#WomenInTechQA – Tracy Roesler, Engineering Manager – Data Platform at Scout24

As part of our Women In Tech Q&A series we recently caught up with Engineering Manager – Data Platform at Scout 24, Tracy Roesler.

Tracy talks about the most important skills for tech leaders, offers her advice to other women looking to navigate leadership positions in the industry, and discusses whether engineering degrees are essential for success.

For the full interview, listen to the podcast episode below!

W.I.T. Republic (WR): Could you tell us a bit about yourself and an overview of your career in tech to date?

Tracy Roesler (TR): My path has been a little bit roundabout because I actually started in tech very young and left for a while and then came back. I started programming in middle school and continued into high school. I even got a programming job as a junior and did it through a lot of college. But I left the field because it wasn’t where I wanted to be and did a whole lot of other things: real estate, finance, paralegal, I was a youth pastor for a little while, barista; just all over the map.

Then in 2011 a friend’s mom was looking for somebody to do some automated testing in a finance field to ensure the company met legal requirements. And it just sort of fit the mix of my experiences. Since then I’ve just gone further down the rabbit hole. I did testing for a while, then in 2014 moved over into Operations. I explored around there for a while, and then last year I moved over to technical program management, which led to shifting into an engineering manager role.

WR: As the Engineering Manager at Scout24, what would you say is the most important skill in a tech leadership position?

TR: I think the most important skill as a manager is the same skill that’s essential for so many other jobs: effective communication. The way you need to communicate is in some ways different as a manager, but really a lot of how things move along is by how you communicate, and what you share. Sure you need organizational skills, and technical skills, and the ability to strategize and execute, but communication is foundational to the ability to do any of those effectively.

WR: What are your top tips for other female leaders in tech?

TR: I think the most important thing is to advocate for yourself. Sure, others may do it, but you are your best ally, and I think we can forget that. It’s easy to worry about “the perception”, and “the risk”. Sure, those are certainly factors you need to consider in how you advocate for yourself. There’s a line that you have to toe, I think especially as a woman. But if you don’t have healthy boundaries for a good work-life balance, work isn’t often going to try to impose them for you. So make sure that you keep yourself a priority.

WR: Many people think you need a computer science degree in order to have a successful career in tech, would you say this is the case?

TR: Well if that’s true, then I shouldn’t be in tech. My degrees are in theology and then an MBA, so it’s certainly not traditional. In the beginning, it can certainly be more difficult to have a door opened to you; there are fewer opportunities to be given a chance without the degree. But I don’t think you need it to do the work, and once you’ve been in the field for a few years, nobody really cares. But initially, it can be hard.

WR: Is there anything you think businesses and the wider community should be doing to support more women into careers in tech?

TR: Believe them and take action. There have been several times where somebody has treated me differently because I was a woman, or said something (e.g., “We’ll talk later when you’re not so emotional like a woman”) and it’s always been “we acknowledge that this is a problem” or “surely there are things that you’ve done wrong here; you shouldn’t have raised your voice” and essentially what I’ve experienced gets minimized and the person doesn’t really face any consequences. That’s incredibly demeaning. The community needs to take actions like this seriously from an HR perspective. Individuals who witness this behavior need to speak out and hold others accountable.

WR: In your experience, do you feel you’ve had to work harder than your male counterparts to advance your career? Does being a woman in your profession come with extra mental challenges that you have to overcome, for instance imposter syndrome?

TR: I think that it certainly feels that I’ve had to work harder than others. In some cases I’ve definitely had to prove myself to male colleagues before they would start listening to my advice, and I observed that men didn’t have to do that. Or you get stuck with a lot of the glue work on a team (taking notes, managing meetings, etc) which aren’t as highly valued.

I had a conversation recently with a friend who is a Director of Engineering and asked how they managed to become a director so quickly after being a first time Manager. And they said, “It really doesn’t matter how long you’ve had the title of manager, as long as you’ve had it.”  I just remember thinking that this only worked because he was a white male, it would never be the same for me. Then there’s always the mental game you play when somebody says something demeaning: are they like this with everybody or are they saying this because I’m a woman? It can be exhausting.

WR: Finally, what’s the best piece of advice you’ve received that has stayed with you, throughout your career?

TR: I don’t know that I have a specific piece of advice per se. I’m not really one for pithy statements or aphorisms; it’s more the sense or feeling of a person. And for that I guess I’d have to say the first people I really reported to in a job.

Keep in mind I was a 15/16 year old programmer at this time, so it had the opportunity to go really badly. But my bosses, Victor McCrary and John Roberts, believed in me so much. They were always telling me I could do things, encouraging me, and giving me opportunities. Not many 18 year olds can say they’ve been published in scientific journals, or given conference talks, or have their name on a patent. Their belief has always stuck with me. It’s had a great resonating impact on my life. For that I’ll always be grateful to them.

If you would like to join Tracy as part of our Q&A series, get in touch today!

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