Women in Tech: “Lack of communication is one of the main causes of problems in 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 Silvia Schreier, Technical Architect.
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 Silvia Schreier, Technical Architect.
Today’s Woman in Tech: Silvia Schreier, Technical Architect
As Technical Architect at METRONOM, Silvia Schreier mediates between technical and IT experts from the METRO Companion App to the web shop and the web presence of all 26 METRO countries.
Besides answering the exciting technical questions in this area, she uses her experience in web architecture to find the balance between user requirements, sustainable architecture, and reliable operation.
When did you become interested in technology?
My interest in technology was awakened by my parents early in childhood. Both have a technical degree and we had many technical toys and a PC at a very early age. So technical interest was a matter of course for me and it soon became clear that I enjoyed mathematics and logical thinking.
After my primary education, I started my studies in Computational Engineering (a combination of computer science, mathematics, and physics) in Erlangen, Germany. Two semesters later I realized that I was much more interested in computer science than in physics, so I decided to change to a pure computer science course.
During my time at the university my interest in teaching and research also increased, so that I took a job as a research assistant at the FernUniversität in Hagen after my studies. There I came in contact with the field of web architecture for the first time and my research focus became REST compliant architectures and their modeling. I enjoyed research and teaching and learned to work independently and to put my thoughts and ideas down on paper or to present them at conferences. After a certain time, however, I aspired to new experiences, which I hoped to gain in the business world. Thanks to my research topic I already had contact with Stefan Tilkov and INNOQ. There I was able to gain exactly this experience as a consultant in many exciting projects.
One project captivated me so much that I switched to METRONOM, the IT subsidiary of METRO. There I was able to learn a lot about the development and especially the operation of large systems in an international environment through various roles and sub-projects.
During my studies a professor impressed me with his passion for teaching. This showed me how important it is to have good teaching, but above all to love your own job.
Did you receive support from your family and friends? Do you have a role model?
A large part of my technical interest is certainly due to my parents, who supported and encouraged it at an early age. My partner has also supported me since my studies. During my studies a professor impressed me with his passion for teaching. This showed me how important it is to have good teaching, but above all to love your own job. Through the course of my professional life, my superiors all supported me in the sense that they placed a lot of trust in me, gave me responsibilities, and always had an open ear. My last boss showed me what good personnel management can look like.
A day in Silvia’s life
I am Technical Architect at METRONOM and I am responsible for a part of our systems that METRO customers are in contact with, i.e. our website, the online shop, and the mobile app. I see my job as supporting the coordination of these teams with each other and also with other teams from the application and platform area at METRONOM. I also help our product owners and management with technical assessments and strategic decisions. Besides the coordination of larger technical projects, I support the teams in any professional, technical, or organizational questions. My working day is diverse and varied, both in terms of my activities and the people I work with. This is exactly what I like about my job! There are days when I help solve production problems, develop new features, or simply bring together the right people from different teams. But in the last few months I have also started giving talks at conferences again and I also support colleagues in this.
I have worked on a wide variety of projects, both in my studies and in my professional life. Each one had its own exciting sides and I always learned something new. Usually it was always teamwork. I think the most exciting moment was when the first version of our warehouse management system was put into operation. At that time, I was not primarily a developer, but rather a product owner; it was great when, due to the software that we had been developing for just under a year with two large teams, various processes suddenly triggered automatically and the colleagues in the warehouse sat down on their forklifts to move the goods to the right places. I still remember that the first customer order was for frozen goods only. None of those present on that day let the -20°C prevent them from being directly in the freezer when the goods were packed together.
Why aren’t there more women in the tech industry?
I think there are still two major problems in our society: firstly, it is totally acceptable “to be bad at math”; but few people would openly admit that they can’t read and write. If you look at toys, for example, those that promote technical interest or logical thinking are often still declared to be boys. As long as this does not change, many girls, but also boys, will probably never be able to develop their interest in technical subjects. I think this is a great pity because I have met some women in the meantime, who through initiatives like Railsgirls have gotten to know the versatility and creativity of computer science and discovered their own interest in it. I think the biggest hurdle to overcome is to get in touch with technology and then not to be intimidated by the fact that in many cases you belong to a minority. But here too we are on the right track.
Would our world be different if more women worked in STEM?
I believe that women are often stronger in some areas such as communication, collaboration, and organisation. I see a lack of communication as one of the main causes of problems in IT. Independent of this, I believe that the most important thing is to know your own strengths, weaknesses, and preferences, as well as those of your colleagues, in order to make the best out of it. So if we have more different people, with different preferences and strengths, the whole team will benefit.
I think we are on the right track in terms of the diversity debate, but changes take time. The more kinds of people there are in IT, the more kinds of people they will reach. I am convinced that each of us can make our contribution by talking about technology with enthusiasm and passion and in particular by showing how versatile this job can be.
Did someone ever try to stop you from learning and advancing in your professional life?
So far I can consider myself lucky that all in all I have been able to gather many positive experiences and have experienced support rather than resistance. There was once a physics teacher who thought he had to make it harder for girls, but I also saw that as a challenge.
Sometimes at first, people assume that a woman does not have a technical background, especially since she usually works in mixed teams. But once the first misunderstanding is cleared up, there are normally no problems. In some situations it does not hurt to be underestimated at first. I think you shouldn’t take such a misunderstanding personally, even if it might be difficult depending on the situation. I find it much more unpleasant when you think about the fact that you might have been invited just to meet the women’s quota. But today I try not to worry about that anymore and just take the chance.
The great thing is, it never gets boring, and the challenges never stop.
What advice (and tips) would you give to women who want a tech career?
The most important thing is to find out what you enjoy and to be open. Don’t be put off by challenges, but see them as opportunities!
I think that goes for every job. Besides, there are a lot of nice people working in IT, dare to approach others. Of course, there are also more reserved people in IT, but you can find a way to talk to almost everyone. If you want to do this job, then you are the right person for it. Many of us face challenges every day that we have never seen before. In other words, being at a loss and asking questions is the most normal thing in the world. It’s less about knowing everything than it is about knowing the basics and how to look for possible solutions. The great thing is, it never gets boring, and the challenges never stop.
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!”