Nicoleta talks about the importance of role models when making the industry more inclusive, offers advice for finding a mentor, and highlights how businesses can attract top technical talent.
W.I.T. Republic (WR): To start, could you talk a bit about your role as a Talent Transformation Lead and the changes you have seen throughout the years?
Nicoleta Raportaru (NR): At IBM, the Talent Transformation Services cover everything from HR Transformation, digital change to delivering exceptional employee experiences enabled by technologies that transform the HR functions. We help enterprises become inherently humanized throughout their digital transformation –delivering intentional experiences, data-driven insights, impactful recruiting, and adaptive skilling capabilities. This is an area I am deeply passionate about as it positions the employees at the heart of everything we do…it’s about every organisation’s biggest asset -its people.
In the last 5-10 years we have seen an increased focused on creating the right employee experiences, attracting (and retaining) the right talent, and providing a culture that embraces authenticity, diversity, and inclusion. This has been further accelerated by COVID and the Great Resignation period in which we find ourselves. People’s values, experiences and needs are changing…to thrive, organisations need to learn how to exploit technology to drive value to its employees…and ultimately, to their clients. It’s enough to look at the job market now to understand that if organisations don’t embrace the need to position its employees at the heart of its business model, they will suffer.
WR: You are the 2021 recipient of Women In Technology’s Excellence Award for ‘Role Model of the Year’, in your opinion how important are role models to making the tech industry more inclusive?
NR: Diversity was something that companies talked about for decades, but only in the last 5 years (maybe 10 years for the most progressive companies out there) we saw constructive actions that drove more diverse environments. Reality is, that representation matters. Having role models that look like you, act like and have similar worries, concerns or thoughts enables those around to speak up, to be more confident and to be themselves.
Tech industry, through its nature, has been dominated by men…It took decades for women to take on leadership positions, mainly because it took decades for them to prepare and have the same opportunities that men have. We are still on that journey, and it will take time, lots of education, energy, and passion to change some of the biases that are out there. And that’s where role models play a vital role…to prove that everything is possible.
WR: What are your top tips for others who are looking to become a role model in this space?
NR: Nobody starts the day with the thought “ I want to become a role model.”…well, at least I don’t. What I want is to have a positive impact on those around me, as I know by doing that, the positive energy is paid forward and the impact is scaled.
To become a role model, find your passion, the things you care about; believe that whatever you put your mind in, you will succeed. You will become a role model not because you want to become one, but because the people around will feel the impact you are having through the work you are doing. Is about self-believe and about not giving up, despite the challenges you encounter.
WR: As a coach and mentor, what advice would you give for finding a mentor?
NR: This is an easy one J Find a person that inspires you, that you can learn from and …just ask them to be your mentor! So many people miss on this type of experiences because they are afraid to ask. You will be surprised how many of the people you look up too will make the time to help you grow and coach you …if just ask! It’s worth adding though, you don’t have to stop at one mentor…I have a set of mentors and coaches – my board of advisors – that I reach out to depending on the situation and the advice/ support I need. So, ask few, not just one!
WR: In your experience, what is the hardest barrier for underrepresented groups working in the tech industry and how can this be overcome?
NR: The challenge for underrepresented groups takes me back to the representation point I made earlier. It’s harder to get your point across, to ensure you are listened too if there is only one of you in the room that thinks that. People work in groups, form teams, build common believes and undertake similar actions…if you are not part of that, it’s harder to win at it. I don’t think tackling representation is a short-term task, it will take time, however you can build allies networks, identify sponsors that will understand your point of view, remove all biases and be that second voice in the room with you.
WR: What do you think businesses can do to ensure their tech teams are becoming more diverse?
NR: My personal perspective is that for business to drive diversity, ultimately, they need to change some of their business values, processes, and targets. They need to link diversity to their overall organisational (and functional) measurements and adapt their recruitment processes, at all levels – from grads to senior roles – to reflect that. Any tactical solutions that will be deployed will be successful short term but very little will be successful long term as it does not change the way the organisation’s culture will adapt to retain, not only recruit, the diverse talent.
WR: How do you think businesses can attract top technical talent?
NR: With technology being at the forefront of driving transformation across majority of industries, the challenge these days is not so much about attracting the technical talent that is out there, but more about convincing the talent that is not technical that they should be part of the journey.
There is a huge demand in the market for technical skills, but the demand is bigger than the offer. To increase the offer, we need to focus on all the potential areas of growth and that, in majority of the situations, will come from the underrepresented groups – the neurodiverse, gender or different race groups. The same levers will apply across both existing talent and talent being developed: opportunity for learning and growth, organisational values and a strong stand on D&I that is brought to life in the day-to-day employee engagement. Attraction of talent is only the first step; retention is the step that takes more effort to achieve.
WR: Finally, what advice would you give women navigating a career in the tech industry?
NR: One of the key things that a global pandemic has taught me is that technology actually can help save the world and make a difference. So, it’s a great place to be, and I think the Tech Industry is on the right journey towards a truly diverse workforce, but it will take time as women are still under-represented. As a woman in Tech, the journey can be harder and lonelier if you don’t have the right support and sponsorship.
So, if you want to build a career in Tech my advice is to build networks, find a mentor, and find a sponsor – hard work will take you far, but the right people’s support will take you further. People matter. Be curious, have a growth mindset, don’t be afraid to change the direction of your learning and don’t let setback stop you from progressing. Be enthusiastic, ask questions, stay engaged and take chances- but don’t compromise on your values. Be your own kind of leader, carve your own path.
Learn…invest in yourself, but don’t forget to also have fun! Get the balance you need, there is a time and place for everything.
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