Welcome to the Women in Tech Leadership Series. In this week’s series, we are featuring 3 mentors- Katie Pang, a Product Designer at Nerdwallet based in the United States 🇺🇸, Sakshi Shukla, a Copywriter & Content Marketer based in India 🇮🇳, and Tata Yap, the Director of Design at Make Technology based in Australia Philippines 🇵🇭.
We hope their stories and career advice will guide you to overcome obstacles and succeed in the tech industry 🎯.
Find a comfortable spot and let’s start reading! 🛋️🧋
“I’ve always liked crafting as a hobby but never knew what kind of career out there was really suited for me where I can hone my crafting skills. It took a long time to find but I found it! Product Design is great because it is creative but also takes a lot of understanding and learning. It is a hard skill that I can use this skill for the rest of my life to keep on crafting but digitally now. One of my goals this year is to design an app and work with others to bring it to life. It feels good having a career that also feels like a hobby.”
“It was a natural interest progression from my early days in web design. I came to enjoy web design growing up in the mid-2000s. I’m not sure if some people remember that era of the internet when people would make websites based on different kinds of fandoms: anime, video games, comic books, pop groups. I remember that the online scene consisted of mostly women who would purchase a domain name, some web hosting space and create all sorts of websites — simple blogs, character “shrines”, fan sites, etc., all of these would be coded from scratch in Notepad and made for free. We’d link each others’ websites and form virtual friend groups way before the first social media networks. It was a really fun time, and I’m glad this hobby and community lead me to pursue digital design and tech now that I’m much older.”
“On a more philosophical note, I also wanted to involve myself in an industry that has so much salient influence on society. I might say that I do not always agree with the underlying values that dominate our tech industry today: the obsession with limitless growth and the prioritization of user-friendliness, and “ease” above all else. Because of this, I’d still want to remain in the tech industry so I can do my best to contribute to its long-term well-being in the future.”
“ When I first transitioned into design from business, I always questioned if the design was right for me. I always felt like I’m just not cut out for this. But I constantly reminded myself of my goal. I didn’t want to stay in business so every day (especially during the dark days), I would remind myself of what I am aiming for and that there is no opportunity to fail. The day of success will come and I must and will be a product designer. Even today, with anything I do, I still have this same mentality. Remember the goal and don’t look back.”
“I'm a very confident person but there are days when I'm paralyzed by self-doubt and I feel I've lost my way. The first thing I do to overcome it is talking to my friends. I'm blessed that I have people who love and support me. The thing is we're all in this together. I mean think about it - the earth is an ephemeral dot existing in a blink and only and only love is the point. So love people and show up for them. They will show up for you.”
“I do that a lot. A walk around and talk to me. It helps me rationalize my fears, my doubts, and helps me get some clarity.”
“I have self-doubt about whether my hands-on skills are still on par and adaptive to the rapid pace of today’s product design and development. There are also times I feel that I have to work and persevere 2x more than anyone else to compensate for a certain feeling of having to prove myself and deserve the roles and responsibilities given to me. I overcome this feeling of self-doubt by allowing myself more slack to be more confident about “my place at the table”. I tell myself that I don’t need to be proving myself every day and that there must be people and colleagues who acknowledge my presence, just for what it is. I also try to keep a balance, self-doubt is actually quite good as a designer —we don’t have to be assertive all the time.”
“I’ve had an experience where my manager would speak more closely to another male designer on my team which was kind of frustrating. The project I was sharing eventually got taken over by that male designer too without much of a discussion.”
“Spoke to various designers on just opportunities/salary as a whole and discovered that some (mostly older corporate companies) would still pay male designers higher than female designers.”
“The stereotype is that if you’re a female in tech, you’re like a designer and not an engineer. Though I am answering to the stigma of being a female designer, it is still frustrating to hear that type of response.”
“One of the things freelancing and building my own business has taught me is that nothing will be served on a platter to me. I will have to figure out the way, ask questions, network with people, market my skills, teach myself things (I taught myself everything about marketing, consumer psychology, ad campaigns, building an ideal customer persona, marketing analytics), and hold myself together when I make a mistake. "The world is scared of those who aren't scared of anything". This has become my personal mantra.”
“It’s not that women can’t be big thinkers, but the communication styles of men and women are different. Our workplaces always tend to recognize and reward more persuasive ways of talking and the male style tends to be more like this. Based on my experience, women are very good at dealing with specific operative details, facilitation, and processes —things that don’t necessarily get praised in the context of a big presentation or decisive executive meeting.”
“It has been improving over the past several years, but there is still a persistent stereotype that women are not inclined toward software development. Many of the tech teams I have worked with are still predominantly led and occupied by men. It also felt like women developers had to do more tasks in management and training WHILE already being excellent developers to prove their worthiness to lead a team when men simply had to have the technical expertise to attain the same role.”
“This is related to the reality that many women are compelled to “quit” their careers once becoming a mother, leading management to assume that men should have higher wages to support a family. The gender wage gap exists and it’s so difficult to contest especially in work cultures where it’s taboo to openly speak about salaries."
“Related to the first challenge, women in tech have to adjust to male communication styles to be perceived as competent, but any excess of this behavior leads to people disliking women far more easily than men. This is because people always somehow expect agreeability from women, so any form of excess assertion or aggression observed in women employees is perceived more heavily."
“The social movement for women’s empowerment in tech focuses largely on exceptionalism — the overachieving girl boss, so to speak. While inspiring, this creates the expectation and baseline that ALL women have to be exceedingly competent and exceptional to even earn a place at the table. This creates an unrealistic and unsustainable pathway for all women to progress in our industry.”
“At the end of the day, despite excellence and competence in female employees, most top-level executives and stakeholders are still occupied by men, and these key decision-makers still rely on social groups to affect their choices. Their closer inner circle of contacts or friends will still likely be comprised of men. In this way, women are given almost no pathways to the “top of the ladder”.
“Small or big questions, always get another pair of eyes on it.”
“Data is always good hard evidence to validate/push back on your decisions. Since you are never designing for a party of 1, it’s always key to get as wide of a perspective as possible.”
“Never get stuck on your design being THE BEST. Feedback is important and helps you become a wiser designer.”
“Always try to embrace my strengths and care less whether I am catering to my colleagues as a woman at work. If my work necessitates that I adopt a more female style of communication and detail-orientedness, then so be it. We just need to do what we do best without fear of pandering to the male gaze.”
“Try to adopt at work with colleagues is to have more conversational working sessions in place of presentation-based “meetings”. This manner of engaging with colleagues is not just more productive, but also more conducive to an environment where more people talk, opening the floor for women to do what they do best: creating, facilitating, and connecting.”
“Always remember your goal (especially during the tough days), what you’re working so hard for, and never look back. Only then will you really get there.”
“Design, by nature, highlights the best strengths of women. We are naturally attuned to the skillsets needed to succeed in this industry. Just keep a consistent habit of showing up to the work and these seemingly invisible efforts will come to fruition one day.”
Read other Women In Tech series by ADPList mentors or book a free 1:1 mentoring session!
Katie Pang (ADPList Mentor)
Product Designer at Nerdwallet
LinkedIn account: https://www.linkedin.com/in/katiekpang/
Editor and Writer:
Content Marketer and Writer at ADPList
LinkedIn account: https://www.linkedin.com/in/famr/
Lessons learnt from commonly asked questions during mentorship sessions