The latest ‘Up Next’ event is happening next week. For anyone not familiar with ‘Up Next’, it’s a mentoring initiative for new and aspiring conference speakers. This month we have 2 tracks, one of which is a dedicated women’s track.
Ahead of the session we wanted to catch up with as many of the speakers as possible. Our first interview is with Stefenia Chaplin, Solutions Engineer at Sonatype. Stefania is responsible for helping customers understand and implement DevSecOps across the EMEA region. She is an experienced Python/Java developer and enjoys the challenge of improving the quality of software across different languages and ecosystems. Stefania is passionate about women in technology and is Founder and President of ‘Women at Sonatype’. She has spoken about DevSecOps at many conferences and meetups across Europe including; JavaZone in Norway, JFokus in Sweden and Cloud Expo, Women of Silicon Roundabout and Women in DevOps in London.
It’s no secret that tech is a male dominated industry, currently only 5% of leadership positions in tech are held by women and just 3% of women stated that tech was their 1st choice of career. Was it always your ambition to work in tech? Can you give us a brief view of your journey into tech?
When I was 18 I didn’t know what I wanted to do at university but I’d always been good at maths so I decided to do computer science (& business management) as I knew computers would be in the future no matter what! After university I was really interested in the commercial side, so I explored Sales for a few years but I really missed technology. So, I taught myself Python in my spare time and became a developer and now a Solutions Engineer
If you made a career change into tech, or if it wasn’t your first choice of career, what advice can you give to other women wanting to move into tech?
It’s never too late to move into tech! I’ve been to meetups where I’ve met women in their 50s who have taught themselves to code and are now freelance developers. When I transitioned, I taught myself Python using free online courses and attending 2-3 meetups / week. It’s important to get exposure to as many different fields and technologies as possible so you can find out what you enjoy and are passionate about.
We know that the issue with women working in tech starts at school. What words of wisdom would you give to a school age girl to encourage her to pursue a career in tech? Why is it amazing?!
Tech is a growth area! That’s what incentivised me. It is so vast and always changing so the job you may end up doing in a few years may not even exist now! Ultimately, all companies are tech companies and have tech underpinning the fundamentals of their business. Women bring an alternate way of problem solving so women in tech are very in demand!
Is there anything you wish you’d known when you first started working in tech?
Don’t be afraid to ask questions and meetups are a great place to keep on top of latest trends in tech
How did you first launch your speaking career? Do you have any tips you can share based on your experience?
While working at Sonatype I was offered the opportunity to speak at a meetup in London just 3 months into my career. I was quite nervous as I was new but it went really well. Since then I have proactively found meetups such as Women in DevOps and London Java Community and asked them if I can present at relevant meetups. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there!
What words of reassurance can you offer to someone who is feeling really, really nervous about speaking for the first time?
Something I always say to myself before presenting, or meeting a big customer. I am the expert! A lot of the audience at a meetup may have some knowledge of your topic but you are living and breathing it every day. You are the expert and will be teaching them the content. Confidence is key! Relax, take a deep breath, and everything will be fine (and even if you are a little nervous and mess up, it’s rare that audience even notices)
What can participants expect to gain from participating in the Up Next event?
Participants can expect to gain advice, mentorship and constructive criticism on how best to present at conferences. The panel has a broad range of backgrounds and both participants and the audience will learn some great tips for future speaking.
If this has inspired you to get involved you can find all the details and sign up here (spaces are limited so don’t think about it for too long!)