Nadja Fischer

Every month we ask one individual in our network a few questions about their way into tech, their motivation and their lessons learned.

Let’s start from the beginning: tell us about where you’re from!

Most people are quite surprised when I tell them that I am a real Zuricher, born and raised here. But occasionally, when I was bored of our Swiss mountains and the narrowness of our Swiss minds, I choose to live in other places including Chicago, Burundi, and Chile.

What valuable advice did you get from your parents?

My mother never stopped telling me that it was important as a woman to get a great education and to become financially independent. She also, advised that I plan my life in a way that I would be able to have a career and children (whether I wanted to or not was out of question for her – I guess she always knew she wanted grandchildren). My dad, with whom I have a close relationship today, did not really play a role in my education. Implicitly, he showed me that a woman can be proud to be a strong athlete.

How did you become interested in tech?

After my studies (International Relations), I first worked in the diplomatic field, negotiating international treaties on security policy. I soon got bored and frustrated – things didn’t move; diplomacy was seen as an old way of doing things and hierarchies count more than ideas. Thus, I looked for something where I would see innovation happening, where experts would brought their ideas together, and where constant change was happening. I found all this in the tech industry, first working for two SaaS and then in agile web agencies.

What aspects of your work are you proudest of?

I am a very strong “agile” supporter and I’m convinced of User Centered Design. In my work I support teams to become self-organized. It makes me very happy and proud to see that teams and their members start to take things into their own hands, and how it motivates them when they can take true ownership of their products.

What drives you at work?

I want to bring people of different expertise together to generate creative solutions. Since being in tech, I’ve seen that collaboration eveb happens between and among people and machines. So, my credo, as well as my drive is, as Aristotle would say: “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

What has been your toughest challenge you faced while working in tech?

As the teams I have worked with were self-organized, working in Tech actually seemed easier than in other industries. However, I have begun to understand that in this industry my constant challenge is, especially when confronting stakeholders, that I do have to fight for recognition. Tech, being such a male dominated industry, means that people often do not see women as equal counterparts, maybe mostly unconsciously. Some examples of this are: I get interrupted when I talk; when I argue rationally it is interpreted as being “emotional”; as soon as questions around technology arise, people turn heads toward the males sitting in the room.

What advice would you give other women in tech?

There are two things:

  • For a push in your career, when ever you can, especially at plenum discussions, panels, conferences, Q&As after a presentation, ASK A QUESTION and STATE YOUR OPINION! Make yourself visible and heard. This helps your own career – you will see the effect – as well as the whole female bunch in Tech.
  • If you are in a position to recruit, make sure to recruit women. DO NOT GO for the “in case of same qualification, we take women”. Check her motivation when interviewing. If she is eager to contribute to your team, she will work hard and will make up the “lesser qualification”.

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