There’s no shortage of media articles these days about why women are underrepresented in tech. That’s a very important conversation to have, but there’s also power in celebrating and telling stories of women, and non-binary people, who already are making an impact in the sector so they can inspire others. So we decided to do just that!
Last week we held an event at our headquarters in Toronto to showcase amazing women in tech. We invited three women to share their stories and talk about how they’ve overcome challenges while working in the sector. The event was sold out, with a lengthy waitlist of people eager to be inspired on their own journey.
Dileshni Jayasinghe, PagerDuty
First to speak was Dileshni Jayasinghe, Engineering Manager at PagerDuty. Dileshni has an impressive resume, having built a strong career as a backend engineer and team lead at Unata and Freshbooks. She also co-founded a tech meetup called ExploreTechTO, which digs into topics in software development and celebrates the diversity of developers.
Dileshni talked about how she grew up loving technology and decided to pursue a computer science degree, and later a Masters in information systems design. She loved how she was constantly learning while working at different startups, but found that she was often the only woman and person of color in the room.
One of the the toughest challenges Dileshni had to overcome was when a man suggested that she had gotten her job because she was a woman to fill a diversity quota, rather than based on her skills and talent. She felt a lot of self-doubt at that point, and had to fight imposter syndrome. Eventually, she got to a point where she could say, “I got this job because I’m good at what I do”. Through self-exploration, reflection, and learning, she came to understand that you can be both an exceptional engineer and a woman.
Stemming from experiences of exclusion, Dileshni had an opportunity to create a more inclusive atmosphere when she became a people manager. She had to figure out what kind of leader she wanted to be. She had always been a straight shooter, and she valued that honesty and directness. Ultimately, she challenged herself to grow her nurturing side because she understood the impact language and tone has on others, and wanted to be an inclusive and inspiring leader.
Brooke Wayne, Freshbooks
The second speaker of the night was Brooke Wayne, Support Communications Specialist at Freshbooks. Brooke joined Freshbooks as a Support Specialist back in 2015, becoming the first deaf employee the company had ever hired. She knew Freshbooks was the right place for her when they were open to collaborating with her to find ways that she could succeed in her job, even if it was done differently than some of her colleagues.
Prior to joining Freshbooks, Brooke had never worked in tech before, but she was very interested in it. She soon discovered was that you don’t need to “grow up” in tech to have valuable skills for a career in the sector. Part of her confidence in her decision came from exploring how her existing skills could fit into the tech sector by attending networking events before applying.
Brooke showed that same level of tenacity when she started thinking about how she could move forward in her career. She did her research and documented her contributions in order to build a case to create a brand new role as the first Support Communications Specialist at Freshbooks. She didn’t leave her career progress to her bosses to decide; she drove it forward herself.
Ideshini Naidoo, Wave
The final speaker of the evening was Wave’s own Senior Vice President of Engineering Ideshini Naidoo. Ideshini leads our Engineering, Security and Project Management teams—over 60 employees in total.
She’s got extensive experience in the tech and banking sectors, with leadership roles at companies ranging from startups to emerging divisions in large corporations. One of her biggest accomplishments of her career happened at Debeers, where she helped build the blueprint for “low radiation X-ray technology,” which was introduced to the healthcare industry over 20 years ago.
Ideshini spoke about some of her experiences over the years, and the importance of women supporting other women. Reflecting on her experiences, she told the group about a time she was on a team comprised entirely of women, which was unheard of in a large bank. No one thought this team of women would accomplish much, but that team collaborated incredibly well and worked on a lot of impressive products. Soon people from all over the organization were applying to be a part of that team of women because of the immense value they were adding and the exceptional reputation world-wide.
Ideshini had some great advice for how to stay focused as you work your way up in your career. She spoke about having a personal mission statement that makes it clear what you’re out to accomplish, and what your priorities are. You need this to act as a compass for your decision making. As you grow in your career and your personal life, time and energy become precious resources, and having this north star keeps you moving toward your goals, rather than over-extending yourself.
Advice on growing your career in tech
- You don’t have to come from a tech background to succeed in tech. There are a lot of other skills that can be transferred over to a successful tech career.
- Build your network if you’re looking to start or grow your career in tech. Go to events and ask questions to see where you can make an impact.
- Take control of your own career progression. Figure out what you want, and make a case for it. Don’t wait for someone else to decide for you.
- Change your mindset to overcome imposter syndrome and your fears. Know that you deserve to be in the room, even if some aren’t ready to acknowledge it.
- Challenge yourself to grow, even if it’s uncomfortable, and you’ll be a better leader.
- Create a personal mission statement to help you stay focused on what really matters to you.
- Lead with your talent, and others will follow your success.
- Support other women at every opportunity.
Megan Brown, QA Specialist at Wave, who moderated the event, pointed out the importance of this last point:
“While women as a whole are underrepresented in tech, there are still some women with more privilege and representation than others. We wanted to make sure that those challenges were front and center in our discussion.”
Inclusion and diversity at Wave
At Wave, being inclusive is part of our DNA. We take a broad view on diversity, ensuring we have amazing, talented employees from different backgrounds, gender identities, sexual orientations, personalities, and especially, ways of thinking. Our employees are reflective of the diversity of the customers we serve, and this is intentional for us to serve them in the best way possible.
Sure, it makes good business sense, but it’s also just the right thing to do. Making sure every talented person who dreams of working in tech has the opportunity to join—and feel included—is part of upholding one of our core values: uncompromising integrity.
Interested in working for Wave? Check out our careers page.
The information and tips shared on this blog are meant to be used as learning and personal development tools as you launch, run and grow your business. While a good place to start, these articles should not take the place of personalized advice from professionals. As our lawyers would say: “All content on Wave’s blog is intended for informational purposes only. It should not be considered legal or financial advice.” Additionally, Wave is the legal copyright holder of all materials on the blog, and others cannot re-use or publish it without our written consent.