Celebrating Women in STEM on Ada Lovelace Day

Ada Lovelace is widely recognized as the world’s first computer programmer. Yet despite her foundational role in the history of computer programming, women remain underrepresented in the modern science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) industries. 

Less than a third of researchers globally are women. Just 3% of those studying ICT courses globally are female, with just 5% for mathematics and statistics, and 8% for engineering. 

Ada Lovelace Day is designed to celebrate and promote the profile of women in STEM, in order to encourage the next generation of women programmers, researchers, mathematicians, and engineers. That presents the perfect opportunity to speak to Julia Beyrich, Deputy Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at Neural Technologies.

Q1. Can you briefly describe your role and responsibilities at Neural Technologies?

My official job title is Deputy CTO, which basically means that I’m trying to support our CTO to cover the day-to-day business, i.e. looking after various internal engineering projects, making sure that timelines are defined and kept, ensuring prioritization of various engineering tasks in order to allow for a decent release coordination of our products.

Given my history of 17-years employment with Neural Technologies  – I’m on top of that. I also still work as a responsible Project Manager for various customer projects with regards to configuring our mediation solutions

Q2. What does a successful day look like for you?

Getting up in the morning I’m starting to think about “achievements for the day”. Depending on what is on my list it would be something like: “Get an important internal reconciliation meeting done” plus “Get a specification document finalized” plus “Get a mediation mapping configured”. I can be very sure that there will be unforeseen items coming in, so I should not plan too much for a day…

… a successful day is: I’m leaving the office and all items – planned and unplanned – have been handled in a satisfactory manner ? Happy staff AND happy customers!

Q3. What inspired you to pursue a career in a STEM field?

The inspiration hit me during my younger years when I was at school. A friend of my mother (also a “woman in STEM”) worked for Philips as a programmer. She told me about her work and I was very interested. 

She organized a work experience position for me at Philips and I spent one week at that company – during some autumn school holidays – learning how to program in COBOL (a programming language). This was my initial experience, and from that day onwards I found my passion for this type of work.

Q4. Women have historically been underrepresented in STEM roles. Would you say that created additional barriers or challenges in your own career?

Luckily, I have only rarely came across any barriers…assuming you are referring to the classical “man often not accepting that a woman might have knowledge in the area of STEM”?! I wouldn’t say I don’t know that type of feeling! But whenever it occurs, I try to ignore it, and convince them of my expertise by performing a good job!

Q5. How important is it to promote the visibility of women in STEM roles, particularly in areas of leadership, to inspire the next generation?

Hmm, good question?! I would have hoped that we’ve reached a status in society that this is not important at all any longer. But I do remember a colleague commenting on my promotion to Deputy CTO with some sentence like “I’m happy that I can tell my 5-year-old daughter that women can achieve these positions as well”. So, obviously it is important, still?!

… so, thanks for doing this interview! ?

Q6: What can the industry do to create a more positive environment that encourages more women to pursue STEM careers?

Simply don’t stress the male/female question too much. Gender is not important – interest, motivation, commitment, expertise are the things that matter.

I would wish for a more natural approach to not judge a person based on their gender but on their skills!

Q7. What advice would you give to other women looking to follow your footsteps into STEM roles?

Rely on your skills, ensure empathy for others, believe in yourself – this might sound a little withdrawn but basically those are the things that I had to learn throughout my work-life.

Q8: Finally, if you could wave a magic wand and transform one element of the industry, what would it be, and why?

This is the most difficult question I have ever been asked… I guess it would be something to transform “communication”, and make it easier?!

In my role I’m often dealing with one side of the business that has issued feature requirements and the other side that implements those feature requirements. Having a magic wand to easily transform the gap between the two groups — or in other words achieve an understanding of the gap on both sides — would probably ease my work. To some extent my role would be: become this magic wand  ?

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