International Women’s Day: interview with 5 women in tech at Leaf

Today is the 8th of March, which means that it’s… International Women’s Day!

Part of this day’s mission is to elevate and advance gender parity in technology and celebrate the women forging innovation. And with this year’s theme being “Break The Bias”, we’re putting the spotlight on some of our very own women in tech at Leaf.

They share their stories on how they got into tech and their insights on being in this historically male-dominated industry. If you’re a woman or an ally looking for some inspiration, motivation, and connection around the journey to a gender-equal world, then read on…

Gloriana Zamora, Head of Engineering

Gloriana Zamora, Head of Engineering at Leaf

I’m Glori, Head of Engineering at Leaf. I’m from Costa Rica, and I moved to the UK when I joined Leaf, back then we were just a small tech team of 5.

I graduated in computer engineering and have been working on software development for 10 years (5 of those at Leaf); building and leading the development of products that our internal team uses to help our online retail clients achieve their eCommerce growth goals, as well as growing and guiding our engineering team members.

From building a HTML page to studying software engineering

After finishing high school, initially, I was planning to study architecture or design but I ended up choosing engineering. In high school I received programming classes that looking back I don’t think I knew what I was doing at all but it definitely got me curious about it.

If I go even further back, I remember in school having done my first HTML page, back then when having songs (audio) in the background, blinking images and marquees were a cool thing.

Maybe that was when my interest in technology began to grow? 🤷🏻

Only when I started college was when I noticed how uncommon it was to be a woman studying software engineering. So by the time I started work, it wasn’t a surprise to find out I was only the second girl in the tech department (that’s where I met Helga – now Leaf’s co-founder and CTO – she was the only one before 😛).

At Leaf, it has been very different. Even now I think we have more girls than boys, at least in tech. And I don’t think we implemented any special techniques for keeping it gender balanced. I must confess it feels great to have coworkers you can talk to about skin care products, complain about your period pains, and so on.

Advice to other women looking to progress their careers in tech

I would be lying if I say that I have never been in a situation where I ask myself:

“Is it because I’m a woman?”

So for advice, I can say to not be discouraged. I know sometimes it can be a crap situation, but if you are able to discuss with someone about starting a change – either with your manager, college administration, or a coach – do so, there will always be an ally.

On promoting and nurturing women in the workplace as a leader

As a manager, I aim for everyone to have the same opportunity in contributing with their points of view, work, and ideas. But again, it’s funny because this hasn’t been an issue in Leaf. I speak from the tech side of things, and sometimes even I forget about gender disparity being a thing. But then I find myself in some external situation like a training course with few girls and triple the boys thinking, “Oh right… This is how it usually is…”.

I’d also like to point out that our team quite likes it – being balanced and diverse. I remember a couple of years ago when we were hiring engineers, one of my male team members said, “Please make sure we keep the team split evenly between girls and boys, I like it this way.”, which was a really cool thing to hear.

Sofia Alpizar, Lead Software Developer

Sofia Alpizar, Lead Software Developer at Leaf

I’m Sofia, the Lead Software Developer at Leaf.

I’ve worked as a developer for 4 years, and before that, I did some web design as a freelancer.

I started working with Leaf as a Junior Developer, and now I’m leading a team of 4 people. Our team focuses on developing, exploring, and giving support to the Insights and reporting section of our proprietary performance solutions tech platform – Leaf Grow.

We win when “women in …” is no longer a necessary term

As any woman thriving in any industry, I just want to prove to others that women can be great in any profession they set their mind to, and I hope to inspire other women to have the confidence that they deserve to be where they are and that it’s okay to aspire for bigger roles in their professions.

But in the end, we will win when the term “women in …” is no longer necessary. This would mean that no matter your gender, you are welcome and you have the same opportunities as anyone else. It will be down to if you are doing a good job or not.

Advice to other women looking to progress their careers in tech

Have confidence and guts. You deserve to be in the room and you can add value.

On giving equal opportunities no matter the gender

I don’t do anything different between my male and female reports. I just try to support them and give them the tools so they can be the best versions of themselves, and achieve their aspirations on their career journey.

Ayesha Khalid, QA Engineer

Ayesha Khalid, QA Engineer at Leaf

Hi! This is Ayesha Khalid here, an SQA by profession.

I’ve been working as a QA for almost 5 years. I’ve worked in my home country, i.e. Pakistan, and have also worked as a freelancer for different global clients. Now, I’m here at Leaf as a QA in the tech team.

Getting into tech and being updated on the world

Since I graduated in Computer Science, Information and Technology, I decided to start my career in the same field because I found it really interesting. My overall experience up till now has really been amazing. I get to interact with many tech-savvy people and this has helped me in getting updated on the innovations that the world is making.

On being a woman in tech

Things are great now because tech, as well as other professions, are not just limited to men anymore. Women are doing amazingly well in tech!

Advice to other women looking to progress their careers in tech

Have faith in yourself, be confident, and of course, be persistent and consistent. Your hard work is going to be acknowledged.

Sahaya Annie, QA Engineer

Sahaya Annie, QA Engineer at Leaf

Hey everyone! I’m Sahaya from India and I’ve been working as a Software QA since 2012. I graduated in Electronics and Instrumentation Engineering. And I’m currently based in Bournemouth, UK.

I used to work in a healthcare company based in the US for 5 years. I’m extremely happy to share that I recently resumed my career after a 4+ year break, by joining Leaf in 2021.

On the challenge of getting back into tech after a 4-year break as a woman

As a tester, you are always contributing to improvements in product quality and thereby helping in building the confidence of the product being developed. This is the reason why I chose Software QA as a profession.

It’s a tremendous sense of satisfaction when I find out that a customer liked a new feature. Because being a tester, I have to always be in the customer’s shoes when conducting my work.

I had to pause my career due to maternity and parental responsibilities. So I felt challenged when I wanted to resume my career as I faced difficulties with the recruitment system, which doesn’t look favourably on gaps in your CV. Women are often disproportionately affected by such challenges. Women are a valuable contribution to tech. I always had the mindset that one day I would resume my career. I didn’t lose hope, I kept trying. I ensured that my skills weren’t out of date and I built my confidence through continuous learning. Then I found Leaf.

On being a woman in tech

Women play a major part in technology as women make up half of the consumers in the world. We have a vital role in making diversified, innovative and inclusive products.

Advice to other women looking to progress their careers in tech

Don’t lose hope, believe in yourself, be ready to face your challenges. Not all doors in life are shut forever.

Carolina Colorado, Tech Lead of Infrastructure and Architecture

Carolina Colorado, Tech Lead of Infrastructure and Architecture at Leaf

I am Carolina Colorado, Tech Lead of Infrastructure and Architecture at Leaf. I’ve been working in tech teams for 11 years now as a developer, architect, and tech lead. Most of my experience has been in the banking sector. I am from Colombia, but currently, I live in the Netherlands.

On being one of the few female engineers in a room full of men

I have a degree as an Electronic Engineer and I have been into software development since I was in college. At the beginning of college, I used to have classes with people who belonged to other types of engineering. It was then I realised that there were only a few women studying with me. And it has been like this in almost all the companies I’ve worked for.

In my experience, having worked in several kinds of companies, some of them are too strict when it comes to schedules or processes. This has been a challenge especially after I became a mom.

On choosing between a tech career and raising a family

I am proud of being a woman in tech. When I moved to the Netherlands, I took a year off so that my family and I could get settled down. During that time – while maybe some other women in a similar situation would’ve considered just staying at home or rethinking their careers – I did not think of pausing my career. I love learning new tech stuff and really enjoy working in tech.

Advice to other women looking to progress their careers in tech

I think it is really important to continue learning, so I recommend taking advantage of platforms like Udemy, which have a lot of courses that allow you to continue studying in your own time.

On promoting and nurturing women in the workplace

In general, I think that as a leader, I like to identify strengths in people, even the ones that they are not aware of. In this way, a team member can grow in a company. The most important thing is to help people to be more confident and to trust in themselves.