Meet our Tech ladies
With International Women’s Day approaching, we’ve decided to put our Avy ladies in the spotlight through a series of interviews to find out about their experience when it comes to being a woman in the drone and tech industry. It’s no secret that we find ourselves in a male clustered industry, where women still don’t always receive the recognition and credit they deserve, as well as equal opportunities and at times equal pay. According to the Techleap Summit that took place last week, the male-female ratio in Dutch tech jobs is 4.9, compared to the European average of 3.8. Moreover, women are twice as likely to quit a job in tech than men due to lack of advancement opportunities. For all these reasons and more, we believe it’s important to raise awareness about the current state of the tech industry and find a way to motivate women to join the workforce, while celebrating women that we know. And where is a better place to start, than right at home. Read on to find out how these Avy wonder women are navigating through what sometimes appears to be a man’s world.
For the second edition of Women’s Wednesday we have our Tech team ladies! Johanna, software and controls intern, and Karin, hardware lead, are the only women on the tech team making up only 12%. We caught up with them to find out how they became engineers, who are their role models, and what advice they would give to young women pursuing their careers in the tech industry.
What is your role at Avy and how does your typical day look like?
Johanna: I’m an intern in the software and control team. In my team, interns are offered a wide array of projects that we choose based on our area of interest. Currently, I am working on my second project of the internship. My first project was creating a mathematical model of the propulsion system and now I am developing a simulation-in-hardware tool. Additionally, I also help with day to day tasks, documentation, peer reviews and flight analysis.
Karin: I work as a hardware lead and I am also product owner of the medical payload. Usually I start the day with modelling the payload box, as my focus is at its best then. Then I check my emails, participate in meetings and check in with others from the team to see what they need and how I can help. I am also in daily contact with our partners to implement their requirements and feedback.
Have you always wanted to work in tech as an engineer? What was your dream job when you were a kid?
Johanna: Absolutely not. I have always thought that aerospace engineering would be too difficult for me and at first didn’t have the confidence to go for it. I knew I liked engineering and had in mind something like design or architecture, but ended up starting my studies in civil engineering. However, I didn't find it interesting to learn about building material so I decided to switch to design and product development. That is when I developed an eye for math and physics, eventually switching to aerospace engineering which is what I got my degree in and proved to myself that I indeed could succeed at it.
As a kid, I was very passionate about the oceans and marine life. More specifically, I wanted to take care of dolphins.
Karin: When I was little I loved brain puzzles and being creative. I would draw a lot and enjoyed learning about science.
When I got a bit older, I knew I wanted to do mechanical engineering and build cool stuff that could help people.
One of my first projects, which I started with a friend, was making leg prosthetics. We received quite big funding from Google and I got an opportunity to meet Bill Gates while pitching him the proposal. Overall, the project was pretty successful. We had a football player, who lost his leg, being able to play football again with a prosthetic leg. Soon after, I heard about Avy and its mission resonated with my ambition to make a positive impact using technology and now I am here making drones for good!
As for my dream job as a kid, I wanted to be a veterinarian, because like most children I was an animal lover.
Do you think there is a general feeling in the tech industry that women need to prove themselves more than men?
Johanna: I personally don’t feel like I need to prove myself more, but I think lots of women have the need or pressure to do it. Furthermore, I think that for the women in tech, there is sometimes a feeling of being excluded. In Sweden where I am from, there is much more equality between men and women when it comes to engineering studies. I studied there for four years and never got any surprised reaction when people would ask about my education. On the other hand, in Switzerland where I did my master’s degree, I would meet people that would almost be shocked about me studying aerospace engineering. I think it differs a lot from culture to culture, so women may feel the need to prove themselves more or less depending on their environment.
Karin: I think I agree to some extent. At the beginning of my career, there were some clients and colleagues who would make it more difficult for me to be taken seriously and it would take them longer to recognise my skills.
Sometimes they would engage in “mansplaining” about the things I am educated and qualified in, which would, naturally, annoy me. I am satisfied where I am right now and I don’t encounter these issues. I think it’s important for women to speak up and be assertive early on to make sure they are heard and treated as equal.
What is the most important message you would like to send to women pursuing their careers in your field?
Johanna: I think it’s important to accept failure as a part of the learning process, everyone fails so there should be no shame when you do. It will be tough, but it helps to remember that so many have done this before you so of course you can make it! It might sound like a cliché but you need to believe in yourself and once you find your passion go for it and explore it, and don’t overlook the importance of trusting yourself and your instincts!
Karin: Just do it! I would really love to see more women in the tech industry and there is so much variety and creativity when it comes to engineering. It’s important to experiment and not back down when facing challenges, which I find are the most exciting part of this job. I believe it’s crucial to have a good support system that can provide affirmation when you start to doubt yourself. And don’t forget to be positive and optimistic about the future!
Which badass/powerful woman do you admire and look up to? How does she inspire you?
Johanna: I couldn’t pick only one so I have three of them. One is my best friend, who works as a stunt woman. She is the definition of badass and doesn’t care what anyone thinks.
Then I would have to mention Pippi Longstocking. I grew up reading her stories and watching movies about her. She is quite strong and independent, and she is being herself unapologetically. She believes everything is possible, regularly tests the boundaries and just does whatever she wants to do.
And last but not the least, one of my professors from university. She was an astonishing professor but also one of the only female professors at the university, so how she handled herself was inspiring to me.
Karin: Funny you ask me that as I have recently been reading a book about badass women to my daughters. The book is called Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls and there are stories of 100 extraordinary women, such as Amelia Earhart, Frida Kahlo, Marie Curie, to name a few. The one that stood out for me is Nina Simone’s story. She was very unapologetic and demanded to be treated equally which for a black woman in that period of time in the USA wasn’t easy. Once, she was performing and her parents came down to support her, but were not allowed to sit in the first row as it was reserved for white people only. So she refused to perform until they got the equal treatment, and she succeeded! I remember reading that story and thinking: “Wow, what a badass woman!”.
We want to thank our Tech ladies for sharing their experience. Don’t miss out on the next edition with our Marcom ladies to find out what it's like to do marketing in the tech industry and how it feels being the only women’s team at Avy.
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