Woman in Tech of the Month: Mei Saouk
Women in Tech of the month is our series exploring the achievements of women who are breaking gender stereotypes to build technology-based careers. This month, we are celebrating Mei Saouk, digital expert and Women in Tech learning and development lead at PA. In this interview, she reflects on her career in tech, shares her thoughts on gender diversity, and offers advice for women entering the tech industry.
What has your career journey been like so far?
From a young age, I discovered that my two biggest passions were music and problem-solving. This led me to study Computer Science at university, with music theory and classical guitar in parallel. After I graduated, I taught music to young children for about a year while I tried to land my first job in the tech industry, which finally came after a few months of searching.
The decision to pursue a career in tech over music was driven by my enjoyment of problem-solving. I love deep diving into a given problem, exploring possible solutions, and the gratification of implementing an improvement. This is the essence of being a software engineer, with the use of technology.
My first job as a software engineer was at a telecommunications company. It was during this time that I gradually built my domain knowledge and expertise on enterprise technology stacks. After a few years, I felt I was ready to apply my accrued experience in other sectors and expose myself to new and bigger challenges, which inspired me to purse a career in consulting.
After a few years of experience in consulting, I joined PA in 2018. I’ve since had the opportunity to work on several exciting projects with brilliant clients across the Consumer and Public Service sectors, which has helped broaden my technical horizons and hone my consulting skills.
Throughout my journey, I have tried to push my limits in each role I take on and set higher expectations for myself. I find this motivates me to continuously learn and grow professionally and personally.
Describe your role…
I am a technical lead in the Architecture, Engineering, and DevOps team at PA. A typical day involves a lot of interaction with colleagues and clients to design and develop software solutions that deliver business value in an efficient and future-proof way.
I particularly enjoy how my role enables me to contribute to improving people’s lives through technology. It is very rewarding to hear from the users how the products and services we deliver make a positive impact on their day-to-day job. This experience is even more inspiring and motivating when I work with teams of people that share the same passion.
Since I joined PA, I have been a member of PA’s Women in Tech network. My role is to help organise and deliver learning and development initiatives for women who wish to pursue a career in technology. Over the last five years, we have trained over 500 women in popular programming languages and given them the foundations to start a career in technology. I continue this work with our clients to help them close the gender diversity gap in their businesses by sharing my experience from the network and support them in launching training initiatives of their own.
What do you consider to be your biggest achievement and/or challenge?
My biggest challenge throughout my career has been building my confidence and learning to recognise and trust my strengths. It’s common in any career path to experience some form of imposter syndrome, but especially if you’re in a minority group. This can make it difficult to speak up and voice your suggestions, which can impact your ability to grow and improve your ideas. It’s important to be able to identify this and find tools to help overcome the limitations we place on ourselves. I consider my biggest achievement to be adopting a growth mindset to combat this. Of course, this is a never-ending process, and there is always room for self-improvement!
As you’ve progressed through your career, what has been important to your success?
Technology was a heavily male-dominated industry in the early stages of my career. However, I feel grateful that I had role models and mentors who helped me to overcome my fears, support me in building a solid technical background, and trust me with more responsibility, even when I didn’t believe in my own strengths.
From own perspective, why is diversity in tech important and how can it be encouraged?
The tech industry produces many of the products and services that we interact with daily. It has significantly changed our lives over the last few decades, and it will continue to do so. Equal gender representation in tech roles enables tech companies to produce products that are more inclusive and cover everyone’s needs. Empowering and upskilling women in technology, especially as we transition into an even more digitised world, has significant long term economic and social benefits.
It is particularly important for senior leaders to be informed on the gender gap problem in technology and the implications this may have to both their businesses and society. Senior leaders can take positive action to ensure their teams are diverse by providing equal opportunities for career progression and acting as mentors to people coming from underrepresented groups. Last but not least, leaders should create an inclusive culture in their teams by encouraging open conversations and raising awareness regarding unconscious bias.
What advice would you give to other women looking to pursue a career in tech?
First, be curious and ask all the questions you may be hesitating to ask. Gathering information from numerous sources is the first step to setting up a master plan for whatever you dream of achieving. And seek support from the networks available to you. Nowadays, a lot of awareness has been raised regarding the gender gap in the tech industry and there are brilliant networks that provide learning and mentoring resources. Lastly, don’t be afraid of failure but instead, learn how to embrace it as a step closer to success!