Women in Tech: “If no one gives you the right possibility to grow, you must create it alone.”
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 Dr. Laura La Manna, software engineer at TeamSystem.
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 Dr. Laura La Manna, software engineer at TeamSystem.
I’m a software engineer, an expert of DevOps and Agile methodologies of team management. I develop cloud applications and I have been designing and developing Service Oriented and Cloud-based applications since 2010. I’m one of the co-founders of the OrangeDotNet community. I organize and deliver events and seminars about C#, Azure, Asp.Net, ALM. I have been the recipient of the Microsoft MVP award from 2012 to 2016.
What first got you interested in tech?
Actually my first interest wasn’t for technology but for maths, then I discovered programming languages and thus, computers.
How did you end up in your career path? What obstacles did you have to overcome?
When I was finishing high school, I thought that being a lawyer could be my path. But the thought that I would never study math again, made me sad. So at the end of the summer of my high school exam, I went to the Engineering faculty and I enrolled. After graduation I started to work in software design and development, and I have loved what I do, so much that I founded a technology community, OrangeDotNet, to shared knowledge about software development, through live events in my town, Catania, but also shared content online. So in this way, only for passion, I started my experience as a speaker.
But it’s not always simple to find the right balance between work and life, especially after the born of my first kid. But, on the other hand I always had the support of my mother, when I was a student, and then of my husband that has always believed in me and all my choices.
Did you receive support from your family and friends? Do you have a role model?
As said before, my mother supported me during the university, simply not by asking anything, but creating a quiet environment for me to study in. She always believed in me. My mother was an important model. She was a simple Sicilian housewife, but the determination and dignity with which she faced every life challenge was the greatest example for me to follow.
Moreover today, without a right family organization with my husband it wouldn’t be possible for me to have a full-time job, and all the activities that surround it.
My mother was an important model. She was a simple Sicilian housewife, but the determination and dignity with which she faced every life challenge was the greatest example for me to follow.
Did someone ever try to stop you from learning and advancing in your professional life?
In my experience, no one tried to stop my professional growth, but sometimes it was the environment and culture around me that had some impact to my ambitions, especially after the kids were born.
The choice to live in a region like Sicily, under the volcano Etna, at the beginning it appeared like an obstacle to my professional growth. But I always considered this challenge as motivation to build new opportunities where I live.
A day in Laura’s life
Today I’m a software engineer in TeamSystem. In my typical workday, I have some meetings, a lot of studying and, if all go well, a lot of coding.
What are you most proud of in your career?
What makes me proud in my career still has yet to happen. I think that we must always have the ambition to grow and improve ourselves. What makes me happy is the perfect balance that I have between family and work.
Why aren’t there more women in tech?
I think that the main obstacles come from family, especially after a woman decides to have kids. If the man that you have near isn’t ready to support you in the work challenges that you face every day and he isn’t able to follow your dream and ambition with support and managing the family, a woman must choose between family and work.
Another big problem is companies that talk a lot about inclusion, but all their managers are men. So, how can a woman find the right space in an environment driven only by men? She can only do more and better than other colleagues, and all this trying to be a good mother, always present in her kids’ lives.
Could you name a few challenges (or obstacles) women in tech face?
First of all the main obstacle is us, because we create our own limits.
Then there are some cultural obstacles, the fact that some type of work also in a tech environment are traditionally only for men.
The main challenge, especially in the region in which I live, is finding the right balance between family and work. Italian politicians talk often of equal opportunities, but there is no support through the economy or laws that support families in which both parents work. Usually, the one who chooses to stay at home or gives up their career is the woman.
Would our world be different if more women worked in STEM?
Having more women in STEM could mean having a different perspective. So more women in STEM means having more opportunities to grow not only for us, but for society in general. It is certainly better for women to access to areas that give new spaces and the ability to influence the world.
I hope that the girls that we have today can become leaders in the future.
The discussion about diversity is gaining momentum. How long will it take to see results from the current debate?
I hope that the girls that we have today can become leaders in the future. I hope that my daughter can live in a world, where equal opportunities are real and not only a discussion where men decide what is best for women.
What advice (and tips) would you give to women who want a tech career?
A professional path in a scientific or tech environment is full of opportunities and satisfaction. But they should know that they started a path where you cannot be just clever, but you must able to demonstrate it in a way that is unchallengeable. And if no one gives you the right possibility to grow, you must create it alone. The value is created by the diversity between women and men. So women don’t have to adapt to work in the environment, but they have to find the right compromise.
More Women in Tech:
- Women in Tech: “There are opportunities for remote work women could tap into”
- Women in tech: “Feel brave applying for that job you want”
- Women in tech: “Don’t forget that your career will evolve.”
- Women in Tech: “Be the positive inspiration for someone else!”
- Women in Tech: “Women are turned away from STEM before they even get started.”