By: Munifa Ahmed.
Endorsement of Diversity and inclusion (D&I) and cultural practices within an organization have increasingly become a critical and important reputable aspect to the success of many businesses, especially in the Tech scene. There has been a lot of research and many other resources on how to adapt, retain and measure the value of D&I.
But based on the World Economic Forum report, the global gender parity is estimated to take 100 years to close that gap in the tech sector, at the current rate of change. This is while gender equality is one of the key determinants of diversity in an organization.
An aspect, I think, that might be under shared, is the actual story of the -nitty gritty- experience and insights of how navigating tech, looks like as a BIPOC (Black, indigenous, and people of color), visible minority or LGBTQ2A+ person.
So, it is as important to speak about and dive deeper into the experience of actually working in these spaces. In this blog, I will try to share my experience and insights as a young, recent immigrant, Muslim, hijabi woman who is navigating her way to social entrepreneurship in the tech world. As women, people of colour, visible minorities and/or religious groups, what is our role and work in this process of change? Do we lay back and wait for changes to occur?
Having the privilege to represent more than six social labels and breaking through the mainstream biases and narration made based on gender, race and background was not a smooth process. It required high self-awareness, patience and inconsideration in some instances, here are some tips from my experience and research I have done:
- Be Comfortable Being Uncomfortable. This is the rule of thumb when it comes to personal and professional development. The same principle applies here, from researching the market to learning new tech skills. Then comes the actual job of job searching. After spending six months researching, I learned to stop feeling comfortable by trying to find people who look like me and kept asking questions when I get stuck (there is no such thing as a stupid question). Nearly half of Tech companies are hiring non-technical skills, so working on your communication, presentation and body language is also valuable. It is okay if you do not code. All these steps require little bit thicker skin, but will help you move towards a rewarding and exciting career.
- Engage with Asking, Questioning and Curiosity. As obvious as it might seem, it is necessary to be proactive in building professional relationships at your workplace and tech network. It could be as simple as trying to understand and engage in a group tech joke (like a Spider makes a website not landing page, lol) to as complex negotiating your unique perspective confidently. Being assertive, flexible, friendly and funny is where the magic happens when it comes to engaging here and in life, generally.
- ALWAYS be a Proactive Learner . There is an Arabic saying, “coming late will not cut the work.” Your presence is already perceived as an unequivocal challenge to the tech sector. And doing the work on our own mindsets is essential in an ever growing and evolving industry. Pivoting from my Administration and Marketing background was a steep turn and most challenging. But that was not all, I realized after graduation that thousands of bootcamp developer graduates are competing for a similar position. So, I decided to utilize my coding skills as a compelling selling feature in a different position which led me to take Veza’s Digital Marketing course. This learning mindset is the key to growth and success in the Tech sector.
- Be YOURSELF. “Connect and Communicate like you’ve known them for 1000 years” – this was my secret recipe while building a network or meeting for an interview. My LinkedIn connections have more doubled since pivoting toward a tech career, nine months ago. This mindset is so powerful when it comes to creating a meaningful connection. From sharing your thoughts to asking for help and from owning your weakness to speaking in public, those are one of the basic principles that guide my decision while interacting with people in general.
All in all, those are insights from my personal experience which has helped me to navigate the sector and successfully land my first job in tech as a Data Analyst and Marketer at the startup Apples & Oranges Analytics. By sharing our experiences, hopefully, we can all contribute to creating a more inclusive culture. As there is overall more interest, policy integration and active participation from the employer side, complementing the movement and progress through sharing our stories will inspire and involve broader communities.
Munifa Ahmed is a recent migrant to Canada in 2017. She is a Spring 2019 graduate of Veza Community’s Digital Marketing Program for Immigrant Women. Through her passion for creativity and personal-development, she had pivoted toward tech and landed her career as a Digital Analyst and Marketer. To learn more about her and her climate action project, visit www.munifaahmed.io.