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Diana Hauser, Innovation Lab Manager at NTT DATA Germany

“It is too late to get girls interested in tech right before they have to decide for a study or career path”

Gabriela Motroc
diversity
© Shutterstock /Lamina2014

Women are underrepresented in the tech sector —myth or reality? In addition to the Women in Tech survey, we also launched a diversity series aimed at bringing the most inspirational and powerful women in the tech scene to your attention. Today, we’d like you to meet Diana Hauser, Innovation Lab Manager at NTT DATA Germany.

Is tech a boys-only club? So it seems. But the light of smart and powerful women is finally shining bright. We root for excellence and justice and, above all, we want meritocracy to win. This is our way of giving women in tech a shout-out.

A research study by The National Center for Women & Information Technology showed that “gender diversity has specific benefits in technology settings,” which could explain why tech companies have started to invest in initiatives that aim to boost the number of female applicants, recruit them in a more effective way, retain them for longer, and give them the opportunity to advance. But is it enough?

Women in Tech — The Survey

We would like to get to the bottom of why gender diversity remains a challenge for the tech scene. Therefore, we invite you all to fill out our diversity survey. Share your experiences with us!

Your input will help us identify the diversity-related issues that prevent us from achieving gender equality in technology workplaces.

Without further ado, we would like to introduce Diana Hauser, Innovation Lab Manager at NTT DATA Germany.

Diana Hauser, Innovation Lab Manager at NTT DATA Germany

What got you interested in technology?

When I was about 10 years old, my parents bought me my first computer. This happened at a point in time when I had injured my knees by putting too much stress on them from ballet as well as playing soccer and tennis. I had to stop all sports activities for at least one year, which (sadly) gave me a lot of spare time.

Since I am a curious person by nature about basically everything, I soon dragged my mother to the library to borrow books on computers and web development.

Though I was able to carefully pick up sports again a few years later, my interest in technology remained high and by then I had already joined the IT project group “getting-to-know” classes, pointers and Turbo Pascal. When trying to decide what I wanted to study, I looked for guidance at German job centers, ending up with consultants recommending less technical paths, insisting that this would be a better fit for me. Being persistent, this just made it crystal-clear to me which career path I wanted to pursue. Hence, I enrolled in “Media and Communication Informatics” at Reutlingen University and later on in “Advanced Computer Systems Development” at the University of the West of Scotland.

After graduating with honors, trying to find a job was much easier than I expected. I got offered all three jobs that I interviewed for. Having worked for a few months in my second job, my boss told me that I had undersold myself, not having asked for what I was worth. This got me thinking that an obstacle I will always need to overcome is my self-impression.

Playing with LEGO might have even been a building block for her career path

I always received great support from my family. I am especially grateful to them for always supporting me, letting me be curious about everything and always helping me try out everything I wanted to. As a child, for example, I ended up having equal numbers of Barbie dolls and LEGO bricks to play with. Reflecting on it now, I think there was not a single female or male friend of mine at that time who did not enjoy playing with both. This might have even been a building block for my career path to innovation management, where I now regularly facilitate LEGO SERIOUS play workshops with clients and employees.

My friends have also always supported me regarding my career path – a little bit more than usual when their computers needed to be fixed, of course.

Regarding equality and diversity, I enjoy books and I like watching interviews by Sheryl Sandberg. But there are also other great men and women sharing their views and ideas on those topics for example during TED talks. Their advice helped me a lot in the past, for example, when trying to overcome selling myself short from time to time.

When looking for role models in the technical area, I was very lucky to never have to look very far. In all my jobs and job positions, there were great colleagues teaching me without any prejudice, listening to me and challenging me.

“When I am passionate about something, I’m usually too tenacious to be held back.”

When I am passionate about something, I’m usually too tenacious to be held back. For example, I set my mind on improving communication and facilitating knowledge transfer amongst NTT DATA employees. Together with other colleagues, I came up with a concept, which will now – after one year of planning – become reality.

However, to me, it seems that as a woman, you always have to work a lot harder to prove yourself and to overcome people’s prejudice. This makes it hard every time you get new colleagues or get placed into a new project. And the prejudice is not always coming from men, but also from women – some of them asking me openly why I would ever pick a technical career path with “all those nerds”, just sitting there and writing all those lines of code every day. I then usually describe my job and the great colleagues I have, hoping to change their perception of IT jobs at least a little bit.

A day in Diana’s life

I have been working for NTT DATA since 2012. I started as a software developer and am now managing NTT DATA’s Ensō – The Space for Creators, an innovation lab, which is the first of its kind for NTT in Europe. As Innovation Lab Manager, I’m responsible for organizing workshops and events for clients, partners and employees as well as evaluating technology assets and including them into workshops or using them as starting point for further developments.

We create future visions together with clients but focus also on joint, hands-on development and (rapid) prototyping of solutions. This is what makes it so exciting from my point of view: in contrast to other innovation labs, we are building software and solutions that support organizations to stay competitive in the digital transformation. That said, there is not really a “typical” workday. At any one day, I might lead the development of new software for an automotive company, collaborate with an IT team from a bank or organize and host events like hackathons and meet-ups.

First of all, I am proud to have found a career that I love, working with passion and always trying to give my best, which resulted in promotions almost every year.

I got chosen to join NTT DATA’s “Leaders for Tomorrow” program, which was founded to develop the future leaders from within the company. In addition to that, co-founding and running “Ensō – The Space for Creators” was and still is also a highlight. So, I am most proud of having found my place in this male-dominated business and having gained acceptance and respect for it.

Why aren’t there more women in tech?

I think that most people – and maybe especially women – still have that stereotype of a programmer in mind sitting alone in a basement, hacking lines of code into a computer. We need to change that image to get more women interested in technical areas, showing also the creative aspects that programming has and the teamwork that is required to successfully build large and complex applications together.

It is too late to get girls interested in tech right before they have to decide for a study or career path. Parents need to let girls experiment with technology from an early age and stop thinking about traditional role models. If kids like to play with either dolls or toy cars, you don’t have to force the other upon them. But do leave your kids a choice in the first place and provide all possible options.

It’s been proven that playing with dolls promotes creativity while constructing things fosters spatial thinking. Kids shouldn’t have a disadvantage in life just because they get one-sided toys. Most people know about great apps that teach kids how to read, write and do math. But there are also great platforms like Cloqq that teach kids how to code in a very fun and playful way encouraging their interest in technology.

Kids shouldn’t have a disadvantage in life just because they get one-sided toys.

By now, enough studies have been conducted proving that having diverse teams and more women in leadership roles increases revenue and profits as well as innovative thinking and corporate culture. Which STEM area can say that this is not a goal worth achieving? Half of the population consists of women. With the power of the individual becoming stronger, for instance with social media, and human-centered design getting more important, I think everyone would benefit from having people with different backgrounds, characteristics and talents in a team facing STEM challenges together.

This will make it possible to get more perspectives on every topic, which will lead to better solutions that are better-fitting for all consumers. Having more women in tech will also help to counter the gap of skilled engineers that Germany is facing.

Companies should not make it optional for employees to participate in the [diversity] discussion – they should make it a part of everyone’s job and not an activity that employees do in their spare time. At work, we have the initiative “Women inspire NTT DATA”, which focuses on supporting women in tech and encouraging diversity. Another initiative focuses on a better work-life balance, also due to flexible work time models. If you wonder how involved you should get into these topics, ask yourself what you would do if by joining now instead of later (or never), you could reduce obstacles for your kids (if not for yourself).

Obstacles

One challenge is that you are always part of a minority. Sometimes you get treated differently by men when you don’t want it and other times men completely forget that a woman is around and behave like being amonst men only.

Be prepared to always have to put more energy into proving yourself and fighting against prejudices. I can remember several times when I got asked to get coffee or take notes because somebody – very often older men – thought I was a secretary or an assistant.

Sometimes you get the feeling that other people think you’re not fit to do the job. For example, by asking you more questions than your male colleagues about how you plan to solve a problem or how you will implement it.

Sometimes you get assigned the easiest task without having asked for it, which makes it harder to prove what you are capable of. This can result in self-doubt, which one simply has to overcome. I have not found a miracle cure for that myself, but usually, sports and dancing helps me to shake off my doubts. It gives me energy and strength to face daily challenges.

Tips & tricks

From time to time you’ll need a thick skin, but the amazing job opportunities are worth it. There are endless possibilities and amazing people already working in IT. You can find work in any sector you like. Use AI to assist doctor’s in detecting cancer, improve computer vision to help autonomous cars drive better or become a Blockchain expert working in the financial or any other sector.

There will be some resistance and prejudice, but there are enough great colleagues and bosses promoting and encouraging both women and man equally – just don’t sell yourself short and stand up for what you believe in and others will believe in you, too.

 

Don’t miss our Women in Tech profiles:

Author
Gabriela Motroc
Gabriela Motroc is editor of JAXenter.com and JAX Magazine. Before working at Software & Support Media Group, she studied International Communication Management at the Hague University of Applied Sciences.

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