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What 7 combined decades in tech taught us about perseverance and reinvention

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What 7 combined decades in tech taught us about perseverance and reinvention

Women in the workplace have historically been undervalued and underrepresented. That’s no secret, but it rings especially true in tech. In the United States alone, women make up less than 40% of the global workforce and only fill 25% of professional computing jobs. Furthermore, a new report found that 45% of surveyed women in tech said men outnumber them at work at ratios of 4-to-1 or greater.

Between the two of us, we possess nearly 70 years of experience working in tech(!), and if you ask us to recount our journeys, we’re likely to recall both great and not-so-great memories. For instance, one of us distinctly remembers being told by an eighth grade math teacher that she wasn’t good enough to take algebra. But in a fortuitous act of youthful defiance, she elected to major in math before landing her first post-grad job as a programmer for a NASA contractor. This would go on to launch a thriving, 50+ year career in tech.

A few decades later, the other remembers serving as the only woman on her company’s leadership team, often feeling isolated and alone. Again, defying the status quo, she instead used this as a catalyst to build a platform focusing on advancing women in the workplace, helping to identify and bring more female leaders to the table.

What these stories illustrate — and what the two of us agree about — is this: While many organizations and allies are making a more concentrated effort to help women progress in their careers and thrive in a male-dominated tech world, much of the onus on driving change and making improvements rests squarely on our shoulders as women. Women are resilient, and they are showing a fresh perspective, energy and dedication to ensure they rebound and regain influence, power and capital after being disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

Whether you’re a woman considering a career in tech or a seasoned professional, we all share in this mission and have a role to play in mitigating the gender gap and supporting one another.

Here are a few things that have worked for us over the years:

Acknowledge the challenges and face them head-on

If you like country music, you’ve likely heard the song, “Same Boat,” with the chorus singing, “We’re all in the same boat, fishing in the same hole … ” Well, we may be fishing in the same hole — or, in the case of the past two years, riding out the same storm — but we’re still in very different boats.

Hiring women returning from a career break can bolster existing talent pools, and these “returners” are often highly motivated, educated and more than qualified to take on a variety of roles.

Skillsoft’s 2021 Women in Tech report shows that women, particularly those in technical fields, continue to face many of the challenges in the workplace that have long existed. The largest percentage cites their biggest issue as lack of equity in pay, followed by work and life balance, lack of opportunities and lack of training.

Additionally, in the United States during the pandemic, 34% of men working remotely with children at home received a promotion compared to 9% of women in the same situation, and 26% of men received a pay raise compared to just 13% of women, according to a study by Qualtrics and The Boardlist.

Yes, the gender gap faced by women has shown slight signs of improvement in recent years, but this is a reminder that the road to equality is long and winding. It’s essential to remain persistent and not lose sight of your aspirations in the face of adversity. Even if you were an average student, you may soon find yourself in a meeting and realize you’re one of the smartest people there.

Learn from your mistakes, and when things are not going your way, find a way that works. This held true in the 1960s, and it still does today.

Don’t be afraid of reinvention

Life throws curve balls. For many women, taking a hiatus from work to have and care for children (or others, like aging parents) is inevitable. From personal experience, it can be difficult finding an employer willing to take a chance on women returning to the workforce. That’s why being persistent and willing to reinvent yourself is so important.

Maintain a mindset of curiosity throughout your career. That’s critical to ensure you’re able to adapt and pivot in any given situation. Perhaps after leaving the workforce, your previous position in product marketing is no longer there, or maybe you’ve reached a certain point in your career and no longer enjoy the work. Are your existing skillsets transferable to another role? Are there skills you’ve learned along the way — or could acquire — that allow you to shift to another path, such as development?

While pivoting and reinventing your career can be daunting, it can also pay major dividends in the long term.

For organizations, embracing this approach is good business. Hiring women returning from a career break can bolster existing talent pools, and these “returners” are often highly motivated, educated and more than qualified to take on a variety of roles. They want to put their best foot forward and bring mature and diverse perspectives, many of which they may have gained during their hiatus.

At a time when the tech workforce has a dire need for more skilled individuals — especially women — now is the time to enlist and empower this motivated group.

Master the most important skill of all: Flexibility

Change can be disruptive, but embracing and adapting to change can open a new world of possibilities. In order to come out ahead, it’s important to not just survive organizational change, but understand and learn how to thrive in it.

For example, several years ago one of us led a team that was bringing a new product to market that was tremendously exciting. Her company, however, decided to go a different route and bought a business that was already successful in this space. She could have worried about her job (and did, briefly), but instead, realized that the company needed help moving customers from the existing product to the acquired one. So she raised her hand, let them know that she could help and was subsequently assigned to the new team.

She’s now been with this company for nearly 20 years.

On the flip side, if an organization is asking such a drastic change of an employee, they must also provide the tools and resources needed for them to be successful in their new role. Here’s where creating a culture of learning, in which every employee is given the opportunity to develop new skills and capabilities, comes into play.

We all aspire to something bigger, to finding our place in — and contributing to — the world. Women’s careers are journeys made up of diverse and interwoven learning experiences that build leadership, power, influence, grit and resilience. We’ve made some good choices and faced some tough challenges during our combined 70-plus years in the tech workforce.

What have we learned? What you do with those learning lessons and how you build your story of perseverance, resilience and success as a female in technology is what matters most.

Source: Tech

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Clean energy firm Husk signs UN energy compact as it begins solar mini-grid expansion in Nigeria, rest of Africa

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Husk Power Systems, a clean energy company that has been at the forefront of fueling rural electrification since 2008, is planning to launch 500 solar mini-grids in Nigeria over the next five years.

The renewable energy firm revealed the plans today when it announced the signing of a voluntary commitment with the United Nations to grow its energy market in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. The commitment is contained under the 24/7 Carbon-free Energy Compact, by leading energy buyers, suppliers, equipment manufacturers and governments. The compact represents a global effort to accelerate the uptake of carbon-free electricity as a way of averting the perilous effects of climate change.

The startup currently has operations in Nigeria, Tanzania and India (Uttar Pradesh and Bihar), where it has the ambitious goal of installing at least 5,000 mini-grids by 2030 and in the process make 1 million connections – half of which will be micro, small and medium-sized enterprises. Husk launched its first six mini-grids in Nigeria November last year, and it’s looking to have 100 mini-grids operational in the country within two years.

“Husk is committed to powering households, but our focus is first and foremost on micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), and public institutions like health clinics and schools. MSMEs are the engine of economies in Africa, and powering existing small businesses and encouraging the formation of new MSMEs helps create the type of economic growth and social benefit that carries over to households by creating more opportunity and more jobs,” the company’s CEO and co-founder Manoj Sinha, told TechCrunch.

The renewable energy firm is planning to launch 500 mini-grids in Nigeria in a period of five years, and is eyeing the rest of Africa for expansion. Image Credits: Husk Power Systems

The firm is now exploring growth opportunities in the western, southern and eastern regions of Africa, while prioritizing the countries that have a “supportive regulatory environment” like its current markets. In Nigeria, for example, mini-grid operators are “largely free of permit requirements for either standalone off-grid mini-grids or interconnected mini-grids.”

The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission Mini-Grid Regulation (2016) stipulates the transfer of assets and financial compensation for mini-grid operators in cases where the national grid finally connects the regions where private mini-grids are operational.

Husk is one of the companies participating in the Nigeria Electrification Project, which provides performance-based grants, a sort of capital subsidy, to mini-grid developers — part of the national effort to solve the country’s chronic power supply issues.

“In terms of policy frameworks and regulation, the states where Husk works in India (Uttar Pradesh and Bihar) have supportive policies. And the Nigerian mini-grid policy is actually based on those policies, with additional improvements. As a result, Nigeria is seen to have the most conducive policy in sub-Saharan Africa at the moment, which also includes their Nigeria Electrification Project (NEP), a program administered by the Rural Electrification Agency and funded by the World Bank to provide a capital subsidy to mini-grid developers and accelerate market development,” said Sinha.

The company plans to have additional technological and business model innovations, and the use of AI and IoT to remotely manage its fleet. Image Credits: Husk Power Systems

Nigeria and India are the company’s biggest markets at the moment. A supportive environment encourages investments from private players like Husk, and bridges the energy needs of households and small businesses, especially in rural areas.

Potential markets for Husk include Kenya, which at the start of this month, recognized mini-grid power systems granting them 50% tax allowance and other tax incentives enjoyed by large-scale generators.

“We welcome the Energy Compact commitments made by Husk Power and appreciate their leadership. It showcases the business opportunity presented by the global energy transition, and how private enterprises can drive accelerated action on ending energy poverty, expand renewable energy solutions for consumptive and productive load, and improve the adoption of energy efficiency solutions by end consumers,” said UN Energy programme manager, Kanika Chawla.

According to the World Bank, mini-grids have the potential to provide half a billion people with clean energy by the end of this decade (including those using overburdened grids) with the right policies in place. They also provide cleaner and cheaper alternatives of energy, which could transform the lives of millions of people living in darkness.

Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for 75% of the world’s population with no access to renewable energy solutions and electricity. Countries like South Sudan, Burundi, Chad, Malawi, Burkina Faso, Madagascar, Tanzania are among some of the least electrified countries in the world, and could benefit from clean energy from solar or wind.

“For off-grid communities, where diesel generation is the default source of electricity, the savings to our customers are significant. Businesses can expect about a 30% reduction in their monthly energy costs by switching from diesel to solar mini-grid electricity,” said Sinha.

Husk has to date raised $40 million from investors, including the Shell energy company and the Dutch Development bank FMO. The startup, which also provides financing for household and commercial appliances, was recognized last year by the 2021 Renewables Global Status Report as the only mini-grid developer with over 100 community sites in operation.

Source: Tech

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Baidu’s electric car brand Jidu closes $400M Series A round

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Once an industry with long development cycles, the automotive space is being upended by China’s tech giants. One can hardly keep up with all the new electric vehicle brands that come out of the country nowadays. Jidu, an electric carmaking company founded by Baidu and its Chinese auto partner Geely only a year ago, said Wednesday it has banked nearly $400 million in a Series A funding round.

The new injection, bankrolled by Baidu and Geely, which owns Volvo, is a boost to the $300 million initiation capital that Jidu closed last March. The proceeds will speed up Jidu’s R&D and mass production process and allow it to showcase its first concept “robocar” — which it classifies as an automotive robot rather than a car — at the Beijing auto show in April. The mass-produced version of the robocar will launch in 2023.

Jidu’s chief executive Xia Yiping previously headed the connected car unit of Fiat Chrysler in the APAC region and co-founded Mobike, the Chinese bike-sharing pioneer acquired by Meituan in 2018.

The rate at which Jidu has moved forward is remarkable but could easily attract skeptics who question its tech’s viability. The speedy cycle, the carmaker explained, is thanks to its strategy of using a simulated prototype car to develop its smart cockpit and autonomous driving systems, rather than testing individual hardware parts in a mass-produced vehicle.

The carmaker said in as short as nine months, it has “tested and proven” the safety and reliability of its Level 4 (autonomous driving without human interaction in most circumstances) capabilities for urban and highway roads.

The EV startup is also putting a big emphasis on branding and fan community, something its competitor Nio is known for. In December, it started recruiting car lovers to join its “Jidu Union” to geek out about cars at online and offline events.

Moving forward, Jidu will be hiring and training talent specializing in autonomous driving, smart cockpits, smart manufacturing and other related technologies.

Source: Tech

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Resilience raises $45 million for its cancer care startup

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French startup Resilience announced yesterday that it has raised a $45 million (€40 million) Series A round led by Cathay Innovation. The startup wants to improve the treatment journey when you’re diagnosed with cancer so that you live a healthier and longer life.

In addition to Cathay Innovation, existing investor Singular is also participating. Other funds are joining the round, such as Exor Seeds, Picus Capital and Seaya Ventures. Finally some healthcare investors are rounding up the round — Fondation Santé Service, MACSF, Ramsay Santé and Vivalto Ventures.

I already profiled Resilience in March 2021 so I encourage you to read my previous article to learn more about the company. Co-founded by two serial entrepreneurs, Céline Lazorthes and Jonathan Benhamou, the company wants to help both patients and caregivers when it comes to cancer care.

On the patient side, Resilience helps you measure, understand and deal with the effects and side effects of cancer and cancer treatments. Users can track various data points in the app and find content and information about their illness.

But Resilience isn’t just an app that you use at home. It is also a software-as-a-service solution for hospitals so that they can better personalize their treatments. Resilience has been founded in partnership with Gustave Roussy, one of the leading cancer research institutes in the world.

Practitioners will be able to take advantage of all the data that patients have gathered from the app. This way, cancer treatment facilities understand the patient better and can adapt their care more quickly. Resilience has acquired Betterise to gain a head start when it comes to data-driven cancer care.

The long-term vision is even more ambitious than that. If you talk with a caregiver working for a cancer treatment facility, they’ll tell you they never have enough time.

And it’s even more difficult to keep track of new treatments that are becoming more and more specialized. Resilience doesn’t want to replace doctors. But it wants to help them overcome blindspots.

The result should be better care for patients, as well as more support through the Resilience app. Cancer care is a long and painful process, so anything that can improve this process is a good thing.

Source: Tech

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