Women make up more than half of new university graduates, but are still underrepresented in a number of highly technical fields, such as science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and computer science.
Marcia Sequeira, Trend Micro’s recently appointed Canadian country manager, has seen this firsthand. While she’s held the position for just over a year, she’s also spent almost two decades in the tech industry. CDN had a chance to catch up with Sequeira to discuss her experience in the channel and what advice she gives young women looking to get into the tech industry.
[The below transcript has been lightly edited for clarity and flow]
CDN Now: What has your experience been like working in the channel, a predominantly male-driven field?
Marcia Sequeira: It’s been wonderful for me. I’m responsible for sales in the channel and yes, while those positions have predominantly been held by males, I think my experience has been great, both at Trend Micro and throughout my career. I’ve been in tech for over 15 years in different capacities with different companies. As a woman, I think it’s about being confident, being assertive, but at the same time, being humble is important as well. Being open-minded is important, too.
CDN Now: Have you faced any challenges throughout your career? How did you overcome them?
MS: Oh my goodness, so many. Every day, I’m not going to lie to you. I always have faced challenges and I think I always will in technology. I’ve almost always been the only female in a meeting room full of men, which isn’t surprising in this male-dominated industry.
People hold a lot of biases. I overcome those by knowing I can’t change people’s minds, but I can certainly prove to them that I’m there because I earned my spot. Actions speak louder than words. It’s an ongoing thing in the tech world, but I’m proud to be in the position I am and I’m trying to give other women the opportunity as well because they’ve earned it.
CDN Now: How do you go about giving other women the opportunity without handing it to them on a silver platter?
MS: I make a point to work with and grow talent in other women because everyone gains from strong female leadership. And they’ve earned it, just like I have. We always hire people who are capable and the best person for the job.
I work with very talented women and I’m happy that I made the effort to have a diverse team. I mean, I’m where I am because I worked hard but it’s also a result of the people who have helped me along the way too. We all get help, we all have someone who took a chance on us. I feel like I have the responsibility to give that chance to other women as well.
CDN Now: How do we get more women into the channel and into tech in general?
MS: I was asked to be a part of a women leadership panel by the Rotman School of Commerce at U of T recently, and the most common question I seemed to get from the young female students is “well, to be in technology, does that mean you need to have a technical engineering diploma? Is that your background?” And for me, the answer is no, you don’t need that technical diploma per say. If you have one, that’s fantastic, but it’s more about the experiences throughout your career and understanding how companies work and how business works. Those skills can be applied to any industry, and can help you get hired in the tech field if you want.
What has helped me a great deal is the experience throughout the years seeing and understanding what a channel means, what a sales process is like, what strategic relationships in business development mean, what is a research and development cycle? The more experience you have working within different departments, the more tools you have to be successful at your job.
CDN Now: What advice would you give to young women?
MS: It’s about being confident in knowing what you know, but also being humble enough to admit when you don’t know something and ask for an explanation. I think as women we tend to second guess ourselves a lot, like should we ask a question if we don’t know the answer?
Because of that uncertainty we often feel, I think it’s also about being prepared. For example, if I’m going to a meeting where I know that there will be discussions around both business and technical components, I’m going to make sure I bring my technical lead and the rest of my team who can go in depth about the details of the product or service because I’m not going to fake it. I don’t know every single technical detail, but my team does.
Making sure you know what your own strengths are and understanding what you do and do not know is being transparent. You can’t know everything – nobody does – but that’s why we have teams and that’s why you ask questions. It’s also okay to make mistakes. I always tell my team that it’s about how fast you can recover from those mistakes. That’s the difference and that’s how you learn.
CDN is looking for nominations for its women mentor of the year award at the CDN Women in the IT Channel luncheon coming up this summer. If you would like to nominate a great female mentor in your life, please fill out the application form here.