Women in Tech: “Dare to be seen, say things out loud. Just do it.”
Women are underrepresented in the tech sector —myth or reality? Three years ago, we 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 Breternitz, Senior UX Consultant.
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?
Three years ago, we 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 Breternitz, Senior UX Consultant.
Today’s Woman in Tech: Diana Breternitz, Senior UX Consultant
After five years of creative work as a UX Architect in a digital agency, Diana Breternitz is working as a Senior UX Consultant for MHP. Her interest in combining advertising/marketing and new technologies was awakened during her studies at the University of Media. Accordingly, the motivation of her work is to find new ways and means to translate technical requirements into an attractive and valuable user experience.
When did you become interested in technology?
In the beginning I bonded with a classic home computer and Windows 95. I think we as a family belonged to the “late adopters” and in the beginning, we didn’t have an internet connection at home. But Solitaire, Minesweeper, and other games on CD-Rom and floppy disk ran without internet, and doing homework with Microsoft Word was no problem either. I wasn’t really enthusiastic about all that at that time. Fortunately, we were able to attend a computer course at school, where we were taught general basics. But that was not so catchy either.
What I found interesting were the art lessons and the game consoles that my brother and friends had. This sounds like a strange mixture, but in a way, it impressed and shaped me. So I decided to do my vocational baccalaureate and my later professional training in this direction: classical art, design principles, and digital media. At that time I bought my own PC and discovered the MMORPG World of Warcraft. This was accompanied by the enthusiasm for designing and individualizing my interface in the game and the selection and composition of the hardware for my computer. Gaming, science fiction, and fantasy in film and literature became more and more exciting for me.
Later I decided to study and combine different aspects of creativity and technology. My path has led me from advertising and marketing to the conception and implementation of digital products. My enthusiasm for art, gaming, sci-fi, and fantasy has remained and has become a wonderful source of inspiration.
How did you end up in your career path?
My career path was more of a snake in the grass: moving forward steadily, always adjusting the direction a little bit. After my classic vocational training as a media designer, I was initially involved in a media education project involving computer games. Afterwards I worked as a media designer in a small management consultancy, and was able to accompany private individuals on their way to starting a new business. But somehow I wanted something different.
My enthusiasm for art, gaming, sci-fi, and fantasy has remained and has become a wonderful source of inspiration.
I thought about studying communication design at the Bauhaus University. It turned out differently and I decided to leave my home state of Thuringia, Germany, and study “Advertising and Market Communication” in Stuttgart. Through this very diverse course of studies I became aware of classical and digital advertising agencies. Lo and behold, after my studies I gained a foothold in the advertising world for a long time. I began as a content manager, through the implementation of e-learning to the conception of creative campaigns and other digital products. It was a very good time. However, it was also marked by a change, not only in the media itself but also in the demands on my profession. I moved away from being a mere implementer, towards consulting and designing the requirements for implementation with technical background knowledge.
And so began the new chapter in my professional life, which I opened with MHP in October 2018.
Did you receive support from your family and friends? Do you have a role model?
It’s difficult: privately, my grandmother and mother were always convinced that I could do it, no matter if I was unhappy and less successful or totally satisfied. Sometimes my grandmother also says, “I’m proud that you’ve made it. I’m proud of all my grandchildren for making something of them.” At first, you don’t think about it, but she’s right. That feels good.
Professionally, I’ve always been lucky to have great superiors (exclusively men) in recent years. I always found them all to be role models, no matter if it was about approaching tasks, implementing and presenting things, giving and taking feedback, or simply having a certain effect on people. I took characteristics of them as role models to develop my own personality.
I also find positive, fascinating, and inspiring qualities in (former) colleagues, friends, and “media personalities”, no matter whether they are women, men, or something else.
PS: For example, I would love to have a coffee with Nikola Tesla, Elon Musk, and Wonder Woman 😉
A day in Diana’s life
I am currently working as a Senior UX Consultant at MHP. I support, advise, and implement a wide range of UI/UX topics and projects at our client’s site, together with our customers. I develop presentations, wireframes/prototypes, user flows and journeys, mock-ups, functional descriptions, usability testing formats and support the exchange of information regarding UI/UX in cross-functional teams.
I don’t always have the same working day, which I like. At times I work on more than one project, which means that each day has a different work location and focus on the agenda. It’s quite exciting, but sometimes also quite exhausting. But the morning is always the same: I like to start earlier than others to get an overview of the day, tasks, and read my mail with a coffee. Afterwards I’m ready for our daily tasks, meetings, and shop talk with my colleagues.
Furthermore, I develop concepts/prototypes/functional descriptions for digital applications and then implement them with software developers within a cross-functional team. About three years ago, this was a novelty for me, as I created purely creative concepts and had far less technical understanding than today. This has changed with a project, the Porsche customer portal “My Porsche” (formerly “Connect Portal”). I had to understand the vehicle, hardware, software, and how it functions for the user in order to develop and guarantee a harmonious, valuable interaction of all functions for both desktop and mobile applications. I learned a lot and immersed myself more deeply in this subject.
Why aren’t there more women in tech?
I myself am not purely a techie, but I often work very closely with them (Frontend/Backend Developer, IT Leads, Technical Product Owner, etc.) Over time, there have been more women working as software developers or similar roles in this environment, just like me.
In my opinion, hurdles are very often homemade. Women sometimes put obstacles in their own way (like me) and think that they cannot or must not do certain things. Because we are often afraid of doing something wrong, we can have less courage to tackle something or try it out.
One more thing I wish for: Let the little ones decide what they want to do. Does a girl want a kit for her first own robot? Does a boy want to design his own clothes? Yes! Go for it. It’s the diverse themes that shape us and let us imagine where we want to go in the future.
Would our world be different if more women worked in STEM?
More women should work in the tech industry if they wish to work there. I wouldn’t force anyone, but I think it’s inevitable. Digitalization will change the world of work even more in the future. It will make it impossible not to deal with tech topics in everyday life.
I can imagine, however, that it is precisely the emotional characteristics that I observe in women that can have a positive influence on the development of artificial intelligence. Sympathy, empathy, various emotions, and feelings that make up human existence can be better integrated with the development and design of AI if women are part of an interdisciplinary team of developers.
I hope that the diversity debate will soon be history. For me, for example, the origin and gender of a person are irrelevant. What counts are ability, personality, and potential; you need the potential to learn, develop, to be innovative, and also be a little bit crazy!
Accordingly, everyone should be paid and supported. This sometimes requires getting to know people a little better and giving those who do not bark the loudest a chance in order to appreciate them.
Did someone ever try to stop you from learning and advancing in your professional life?
I wouldn’t say they put obstacles in my way. It was rules, restrictions, or hierarchies that prevented me from doing or tackling things or that did not allow me to do or tackle things. Often it was myself who put obstacles in my way: You can’t do that. Your abilities are not sufficient. You are not brave enough. You’re not supposed to. Thoughts like that have blocked me before and still block me sometimes, even though they’re wrong and I know now: “Just do it!”
If you as a woman place yourself under a small light, others (colleagues, customers) will too. I have heard in the past (mainly in a technical context) things like “I don’t take you seriously”. Sometimes women are not listened to in discussions, just so that one minute later someone else (mostly male) repeats the same words and everyone listens and agrees.
Not that we’re all supposed to mutate into con artists and bullshitters. It’s about not hiding our knowledge and skills. Dare to be seen, say things out loud. Just do it.
That also means asking questions: How does it work? How is that connected? Ask questions in a technical context, because only then can you acquire the necessary knowledge and have a say.
What advice (and tips) would you give to women who want a tech career?
Ask questions in a technical context, because only then can you acquire the necessary knowledge and have a say.
Always be curious, ask questions, have balls!
If you don’t know something, it is absolutely okay to ask someone who does and can explain it to you, but this has to be on an equal footing. If you notice that it’s going in an unpleasant direction, for example if it looks like someone is explaining the world to a silly little girl, then talk to her!
Don’t be pushed away with half-baked and over-simplified answers. Ask twice or three times if things are unclear to you and explain what and why you have not yet fully understood. Be honest but firm.
One more thing: Don’t apologize for everything all the time…I know myself how difficult it is to implement. Sorry!
More Women in Tech:
- Women in Tech: “Join meetups and other women tech groups”
- Women in Tech: “Degrees can matter but they aren’t required”
- Women in Tech: “The IT sector requires a lot of energy and will”
- Women in Tech: “I got to be a self-taught, self-managed, problem solver”
- Women in Tech: “Don’t let irrational advice keep you from tech!”