My tech story: Mai Mai Lam

“Don’t be put off by the male-dominated image of tech. Speak to other women who are in it.”

Mai has spent the last eight years working across various roles at WANdisco, at the company’s Sheffield office

What’s your role and how long have you worked there?

“I currently work at WANdisco and am Head of HR Operations and Facilities. I’ve been here for eight years. I didn’t start in the role that I do now. I came in from a translation company where I worked as a Project Manager into the sales team here. I came in to work on the partnerships side, working with other software companies to collaborate with our then App store. “

“I moved from that to Marketing Director, then worked as a Project Manager within the Engineering Team helping that team to get what they needed, so that they could complete their tasks.  Then I went on maternity leave and when I came back, I was still doing a bit of project management and some facilities office management as well. After going on maternity leave for the second time I moved to HR on my return. I loved the challenge and earned a promotion to become Director of UK/EMEA HR Operations and Site Management.”

“Our fantastic maternity policy definitely helped me to be able to develop and grow in the business because it recognises the flexibility that we need as mothers with young children. It’s important to be able to focus on your family as a priority whilst you’re going through those intense early months. Not having to worry about money and whether you’ll have a job ready to walk back in to at the end of your mat leave is a tremendous help and am so grateful that I was able to benefit from such a generous policy. Due to my tenure in the company I got almost a year at full pay which is really rare in the UK and shows that the company does not look at starting a family as a barrier to having a career!  Companies really need to offer family-friendly benefits to bring more women into the tech sector and keep us here after we have children!”

Do you feel working at a tech company as a female is different to what women can generally experience in other sectors?

“The feel of this company is a quite different to where I was before. They did do some tech, but it was mainly translation work, where a lot of women did project management.

“You do need to get your head around the fact that you’re mainly around men who are generally very technical people and who don’t collaborate in quite the same way as I did in my past job. Once you overcome that, it’s like any other job really. You’ve got a set of objectives to do and you just do what you need to achieve them.”

What do you most enjoy about your job?

“It’s having dealings with all the different areas of the business. I get to speak from people from every department, across different sites we have, including Belfast, California, Sheffield and other remote workers.

“It’s kind of nice knowing what everyone does and that I’m able to speak to them. For an engineer, they might be working on their own tasks from day to day, so they don’t get to speak to a lot of different people, but I like the fact that I do. I am able to forge relationships with people that you wouldn’t normally have the chance to.”

What would you say to other women who are thinking of starting a career in the tech sector but feel a bit intimidated by the image of it being male dominated?

“I’d say try to speak to other women who have done it and try to get first-hand experiences where you can. Don’t be put off because that image that’s been portrayed historically is not how it is in reality. It is different, but not in a negative way at all.”

How do you think the sector can help to bridge the gender disparity – the gap between the numbers of men and women – in the tech economy?

“I think we should showcase what women actually do within tech businesses. I wouldn’t know which roles women might work in at other companies so it’s good to build a picture of what they do.

“I think sharing these experiences would be good for anyone considering working in tech, and for people who are already in it too. To get tips and insight into how things work in other companies would be a great idea for everyone.”

“Finally, companies need to make more noise about the great benefits they offer if they want to attract and retain more women in their workforce. Generous maternity policies really help on this front!”

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