Her Story: Lorén Rose, Global Kinetic COO
by Lorén Rose
In honour of women’s month and in celebration of the strength demonstrated by the women of South Africa in 1956, we decided to put the spotlight on some of the women of Global Kinetic and asked them to share their stories and their advice to other women wanting to enter the tech industry.
How did you get started in tech?
I had always been interested in computers growing up, but unfortunately had little access to them during my school years. I went to an all-girls school that didn’t offer computer science; if you wanted to study computers you needed to take it as an extra subject after hours at the boy’s school. Up to that point, it had never occurred to me that being a girl, I might not have access to the same opportunities that boys did. I was fortunate in that I grew up believing that I could be anything, as long as I put in the effort. I think having that kind of attitude as a foundation was incredibly important, and has served me well in my career in tech.
On leaving school I chose a degree that led to a somewhat predictable career as a Charted Accountant, but that also included Computer Science as a major because tech had always intrigued me. I didn’t know anyone that worked in tech (there were no role models, male or female, at the time), nor even what a career path in Computer Science would entail. It was only in my 4th year that I actually made the mental shift to pursue a career in IT (the exciting choice) instead of doing my articles (the safe choice).
I got my first job through a university recruitment programme and I have been working in technology, specifically Fintech, ever since.
What do you love about working in the tech industry?
- I have always loved coding; I love how it facilitates the solving of problems.
- I love the binary satisfaction of software, it either works or it doesn’t.
- I love the pace of change in the industry, and that I am constantly learning new things.
- I love that with technology you have the ability to create things that didn’t exist before, that have a real impact on the lives of others.
While I don’t get to code anymore (and that was an incredibly difficult transition), I do still love being part of the ever-changing landscape. And I do still get to solve problems and do performance tuning, these days I just use different tools.
What were the challenges you faced as a woman in tech?
There were even fewer women in tech when I started out.
The challenge for me in the early years was trying to maintain the balance between being friendly but not too friendly, being accommodating but not too accommodating. Too friendly and you risked attracting “unwanted attention”. Too unfriendly and you were labeled uptight which served to further exclude you from “The Boys Club” and as such isolate you from opportunities in the workplace.
While being an outsider meant I didn’t get to work on the fun stuff that “The Boys Club” did, it did mean in general that I had all the challenging work, the integrations, the 3rd party products, the multiple languages. This allowed me to expand my skill set, hone my problem solving and troubleshooting skills, and overall make me more marketable, which in turn allowed me to move freely in the industry and seek out new opportunities.
It may sound clichéd to say every obstacle is an opportunity, yet with each obstacle you face, you always have a choice to either let it get you down or to use it as a stepping stone toward better things.
The paradox of working in tech is that if you are competent, you immediately get the respect. Yet as women in this industry, one of the biggest barriers we face is actually getting the opportunity, or platform, to demonstrate our competence.
I am a COO yet still attend meetings where only my male colleagues get addressed. I have been asked to take notes in meetings and to check my colleagues’ calendars for free slots to schedule meetings. The assumption being that as the only female, I must be the PA and not a required attendee.
In the tech industry, we are trained to solve problems and recognize patterns. Therefore, given the lack of female representation, it’s not remarkable that others may underestimate my position. As a female, I am also not one to offer up that info on the first handshake (elbow bump); however, after fighting to get a seat at the table, it does get a little disheartening when some people assume you are only there to take notes.
The other challenge that I had to navigate when moving into a leadership role, one that I think is universal in a male-dominated industry, is that compassion and empathy are seen as weakness. As female leaders, we generally become overly reliant on being hard and leading with aggression or with fear. Only after some time, when our competence is no longer in question, do we settle into a pattern more consistent with our own personalities.
I was incredibly fortunate to meet the fabulous group of people that I call my partners today, early in my career, and have stuck with them ever since because of our shared values and mutual respect.
I also acknowledge that it was these challenges I faced through the course of my career that led me to where I am today. I work for an amazing company with people who empower others regardless of gender, race, or orientation to reach their full potential.
What is your advice to other women?
To the young women wanting to join the industry: Don’t settle.
The industry as a whole will need to rely on the younger generation to change the narrative.
- If you are not being valued or treated as an equal and with respect. Move on.
- If your company is not paying you what you are worth. Move on.
- If you need to change your personality to get ahead or your company is promoting on popularity over merit. Move on.
Go and add value to a company that values your contribution. As a result, that company will thrive and be able to open more opportunities to women like yourself.
I know this advice seems simplistic; in other industries it’s not that easy to leave and find a new job. In tech, however, we are in the fortunate position where our skills are in high demand – take that opportunity.
- Be confident in your abilities!
- Use obstacles as opportunities; there will be challenges. Your job is to move them out the way and keep moving forward.
- Ask for help if you need it.
- Love what you do and enjoy every day.
To the women already in the industry: Support other women.
- Do not tolerate discrimination or sexism just because it no longer bothers you. It doesn’t serve the industry and does not pave the way for the success of others.
- You don’t have to change the world or the whole industry. Change what you can.
- Be a role model and a mentor.
- Stay fabulous.