International Women’s Day: an interview with Bryony Grimes

International Women’s Day signals a time and space for everyone to focus on both the achievements of women and also what steps need to be taken to reach gender equality.

We can all recognise the importance of gender balance across the board. With one of the most male-dominated areas being tech, we met with Bryony Grimes, Technology Strategy Analyst at Telefónica and TechWomen100 2019 Award Winner.

Bryony was also a former Unibuddy ambassador at Royal Holloway University.

Why did you choose to work in tech, and what do you enjoy about it?

Getting into tech was sort of a happy mistake. I applied for a variety of roles after I graduated from my degree in French and German. I got on to the O2 Tech Grad Scheme and they said they would teach me everything I need to know!

I’ve done loads since I started there. The coolest thing I’ve worked on has been connected autonomous vehicles, but I love the opportunity to learn about new tech and gadgets every day. I enjoy the conferences, speaking to people from industry and academia and seeing their passion. Every day is different. I really think that as a young person you should stay until you stop growing. If you’re learning it’s still valuable.

Can you tell us a little bit about your award and what it means to you?

I was so pleased to receive the award, for two reasons. It’s reassuring that I can do my job and I can do it well. It can be hard to take praise when you’re new, I think everyone suffers from a bit of imposter syndrome sometimes. It’s also given me the motivation to do something with the award. I want to give back through mentoring other young women to do STEM or work in tech. In an industry dominated by men, you have as much right to be there. You as a woman can have a path in this industry. I feel a lot more confident in meetings now to speak up. In a meeting with all men, it’s worth you speaking up and providing a different voice.

In your opinion, why is it important that more women go into tech?

For me, it’s about the young women knowing that they can if they want to – people need to feel like they have a future in these subjects. Making young women know that if they want to, then they have as much right to be there.

The world is not 75/25 men to women – it’s 50/50, so our gender should be represented in the industry. The products we’re building have to work for the customer and your customers aren’t all male. Look at many wearable device products that were made and weren’t suited for women. You can’t have a product made by men for men.

What’s the most important piece of advice you’d give to a woman thinking of starting a career in tech?

Take every opportunity, whether it fits in your game plan for your career or not, and don’t feel like you can’t do it for any reason. You have as much right to take on that opportunity and reap the rewards than anyone else. Never say no if it benefits you!

What do you think is the impact of role models?

Role models make it a reality – they help you go from thinking ‘can I do this? Is it possible?’, to ‘she’s doing it and she’s doing it well and she’s happy’. It’s the final tool to convince someone that they can do it.

Thinking back to when I was a Unibuddy, I remember speaking to a girl who was terrified about the year abroad. I could tell her that it was the best year of my life and share that experience. The student changed their perception and developed confidence. Every conversation makes a tiny difference to each person you speak to.

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