What does the path of our women in tech look like? We've looked into this...
The share of women in information and communications technology (ICT) is still quite low. An investigation by the "womentech network" shows that only 17% of ICT specialists are female.
But there are some – and of course there are some at proALPHA, too! We wanted to find out what has led them to the tech industry and why it was the right choice. For this purpose, we talked to our colleague Barbara Simgen-Weber. She's the manager of R&D Finance & Controlling.
Hi Barbara! Can you give us a short overview of your tasks at proALPHA?
As head of development, I'm responsible for R&D Finance & Controlling, the ERP world of figures. My area of responsibility includes financial accounting, cost accounting, the KPI and early warning system, from requirements engineering through to the implementation. My team is composed of 17 people from offices all over Germany and includes software engineers and requirement engineers the like, with a balanced share of males and females. Thanks to agile methods like scrum, we work closely with neighboring departments. Here, the issue of internationalization and the constantly growing change in technology pose great challenges in particular.
Furthermore, I'm the project manager for a new career model in R&D, which aims at providing our colleagues with even more transparent and appealing development opportunities.
"Software development needs team-oriented all-rounders!"
How did you get to where you are now? What did you study and how did you end up in this industry?
I've always been interested in mathematics and everything logical that requires structure and creativity. Only during my studies in business economics did I discover my interest in computer science. I quite liked the involvement of economics and computer science in my focus areas business informatics, industrial management and operations research. It showed me the processes throughout the entire company and how they can be mapped in an ERP system.
My diploma thesis with a software company and internships at various companies, including a renowned automotive manufacturer, confirmed my desire to work at the intersection between business economics and computer science.
How did you end up at proALPHA?
After my studies, I started as a systems analyst at the software provider Integral that was headed by the Ernst brothers.
On my first day of work, I learnt about the new formation of the company Ernst Informatik, now known as proALPHA. I saw the opportunity, applied and was hired by the same bosses again.
The pioneering spirit after the formation of the new company was very appealing. I was tempted by the chance to actively contribute to the new formation of a company as one of the first developers. As a young professional, it was an exciting challenge for me to develop a new product from scratch and learn a lot from the close contact with customers, for example, on the hotline, at presales presentations and at trade fairs.
Why are you "still" at proALPHA? Have there never been other interesting opportunities?
I first became a technical leader and then a disciplinary leader, was able to build up a team and had the liberty to shape it as I saw fit. And that was fun. My work has always been very diverse as I've constantly been faced with new challenges and tasks. Furthermore, the positive team spirit proALPHA has had from the beginning as a family-owned company has been shaping the relationship between the colleagues to this day. In soccer slang, they call it "lifeblood".
Why are there still so few women in tech?
I think there are some prejudices against tech jobs and the required skills. And there are too few famous tech women that can serve as a role model. Hence, there are many constraints in pursuing this path. The software industry in particular is a very "soft" tech industry, though. But of course, the future career decision is also influenced by social stance, experience and education. However, I believe this trend is stagnating thanks to the increasing digitalization of the private environment.
Creativity is usually associated with kindergarten teachers or marketing – but do developers also need to be creative?
Absolutely. Agile software development is so much more than only hacking code. As part of scrum, developers design concepts and present the result of their work to the team, colleagues and customers. Therefore, soft skills like creativity, logic and the ability to communicate are becoming more and more important.
How can employers make the jobs more interesting to women?
It's important to redefine the job profile, the transition from the stereotypical programming nerd working in the basement toward the team-oriented all-rounder. Agile methods demand interaction with the team and the customers as developers need to understand the requirement to be implemented. Especially important are factors like identifying logical relationships, critically examining facts and thinking along structures. This is met by typically feminine skills like precision, organization talent and the ability to communicate.
Your tips for women in tech?
Keep your eyes open, take opportunities and act proactively. Always look for other ways and question habits. Know your skills, believe in yourself and sell your own qualifications and competences. Last but not least: be a team player!