Women in Tech: “Evening the playing field helps everyone”
A study by the National Center for Women & Information Technology found that “gender diversity has specific advantages in tech environments,” which may explain why tech companies have begun investing in initiatives to increase the number of female candidates. , to recruit them in a more effective way, to retain them longer and to give them the possibility of evolving. But is it enough?
Four years ago, we launched a diversity series aimed at bringing your attention to the most inspiring and powerful women in the tech scene. Today we’d like to introduce you to Ruth Vela, Director of Technology Experience at Nextiva.
Today’s Tech Woman: Ruth Vela, Director of Technology Experience at Nextiva
Ruth Vela is Director of Technology Experience at Nextiva and Country Manager of Nextiva Mexico. Ruth is responsible for the Technology Experience program, which ensures a consistently positive experience and a highly engaged workforce for the company’s global team of technologists. Additionally, Ruth leads end-to-end operations for Nextiva Mexico, where much of the company’s R&D is conducted.
Ruth combines her unique engineering, leadership and entrepreneurial skills with her passion for using technology to simplify our work experience. She advocates for the expansion of STEM education and careers to women around the world.
When did you start getting interested in technology? What first got you interested in technology?
A college class in electronics sparked my interest in learning more about the magic of how technology works. This course helped me realize how far I was from understanding how technology influences our daily experiences.
How did you find yourself in your professional career? What obstacles did you have to overcome?
Early in my career, I was a founding member of a telecommunications startup. My initial role was as a telecommunications engineer, and I grew to become heavily involved in customer success and growth, which was key to startup success. There I began to understand how much hard work it takes to make a business successful and that the people you hire are your most important asset.
A major hurdle I had to overcome is that I may not be what the industry expects – so I created my own niche. It can be difficult to find the right opportunities with companies and people who want to challenge the status quo and do things differently. To do this, you must know what you are looking for, pivot consciously, and be willing to take risks and create value. At Nextiva, I was able to do just that. I have combined my technical abilities, business acumen and people management to be a technology leader, creating programs that align our engineers with our company values and purpose to effectively create the best products.
Did you receive support from your family and friends? Do you have a model?
Growing up, my parents set a great example and instilled in me and my sister the values of hard work, discipline, consistency, and responsibility. There have been many people who have inspired me along the way, and the person I want to become is not yet someone I have met. However, I have been blessed to know some amazing people and have a support network of friends, family and professionals.
Has anyone ever tried to stop you from learning and advancing in your professional life?
If they did, I didn’t care. There will always be a lot of noise and you have to be selective about what you listen to. No one will follow your path. Follow your intuition.
Women had to adapt to technology instead of building technology that adapts to women.
A day in the life of Ruth
At Nextiva, our team is building the next generation of business communications technology. In my role, I work with our global team to create an incredible technology experience designed to advance our technical engagement programs. I work in English and Spanish, and I constantly collaborate with all departments to create innovative solutions for our highly engaged technical staff. I also have the privilege of being involved with various non-profit and technology organizations in our communities.
What are you most proud of in your career?
Be at the forefront of the creation of our R&D office in Mexico, community development and the continuous development of the technological experience with the aim of positioning our technical teams for success by paying attention to our employees with the same intensity that we pay attention to our most profitable customers.
Why aren’t there more women in tech? What is your opinion on that?
First, there is a misconception that an engineering degree is extremely difficult. It’s not easy, but it’s not impossible either, and it’s definitely worth the effort.
Second, there is a lack of positive messaging about women in tech. Typically, the jobs we hear about that are the “sexiest” and “most interesting” are those in business, marketing, and finance. I believe we need to get the message out about the benefits of tech careers. In the technology industry (technical roles), women have the opportunity to earn higher wages and can access multiple job opportunities. These roles often come with increased flexibility through remote working and increased control over their schedule.
Could you name some challenges (or barriers) women in tech face?
A big challenge women face in business — not just in tech — is policies that support women in the workplace. For example, with childcare or pay equity, it can be difficult to negotiate a higher salary and be bold in your career development. Research shows that women are generally more conservative in both of these areas; we need to create policies that make the work environment fairer. The good thing is that tech companies are often willing to do whatever it takes to hire great talent, especially in technical roles, which means companies now understand the importance of competitive policies. The Great Resignation and the recent pandemic have highlighted the need to bring more people into technical positions, which means more space for women.
The pandemic has accelerated the penetration and consumption of digital services. We’ve all seen that the most successful companies right now are in technology – they outperform in revenue generation compared to any other industry.
Would our world be different if more women worked in STEM? What would be the impact (social, economic and cultural)?
Of course it would be different. Take computer engineering as an example. There is a 1:1 gender ratio in the United States, but only 25% of women work in computer engineering. This means 4 men for every woman. This creates a problem: in most cases, a woman’s point of view is not taken into consideration because there are not enough women in the room where decisions are made. The consequence is that women have had to adapt to technology instead of building technology that adapts to women.
Not only do we need to get more women into the workforce, we need to get them to develop technology, we need to put them in leadership positions, and we need to get them into the room where decisions are made.
The diversity debate is gaining momentum. How long will it take to see the results of the current debate?
I see this exact moment as one of the most critical for attracting more people to technology. There is so much more opportunity, competition and urgency to fill technical roles. Companies understand that there is no time to lose and that equal opportunities help everyone. A diverse workforce can really impact the development of better products.
The pandemic has accelerated the penetration and consumption of digital services. We’ve all seen that the most successful companies right now are in technology – they outperform in revenue generation compared to any other industry. Investment in tech companies is at an all-time high, and companies aren’t shy about using those funds to bring much-needed tech talent into their workforces. We have to maintain the momentum. This is the best opportunity to involve more women in technology, not just because of the economic opportunity, but because of the demand for better products that serve everyone.
What advice (and tips) would you give to women who want to pursue a career in tech? What should they know about this industry?
First, I want them to know that there are tons of good paying job opportunities out there. It is competitive, which means that if you join a company and it does not match your values, the probability that you will find another job in a company more in line with what you are looking for is greater than if you had any other type of career.
Although it is difficult to embark on a technical career at first, it is worth it. It takes commitment, perseverance and networking, but the opportunities are there and will continue to be. An investment in education and technology is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your career.
More women in tech:
For even more Women in Tech, click here