Building a successful career in tech is daunting from the start, but women standing at the gate may find a challenging road ahead that feels impossible. Alana Karen’s book “The Adventures of Women in Tech: How We Got Here and Why We Stay” is a best-seller that is already playing a pivotal role in the future careers of women in tech. Alana Karen has worked in tech for twenty years, from a speaker at summits to an award-winner leader in tech, she’s a testament to strength and resilience, demonstrating next level skills and knowledge. Alana saw the need for an honest, useful telling of women’s roles in tech. This book amplifies the voices of people often left in the shadows. In an ever-changing, fast-growing tech world, how can women find a place to thrive? This profound book answers that question.
On your blog at alanakaren.com you explain the role of feedback in our careers and how to navigate it. Have you ever disagreed with a fan or editor’s feedback of your book? Tell us about your experience.
Of course; I feel like the book wouldn’t have been read by enough people if everyone agreed with it. I don’t usually disagree with reviews, more so I accept the book’s not for everyone. A few reviews even say that, e.g. “I thought the book would be about this” or “This would have been better earlier in my career”. I think about that a lot now when I explain the book, so people can self-select into reading what’s a good fit for them. That said, I do have a 1-star review, and I’m not sure if the person read the book! They even call me a ‘he’ in the review, so I suppose I do disagree with a review from time to time!
In your book, you share stories about women in Tech and how difficult it can be to forge a career in the industry. What is a big change that needs to happen in the industry to create a better place for women in Tech?
We need to make space for successful work to take many forms versus always looking one way. When you hear a start-up recruiting for someone who can be assertive and work around the clock, that already excludes certain talent. What about someone who is learning to speak up but delivers great work? What about someone who is assertive but doesn’t come across that way when you first meet them? What about caretakers who can’t work round the clock, but deliver excellent work within office hours? Emphasizing technical skills can also exclude talent. Could those skills be trained? Are certain candidates self-excluding themselves because they think they don’t meet the bar? It’s proven that women and other minority populations will self-exclude more, so it’s important to think these things through when hiring and managing your talent.
When you entered the Tech world at the beginning of your career, did you expect the challenges or were you surprised by the circumstances you faced?
I’d already faced challenges when I was teaching myself HTML and other technical skills, and I’d already seen that I would have to fight to be taken seriously as a young, petite woman in my early jobs. As a result, I definitely expected challenges. For the most part, I found a very supportive environment especially for hard workers. I proved myself by diving in and repeatedly delivering work with high quality. It was later in Tech as I made the move into leadership that I found more surprising challenges like being talked down to by male colleagues. Despite my earlier success, it’s definitely been harder to be taken seriously and be recognized as a leader. I don’t think this is unique to Tech however; we still mainly expect leaders to look like tall, deep-voiced men and I’m definitely not that!
As a thought-leader in Tech, in what ways do you believe women add a powerful and meaningful impact on the Tech world?
Any diversity, not only gender, provides a powerful impact because we need all different ideas and experiences to make technology that’s relevant, useful, and interesting for the world. Also with half the world being women, you’d be missing out on a lot of great talent across any role! That said, as women are still often raised and reared to be the traditional caretakers of society, I think women in particular bring ideas about what will be helpful to others and will improve society. We can be very “me” focused in Tech, and I think broader diversity helps nurture ideas from across walks of life and types of needs. Gender is simply one aspect of that spectrum.
“The Adventures of Women in Tech” has met a need in Tech, as well as touched the hearts of many people. Your insight has a lot to offer the world. Do you have any other projects coming up that you’re excited to share?
I’m in the process of launching a follow-up workbook right now. Co-written with 4 amazing women, the workbook explores specific steps you can take in your life and career to build the key tools I discuss in my first book: Resilience, Marketing 101, Ask, Find Support, and Owning Your Awesome. It’s designed to pace yourself with short, easy-to-understand exercises designed to accelerate your personal progress and help you find your way during the toughest of moments. It’s on Amazon and other retailers now, and I’m looking forward to sharing this with women navigating their careers in Tech and beyond.