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The latest candidate in our series of Q&As with influential women in the technology business in Canada is Lucy Ho, Founder and Executive Director, Hackergal, a charity founded in 2015 with a mission to introduce girls across Canada to computer science through its hackathon program.
Name: Lucy Ho
Job Title: Founder and Executive Director, Hackergal
Years in the Industry: 8 Years
The Quote That Most Inspires You: “The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.” (Steve Jobs)
What drew you to a career in the consumer and/or business technology industry?
I was drawn to a career in tech because I love what technology innovation can do for the world! The idea that technology can solve everyday problems to global scale challenges is extremely fascinating to me. I’m also drawn to the culture that comes with start-up companies. I’ve met so many entrepreneurs that were passionate about their product or solution which is inspiring to me. It really shows the dedication that people in the industry have.
Have you encountered any roadblocks along the way that were related to your gender?
Definitely. There were many times in my career when I felt I had to “prove” myself to be in a “room.” I remember thinking to myself, why do I have to feel this way? Is it me? Is it them? Is it the industry? Of course, there’s many reasons why this is but the fact that the tech sector is a male dominated industry plays a big part in this. There are fewer of us women, leading to doubt or insecurities. This is one of the factors that propelled me to found Hackergal – to really look at the root cause and understand where the issues start and how we as a society can help encourage more girls to be in that “room” and be confident while being in that “room.” Hackergal’s mission is to change the face of computer science and pave the way for a tech industry that is diverse and inclusive of underrepresented groups across Canada.
What unique characteristics or perspective do you feel you bring to your organization as a woman?
I believe women bring a lot of valuable characteristics to the table when it comes to the technology sector. We multi-task at levels where it’s unheard of when it comes to balancing various aspects of our lives. I think for me, I bring resilience to my organizations. I started my career in tech and it wasn’t always easy. I felt imposter syndrome (and still do) in many ways, but above it all, I’ve been able to persevere and build something so meaningful that has positively impacted the lives of many girls exploring careers in technology and STEM. To this day, I continue to hear “no” many times when it comes to raising funds to support the organization or different partnerships. I always try to remind myself that the “nos” I’ve heard and failures I’ve experienced are really the force behind my motivation.
Technology is historically a male-dominated industry, yet the use of tech is fully embraced by women, and many studies even suggest that females are the primary buyers of tech in the home. What do you feel the technology industry needs in order to attract more women, particularly into high-level positions?
I really believe in the idea of you need to see it to be it. At the time when I was starting my career, and one of the reasons I founded Hackergal was the fact that many times, I didn’t see women that looked like me in the tech sector. I think there’s a lot that can be done to promote women and women of colour to senior positions so women can see themselves in these roles. This is encouraging especially for women who are seeking mentors and role models in the tech industry.
I also believe we can attract more women in senior positions by revisiting pay structure, recruitment processes, and policies and programs that support working mothers.
If you had to sum up what it is like being a woman in this male-dominated technology industry in just a few words, what would you say?
It may be discouraging at times, but if you can persevere, it’s so worth it in terms of professional and personal development. It’s like what they say: “what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger!”
Are there other women in the tech industry who inspire you?
There are many women in tech who inspire me every day. I have a wonderful board of directors with women in senior leadership roles within the tech sector. They have not only persevered but continue to advocate for women in tech within their organizations and through Hackergal.
What are some of the misconceptions/myths about women working in the technology space that you’d like to dispel?
One of the biggest misconceptions about women working in the tech space is that you have to know how to code. I always try to debunk this with the girls we work with. You can love technology, work in the tech sector, and not code. There are so many amazing roles in tech nowadays that there really is a place for everyone. You can love art and become a UI/UX designer or a video game designer. Technology innovation is really the way of the future when it comes to all industries.
What’s one thing you wish was done differently in the industry, and why?
Looking back, there were many tech jobs I wish I had applied for at the time but didn’t for many reasons. The main reason was because I didn’t think I was qualified enough to apply. I wasn’t confident enough in myself to pursue those senior roles at the largest tech companies with high salaries because I was thinking about my “competition.” In hindsight, I wish I did it anyway and gave it my best shot because you don’t know until you try.
Are you optimistic for the future in general and for the industry?
I am very much optimistic for the future because I see the impact Hackergal is making to close the gender gap in tech with each girl and educator we work with. Through Hackergal and many amazing organizations helping to empower more women to explore technology, we are seeing more women and girls learn to code and really taking the lead with their careers in tech.
There is still a lot of work to be done, but I’m grateful to be surrounded by passionate team and community of partners who are dedicated to achieving this mission with me.