mentors and mothers: how i learned the value of diversity

Over the coming months, Sharon Jay, co-owner of Five Mile and Karolina Brongiel, account manager at miggle will be working collaboratively to explore the experiences of two non-tech women working in tech.

We’re doing this because we believe it’s important that as small agencies, we not only highlight the positives of sharing our experiences and learn from each other, but also we can show how other SMEs can evolve and build the right culture to create strong businesses.  

Supported by the digital agencies they are part of, Sharon and Karolina will address the same topic for each blog they write. Sometimes personal. Sometimes pragmatic. But always uncovering interesting perspectives, while also highlighting the general trends and issues many women face in work.

Mentors and mothers

In her first blog, Karolina explores the question

“gender and equality: why it matters to all of us”.

Like many women, my first business mentor was my mum. When I was just 11, she threw me into the deep end of complicated customer relationships... with fishing anglers!

You would be mistaken to think that you can’t learn much as an observant young girl working in an angling shop. But I believe my present attributes of complex product knowledge, speaking up and diplomatically navigating often difficult business negotiations all came from those early days behind the counter.

Not only did mum always work hard, delivering an outstanding service and managing well in what was traditionally a male-oriented industry, she was also really shrewd in business strategy.

But what was most impressive was that she left a safe admin job to set up her own business in a completely unknown field. I don’t think the magnitude of this really hit me until, recently, I reflected on my own work ethics: In short, I like to believe if you work hard enough, nothing can stop you achieving what you want in life.

Yet two decades later, and a few reality checks, is this really the case? Yes, I enjoy what I do, I love where I work and I’ve never questioned my gender in all of that mix. Until recently.

be yourself because everyone else is taken

I came to miggle from the arts. Astonishingly I landed my job by being abruptly blunt during my interview with Alick Mighall, miggle MD, saying that I had no interest in building a meaningless business.

Instead, what he heard was that I wanted to pursue a career in a future oriented online business; I could help with my people skills. Yes, I only had a small level of experience in web development but I was a proven all rounder: a computer-savvy social media geek.

I told Alick I couldn’t stand hard sales techniques and thoughtless business development tactics. I emphasised that I was only interested in working together by recognising business needs and incorporating my talent where most crucial. What Alick saw in me was potential.

And he was right. In short, I only wanted to be a part of miggle if I could be recognised for who I was: someone who could be trusted to build something with integrity.

Mentors and mothers

mediating - to act between parties to effect an agreement, compromise, reconciliation

My journey at miggle was always about improving processes and communication. I translated from technical to human, listened to what clients had required to prototype most suitable solution at miggle.

An important part of my role is strengthening relationships and the values of open and honest communication within the miggle team and supporting Alick. I make sure that people can talk openly about any issues they might have.

At the moment we’re trying to offload some of my day-to-day reporting and admin tasks so I can engage more with business development and strategy. In SME’s like miggle, roles like mine involve having fingers in many pots.

To help address this, we are implementing better ways to stay in touch with our clients and get improved feedback on a regular basis. We will enable miggle to listen better so we can address and resolve any issues our customers might have, just like we do with our team.

the value of diversity

So what does all this mean for gender equality I hear you ask? And why does it matter to all of us? Well, I believe that to really thrive in an organisation, and in turn have that organisation thrive, not only do you have to care, but you also have to be open to diverse ideas and perspectives. This was clear with miggle. But worryingly, we’re still having to fight for gender equality in tech.

Imagine a workplace where you all come from the same background with similar age, gender, education, social and cultural experiences. What ‘sensational’ outcomes can possibly be created? What new ideas, inspired by different perspectives, can be generated?

Having a diverse team organically brings “out of the box” thinking, supports creativity and better outcomes. As a non-tech, I often can be closer to the clients needs because I’m not scared to ask basic questions for them: In short, I’m not intimidated by complex tech jargon.

Yet this wouldn’t be possible without miggle full support and encouragement. By bringing my female, non-tech (I’m also not British!) opinion to the table we open ourselves to new possibilities, promote innovation and make sure we deliver all-round practical solutions.

I know organisations can’t thrive if people think in the same predictable way. Also commercially, how could we sell anything to non-techs without fully understanding their needs?

How we could grow the team without promoting diversity and encouraging new talent in such a competitive human resources market?

We all know how difficult it is to find great, new hires. And yes, we can all pick up some tech talk. But we won't all really be able to shape attitudes and willingness to work hard. That’s why we need be prepared, on occasion, to hire based on potential; just like Alick did with myself few years back.

Mentors and mothers

we’re in this together

Without being in an organisation that recognises your strengths as a non-tech woman you can get lost. But my experiences with miggle is that they recognise the value I bring: I am integral to the business and I’ve not got lost as a non-tech person in a tech organisation.

It’s a great feeling to be able to get up in the morning and feel like you’re going to work where your opinion matters and you can simply be yourself. My common sense and different perspectives are valued.

Of course there are hard, stressful days and the inevitable miscommunications now and again. But I’m lucky to be able to make things right by being honest and speaking up; and usually after further discussion everyone leaves the conversation satisfied.

From my years’ experiences in business this is very rare. This is also an advantage of SME. This personal, intimate approach can often get lost in big corporations where HR departments deal with large numbers of employees.

As an account manager at miggle I can make sure everyone around me is treated respectfully, with undivided attention and all potential issues are nipped in the bud.

I had incredible mentors. But we need a systemic change and more diverse heroes and role models to fully grasp all our potential. We cannot leave this up to chance. We need to challenge ourselves and pause to check if we treat each other with enough respect and without prejudice. Just as we do in miggle.

 

Like this? Then read Sharon Jay’s interpretation of this topic in her first collaborative blog here.

If you want to take back control of your web sites and applications then get in touch with miggle to see how we can deliver operational freedom for you in Drupal.