For Salt’s latest Women in Tech interview, we caught up with Marta Padilla, Head of Delivery – eCommerce at Allianz Technology, to talk diversity and advice on creating an inclusive workplace.
The #SaltSessions Women in Tech #WiT interview series speaks with thought leaders from around the world to get their opinion and advice on how they have grown their career in tech and overcome challenges and adversity during their career.
What is your current role and the most exciting part of your work?
I am setting up and managing a nearshore centre for eCommerce for Allianz Technology. It is extremely exciting to build something from scratch and find the talent in a market so competitive like Barcelona!
What has been your most career-defining moment that you are proud of?
Successfully setting up the nearshore centre for Cofco International in Barcelona, which is still going strong! I decided to come back home after many years abroad and lead the creation of a brand new centre in my hometown. It was tough and challenging but, we managed to create a very strong group of individuals who still make a difference to Cofco International.
What do you think we should be doing more of to encourage more girls to consider a career in tech?
Highlight the creative part of technology, which appeals to a lot of girls. Make sure that no “labelling” exists (guys’ careers vs. girls’ careers): there are no careers for guys or girls, there are only careers with a different focus that depends on the individual’s talents and preferences, no matter the gender!
What challenges have you faced in the workplace, especially your experience in male-dominated environments?
Over 20 years, many. And it all comes down to prejudices: at the beginning of my career I often heard topics like “women study engineering to catch a husband”. When becoming a manager, there are slightly different prejudices, like “women are not assertive enough”. Prejudices tamper the ability to consider your colleagues in a fair way.
In your opinion, what is the biggest obstacle to women’s career progression?
Maternity can be a big deal; there are still some employers who fear maternity leave can be a problem, especially in small companies which might think it will have a negative financial impact.
Having flexible approaches and granting Paternity Leave to fathers can help a lot, as employers will not discriminate if Fathers can also go on leave.
Old prejudices like women not being assertive enough, or even theoretically positive messages like “women are better at managing” create a difference based on gender instead of based on individual talents. I am a big believer that it all comes down to individuals; there are men who have characteristics more traditionally associated with female attributes too.
Who has been your biggest advocate/mentor in your career and why?
I will always remember my first manager in Hewlett Packard who hired me as a Junior Engineer, she was a very successful engineer herself and possessed (still does!) a brilliant mind. She became my inspiration and showed me, from the very start of my career, that I was in the right field.
As an employer what would you recommend to other companies regarding infrastructure to have in place to develop the best talent?
Flexible working approaches, and fostering a culture of communication (“open doors”). Multicultural environments and encouraging everyone to have an open mind.
In a management position, how have you found it best to promote and nurture women’s careers?
First of all, hiring them. Sounds simple but I actually heard a couple of female senior managers. saying, “I am more comfortable working with men”. It all starts with giving them the opportunity, and consider as well the successes in their careers and also the mistakes.
Flexibility is also key in terms of accommodating schedules and trips for working mums.
What are some of the best and worst workplace initiatives you have seen/heard of to help promote diversity?
“Rules of the road” was a great initiative in BP in order to empower women with talent and potential to rise to executive profiles: it assured that for certain executive roles at least a woman needed to be interviewed, and it helped managers to identify women with potential.
Who is your modern-day hero?
J.K. Rowling. For believing in her dream and working very hard to create something amazing despite hardships and setbacks. She is a great example of somebody without connections or a network behind to achieve success based on her talent and tenacity.
Any reading/website you would recommend to stay updated?
IT is way too fast-paced and distributed for me to recommend any, although I am a member of the Lean In initiative and their website is always filled with very good diversity literature.
What is your biggest stress reliever?
Putting on my running shoes and hitting the road! Oh, and chocolate.
Is there one piece of advice you wish somebody gave you at the beginning of your career?
Do not be afraid of saying no.
What job did you dream of when you were a kid – your Plan A career path?
I wanted to be an artist, spending my time drawing and writing. I still do… but let’s say it is my Plan B career plan.
Fun fact about you?
I run marathons, having run 4 major ones – I am happy to declare that the London one has the best atmosphere!
About Marta Padilla
I am a software engineer with a career in IT expanding 20 years. Starting as a firmware engineer for Hewlett Packard back in the 90s, my career has evolved into senior management, and I have held positions working for both start-ups and big corporate companies in different countries, which I truly enjoy. I thrive in multicultural environments with a strong focus on technology; I always remained a nerd at heart. After spending more than 7 years in the UK – which I consider my second home :), I came back to Barcelona to set up and manage a nearshore delivery centre. I am currently setting up my second one, this time for Allianz Technology!