Diversity, equality, and inclusion is more than just a goal for the technology world — it’s a necessity. That’s why Mission Critical hosts the annual Women in Technology contest. As the demands for data generation, consumption, sharing, storage, processing, and more continue to grow and cybercriminals become increasingly more threatening, it’s clear that the industry needs more people to collaborative on innovative solutions to consumer needs, sustainable connectivity, and cyber safe infrastructure.
Women from all over the world in a wide range of technology sectors, including data centers, health care, and food processing, were nominated for their admirable contributions to the industry and the people who rely on it.
As Rebecca Ellis, president of Questions & Solutions Engineering Inc. and one of this year’s winners, so matter-of-factly put it, “If technology is to benefit all people, then all people need to be represented in the development and application of that technology.”
And, with that, Mission Critical is excited to introduce you to the 2022 Top 25 Women in Technology.
Title: Director of Permitting
Company: Pioneer Consulting
Education: Ph.D. in ecotoxicology from Napier University, Bachelor of Science with honors in environmental biology from Napier University
Organizational Affiliations: Attends ICPC and ESCA industry group meetings through Pioneer as a corporate member.
Achievements/Awards: 20 Women to Watch List 2021 (Capacity Magazine
What made you realize you wanted to pursue a career in technology?
My career started in studying biology. It was during this time that I then began questioning what we were doing to the planet, and I branched into environmental sciences. Through career development, I fell in love with spatial mapping and using geographical information systems, and that is how I encountered the world of environmental assessment.
Throughout my career, my role has been to ensure the environment is not harmed by our advances in technology. This is a career I’ve developed and one which continues to inspire me. My desire to learn and know that there are opportunities to further grow, regardless of age and gender, is my biggest motivation.
What inspires you to do what you do?
I desire to see the pursuit of technological advancement, and I find great reward in knowing that I play a role in facilitating this, ultimately making the world a more welcoming place for everyone.
What role does sustainability play in your life?
I’ve dedicated my career to sustainable development, and I’m grateful that I’ve been able to pursue a career in this field. One way I have carried the sustainability component of my work beyond the field is by having visited my children's school to share what I do for my job. It is so important to impress the idea of managing natural assets in the correct way upon the younger generation, and the combination of environment and industry is not always a harmonious one. I enjoy sharing this critical component of sustainability in my work with young people, so as to foster a generation that will responsibly manage our natural assets for the benefit of all.
In my personal life, I make sure I’m educated on environmental and social awareness so that my family and I can make informed decisions to lead a more sustainable life. Sometimes it is not always possible to make the right choice, but I try to find a balance and accept that I can only do my best. I am an assistant scout leader, and a really good tool I learned through this was the WWF Carbon Footprint Calculator, which everyone should use.
What is the most fascinating thing you have learned while working in this industry?
I learned that subsea fiber cables, which are laid at the ocean floor, account for 99% of the world's internet usage, something that is arguably forgivable, since they are out of sight to most people.
I recently had the delight of being given a tour of a cable factory, where I observed subsea fiber optic cables being manufactured. To me, the most fascinating aspect of this industry is the science behind the manufacturing — how a few strands of different-colored glass allow the transmission of data around the world to support hospitals, governments, finance, universities, and connectivity between people everywhere.
What’s something unique about you personally?
I have an incredible thirst for knowledge that drives me to continuously strive to further develop both professionally and personally. From an early age, I learned that education is also the route to achieve financial independence. Education expands the mind and creates new opportunities to explore the world beyond where we reside. This is something I am passionate about, which resulted in my time spent investing in the educational development of the younger generation by serving as both a lecturer and thesis supervisor for graduate students.
What’s something unique about you professionally?
I count myself fortunate to have worked in many different sectors, which include academia, government, and industry. This diverse background has afforded me great insight into the nuances of each sector and how it operates. As a result, I am able to approach my work with a perspective that encompasses the desires of all parties involved in a subsea cable project. This ultimately allows me to foster mutually beneficial relationships that serve the projects and communities involved.
What’s your most admirable quality?
I would say inquisitiveness, which draws upon my earlier comment about continuously seeking knowledge. As a naturally curious person, I thoroughly enjoy being able to combine this component of my personality with the challenge of delivering quality output while providing financial value to solve business roadblocks.
Why is diversity, equality, and inclusion important to you?
Every person has a unique story and has had experiences that have shaped them to be the individuals they are today. Different perspectives allow us all to not only approach problems more efficiently to find creative and productive solutions, but they provide us with the opportunity to view the world from the point-of-view of another. When we step outside the reality we live in to see the world through someone else's eyes, that creates the opportunity to grow not just professionally but also personally.
I'm a big advocate for seeing more girls and women involved in the technology industry, especially in subsea telecommunications. The telecom field is largely dominated by men, and I strive to be an example to girls and women, demonstrating in my work what is possible with hardwork and dedication. It is a life goal of mine to introduce more girls and women to STEM subjects, which ultimately would benefit everyone.
What aspect of the industry do you think has the most potential for growth, and, on the other hand, which aspect do you think needs the most improvement?
The subsea fiber industry is experiencing a boom right now, due to humanity shifting entirely online for everything from streaming television shows to playing games with friends to holding video conferences for work. Everything is taking place at home.
This will persist beyond the pandemic for the next 10 years at least, but we desperately need the supply chain to keep up — data centers, spare parts in the manufacturing process, cable ships, to name but a few.
When you imagine the future of the technology industry, what does it look like?
That's a great question. I think technology will progress to a point that it will ultimately serve to ensure a better quality of life for all and reduce our overall environmental footprint. In particular, I believe technology will develop where we will see nanobots that will enable us to connect to the cloud, creating an environment where everyone has access to higher-quality goods and services that are produced faster and delivered at a lower cost.