Q&A: “If you see yourself as a minority, you’ll be treated as a minority,” says Veronique Mondollot, Dynatrace VP EMEA.
An expert in change management and complex selling, Veronique is vice president EMEA for Dynatrace, formally known as Compuware APM. Leading the APM (application performance management) business unit for EMEA, she also also oversees strategic planning initiatives
Sitting down with Editor Ellie Burns, Veronique talks about balance – from skills and family life, to self-image and workforce.
EB: What attracted you to a career in technology?
VM: I fell into a career in technology purely by chance. I was applying for a position in marketing and consumer goods within IBM, but when I met with people from the company they convinced me to join their team in a sales position.
EB: What were your biggest challenges with being a woman working in technology?
VM: The biggest challenge for me was time management when my children were growing up. It was important to me to ensure I had enough family time and didn’t miss seeing my children growing up, whilst still pursuing career growth opportunities.
EB: How did you overcome these challenges?
VM: I overcame this challenge by finding someone to help look after my children during the day, and take care of the house whilst I was away. I also made sure that I only accepted positions that would fit into my life schedule whilst my children were growing up.
For example, it was only when my children got older and I had greater flexibility in my work/life balance that I began to consider roles that required me to travel more with work.
EB: Despite many diversity programmes and employee workplace initiatives, the gender ratio in technology is still skewed – why?
VM: The gender ratio of the workforce within the company I work for is more or less equal to the ratio of the applicants for vacant positions. Candidates are hired on their merits and suitability for the position alone, rather than for their gender or other personal traits.
As such, I think the industry needs to get much better at marketing itself to make female candidates want to apply for vacant positions if we’re going to achieve a more even gender ratio. We need to get women excited about a career in technology and dispel the image of the industry as a ‘boys only’ club, which as I’ve found from my personal experience is far from the case.
EB: How do you think we should tackle this disparity?
VM: We should promote technology roles in colleges and high schools so that we have more female candidates applying for vacant positions. When they have been hired, we then need to provide an environment where young women feel able to express their priorities. For example, they shouldn’t be under pressure to put off having children if they want to build a successful career for themselves.
We also need to stop seeing women as a minority that struggles with their work/life balance. Men also have times in their lives when they need to be listened to and helped to balance their priorities.
EB: How do women become part of a team in a male-centric workplace? How do you deal with being a minority?
VM: Although I’m both French and female in a US software company – I don’t feel like I’m in the minority! Technology is a world where nobody cares about gender, colour, nationality or sexual orientation. It is difficult enough to find individuals with the relevant skillset and passion, without prejudice coming into play.
I think people tend to behave according to the image you portray of yourself. If you see yourself as a minority, you’ll be treated as a minority. With this in mind, it’s important that women don’t overuse the "female" stuff and that they’re confident in their own abilities – so they can become part of a male-centric team as an equal. It’s also important to show dedication to your team, as well as honesty and loyalty.
Ultimately though, it’s important not to get too wrapped up in work and to maintain a good work/ life balance, spreading your time between family, friends and leisure to maintain a positive outlook.
EB: After getting women into the workplace, the next challenge is getting them to stay – as evidenced by the lack of senior level female execs. What issues do you think exist which are stopping women from reaching more senior positions? How can we tackle these challenges?
VM: In the early days, many of the first women promoted to board level positions felt that they had to act like men in order to achieve those roles. Consequently, a lot of young women might put off pursuing these more senior positions as they don’t want to act that way.
However, I think that it’s important to remember that women offer different qualities and skillsets to men, so these attributes should be recognised and valued appropriately at board level. Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses, but it’s important that these virtues are identified to maintain a balanced workforce.
There may also be a case that men and women have different motivations for gaining promotion to higher-level positions. For instance, women may not regard job titles in the same high esteem as many men do.
The most important thing that will help encourage more women to pursue senior roles is for those already in these positions to mentor others that exhibit the qualities needed, to help them to believe in themselves and their ability to progress upwards.
EB: Are there different challenges for women at a senior level? Or do the same ones still exist?
VM: I believe the challenges for those at a senior level are the same regardless of gender, but women just have one additional layer to contend with depending on the time they’re at in their life.
EB: What advice would you offer to women working in tech, with ambitions to get to the top?
VM: It’s important that, women realise that they are the equals of their male colleagues; they don’t have to strive harder than their peers to impress or show they are capable.
It’s crucial that women feel comfortable to accept and ask for help when they need it in the same way that their male colleagues can. It’s also important that women maintain a balanced lifestyle, in exactly the same way that their male counterparts need this freedom.