Talent Talk: Women in Tech with Nina Magnesson

Check out our second podcast episode of Talent Talk with our guest, Nina Magnesson, who discusses what it’s like for women in tech and how people can work together to build a better future for minorities in the workplace. Nina is the Executive Director for Charleston Women in Tech, a Charleston based group that empowers women in the workplace and those who are interested in gaining new knowledge.

 


 

Sarah | SENTIO
Hi. Welcome back to Talent Talk with SENTIO. This is Sarah. And today we have Nina Magnusson who is the Executive Director of Charleston Women in Tech. Welcome Nina. Let’s start out by telling our listeners about your role as Executive Director. Tell us what that entails.

Nina | CHS Women in Tech:
I’ve only recently joined trust in women in tech in that capacity. And at this moment it’s a matter of. Creating a way that we can leverage the over 25 members that we have through our original Meetup group to help advocate for women working in technology.

Sarah | SENTIO:
Wow. Yeah that’s a large following.

Nina | CHS Women in Tech:
It is a large following and everyday people continue to join me. We haven’t marketed. We never have. It’s just a genuine need. We connect support and prepare women of all ages for careers in technology. And I liken it to let’s say you know what your skill set is you know you graduated from school whether it’s associates to you for your masters. You have those skills know how to do what you do but we are here to help you get to do what you do for a long time. As everyone knows women have been a minority in the tech industry. Still to this day 74 percent of girls express a desire for a career in STEM fields but only 18 percent of computer science bachelors have. Are from major universities. So yeah.

So we see that there’s a discrepancy between the number of women who would like to be in tech and the number of them actually jumping. There are lots of reasons for that and we are trying to help mitigate and try to make it a more level playing field for women so that they can succeed.

Sarah | SENTIO:
Yes that’s definitely so important. So how did you get involved when you said this group isn’t marketed. How did you find out about it?

Nina | CHS Women in Tech:
Well this group started actually with the Charleston Digital Corridor and Carolyn Finch who was at that time working for the city of Charleston and the Digital Corridor was running the code camp school there at the digital board where she was running all the curriculum and so she started to sing there were lots and lots of guys who were taking classes and teaching classes and just a few a handful of women that she would come across and so one day she said let’s get together just the women and talk about what it’s like and what you’re doing and you know that was 2014. And ever since then we’ve had I think we’ve had at least one gathering per quarter since then we’ve also had to mention mentorship programs cycle through we’re about to launch another one obvious thing which we’re very excited about which is really you know that is one of the major ways that we can leverage our membership is that we have this amazing pool of knowledge and experience. And so we want to connect all women have that experience with women so that they can help them you know they can aspire upwards and also reach backwards and help others to attain their goals especially if they can let them know things they wish they hadn’t known yet or how to how to accomplish things with her and also learn how to overcome some barriers particularly if they’re the only woman on the team.
So you know what that’s like so inviting my girlfriend Carolyn Finch and myself and a few other women who are engineers I believe Valerie Sessions is the chair of computer science and trust in some university in general where you used to be the senior V.P. for engineering at SNAP. But she’s now in Seattle and I believe Peggy Frazier who’s V.P. of H.R. at blackboard.
At the time we got together and just started to have meet ups that had topics relevant to people who needed to connect support and is there a specific person for the mentorships that you tend to attract and who necessarily qualifies as a mentor versus a mentee. That’s a very good question because it’s not necessarily along age lines because right now lots of women are beginning to start their tech careers as a second so they may be in their 50s so they might have a mentor who’s been doing this for 15 years but generally it’s women who are just starting in their career. We’ll find a mentor who has maybe a 20 year veteran in their particular field that they’re interested in. But we had a young woman last night. We did a workshop last night for remote workers because the remote working workforce is exploding and there are lots of women working in technology from home here in Charleston and they also need advocacy they need to feel supported and they need to be here. So last night we had an amazing workshop. And he ran into a young woman who had participated in one of our original mentoring workshops and now she said she just graduated from college. She. Didn’t know where to start. And now I believe it’s about three years later she’s working for Johnson and Johnson. So you actually like design. Yes. And she’s thriving. And she says she still connects with her mentor.

Sarah | SENTIO:
That’s wonderful to hear. Right. Yeah. It’s so important for women to uplift other women. So going into you I know we talked about the community of women in tech. But when these women go out into the workforce what do you think companies should know. How they can help support these women and make them feel welcome if they’re a minority on their team?

Nina | CHS Women in Tech:
It’s a very good question. There are lots of ways that people can be aware for example and I believe it it’s across many different cultural lines not just between male and female. If your team has a way of making sure that that is the woman she may or may not be included in social gatherings after work where work is discussed. So be aware that it may happen and that it’s discouraging for a woman. There are subtle ways that women can learn so conscious deliberate listening. Part of the team leaders is been working I don’t think anyone expects men to walk on eggshells. That’s the point. But I do think it’s incumbent on H R. Professionals. To help facilitate a safe work environment without people feeling like they need to be on the defensive. Yeah. Women also. Can work too. I mean we all have our different ways thinking and they may not be the same way necessarily so.

And that also is a difference from human to human or individual to individual. So but there are lots of communication skills on both sides that could be examined and potentially across the aisle. We have to make sure of that because I don’t think anybody wakes up in the morning and says I’m going to make sure that we just clued in discount woman on our team. I think most of our biases are at this point. Most of them are unconscious but I think we all need to learn how to make those work habits. That’s great.

Sarah | SENTIO:
What advice you have for women we’ll be entering or want to get into the tech field but may have reservations about it?

Nina | CHS Women in Tech:
Well first of all I would join trusted women. That’s the first thing. And so much of technology has to do with an aptitude for learning because tech industry changes daily and there’s no having arrived. It continues to evolve. It continues to change and so we’re always in a state of being teachable. All right. So I think joining like trusted women in tech which is great to connect with other women to learn what worked and what and that’s why we exist so that we can make sure that those connections are happening. If you are you can just mildly interested in tech.
There’s an amazing new website now that the South Carolina Department numbers department of intervention just launched called SC codes.

So if you’re interested at all in software engineering you can go online and start teaching yourself. And they have mentors through a software program platform as well. As Senator S.C. code Scott o r g. And then I joined Charleston women in tech and then I would also you know there’s so much information on podcasts. Blogs learn and absorb everything. And also I would suggest going to the events. Tech events happening you show up you don’t have to have credentials you don’t have to have anything but an interest in what they’re talking about. No one will look at you and say why are you here or who do you think you are. Or you know there’s no way you’ll ever be able to do this. Because that landscape is changing. Tech doesn’t look like an all-male all white male youthful it is now much more diverse and could stand to be even more diverse. And we trust women in tech also working towards that I work for a company also called Boomtown which is a real estate software technology platform where real estate brokers nationwide and. And we have a fabulous space on the upper peninsula that we use for community outreach. And one of the things we want to do there is hold a demo palooza. With the National Society of Black Engineers and trust in women in tech. Well we are having. 20 different stem or professionals scientists technologists. Come and demonstrate some stem technology for the kids and are now adding more.

Thank you. Yes. We’re very excited. October 12th. And people are jumping in. Left and Right. Hardly. Finish the sentence which I’ve read in the paper because a lot of enthusiasm around STEM and want to make sure that the kids realize that STEM is a vital exciting fun wonderful thing to get interested in. When you’re young now when you first are in school and also there are some really great careers in technology that our region is going to be looking for a lot of workforce that do not possess the skills that are jobs. So we especially want students to jump into the STEM professions because we need those skills and teaching to keep our economy going. So there’s a lot there’s a lot riding on getting stem to places where kids may or may not know that they have a potential career path.

Sarah | SENTIO:
Thank you for that, Nina. I just want to backtrack a little bit now. I know you talked about those who are going up through high school and college now who may be interested in the tech industry. What do you think is most important for them to get their first job. Is it being crowding fortifications. Is it internships. What should they know for how to prepare for life after college?

Nina | CHS Women in Tech:
That’s a very good question and it’s one that we are all still trying to articulate it particularly for me across the board. Software engineers and But junior level positions are sometimes difficult to come by because. I like to liken it to you learn from your master. All of the techniques and all the skills and then you have to go on your path. And that’s where you start. All right. So growing software innovative software companies want people them on the road learned soft skills and then lots of sophisticated details that they don’t get to do. So it’s really difficult sometimes for students who just graduated from computer science department to get their first new developer job because there’s so much that they can’t teach in school. We’re trying to remedy that with more apprenticeships and internships because there are some things you learn just watching teams and dynamics and problem solving on the fly and really learning how to learn on the spot is a big plus for people we love working in technology sometimes problems come up that you simply have never encountered before and you find yourself having to figure it out on the spot. So. I am hoping that in the future we will get support from the state and also maybe even some federal funding creating internships and apprenticeships where they don’t see this technology because a lot of times scaling companies that are not enormous with Global Arts are. They may be successful but they’re still all hands on deck. Everyone who’s working here is running uphill. They don’t have time to take an intern into what they’re doing showing them what we do. So we actually need an employee to advocate for creating a role for tech companies whose specific job you know whether it’s an HR person or a deaf person.

Sarah | SENTIO:
Thank you. I know what your passion for this and helping those who coming after you. So Nina as we wrap up today is there any last pieces of advice you want to give to the Spurs.

Nina | CHS Women in Tech:
Well like I said it’s important to just find out. Look online for the roles that you think you might be interested in and what it takes to become qualified in that particular career and then don’t be afraid to ask for help if you find somebody on LinkedIn has your job that you see that they’ve done for years and years not out of the realm of good manners to reach out to them and say I would love to learn more about what you do that. I actually did that before I moved to Charleston and reached out on LinkedIn to Rachel Hutchison who is the corporate social responsibility director. She’s called something different. But at that time that’s what she was. And I reached out to her on the business. How did you get to be you. And so she took about 45 minutes on me. She had never met before and we had friends in common but not close friends. She talked to me about how family. She did. There now seven years later and I’m doing what she did. So don’t be afraid to ask for help. Don’t be afraid to join us.

Sarah | SENTIO:
Thank you for joining us again. That was Nina Magnuson executive director of Charleston women in tech. See you on the next episode.