Interview by Angela Dannhorn
Every month we ask one individual in our network a few questions about their way into tech, their motivation and their lessons learned.
Hi Penny, let’s start from the beginning. Tell us where you’re from!
I’m from a mid-sized town in the very west of Germany. I grew up in an entrepreneurial family: All my grandparents started several businesses after WWII, and my father ran a construction company.
What valuable advice did you get from your parents?
My mother equipped me with a strong and positive attitude towards challenges: Never give up, always keep smiling. She did not encourage any whining or complaining about things that aren’t worth it.
How did you become interested in tech?
When I was a child, my father bought one of the first personal computers, and together we immersed ourselves in programming in BASIC (and a bit of gaming). We developed an ERP application for his business to automate salaries and invoicing. My father and I were so proud when we did a print-out of the code that it went three times across the living room!
What aspects of your work are you proudest of?
I started my own business in management training straight out of university and ran it for 4 years. It was a great experience; and I learned a lot about managing a business, clients, and people.
What is it like to work in tech as a women?
I’m still amazed by how few women I meet in my professional life. My activities focus not only on technology but also entrepreneurship (I do startup engagement) and financing (I work closely with Swisscom Ventures). These topics are all very “male” – so their combination oftentimes results in me being the only woman in the room. This may even be true in a big conference setting with 300 people.
How do you balance work and life?
I have two kids – so work-life balance doesn’t only include myself. It is a family question. I am very privileged in that my husband also works in a very flexible environment (software development) and believes in an equal share of family duties. He even works part-time. I think that companies have to address fathers, too, if they want to be family-friendly. Swisscom, for example, just started a pilot project encouraging men to reduce their work to 80%.
What advice would you give other women in tech?
- When you go to a conference or other meeting – speak up and voice your opinion! Also, be active on social media professionally – it can be a lot of fun. Note: You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @pennyschiffer)
- If you want to work and have a family, make sure you find a partner who is willing to support you.
Penny, thank you very much for serving over 700 members and over 1,000 followers of WE SHAPE TECH as a role model!