Digital teams

International Women’s Day: up close and personal with 3 of DPDK’s visionary women

Written by Lisette Valk on 8, Math 2021

It’s International Women’s Day! To celebrate, we decided to spotlight some of the talented, driven, and visionary women here at DPDK.

It is no secret that the digital industry is male-dominated, and women don’t always get the recognition or the opportunities they deserve. That makes it all the more important to raise awareness and celebrate the incredible women that we know. Su, Nikki, and Lisa graciously agreed to share their experiences working in digital. They opened up about everything from the women who inspire them and gender biases they’ve experienced to meaningful advice for other professionals and creatives — young, female, or otherwise — at all stages of their careers. 

Su, Lisa, and Nikki

First things first, what is your role at DPDK and what does your typical day look like?

Lisa: I’m a talent acquisition manager focused on recruitment, onboarding, and offboarding. 

My typical day is pretty basic. I prefer to do my routine tasks like answering emails in the morning and then move into operational tasks like checking the inflow of candidates and comments from hiring managers on Workable. In the afternoons, I’m usually conducting interviews.  

Nikki: I work as a project consultant. I'm involved in DPDK’s big-build projects, meaning the large-scale websites and longer projects.

I can’t say I have a typical day. Often, my day starts with client meetings. I wake up, have a stand-up for a project about brand strategy or website development, then meet with our team, and get to work. 

My role isn’t necessarily a 9-5. If something’s on fire, I need to be available to jump in at any time. I have to be flexible and able to prioritize requests from either clients or our team because I'm in between them. 

Su: I’m a UX designer. I usually conduct user research, create wireframes and prototypes, or write UX documentation depending on which phase the project I’m working on is in.

My day always starts with a cup of strong coffee. After that, I will normally join stand-ups for team alignment and check to see if there’s anything in particular needed from me that day. The day can also include a review session with one of our creative directors, ideation sessions, or collaborating with development teams to ensure the feasibility of my designs

Can you tell us a bit more about your background and what attracted you to the digital industry?

Su: I have a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Design and a master’s degree in Design for Interaction. I’m just very passionate about digital design and that was what attracted me to the digital industry the most. It’s the constant changes, I never feel bored.

Lisa: I’m originally from Russia. I came to the Netherlands to do my master's in Business Administration and Human Resources Management. While I was still in school, I got a job in the IT department of my university. It was really interesting, and after I gained that bit of experience, I wanted to focus more on the digital landscape. 

Nikki: I’ve been a project manager for nine years, but not always in the digital industry. I worked in Dutch national television for almost six years. You might think this is a whole different job, but for me, it’s just managing either smaller projects or bigger projects. It’s fixing stuff, which is what I like to do, and I've always had an interest in technology. I made my own website when I was 11.

Was the job you have now also your dream job when you were a kid?

Nikki: Definitely not. I wanted to be a musical star. I was in the national theater productions of Fiddler on the Roof when I was younger!

Su: No, when I was a kid, the word “Designer" was not even in my vocabulary. 

Lisa: I always wanted to be an economist like my mom and dad, so no. But my mom just told me that my grandfather and my great grandfather were recruiters too. They were highly-ranked military recruiters. So I guess it runs in the family? 

Do you think that women who work in the digital industry need to prove themselves more than men?

Nikki: I think this is especially true for digital development. In the beginning, I did get an impression from developers of, “She's a woman, she doesn’t understand.” But I'm not sure if that’s my own interpretation. I don't think they ever did that on purpose, or really meant it like that. 

I think that is why women often take the next step themselves. With things like tech jargon, we’ll learn it even if it’s not our domain, because we don’t want men to be able to say things like that. That’s something that women do to already be a step ahead of those perceptions. We do have to prove ourselves more, but I think that's more in general than it is role-specific. 

Lisa: Our leadership is still very much a guys' gang. But that's changing, and in five or ten years I’m sure that it will look very different. I’m seeing more and more women applying to jobs that were traditionally "male". And I only applaud that. 

Su: That’s a tough question and hard for me to say. What I do know is that the facts speak for themselves, and there are certainly fewer female CEOs, especially in the top 500 most profitable companies in the US. 

We’re curious, have you ever experienced any assumptions or biases about you as a woman in the workplace?

Lisa: My instinct is to say no. But when I think about it, in subtle ways, yes. For example, in the recruiting process for senior positions, some male candidates check if I'm the one deciding whether or not they’re going to proceed to the next round. They answer questions impatiently. It’s something I’ve never experienced from female candidates, only from men.

Su: Not really. At DPDK, we actually have more female designers than male ones. I haven't really experienced any assumptions or biases about me being a woman, which I feel I’m very blessed with.

Nikki: I did know that I was earning less than my male colleagues as a project manager in television. So on salaries, definitely yes.  

Can you give us a word of advice on the skills that help you succeed in your role or in the digital industry?

Su: Empathizing is a really important skill for UX designers. It’s the cornerstone of any successful design project.

Nikki: It doesn’t really have anything to do with the digital industry, but I would say always believe in yourself. Don't doubt yourself, listen to your intuition, and never make assumptions.

Lisa: I think knowing how to set realistic goals is a great skill to have. I see that a lot of people struggle with that.

Which badass woman or women do you admire and look up to, and why?

Lisa: My mom. Maybe that’s predictable, but it's true. She started off at the level of just printing stuff and filling out papers. And she reached the top of the banking industry as one of the CEOs of the subsidiary in the region I’m from. She built everything in her life from scratch.

Nikki: I didn’t want to mention my mom, but I do owe her a lot. When I was four, she started her own gym. And that's a male world. Unfortunately, her gym went bankrupt. But she didn’t give up and found a new job within just a few months. Her strength is something I really admire. 

Su: Es Devlin is one of my favorite designers. She is known for creating large-scale performative sculptures and environments that fuse music, language, and light. Every time I see her work, I feel inspired. She always understands the depth of her clients’ work, reflects their ideas through her design, and passes that on to the audience.

What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received?

Nikki: Create opportunities for yourself, don’t wait for them to come to you.

Su: Constructive criticism or feedback makes you better at what you do, don’t take it personally. 

Lisa: Take ownership of your career development. It’s up to you to improve and build a successful career, not your employer’s. 

Lisette Valk
Head of HR

Lisette Valk

Head of HR

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