10 Questions with Katja Lotz
Agile coach at Spotify
Katja Lotz is an agile coach at Spotify in Stockholm, Sweden. She works with the product development teams to enable the whole world to experience music in new ways.
Starting off within engineering physics and programming, Katja soon discovered her passion for the combination of problem solving, technology, agile methods and team dynamics. She has worked with all aspects of software development in different industries throughout her career, spending the last three years in an intense, challenging and interesting environment at Spotify.
Katja is an active advocate for Diversity and Inclusion, and works hard to drive improvements at Spotify as well as the industry. She has arranged Spotify’s Diversity & Inclusion Summit two years in a row, initiated a Diversity & Inclusion Program and serves as a speaker at internal and external events.
- When did you know you wanted to be in tech?
I really like solving problems with others, and I’ve always been interested in math and physics. I didn’t know I would be an engineer until I was 18 years old, when it was time for me to look into university studies.
To be honest, I had almost no idea what engineers actually did and my main focus at that time was to become a veterinarian. My mother, however, strongly suggested that I study engineering, and I decided to go for it. That opened the door to the tech industry for me, and I’m very thankful for that today!
“I’ve done a lot of interviewing in my career, and in one specific case I brought up the importance of the candidate’s understanding of the value of diversity. The hiring manager thanked me afterwards for providing this concern and helping him to widen his perspective and be more intentional. I remember feeling very proud for standing up for my values and beliefs, and being able to inspire higher management to be intentional around hiring for diversity and inclusion.”
2. Who’s been a role model you look up to?
Role models have always been so important for me! Throughout my studies and my professional career, I’ve had a mix of role models — some who are close to me, and some who are far, far ahead. They all inspire me, show me that everything is possible and I use them as examples of what I can do and how.
I have a couple of role models currently. Cindy Gallop is one of them; she’s hugely successful, completely fearless and very spot on in her analysis of the state of things. Meri Williams is another — CTO at MOO and providing a strong and powerful voice in the debate for true diversity and inclusion. And then closer to me is Åsa Lidén, a Director of Engineering at Spotify who successfully paves the way and invites us all to follow.
3. What gets you out of bed in the morning?
This is such an amazing time to be involved in the tech industry! We’re building on new ideas and constantly facing new challenges. The world is so complex and so full of creative people who want to change and improve things. It’s cool to be able to be part of that global journey!
Another thing that excites me, is that in the tech industry we are starting to realise that we need to change our own industry to make it much more diverse and inclusive. I’m happy to see all the initiatives that help drive this hugely important change, and whenever I’m in a privileged position I try hard to use that to support others. We need to constantly lift each other up!
4. What’s a challenge you’ve faced in your career journey?
As a non-straight woman in tech, belonging to a minority group is challenging because I simply don’t fit the norm, and that causes discomfort. As a result, I have often found myself having to overcompensate, a common pattern in these situations. I think this has been a constant challenge in my career and as a result, I have taken on fewer risks and assignments than I could have.
“[I’d tell my 18 year old self to] take more risks! Put yourself forward, state clearly what you want and don’t be afraid to be bold! Just go for it!”
Another challenge that I have faced, and that I have seen others around me face, is hitting the all too well-known glass ceiling. In my case, I have not been offered the same management positions as my less-experienced male colleagues, and then faced the traditional backlash when I pointed this out.
5. Describe a time you were proud of yourself.
I’ve done a lot of interviewing in my career, and I find it very interesting. In one specific case, when we were hiring a director of engineering, I brought up the importance of the candidate’s understanding of the value of diversity to help our company’s growth going forward.
The hiring manager listened carefully, and as a result I was asked to conduct an interview with the candidate focusing specifically on diversity and inclusion. Unfortunately, it soon became clear that this person would not support our efforts. The hiring manager thanked me afterwards for providing this concern and helping him widen his perspective and be more intentional. I remember feeling very proud for standing up for my values and beliefs, and being able to inspire higher management to be intentional around hiring for diversity and inclusion.
6. What’s something you want to get better at?
I play roller derby (a full contact sport on roller skates) and I always strive to improve my skills there. It’s a fantastic sport and an amazing DYI focused community that I’m very happy to be part of.
7. Comfort food of choice?
8. Favorite book?
It’s a book about leadership, feedback and creating winning teams written by Pia Sundhage, who has coached both USA’s and Sweden’s national soccer teams. Unfortunately it’s only available in Swedish as far as I know, but it is super inspiring. Other than that, my favourite author is Curtis Sittenfeld, and I love all her books.
9. If you could try another job for a day, what would it be?
I’d like to be a professional dog trainer. Or a UX designer. Or an author.
10. If you could give your 18-year-old self a piece of advice, what would it be?
Take more risks! Put yourself forward, state clearly what you want and don’t be afraid to be bold! Lately I’ve found the quote “Carry yourself with the confidence of a mediocre white man” very on point. It is a good reminder that we don’t have to spend all that energy on overcompensating all the time. This is not saying that you shouldn’t work hard or shouldn’t aim high. It is merely saying that you should not be afraid of believing in yourself and what you can accomplish. Just go for it!