Building a Support Network – The Key to Success for Women in Tech

The below article was written by Eleni Pissari, a Data Scientist at Hark. Hark are servicing industries from manufacturing to retail through their cloud-based platform which monitors physical assets in real-time detecting anomalies in performance for preventive maintenance and energy reduction.

The tech industry, among others, is known to be gender-biased and we understand it’s important to support our female colleagues via platforms to discuss and change this.

By expanding our thinking in the tech community, we can give equal opportunity to innovators everywhere.

One of our most recent hires, Eleni Pissari, Data Scientist shares some poignant points on her road to success in the hope to inspire others:

“Behind every great woman, are great women.” Jaclyn Johnson once said, and it could not be closer to the truth, especially as I look back over my own journey.

My journey started in Greece, my home country, where in the beginning I was a confused young girl wanting to be an artist but ended up attending the Architecture university. It took me almost one year to realise I wanted more math in my life!

Shifting my career to Statistics was a tough decision but turned out to be one of the best I’ve made as it was the first step directing me towards the tech industry.

When it was time to choose modules every year it was custom to discuss our options as students to find out which ones were the best for us. When I started discussing my desire to take a module from the Computer Science Department, I ended up receiving weird reactions of disapproval. ‘But this module is hard, and it is full of men! Why don’t you choose a different one?”

And it was full of men!

That was the first time the gender gap became noticeable to me, there must have been about 200 men and no more than 10 women in that class. Luckily my professor was really supportive and didn’t immediately doubt the success of “just a girl from a different department”.

The next step towards my tech-based dreams was my Erasmus exchange at the University of Sheffield. I already had some experience with the programming language R and the opportunity gave me confidence to take on Python as well, why not get more programming languages under your belt? Also, from attending conferences I’d learned that Python was prevalent in Machine Learning so learning it was crucial in building a career in that field.

When I saw the use of Python in controlling robots in a demo from the Robotics Department in the library, I knew I wanted to get involved!

Lucky for me, the amazing initiative Code First Girls, whose purpose is to help more women get into the tech industry gave free Python & HTML classes, gave me the insight I needed.

I also drew strength from the realisation that so many women actually want to bridge the coding gap, it’s not just me! And the connections I gained through this experience was invaluable.

I’ll never forget an inspirational talk from Tanja Lichtensteiger, whose career and journey, apart from being highly impressive, reflected how challenging it can be for a woman in this industry. Her words and actions impacted on my own career and through the inspiration she imparted, I managed to feel closer than ever to my goal. Tanja also had some more tangible knowledge: her incredible network. This is where I came across Leeds-based recruitment agency Graft, owned by Melanie Parker. Her belief in a diverse and equal playing field for every individual resonated well with my goals.

Through Melanie, I found my current employer, Hark.

As their data scientist, I work alongside a creative and supportive team full of aspirations and goals to develop and build new technology.

Though I had been determined to reach my goals alone, seeking supportive environments and working with other women gave me an extra push.

Women supporting women proves to yield successful results.