Women in STEM are making strides in the industry, but still face unique challenges in their careers. With that in mind, on the 17th of March, a #wetechtogether event was held with support from UBS and Singapore Global Network to bring together the community of women in STEM to share their struggles and successes. Our panelists shared their life experiences, personal stories of getting into tech, and valuable pieces of advice about how to build and preserve boundaries.
Meet our panellists
- Sabine Do-Thuong – Head of Development at Verity. She has 20 years of experience in IT and business leadership roles in start-ups, scale-ups, and SME environments.
- Fatma Amour – Executive Director Delivery Lead at UBS. Fatma is a Software Engineer with over 20 years of experience. She started as a Mainframe Developer, moved into various roles, and for the last 4 years has been leading the “Automation and Robotics” team for UBS Personal and Corporate Banking.
- Caroline Williams – Director at Digital Banking Foundation. Caroline is a product owner and chapter lead in Digital Banking at UBS. She studied computer science in Canada and has almost 30 years in various positions across IT ranging from developer to system administrator to product owner while being a line manager the whole time.
If you missed the event – don’t worry. Here we provide a recap.
How did Sabine, Caroline and Fatma end up in tech?
Fatma started with linguistics, then moved to economics, which she didn’t really enjoy. After an internship at UBS, she found her passion for the technology.
Caroline excelled in all subjects but physics in school. Then she took English and sociology at university, but one computer science course helped her find her true calling.
Sabine always loved maths, numbers, and solving problems in school, so her choice of the field wasn’t a coincidence. However, a substitute math teacher made her questioning her ability for math. So the next best thing she came across was computer science, which she ended up studying at ETH.
But what do they love about tech?
All of them are really curious about innovation. And it’s important to remember that technology is not really the goal or the endpoint, it is an instrument. An instrument for changing a world and making it better.
What about boundaries?
Tech can be exciting but also challenging. That’s why it’s crucial to know how to build boundaries. All three ladies have different backgrounds and experiences with boundaries. For example, Fatma never sacrificed something for her career and always could set good boundaries.
Caroline has an experience where she was pushed to her and the team’s limit, where the team needed to live and work in Madrid for more than half a year and travelling back and forth between Spain and Switzerland. It was a valuable experience and she learned how to stand up for the boundaries.
Sabine liked to push her boundaries, learn from them, and improve herself. Once she needed to build a subsidiary in Ho Chi Minh, and she let herself be pushed around. It was an important lesson learned for her because she learned to say “no” and how to not be pushed around.
How to realize your boundaries and what to do with them?
If something doesn’t feel right for you – it is not normal. Also, a lot of women think that some things are normal, but this might not be the reality. That’s why it’s important – to talk about it, to make it clear and to empower other women to stay true to themselves, to understand your own boundaries and to preserve them.
Caroline suggests listening to your stomach and body but not your brain.
Sabine shared an example from her life how she is doing it. She adds blockers in the calendar, such as no meetings after 5 PM, so people know about it and respect it. Even small boundaries like this can help your team and management to respect your boundaries.
What was the most important thing they learned?
To know what you know – it’s one thing. The other thing is to know what you don’t know. And for Fatma it’s much more important.
Caroline realized that you don’t need to try to be perfect. It’s important to concentrate on important and urgent things in your life. Everything else needs to be dropped off.
What about the work environment? How can your boss and colleagues understand your boundaries?
It’s all about straight communication. You need to articulate what you’re going to do and what you’re not going to do, and stick to it. Other people can’t read your mind. Always let people know where your limits are, where your boundaries start and where they finish.
Setting boundaries is a healthy and necessary part of maintaining your well-being and achieving your goals. It’s important to remember that you have unique needs and limitations and that your boundaries reflect those. You shouldn’t feel guilty for prioritizing yourself and your needs, even if it means saying no to others. It’s also important to avoid comparing yourself to others when it comes to setting boundaries, as everyone has different needs and circumstances. But most of all, don’t try to explain your boundaries, they are yours only, and you might end up in a rabbit hole explaining them.
Trust yourself and your instincts when it comes to setting boundaries, and remember that it’s okay to put yourself first.
Empowering women in tech means talking about the challenges they face and helping them find solutions to succeed. Setting boundaries is an important step in achieving that success. By sharing stories of their experiences and offering advice, women in STEM can learn from each other and create a supportive community.
Leave a comment if you want to share with others how you are building and preserving boundaries in your career.
If you’re looking for more visual impressions from How Women in STEM build and preserve boundaries event, make sure to visit the gallery.