Nicki Page shares the good and bad of being female in the tech industry
While many other eight-year-old girls were playing with Barbie dolls, Nicki Page was building PCs with her father who was an IT manager at British Telecom in the 1980s. Following in his footsteps, Page pursued a career in technology; and today, she is one of the very few women in Australia holding a chief executive position in a technology company.
Page’s passion for technology started with her father, who realised his young daughter was unlike others – she cared less about playing with dolls than she did with playing with computer parts. He only sent her to schools that had an IT curriculum – a rarity in the 1980s – to ensure Page had equal opportunity in the world of technology. Little did she know at the time that her career pathway was being laid.
Reflecting back on those days, Page says, “it was the best gift he ever gave me.” Her father’s encouragement led her down the path of a career she loves; and today, with over 20 years of experience in the IT industry, she has experienced successes she could’ve never imagined in her childhood days when technology was just a hobby.
In 2009, she became the CEO of technology company Breeze, which won the 2012 Microsoft Worldwide Application Integration Partner of the Year Award. Breeze has grown at a 40 percent rate every year over the past three years since Page started leading the company and transforming it into a cloud services and products business.
“Today, we’re busy developing cloud products that healthcare companies around the world connect and collaborate better. Disparate systems is a huge pain area for the healthcare industry, so we’ve come in as a niche development shop, and have started bringing together different healthcare providers into a system that allows them to deliver better healthcare for patients. For example, we move data from dental practices back to the head office in real-time for greater efficiency,” says Page.
Are you sure you sent the right person because she’s a woman?
Despite her successes, being female in a male-dominated industry hasn’t always been a breeze. Thirteen years ago, when Page was sponsored to work in Australia for her expertise in IBM technology, and at the time there were very little women working in the technology industry – arguably, even less so than today. She was working as a technician putting together PC hardware; and one day she showed up with her toolkit at a client’s site, only to be greeted with shock and horror that a woman was sent to do a man’s job.
“I found out later that the client had actually rung the office to confirm whether they had sent the right engineer and whether I was reliable!” says Page.
“But after completed the job successfully, he went back and said that I actually got the job done a lot quicker than he’d expected. And I think he was quite thrilled about that.”
Page believes the reason why there is such a gender gap in the technology industry is because “men generally gravitate towards numbers, algorithms, and codes” so they’re more likely to be introduced to the back-end processes, whereas women are presented with the end result.
So how do we get more women to pursue careers in technology? Page says it needs to start with parenting.
“I think parents need to encourage their daughters to use technology and use it with them. Technology is moving at such a rapid rate, there are so many social media apps being introduced. Parents often don’t understand how the apps work and they want to protect their daughters so they tell them they can’t use it,” says Page.
“I think we should let our girls know that it’s okay to pursue a career in technology. You don’t have to be a fashion designer or whatever the topic of conversation is amongst girls these days. We need to plant the right seeds early on and tell girls that there is a world out there that they can create through technology.”
Balancing two full-time jobs – being a mum and running a business
Page admits that becoming a mother was one of the reasons why she wanted to run a technology business.
“I needed some flexibility so I can take care of my children. I still wanted to use my brain, and I was still very much a career woman,” says Page.
She adds that mothers are focused workers; they get the job done because they know they have a set amount of time before they need to get back to looking after their children.
“I think being a mum has opened my mind to doing things more creatively and efficiently because I don’t have the time to sit around, talk and try things out. You have make quick decisions and just get on with it,” says Page.
Her advice to other mothers in business is to surround themselves with a strong team of ‘can do’ personalities.
More information on Breeze is available via www.breeze.net.