Breaking the bias: celebrating International Women's Day with DPDK's tech leaders Bill Marks and Marianela Queme
Join us in celebrating International Women’s Day! This year’s theme is ‘break the bias’ and we’re taking a closer look at the tech industry’s past, future, challenges, opportunities, and more.
The tech industry is often seen as a boys club, but that wasn’t always the case. You might not know that women have actually been at the forefront of the industry - back in the 40s when more than 50% of the US military’s programmers were women. Then the field got more lucrative and things shifted. Today when we think about tech, the image of a male-dominated industry comes to mind.
Which made me curious to learn more about the gender bias, opportunities, and challenges in tech. And who better to ask than our very own Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Bill Marks and Technical Director Marianela Queme? Both were kind enough to sit down with me and share their thoughts and perspectives on the future of the field.
For those who don’t know Bill and Marianela, let me introduce them briefly first. Bill has over 25 years of experience in the technology field and has been with us for over a year. Before DPDK, he worked at KNMP, one of our clients, for 10 years and has also fulfilled different technology roles at the Dutch Ministry of education, culture & science, ANWB, and KPN.
Marianela kicked off her career as a web developer 15 years ago in her native Guatemala. She then moved into software engineering and had jobs in the UK and the Netherlands. Since 2021 she’s been part of our team and our go-to person for software development.
Bill, you’ve been in tech for over 25 years. What’s your outlook on the industry when it comes to gender? Do you think the gender gap in tech is improving?
You’re making me sound old! When I started, the gender gap in tech was much bigger than it is now. I actually witnessed this gap closing. Today I see a lot of mixed teams making beautiful and exceptional products and systems. And they have been doing so for a while. The hardcore IT industry being just for men is something of the past.
Do you see a bias when it comes to roles within tech?
I guess there is still some bias as the male to female ratio in tech is higher. But smart managers have learned early on that the ultimate mix of people will bring you the broadest set of perspectives.
Marianela, what made you choose a career in tech? And how has your experience working in a male-dominated field been?
The ambition to always improve was one of the reasons for my career choice. I wanted to prove to myself that if you set your mind on something, no one can stop you. Tech is also such a diverse industry, and I find it fascinating that every single aspect of our lives is or has been affected by technology solutions. Just look at healthcare, entertainment, and education.
And to answer your question about how it is to work in a field mainly dominated by men, I’m not sure, to be honest. I’ve always worked in tech and have no other experience. That says something, right? :)
Have you ever faced any challenges at work based on your gender?
Not really, and if I have, I have not really noticed or felt that those challenges came because of my gender. The challenges I faced at work were mostly industry related. Tech is challenging. It’s a rapidly evolving and dynamic industry. Change is constant and you have to keep up. You’re working on complex problems that require ingenious solutions. That comes with its fair share of challenges and is never trouble-free.
Bill, can you tell me a bit about the gender representation in the DPDK tech team?
We have a pretty diverse team on all counts, but there is always room for improvement. The tough market nowadays doesn’t make it easy though to attract talent and we need to find people that enrich our team. For example, as we speak we’re looking for all kinds of developers. But that’s a whole story on its own.
How do you approach recruitment?
I don’t hire someone based on gender, race, or age. Everyone has an equal opportunity in my book and I approach profiles with an open mind. But of course, I do look at candidates’ previous experiences and skills. We’re aiming for exceptionalism in the end. What they can bring to the team mix and their energy plays an important role too. It’s the overall picture that counts. For example, Marianela is very good at what she does. She was hired because of her expertise, not because she’s a woman.
Did Marianela joining the team have any effects on the team culture?
Certainly, she brought in a boost of professionalism, quality, and guidance!
Why do you think there are still so few women in the technology sector?
Instead of asking why I’d rather look at the progress being made. I think it’s not a goal per se to aim for a 50/50 split of men and women in every sector because they’re all different. Look at HR, communication, health, government, tech, and military. Some have more men and others have more women. What’s important is to offer equal opportunities to everyone. And today there are so many opportunities in tech. If you’re good at what you do and work hard, you’ll get hired. The entry barriers are much lower than nearly any other sector if you think about it.
What do you think we should be doing to encourage more women to consider a career in tech?
I see the gender gap in tech, but I also think that overemphasizing the situation can bring a negative effect. A lot of women have already found their way into the industry in the last decades. There’s been a massive turnaround. Getting into tech through the online world or via school is easier than it used to be. Having worked with diverse teams in tech, I have moved beyond the point of the unicity. It’s ok to have mixes and blends.
Marianela, do you have any words of advice to women considering a career in tech?
I believe that inclusion goes both ways. I would tell women and men that if you like problem solving, love to apply creative thinking, and come up with new ideas, then there’s a space for you in tech. We need to encourage young people to study, research, and innovate regardless of their gender. But of course, I’d love to see more women in tech and show that success in tech doesn’t depend on you being male or female.
The tech industry is often in the spotlight when it comes to gender bias. But after speaking with Bill and Marianela, I realize that we don't talk enough about the good things happening in tech. It’s a field that has many career opportunities for men and women. You don’t even have to look too far, we’re always on the lookout for new tech talents to join our team.