DataWomen Event Recap: Thriving in Data


DataWomen Event Recap: Thriving in Data

This month, InterWorks supported the kickoff of the very first event for DataWomen! DataWomen is a data network that hosts regular webinars, runs a mentoring program, hosts a LinkedIn group and shares awesome content and links for other groups.

The aim of all of this is to support and empower DataWomen and data friends by creating an inclusive community for discussion and mutual learning. You can learn more about this at the DataWomen page.

Thriving in Data

Our first event was a fireside chat from Beth Kairys, Azucena Coronel, Elisa Koch and Kayla Matheson. We talked about women in tech, impostor syndrome and the importance of having strong mentors and advocates throughout your career.

We had some great statistics from Azu to kick us off:

  1. Women are less likely to work in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths), with only 20% of young women considering STEM as a career vs. 41% of young men, and 21% of STEM graduates being women
  2. Women are less likely to work in ICT (Information Communication Technology) and earn an average of 18% less in technology roles when they do so
  3. Survey results show women are more likely to suffer impostor syndrome (66% of women vs. 56% of men) and lack the confidence at work to ask for a pay raise (60% of women say they’ve never negotiated over pay)
  4. COVID has resulted in an average increase of almost one hour to the length of people’s workdays and resulted in unemployment for others (rates of 13% and 15% unemployment in Australia and the U.S. respectively)

Panel High Points

The conversation was so insightful, it’s hard to pick highlights. But here were some of our favorite moments:

  • Beth and Kayla discussed their experiences coming from non-technical backgrounds and how you can skill up and pivot your career to data.
  • Elisa shared how non-traditional backgrounds can give you a leg up for roles and encouraged attendees not to discount amazing non-technical skills and experience.
  • Azu explained how one can experience impostor syndrome for soft skills, as well as technical skills, and advocated to deliberately push yourself outside your comfort zone to grow.
  • Elisa on how to turn being temporarily stood down into an opportunity to give back and do work you’re passionate about
  • All of the women on the panel talked about how organic relationships with mentors and advocates can help you, the difference between the two, the importance of finding each, and the need to align yourself with your core values.

We could have talked for hours and were thrilled to see the level of engagement from the community in asking participant questions. We didn’t get a chance to answer all your questions live, so beneath the video are some gems we didn’t get to but wanted to answer anyway.


Outstanding Audience Questions

Q: Some of my male colleagues have asked me what they should do to support women. Tips?

A from Beth:

Firstly, that’s great that they’re asking! As we spoke about in the session, a big one is by being a mentor or advocate for the women around them. This can be formal or informal. There’s a ton of great tips in this article on how men can be allies to the women around them.

Another way is to consider and challenge their own biases. I have a small son and got a lot of judgement when I went back to work after seven months, whereas his father was praised for the two months he took off. I’ve also had some well-meaning colleagues make some big gaffes by asking me during after-work drinks where my son is (i.e. implying I should be home with him). These sorts of questions can make women feel that their place at work is being questioned (for the record, he was with his father). Don’t be the guy that asks this.

Finally, I challenge everyone to support the men they see parenting their kids. My husband and I share the parenting of our son, meaning we both work part-time and finish early to collect him from childcare, and we take turns taking time off work when he’s sick. Whereas I’ve had people not invite me to things as they assume I’ll be home parenting our son, he’s had people pressure him to have late meetings or attend things after work on the assumption that he’s always able to. I’d love to see him better supported for taking an active role in parenting. Flexibility isn’t just for women, and by supporting men to parent, we support women to be active at work! To quote one of my own personal heroes:

“Why, after all these decades of campaign, reform, research and thought about how we can best get women into the workplace, are we so slow to pick up that the most important next step is how to get men out of it?”
– Annabel Crabb, The Wife Drought

Q: As a male, what does “good” look like in terms of enabling women on my team? What does “bad” look like?

A from Beth:

Firstly, you’re asking, so that’s a fantastic start! To me, good looks like a lot of things from this article:

  • championing the women on your team (and other underrepresented groups) for stretch assignments and other opportunities
  • amplifying their voices in meetings and with colleagues
  • advocating for them and their careers

To go from good to great, you might also:

  • Be aware that the women on your team could be more likely to undersell themselves and their experiences. Supporting and encouraging them to back themselves can be super powerful in building them and their careers up for the long run.
  • Be aware of (but don’t make assumptions about) their family responsibilities. The best thing you can do is ask about their setup at home, and be conscious and respectful of their responsibilities elsewhere (to be truly awesome, do this for the men in your team, too, rather than just assuming that their wives have “got this”).

Bad is the opposite of the above! Bad looks like not inviting women to events because you assume they are parenting their kids or else requiring parents of small children to stay late all the time. Bad looks like talking over the women on your team during meetings, shutting down their voices and ideas or stealing their ideas and selling them as your own. Bad also looks like assuming your male staff don’t have family responsibilities and so indirectly putting all the parenting responsibilities on their wives and partners. Great allies don’t do any of this, and they call it out when they see others engaging in this sort of behaviour.

Q: I am just wondering how to crack my first opportunity as an international student. Do you have any tips or suggestions?

A from Azu:

Being originally from Mexico, this was definitely a struggle close to my heart when I first searched for a job here in Australia. It can be disheartening to be expected to have “Australian experience” in order to find a job. Keep in mind that while you might be lacking in this, there is a plethora of other types of experience you can talk about and build upon. The very first one that comes to mind, and that I vastly used, was my ability to adapt to unknown and varying circumstances; you can definitely sell up on this by talking about your experience of arriving to Australia by yourself for the first time and the diverse issues you needed to sort out (finding your way, setting up your living in a brand-new country, being able to work in multi-cultural teams and often online with people based in other countries).

If you have the experience of having worked with English-speaking teams in your previous roles, this is also something you can point out to give the current employer the confidence that you have professional English level. Back in the day when I was working in Mexico, as an SAP consultant, I used a lot of time talking with teams based in the States and in India; this experience definitely helped me to practice my second language in a professional environment.

I found my very first IT role in Australia through paid internships promoted by Macquarie University (where I studied my master’s degree). This first job was entry level and it was a “step back” from the medium-senior roles that I had held before. But this was the best move I could have made at the time as it opened to me the Australian professional scenario. On one side, the company that hired me found me very useful as I developed in pretty good time (because they got more than an entry-level consultant for their buck), so that made me absolutely happy. On the other side, the owner of this company became a good friend, and he recommended me to other people who eventually hired me for a Senior Consultant role. From there, everything ran smoothly. It is just about finding that very first gig and then the story writes itself.

One last recommendation is to get involved with diverse groups. Referrals are a top source of quality roles that can fall right within your interests (as you will generally get involved with groups you feel comfortable with). Funny story about my second role: I found it in one meetup group. It is typical from meetups to have an open-mic time, and the owner of a company announced he had an opening for a BI consultant role. As soon as the talks finished, I went and introduced myself, and it turn out that the owner of this second company was a good friend of my first boss. So, my previous boss put in a good word for me, and I started shortly thereafter. The world is such a small place, and good work opens up doors you might not think about!

Q: I am a customer success enthusiast and want to grow in the CS space. Please share tips as to how can I apply for the same, as well as tips about applying for entry-level roles in the Customer Success space.

A from Kayla:

Fantastic! Customer Success is an exciting, growing profession as more organisations are seeking to create exceptional customer experiences and improve time to value with technology.

Customer Success as a job title is used liberally and can encompass a range of responsibilities, so it’s important to be clear about what interests you. Some Customer Success roles are focused on high-touch technical support, some are created to drive revenue growth. Some are focused on communities, training, implementation or delivery. When applying for roles, it’s important to be 100% clear about the responsibilities, so they are good match for your interests.

Given that Customer Success is a relatively new profession, many come to the role with no official Customer Success experience. Look for opportunities in your current role to develop experience in understanding customer needs, communications, stakeholder management, relevant technology platforms, change management and working in cross-functional teams. All these experiences will help create a stronger application for a role in Customer Success.

There are some great communities to help you network and learn more about the profession:

I also recommend researching the technology used by Customer Success professionals. These companies provide a lot of thought leadership and learning opportunities through conferences, webinars, blogs and articles. Examples include Gainsight and Salesforce.

If you’re interested in studying Customer-Success-related topics then I recommend a virtual course through RMIT. RMIT launched Australia’s first Customer Success grad certificate this year, but they also provide a range of relevant short courses, such as Customer Experience Strategy, that will add to your resume.

Larger organisations have entry-level roles, intern and grad programs, and they’re a great way to learn on the job. For example: the Salesforce Customer Success Grad Program.

Q: I have been in a purely technical role (hands-on) since the start of my career and not keen in the management space. With the daily new tools in the market, how do I grow?

A from Azu:

Management is definitely not for everybody, and if you more enjoy being purely technical and super specialized, that’s okay. You are right—with so many new tools in the market, it is sometimes difficult to know where to focus. I would say that there is no right answer to this one, as this will depend on what you want to specialize in (if at all). And what I mean with “if at all” is that it is also valuable to have broader knowledge across more providers. For example, cloud providers: Azure, GCP and AWS. In my experience, these have similar functionalities but branded with different names. I would go and research which one is more used in the industry or company I would like to work in and study and understand more deeply this cloud technology. With this, you would generally be able to translate it into the other cloud technologies with lower effort.

My recommendation is to first analyze your current situation: do you currently enjoy your role? Do you enjoy your current company and see yourself working there for another 4-5 years? If so, which tools is your company using? If it is a consultancy, this list might be three or four times bigger, as consultants generally are tool-agnostic in favor of what is best for the clients. If you are not currently very happy where you are at, you might go and investigate the tool stack of companies that you like. It is worth it to try and see if anyone in your network is currently working for any of those companies, and grab a coffee and chat about what is like on the inside, which tools they are using, what does the everyday look like and what the options are for professional development. After all these exercises, you will most likely have a list of tools you can begin learning or specializing in deeper. By harnessing your skills in these tools, you will become the expert and grow in your position within the technical area. There are also some sensible progressions in the technical career. For example, in my case, it is a sensible progression for a data engineer to progress to a data architect. But again, there are so many pathways, it really all depends on what you love. Feel free to connect with me via LinkedIn if you want to chat about your specific case!

Q: What types of skills/mindset changes should you cultivate to move up from management into leadership positions?

A from Elisa:

A great question. I think of the transition in my career that challenged me the most.

I became a manager quite early on in my career managing a small team of analysts. That first transition from an independent contributor role to a manager initially feels like you’re managing more and bigger projects. In other words, you’re still hands-on but also guiding your team with their projects.

However, as you gain more experience as a people manager, you learn to step away from being hands-on and begin to provide more guidance and, most importantly, break down barriers, so your team can do their job more effectively.

For me, there was a clear distinction in transitioning from a manager to a leadership role, although, of course, you can be both simultaneously. The most challenging part of the transition was knowing that as a leader, no one was going to tell me what to do. It’s up to me to formulate the agenda for my team and get the buy-in from across the business.

This transition into leadership roles has been less about hard skills and more about a mindset shift:

  1. Be okay with not being the expert in the room. Hire the experts.
  2. Be okay with not having all the answers. Ask questions and listen to others to derive the answers.
  3. Commit to the growth of people in your teams. When they grow, you will grow as well.

Sources Used Above

  1. Women in STEM at a glance. Youth in STEM Research 2019-2020. Survey of 3000 young adults in AUS
  2. 2019 ACS Australia’s Digital Pulse. ABS dataset
  3. Access Commercial Finance. Survey of 3000 UK adults; Ranstad survey of 1200 US working adults, 2020
  4. National Bureau of Economic Research. The Impact of COVID-19 on the Nature of Work. De- identified, aggregated meeting and email meta-data from ~3million people. Unemployment: Australia – statements by Treasurer (the Age); USA – Department of Labor.

More About the Author

Beth Kairys

Strategy Lead
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