An interview with a young woman leader shows the need for more female role models
We discuss the challenges of being a young manager, the importance of a supportive working environment, and the need for more female role models in tech to encourage women into the field.
As part of our series on women in tech, showcasing a collection of conversations of women who are breaking the mould, we spoke to Candice Schueremans. She is the Enterprise Information Management Director at VOO, a Belgian digital cable television, internet, fixed and mobile telephone provider. At only 29, she is the youngest member of an all male management committee and the first woman to be appointed to the group. Tri-lingual, with a background in business management, leadership and finance she considers herself to be a bridge between the world of tech and non-tech. Outside work, Candice applies the same drive and focus to her golf game playing off an impressive 3 handicap!
She told us about her role, her background and skills and shared how women can overcome the stereotypes and challenges they face in both management and the tech field. She also gives some good tips to tackle the work that still has to be done! Read until the end!
Hi Candice, can you sum up a little about your role and what you do for VOO?
I am responsible for development, operations and support of Business Intelligence solutions at VOO. It involves BI architecture definition, business needs analysis, development, testing and support around data. That is to say data extraction and transformation, data visualization, reporting and analysis. I manage a team of around 20. In a telecom company, we manage a lot of different types of data. This includes all the products owned by our customers, the invoices they receive and details of their consumption (voice, data, text message, etc.) It then also includes data on our own network which we reference to avoid incidents that could impact our customers.
You’re both the only female and youngest member of your management team. Have you found this impacts the way you are treated professionally? If so, which do you think has the biggest impact, gender or age?
That is a difficult question. I don’t really have the feeling that I am seen differently because I am a woman. I would probably say that age has had more of an impact, because I still have more to prove than the others because I have less experience. But I never felt any fierce competition between people at VOO for promotion opportunities. We try to collaborate as much as possible to help others grow.
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Do you think women are lacking female role models or mentors in tech? Do you think this changes the dynamic in the workplace?
It is quite easy to see in the company that there are not that many women in tech. And not only in our company, even at university in tech fields, the ratio of women is low. So it’s not easy to find female role models or mentors. Without role models, it’s harder for women to see themselves in higher roles in a company. But I believe this will change in the coming years.
I see your background wasn’t in tech. How are you able to be the bridge between tech and non-tech?
Indeed, I don’t have a technical background. But I am a fast learner and tech is quite logical, so it is easy for me to learn. As a manager of the team, I don’t really need to go into all the details of the code developed. I just know and understand enough to make sure we are heading in the right direction. It is useful that I also have an analytical mind, as that helps a lot to focus on important matters first. I quickly understand the business processes and the bigger picture of those processes interacting with each other. I am also able to explain it to the non-tech parts of the business in a simple way, as well as communicating with the more technical profiles in my team.
If there had been more options or encouragement for girls to study STEM or tech subjects at school, do you think you might have got involved in the field sooner?
I am not sure I would change what I learned at school. I studied something that we call in Belgium, Business Engineering. It is a mix of business school and science. I followed Management, Leadership and Finance classes especially during my Masters. But I also had to follow physics, chemistry, mathematics and statistics classes during my bachelor years and the subjects were quite technical. They were probably nothing that would be of use one day in my career, but they taught me how to learn and how to understand any technical subject. That helps me a lot in my career, giving me the opportunity to understand higher level and the more technical elements of a telecom company.
What advice would you give to any girls that may be interested in a career in tech?
First of all, do what you like. The fact that tech is currently a man’s world can be scary, but don’t be stopped by stereotypes. It’s actually quite interesting to work with men because you realize that we don’t always think the same way. Having different points of view is important to grow. A good tip is to start working with men on one-on-one basis if you can. This makes it easier to start building relationships, as it can be daunting to be the only woman, in a room full of men. Another important piece of advice is to force yourself outside of your comfort zone. Take risks, be confident about your skills. That’s something I am still working on and I am quite sure this is typically female.
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