FemTech in my DNA

European Robotics Week - Amsterdam 2016

“Nuray, how did you become so passionate about FemTech?” People have asked me this question many times.

FemTech

FemTech is short for Female Technology, also referred to as Women in Tech or Girls in Tech. I have told this story many times to different people in various countries. Now I will start to share my personal and professional stories with a broader audience on a regular basis. Perhaps you can recognise yourself or be inspired to tell your own story, who knows?

“Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.” - Oprah Winfrey

1st Computer at Age 4

I remember my first encounter with a computer at age 4. This computer was a cash register. And I was playing with this cash register at home. For the people who can still remember, those big bold machines used in super markets. There were no other toys to play with, except for this big piece of hardware in our house. I remember how I excitingly hit the buttons with my fingers, and how I expectingly watch the numbers on the display and the print out on the paper. Making calculations on this machine empowered me for some reason. I felt important and powerful. This was my very first encounter as a little child with a computer and I loved it :D

1st Program at Age 10

And I remember writing my first program at age 10. There was a government program called “Girls in Tech”. This program encouraged girls at schools to participate at extra curricular activities such as programming. This programming workshop was in the evenings after school at the technology museum, which was in the same street I lived in. My parents allowed me to participate since it did not cost any money and it was close to our house. Learning and interacting with this computer using a floppy disk and writing code, watching the neon green letters on the black screen, and seeing the result of the program directly on the screen after hitting Enter… OMG I felt so powerful to be able to create this!

“Nothing can dim the light which shines from within.” - Maya Angelou

Exact Sciences at High School

At high school, I enjoyed all subjects. When it was time to make a choice, I decided to choose the exact sciences. Mathematics, Physics, and Biology were my favourite topics. At these classes, I realised I was the only or one of the few girls amongst the boys. Other than just being aware of that it did not effect me or the others. I did get advanced classes from my Mathematics teacher because of my interest. Other than the subjects, the culture at this high school was very different than I was used to. It was a “white elite classical” environment. This was a culture shock and at the same time interesting to learn from this completely new environment.

Computer Science at University

At university, I started with Business Information Systems and after completing a year, I switched to Computer Science. Again, I was the only or one of the few girls amongst the boys. They were more hardcore though, because they loved to program day and night, weekdays and weekends. I did have to balance this all out by partying with my girl friends in the weekends. Again, the culture at this faculty was very different than I was used to. It was a “nerdy male tech” environment. Next to the culture shock, I enjoyed the novelty.

"A woman with a voice is, by definition, a strong woman." — Melinda Gates

Encouragement by Parents

Looking back at my life and how my parents raised me, I can see very clearly that they have always encouraged me in a positive and empowering way. Both my parents and especially my mother have stressed on a daily basis the importance of education. They would always say “school first”, “education is top priority”, and they would walk their talk! My mother did not go to school and has felt pain because of this her whole life. My father was a teacher and knows the value of education. They both made clear that a good education and career was important to be independent of others. In the case of my mother and their culture, she would stress that it is especially important to be independent of men.

Encouragement by Government & Companies

Besides my parents, the government has also encouraged me in a positive and empowering way. The “Girls in Tech” programs throughout my childhood have helped and inspired me. By making these activities free and close to home, it makes them accessible to everyone. No matter from what culture or background, no matter which means you do or don’t have. I felt like I gained tools to participate in society. The importance of these programs and activities and also the locations in the neighbourhood houses have been huge for me. Alongside the government, some companies have also helped me. The “Women in Tech” programs throughout my student years have helped and inspired me what options there are as a career.

“We cannot change what we are not aware of, and once we are aware, we cannot help but change.” - Sheryl Sandberg

Change & Culture

When I started working full-time as Management Trainee IT, I realised that the IT projects were maybe 80% about tech and 20% about people and culture. Towards the end of my 2 year management traineeship, I realised that the IT projects were maybe 20% about tech and 80% about people and culture. Now, after working 10 years full time for the private and public sector (tech, airline, bank, local government), I realise that it is almost 100% about people and culture. The implementation of technology has to do with change management and cultural management. It is not only the technology which is experienced as powerful, but also the people advocating the use of technology are experienced as powerful. And how about a female person advocating the use of technology? This creates a whole different impact :) To be continued…

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