Be Your Authentic Self: Key Insights for Women in Tech from Five of Canada’s Top IoT Leaders
October 06, 2017
GE Reports Canada
Lift while you climb. Leave what you found better than when you started. You cannot be what you cannot see.
Those are just a few of the inspirational suggestions offered by technology leaders at the sold-out “Women in IoT – Adopters & Influencers” roundtable discussion held in Vancouver on October 4. The event, presented by the GE Women’s Network and Telus Connections, featured insights from female trailblazers in British Columbia who are driving and promoting technology innovation.
While the Internet of Things was the headline topic, the discussion quickly turned to developing and nurturing women leaders and mentoring the next generation. Here are some takeaways from each panelist:
Jessie Adcock, Chief Technology Officer at City of Vancouver
For women considering a career in science or technology, Jessie Adcock has some strong advice: women should stop taking themselves out of the running for top jobs. “Women tend to self-deselect from certain opportunities, feeling like we’re not up to par,” she told the gathered crowd. “We are our own worst enemies.”
Adcock said she almost didn’t apply for her previous job as Chief Digital Officer job for the City of Vancouver. “It would’ve been a horrible mistake,” she said. “Women need to self-promote more if we’re going to get ahead.”
Dr Zahra Ahmadian, Data Scientist at Boeing Vancouver Labs
While the lack of women in science and technology roles remains an ongoing problem, Dr. Zahra Ahmadian, a data scientist at Boeing Canada, sees signs of improvement. For instance, she was at an annual industry conference recently and, for the first time, found herself standing in a line up for the women’s washroom. “Things are changing,” she said, prompting a roar of laughter from the crowd.
Still, Ahmadian believes there needs to be more awareness around career opportunities in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers, starting at a young age. “If we want more women in science and technology, we need to start creating awareness at an early age, so when it comes time to make those decisions, they have the right information,” she said.
Gina Arsens, Global Finance Leader at Finning Digital
In her role as Global Finance Leader at Finning Digital, Gina Arsens uses IoT technology and data analytics to help improve products and services. She observed that when she came to the male-dominated company, she had misconception of what the corporate culture would be like. “I was pleasantly surprised. It’s a real culture of openness. The people are bright, professional, and extremely humble … It’s that backdrop that fosters this ability to have a diverse workforce and to encourage diversity,” she said.
Arsens has had many mentors in her career to date and remembered a piece of advice she heard early in her career, which was to leave what you found better than when you started. “It has always made me think about the impact I have in my career and my work and what I can offer and share,” she told attendees. “It’s not about building the resume to get that next skill, but the opportunity to create a difference.”
Karen Dosanjh, Innovation Director, Global Brand at GE Digital
“You cannot be what you cannot see,” says Karen Dosanjh, who is a big promoter of mentoring and showing the next generation of women what roles they could have if they only had more role models.
GE is also a leader when it comes to advancing women, especially as it seeks to fill a fast-growing skills gap that is becoming a problem for companies in today’s market. “If we truly want to become a digital industry leader we need more women to help us do that,” Dosanjh said.
As women join digitally-minded companies like GE, Dosanjh encourages them to be authentic and use their emotional quotient to their advantage. “Never underestimate the power of your own brand, personal and professional,” she told the audience. “Bringing your authentic self to work is a good thing … don’t be afraid to stand up for the values you hold dear.”
Juggy Sihota-Chahil, Vice President – Consumer Health at TELUS
As VP of Consumer Health at Telus, Juggy Sihota-Chahil helps empower Canadians to take control of their well-being with the support of data analytics. “We are better as an organization if we look like the customers that we are trying to serve,” she observed. “Diversity is strength and leads to better business outcomes.”
Sihota-Chahil encourages women to support each throughout their careers. “Women are in positions of power and authority now. We have the ability to put our money where our mouth is,” she said. “Lift other women as you’re rising through the ranks … Think consciously about doing it. There is lots of room for all of us at the top.”