Women in tech is a growing movement all over the world and more and more aspiring talents are entering the tech world. But what does it really take to make it in tech?
We asked Karina Streng, who is the change lead and CTO-as-a-service at vendevio and has nearly 15 years of experience in the business. Needless to say, her resume is quite impressive and her insights into what it takes to achieve success in the field, priceless.
Her list of achievements doesn't stop there. Karina is also a coach, mentor, speaker and, since falling in love with tech early on in her career, she now divides her time between her two greatest passions: self-development and tech. She is no stranger to successfully bouncing a myriad of responsibilities and she is also the proud mother to a wonderful 4-year old daughter. Here is what Karina had to say for how to build a successful career in tech:
1. wear many hats
One of the most insightful and intriguing concepts that Karina discussed which was intrinsic to her recipe for success, was her ability to approach her success in the tech industry in a holistic way.
She imparted to us that she had noticed early on in her career that a lot of people within tech were found buried into what they are doing, and had lost sight of everything else. Instead, she mentioned that she approaches her career as one of continuous growth and learning, and she is always building on her knowledge by finding further topics she is interested to find more about.
This holistic view of success, and the fact that she has taken on many roles throughout her career, is what she sees as her secret ingredient: ‘Because I have started various companies from the start of my career, I can now help my employers with problems they are facing in their business by offering them with advice, because I have been there and experienced those things as a founder and as CEO; that gives me an edge over the competition.’
A true seeker, Karina has always hungry for knowledge and has read over 400 books across different topics throughout her life: ‘I read around 50-60 books a year and I can often read multiple books at a time. I love seeking new knowledge and I love to find things out for myself; I consider that to be one of my biggest strengths.’
Being holistic in the sense of knowing her company inside out, has also helped her to stand out: ‘I know the different areas of the company I work for now. I don't just stick to one set of responsibilities and that has helped me to be different from my colleagues and that has given me an edge over the competition.’
She shared her tip of developing and strengthening your soft skills, if you want to make it in tech: ‘I see that a lot of people in tech who lacking the ability to communicate; so if you want to be different, and if you want to succeed in this business, work on strengthening these competencies, too.’
2. ask for what you want
At the start of her career, Karina saw a great deficit of women in positions of leadership within the tech industry. She asked herself why this could possibly be, when a lot of them were just as able as the men in power. She came to the conclusion that many women in tech (as well as elsewhere) are still waiting to be ‘seen’ and to be promoted by their superiors. Whilst men, in turn, simply ask for what they want. She advises women to do the same.
She says that is was a belief in herself that helped to prompt her into starting out her first venture and to becoming CEO at the tender age of 24. With barely no contacts within the industry, no network and no potential clients; and with only a drive to succeed and a belief that she could, it is clear that the motto 'Know what you want and ask for it' is working for her.
Karina says that if you are having difficulty asking what you want because are an introvert for example, find someone who can help you - a coach or a mentor - and to push you in the right direction.
3. lead with authenticity
Not everyone is built the same and Karina trusts her own gut in order to lead with authenticity. She says that emulating someone else’s, at the cost of being authentic, is a recipe for disaster.
Instead, Karina says that if you want to step into a leadership role, that you need to ask yourself an important set of questions, to help determine the kind of leader you want to be. Questions such as ‘Who am I? How do I want to communicate? What are my strengths and what are my weaknesses? What are the values that I want to put forward?’ are all important prompts to help you lead with authenticity.
She notices that people are craving more authentic leaders. She says that to her, this has always been important: ‘I always expressed myself with bold hair and with bold clothes, because that is who I am. I knew that this would sometimes make me unable to fit into certain places; but I learnt to ask: ‘are those really the places that I want to fit in, anyways? I think that establishing and leaning into my values helped me determine the places that I did want to fit in, and I advise you to do the same.’
4. conflict is an opportunity for growth
Karina also spoke of the importance of developing the right relationship with conflict. She said that within professional teams, as well as in our personal life, conflict shouldn’t be seen as a negative, or even swept under the rug.
Instead, Karina offers a new perspective. In the same way that she views her other career challenges, she says that conflicts are opportunities for growth and learning, and this notion helps her to deal with conflict with a lot more grace.
She says a couple of books helped to turn around her idea of conflicts on its head, including Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson and Getting to yes with yourself by William Ury: ‘I learnt that when faced with a potentially difficult situation with my colleagues, as well as with my team, it is important to ask myself the questions ‘What is the best outcome possible if I am to solve this conflict? What would I like to see happen at the other end of this situation when it gets resolved?’; and then I lean into the answers provided by my reflection’.
5. find someone who believes in you
Throughout the Q&A, Karina also stressed the importance of mentors for her career progression, as well as success. She says that early on in her career, having people who believed in her was intrinsic to her finding success, and that she continues to have mentors to this day.
She also figured out she didn’t need to tackle everything alone, and that having mentors who stood by her really helped with that. They also helped her see a different side of herself and of her abilities, as well as serving as a mirror for the potential blind spots that she was having in her business.
‘My mentors believed in me before I could believe in myself. They helped me in so many areas out of the goodness of their hearts and the effects of this help was three-fold; they helped me establish a network when I didn’t have one, by introducing me to the right people; they helped to see the spark in me and infuse me with self-belief; and in terms of revenue, they also really helped to drive my business forward.’
Now, Karina wants to extend the same help to others and has become a mentor herself. She gives a few tips if you want to find a mentor: ‘It helps to be structured and to always keep notes. I've had 4 mentors at most, so it helped to keep organised. Also, I always invite people admire for a coffee to discuss careers. I'm not saying you have to do that, but it is extremely important to reach out in some way, and most people will be happy to help, if they have the time.’
finding the right role model to accelerate your career
As Karina mentioned, one of the best investments you can make for yourself and for your career is to find the right mentor. Whether it is a career in tech you are looking for, or in some other industry, having a structured and dedicated program that helps to keep you accountable can mean the difference between success and failure.
Here at the female factor, we are experts at connecting people with the right mentors, so you do less of the work for equal the benefits. Applications for our exclusive mentoring program just opened, and it's all completely free for our inner circle members, pairing ambitious women to 150+ global leaders - all experts at the top of their game.
Ready to advance your career and create business opportunities? Join the inner circle!