process I found Rokt. I applied and got very lucky because they hired me as an associate product manager. I was able to learn everything from the ground-up. It was a steep learning curve and it still continues.
Why is gender equality in tech of particular importance compared with other industries?
There’s a lot of benefits to having a diverse team; you have different backgrounds, you have people more willing to stick to the facts and consider other avenues of thinking. It would be great to have more diverse employees so that we have that thinking and those experiences in the room when you’re designing the product.
Why does tech continue to be so male-dominated?
It starts before uni. There’s a grade level – I don’t know what you call it here – where girls start doing worse at math and boys start doing better, and that’s where the split begins. If it’s not addressed then, it keeps compounding, and by the time a lot of women are getting to uni, they think they’re not good at that analytical side of things, [and] mightn’t think they should be getting into computer science or anything technical. It starts young and it’s a vicious cycle that just keeps feeding itself.
When they start computer science programs, a lot of women look around the room and [see little] representation there. They come in already feeling like they’re behind and they should do something else. It’s literally exposure and experience. When you’re in the seat at the time and there’s only one woman and you think everyone is already much better than you, you’re not as likely to stick with it.
How do awards initiatives like B&T’s Women Leading Tech Awards help gender-equality causes?
Representation, and raising the profile of women in this field. If you don’t see yourself in leaders, or you don’t see people similar to you winning awards or being recognised, it’s easy to feel like that disparity is larger than it is.
Going forward, what do you think the next decade will look like in terms of gender equality in the tech field?
I do hope, in addition to starting early, there’s more companies willing to hire people that don’t necessarily come one-to-one. I wasn’t a product manager before starting at Rokt, so [they should be] far more willing to hire people with different experiences and see the value in that.
Even though I had exposure in other ways and felt I’d be good at it, I didn’t have the resume that said I’d already done it to prove it. I’m hopeful we’ll get closer to fifty per cent (male-female ratio), but without knowing where we are now with our younger generation it’s hard to say.
Do you think with contemporary initiatives in place that positive change is being made?
I think so. It’s not like this is a new push to have women in the field, but it’s still an issue. Initiatives like Women Leading Tech and initiatives Rokt does focuses on raising the profile of women in their company. [They] will help.
Going back to what you said earlier, do you believe the best way to tackle this inequality is to support young girls at a primary school level?
That, and the uni level. And the third avenue being to encourage women that feel like they might not have the experience to still apply and still try.
What initiatives is Rokt implementing to ensure gender equality in its workplace?
They have a very generous parental leave policy. I’m eight months pregnant, and they have 16 weeks paid leave for the primary caregiver, which is pretty unheard of. As an American, it’s completely unheard of. It’s not something I considered when I applied or got hired, but now that I’m pregnant I’m even more appreciative of Rokt. It seems like a thought-out policy to encourage women and to encourage people from different backgrounds to apply and to stay.
Their hiring initiatives are also really good. Apparently, for women, if they see a job description saying, “You need two years’ experience this, and four years’ experience that,” women are more likely to [think], “Well, I only have three years’ experience in that so I’m not eligible”. Whereas a guy will be like, “I think I’ve heard of that, I’m gonna apply!” They don’t see the requirements as requirements, so much as suggestions. Whereas women take it as ‘You’re gonna be rejected if you don’t have this.’ Rokt is careful not to have any leading language like that. They use non-specific language, but still try to convey what they’re looking for.
If you’re a woman and you’re being interviewed, I think [Rokt] try to have at least one female interviewer so there’s at least someone you can bounce questions off, and you can potentially feel more comfortable in the interview. Even before people are hired, Rokt make things more equitable along the way.
Tickets to the awards are now on sale HERE.
Entry deadline: Tuesday 22 February 2022
Late entry deadline: Tuesday 1 March 2022
Shortlist announced: Thursday 24 March 2022
Early bird tickets end: Wednesday 30 March 2022
As an initiative created to support gender parity and representation across the tech industry, Women Leading Tech is an event inclusive of non-binary and gender diverse members of the tech industry, as well as any individual identifying as a woman.
Thank you to our Women Leading Tech sponsors:
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