Women’s Day 2021

Ingrid Berg Skarland
Mar 8 · 14 min read

In honor of women’s day we want to highlight some of the women working in technology and put focus on their perspective when it comes to technology and gender equality. Read more about who they are, what they are working on and how they think we should work and focus on increasing gender diversity.

Marta Paciorkowska

Picture of Marta Paciorkowska
Picture of Marta Paciorkowska

Who are you?

I’m Marta Paciorkowska, and I’m an infrastructure engineer in FINN’s Infrastructure and Operations team. That’s a lot of infrastructure.

What are you working with right now?

FINN.no migrated our workload to the cloud last September, and now the whole Infrastructure and Operations team is working on cleaning up and planning the shiny future. One of the things we’re doing is upgrading our Kubernetes clusters. We ran Kubernetes on bare metal before the cloud shift, and we’ve fallen some versions behind. My role here is preparing our relevant codebase for the upgrade, mostly ensuring that we don’t use any deprecated APIs in our helm-deployed applications and internal services. It’s more fun than it sounds, because I’m also finding parts of our codebase that could be refactored, and I love refactoring.

I’ve also just finished driving a team-wide effort to define internal work guidelines. Firstly, as our team grows, we want to make tribal knowledge more visible. Secondly, we want to keep ourselves reminded of the high standards we aspire to. Thus, we captured best practices around meeting culture, knowledge sharing, decision making, workload, and feedback. I’m very satisfied with that.

What are you most proud of that has succeeded?

I’m proud of my career switch eight years ago. I studied English language and literature and worked a variety of jobs, but I always wanted to work in IT infrastructure. So I started learning programming and system administration on my own, and made a huge leap as I switched my career and moved out of my home country at the same time. That was 2013. I’ve had my ups and downs since then and there were times I wanted to quit, but I’m happy that I didn’t.

What is the best or the worst suggestion/action you have heard about regarding equality?

I think the best actions for me personally are the ones that make it easier for women like me (and members of other underrepresented groups) to have a sustainable career. According to numbers from Harvard Business Review, 41% of women working in tech leave the field. The number is more than halved for men. So the best initiatives are the ones that make it harder to discriminate against people that already work in IT: company- and industry-wide efforts around salary and job ladder transparency, and systems that counter unconscious bias.

When it comes to worst actions, these are the ones where it was clearly about making the company look good and to *appear* inclusive. This does more harm than good. I saw a company publicly stating that they’re encouraging diversity in their workforce by lowering expectations for female candidates in their recruitment process. They might get their diversity numbers this way, but I wouldn’t want to work there. Their actions reinforced the negative stereotype that women need to be forced into IT, that they’re not as capable, and that they’re usually the juniors. Reality is different: data from a variety of studies shows that women that apply for jobs are more likely to get hired than men applying for the same position.

Haimanot Tekie

Who are you?

Haimanot Tekie- Full Stack Web Developer at team reklame produkter.

What are you working with right now?

I work in a team that is responsible for the non-classified ads in FINN. Currently, my team is working on developing a service that makes integrating display ads in various FINN pages clean and easy. The service consumes the relevant classified ads data from a kafka topic, processes these data, and turns them into a configuration that can then be sent to a third party ad-server. The ad server would then respond with a relevant display ad that can be of interest to the FINN users that are in a particular page.

What are you most proud of that has succeeded?

I am very proud of not dropping out of my studies. My first year of studying computer science in the university college was extremely tough. I had no idea what I got myself into. I knew nothing about programming and when teachers and TAs tried to explain concepts to me, I got even more confused. I couldn’t crack the coding code. On the top of it all, I was pregnant with my first child all throughout the first year. After giving birth to my son, I took a one year maternity leave from school. Between breastfeeding and changing diapers, I watched a whole bunch of videos on youtube about the programming concepts that I was struggling with, and then I got it! Looking back, I am happy things happened the way they did, and that I didn’t give up because of a rough first year. Today, I am extremely happy to work as a developer, and always encourage others that show a slight interest to be one!

Professionally, I am proud of making microservice in kotlin and a react component that integrated Prisjakt with FINN. I did this while learning both kotlin and react. It took a lot of time, there were many details to pay attention to, and I was on a steep learning curve, but once I saw the solution live, I was profoundly proud!

What is the best or the worst suggestion/action you have heard about regarding equality?

A couple of years ago, I heard a talk by Sheryl Sandberg, COO of facebook. This talk is titled Lean in: A Discussion on Leadership with Sheryl Sandberg. She spoke about various biases that hinder diversity and equality and what we can do to overcome them. These biases she mentioned in the talk were, performance bias, likability bias and responsibility bias.

Performance bias is apparent both in how women view themselves and how they are viewed by others. Likability bias, which surprisingly enough is common across different cultures, is about how men are encouraged to be leaders and successful, whereas women are expected to be caregivers and communal. The responsibility bias deals with how even when both parents are working, most of the home responsibilities gets pushed to the mothers, and how this gets carried over to the office in the form of, in meetings, women tend to do office-home-chores(like how, in team meetings, more women take notes instead of speaking).

The advice that she gave that resonated with me is as follows:

Acknowledge the biases that are there, understand them and then create the bias interrupter to overcome the biases.

One concrete example she gave was on how engineers at google put themselves up for promotion. More men than women were doing this, even though both had the same level of experience. The head of HR called this out and said that they wanted more women to put themselves for promotion. They backed it with an action of training managers to encourage more women to apply for promotion even when they didn’t feel ready for it. This resulted in both men and women applying for promotion.

Another take away, which I thought was a good point is, when talking about diversity and equality, talk more, with specificity, about how hiring more women is not merely a nice to have feature but rather a mission critical one for the success of your company.

The worst action would be hiring women as a sign of equality-token and not assigning them tasks that have significance.

Karen Schwane

Picture of Karen Schwane
Picture of Karen Schwane

Who are you?

My role in FINN is Android developer on the Apps Platform team.

What are you working with right now?

A big topic for us currently is the migration to a new backend for search results and search filters.

For the users of the apps, everything will look and function as before, but in the background, all data will come from a different source.

This work will help us and other teams to get rid of a lot of legacy code.

I recently finished the migration of the filters, but there is a lot still left to do, so this will definitely take us a couple of months all in all.

What are you most proud of that has succeeded?

It’s not really a technical thing, but I’m proud of the Apps team as a whole. I think we managed to create a really welcoming and inclusive culture. I’m happy that I get to work with such cool people every day!

I’m also proud of myself for using my software developer skills to move to Norway 1 1/2 years ago. It’s pretty neat that a career in tech lets you do things like that. And for me personally it’s a nice validation to be internationally recognized in my profession.

What is the best or the worst suggestion/action you have heard about regarding equality?

I’m not a big fan of tips and initiatives like “talk like a man”, “negotiate like a man” et cetera, because they imply that there is something wrong with women and non-binary people themselves and not with the homogeneous and often sexist culture they face. The whole point is that competence doesn’t come in a single shape and form (and communication style!)

A helpful thing to do, in my opinion, if you are in a privileged position and want tech to be more inclusive, is to be transparent about your salary.

Marginalized people are often underpaid, so it helps to know what other around you make.

Irina Brun

Picture of Irina Brun
Picture of Irina Brun

Who are you?

My name is Irina Brun and I’m a technologist at FINN, Future Nordic Marketplaces. I usually say that I’m a technologist, because my daily activities in the recent years include other things than just coding. I can jump into all kinds of related assignments, from processes and management to customer collaboration on upcoming features.

What are you working with right now?

Right now I’m in the team in New-cases exploring car subscription. We try to find out how FINN can add user value in this new motor area. Our team acts like a startup inside FINN and we work in 3-month cycles.

What are you most proud of that has succeeded?

There are so many things I’m proud of :) In connection to the technology, I’m really proud to get to the bottom of blockchain technology. I now have a clear understanding of how it works and why so many people are excited about its potential to change the society.

On a personal level, I’m proud that I wrote a book and started writing poems.

What is the best or the worst suggestion/action you have heard about regarding equality?

I guess the worst thing is to hire women just to fill the gender equality quota without considering women’s knowledge and expertise. This can have negative effects on the company and women who work there.

It might be strange, but I really don’t reflect much about equality. Maybe because both me and women near me were lucky to never be treated differently in any way. Being a woman in technology always worked out for me in the best possible way.

Kristin Hybertsen

Picture of Kristin Hybertsen
Picture of Kristin Hybertsen

Who are you?

My name is Kristin Hybertsen and I work as a Senior Data Engineer / Data Warehouse developer in FINNs Business Intelligence team.

What are you working with right now?

My team is responsible for FINNs data warehouse. The platform is AWS, the database is Redshift and our main development tools are Matillion ETL/ELT combined with SQL, Python and Athena/Glue. We work closely with the Insight department to enable data driven decision making for the whole organization. They use tools like Tableau and Alteryx to access the data. Our users are internal users in FINN like Product managers, Business developers, Sales people and even FINNs management group.

I have just finished implementing a new data model to support the KPIs for Transaction Journey Motor in our Data Warehouse. This was a very satisfying task in many ways. First of all because it involved cooperation with several other teams and departments. Technically, it was about connecting to and understanding new data sources, combining the requirements with the data actually available, implementing the data model and the ETL code, and then finally assisting the Insight department when they were implementing the KPI dashboard. I also have to mention that it is part of the top priority from FINNs management group this quarter. It is really great to be able to deliver value for those working on measuring the progress and to support decision making.

It is in particular nice to deliver something that is visible and provides direct value for our internal users. We do have a lot of tasks where we switch from one data source to another, where the proof of success is that it is not visible that we have done anything at all. Since it actually can be a lot of work “just” switching data sources, you have to find your motivation elsewhere, i.e. in the technical challenges. Having colleagues and managers that actually understand and appreciate the effort that is required below the surface is an important aspect here as well.

What are you most proud of that has succeeded?

Being in the business for more than 30 years, it is first of all that I actually chose a technical education. I was very determined to, and am still proud of, choosing a nontraditional career for a woman in 1987.

When it comes to actual work related accomplishments, I am proud of having worked technically as a data engineer in several different industries; from the process industry to media, including a side step to outsourcing development of financial systems to Sri Lanka. In the latter we actually had 40% female developers, which I know made a huge difference for them.

Even if the result was not a success, I am also proud of being part of the team trying to beat Google with the search engine Sesam here in Norway. Despite it being terminated by Schibsted as a part of the financial crisis in 2008, we were an amazing team, cheering and caring for each other. In addition we actually won the Norwegian Data Warehouse price for our solution the year after we launched.

When it comes to FINN there have been many, both small and large, visible and invisible successes. In short, I am very proud of being part of FINNs Business Intelligence team since the establishment in 2010, supporting the whole organization in data driven decision making.

What is the best or the worst suggestion/action you have heard about regarding equality?

I haven’t actually experienced many issues myself, despite a few comments early in my career regarding pregnancy and maternity leave. When I got questions or comments regarding me being a female engineer, I was just proud, but thinking back it was of course a lack of knowledge and understanding behind the comments.

The worst I have heard of is companies implementing diversity by lowering the expectations for female candidates in the recruitment process.

I am very proud of FINN working hard on implementing diversity in many aspects, not just gender. It is even a part of our tech strategy, and it is not only spoken of, but acted upon as well. Increasing share of female developers and developers with international background, as well as switching to English as a working language are solid proofs.

Beate Boger

Picture of Beate Boger
Picture of Beate Boger

Who are you?

Beate Boger, Data Warehouse developer in the Business Intelligence team

What are you working with right now?

Finishing up rewriting of the ETL for a data warehouse table presenting classified sales data in relation to adding some new info to the table. The table is built from 24 source tables the original ETL has been very time consuming to work with in case of changes like the one I was supposed to add now. It also spends 20–30 minutes on updating the table — so I decided to rewrite it. Now it runs in less than 5 minutes and is a lot easier to work with.

What are you most proud of that has succeeded?

I’m really proud of landing my position in FINN. I originally studied mechanical engineering and found that analysing test results was the best part of my job. I went out of my comfort zone and applied for my first data warehouse job without knowing exactly what a data warehouse was. I spent less than two years there before I found I needed a bigger and more experienced team to keep growing myself — and I found one!

I’m also proud and happy that I have walking leopard wallpaper in the ceiling at home, as it makes staying here all the time a little more fun.

What is the best or the worst suggestion/action you have heard about regarding equality?

I don’t have any specific examples, but in general I think it’s important that the management see the real value of equality, and communicate this well. Otherwise these actions easily contribute to “you only got the job because..” attitudes.

Lotte Johansen

Picture of Lotte Johansen
Picture of Lotte Johansen

Who are you?

Lotte Johansen, space (technical area) manager and developer at New Nordic Marketplaces in FINN.

What are you working with right now?

Half of the time I am working as a developer in a team that is looking into a new marketplace for FINN: A B2B marketplace where businesses can sell to other businesses. Right now we are working on getting up a minimal viable product (MVP) for the B2B marketplace. And the other half of the time I am managing the tech people that work for new marketplaces in FINN. I started as a leader in December, so there is still a lot to learn, and I love it!

What are you most proud of that has succeeded?

I am proud of FINN in general, but one thing that I am extra proud of is the accessibility work that has been done in FINN. Together with other developers and designers in FINN I started an accessibility group in FINN in 2014. Then there was very little knowledge about accessibility. Through the work we have been doing, we have raised awareness, and FINN has become one of the role models within accessibility in Norway, and we even won the DOGA Innovation Award in accessibility in 2017. It is great that more and more people see that by making our solutions accessible to people with disabilities we make it better for everyone!

What is the best or the worst suggestion/action you have heard about regarding equality?

If we create services for a whole population, representatives from more than half of the population should be part of making it. There has been research where they see that diverse teams outperform teams with the best male or other teams with the best female members. It shows that diverse teams are good for business. I think it is good to communicate that from the top management; we are not seeking diversity just for fun, but because it is the best for the company.

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