We interviewed Marianne Calder, VP EMEA at Puppet on her experience and thoughts on women in tech.
As vice president and MD for Puppet in Europe, Middle East and Africa, I lead the sales and go-to-market team to fuel extensive growth across the region. My key focus is on business and organisation transformation, and to develop new strategies to drive growth in the coming years.
I am responsible for overall operations and performance of Puppet in EMEA and as such a very key element is attracting and developing the right talent. Throughout my career, I have been passionate about talent, diversity and leadership, but it has never been more critical to my role than it is building and leading the team at Puppet.
I have been interested in science and technology since I was at school – I had a great chemistry teacher who was very inspiring. She was the first female chemistry teacher in Denmark and she worked hard to push through the barriers and prejudice of the time. She taught me to always work hard and have passion in what you want to achieve.
After I finished university, I was lucky to gain a commercial role for graduates at the Danish Consulate in San Francisco, working closely with companies headquartered in Silicon Valley and connected into Stanford University. This role kept me closely engaged with the technology industry and ultimately paved my way to a thesis study at Stanford and then onto Cisco Systems. There, I built a long career across global accounts, inside sales and concluded my time there as MD for the EMEA Collaboration Architecture Team. From here, I moved from the US to the UK to join Puppet as the VP of EMEA, located in London.
I didn’t study IT specificaly, however all my projects and thesis work were focused on the IT industry. I studied International Communications and Business Strategy at Copenhagen Business School and this course has been very relevant to all stages of my career in IT. My previous and current roles require strong communication skills and the ability to build a team to work with customers and partners across different regions, so a lot of what I learnt throughout my university degree is completely relevant to my current job.
There is not a part of life that technology has not touched and this means the roles available in the technology industry are vast and varied – you don’t need a pure technology related degree to be successful and have an exciting career in this industry.
I have been in the industry for a long time now, but before my first full-time role I was lucky enough to travel and study around the world. An initial study year in France motivated me to take part in a three-month MBA course in California, where I continued to find new and exciting opportunities. I ended up staying for over eight years!
Gaining work experience is a great first step, it gives you the opportunity to see what is out there and if you like it before you apply for any full time roles. My advice would be that, if you can seek out these opportunities, go for it. Working for a week or a month with a company you are interested in will allow you to get to know them and the industry in more detail.
I think there are a lot more women working in the technology sector than there has ever historically been. However, there is still so much more that can be done to encourage more women and young girls to pursue a career in the technology sector. Even Google, which has put significant effort into balancing diversity throughout the company, has just issued a report that showed 70% of their workforce is men, with just over 25% of its leaders being female – these numbers are just not good enough for businesses in 2018.
I don’t think there is a stereotype anymore. I think there was maybe 10 years ago, but now more companies are actively dismissing that typecast. However, the variety of roles available in the technology industry is not very well understood or recognised, so most students, men and women, who are not technology-orientated, may be more inclined to dismiss the industry as a place to build a career.
There is a new movement that started out in the Rhode Island School of Design in the US that has hit the nail on the head when it comes to encouraging more women into technology courses and careers – it’s called STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math).
For a long time now we have been discussing the encouragement of STEM subjects but the arts and humanities also teach students skills that are absolutely relevant to roles within the technology industry – collaboration, communication, creative thinking, and more.
At Puppet for example, we are an automation software company and we created a code that our customers can work in – that code, unlike any other of its kind, is written in a common language rather than symbols like traditional code. This innovation was created through the collaboration of great minds bringing together skills in computer science, math, language, artistic creativity and design.
The industry is thankfully more diverse and open today than it has been previously. I am lucky to have worked in some great companies with supportive co-workers and did not experience barriers or prejudice myself. Having said, I have like many women felt the hurt of some of the micro inequities that can grind at you if they keep coming – like being assumed to be the admin of male colleagues, asked “do your kids not miss you when you work” (by men who also have kids) and even being asked whether my husband “would allow me to go back to work after maternity”. The latter was quite a foreign thought to someone like me growing up in a liberal country like Denmark
Inspire the new generation early! The more we break down barriers, whether it is old stereotypes like ‘computers are for boys’ or keeping science and art separate, the more we encourage a fluidity between subjects and career choices for girls and boys. There should be no course or career that boys can do that girls cannot, or vice versa. The more we open young minds to the possibilities the technology industry offers, the more we inspire them to get involved.