Dorine Nalo, CISA, CCNA, Prince 2 Practitioner, is the robotics process automation (RPA) lead at EY Kenya. She is also the SheLeadsTech Liaison for the ISACA® Kenya (Africa) chapter. Here she shares her experience charting her own path in her area of IT and her thoughts on how to recruit and retain more women in tech.
Q: What is one of the biggest obstacles you have faced when stepping into a lead robotics automation role?
A: Charting my own path. Robotics automation is a fairly new service, so there were many unknowns and this created a real challenge. Building a team I could work with around this new service was also a challenge, but eventually, the team came together. Another part of this unknown path requires me to learn new things quickly to deliver to my clients. I had to, and still have to, spend time learning every day.
Q: What is one of the most important internal (of your own effort) factors that led you to this role?
A: Being proactive. I am knowledge hungry. I research and go the extra mile experimenting with various technologies. This puts me ahead of the curve. I also have had to stand up for myself and be bold enough to take on the challenge of setting up a new service line that includes RPA and other emerging technologies.
Q: What other challenges do you see women face in being ready to take a lead position?
A: Many women do not believe in themselves. I have seen cases where a woman is capable of delivering for a certain role, but she does not believe that she can do it. Women also often struggle to handle difficult conversations. As a leader, you can expect to handle difficult situations at times, including making tough decisions, calling out mistakes and working with teams to rectify those mistakes. Women need to encourage fellow female colleagues. They can lead just as well, if not better than some of their male counterparts.
Q: What is the most important external (not of your own effort) factor that led to this role?
A: The support mechanisms that I have had. I have a family that believes in me and encourages me to be the best that I can be.
Q: What challenges do you see organizations face as they look to hire more women in your area of expertise?
A: First, more women must assert themselves in tech. When more women step forward, more organizations may be willing to employ more women in tech. Organizations need to work to minimize stereotypes and unconscious bias around technical roles. People sometimes find it difficult to believe that women can deliver on these roles.
Q: What do you think organizations can and should do to address retention issues for technology professionals, especially women?
A: Organizations can create flexible environments for women to balance their families and still deliver on their work. Flexible working hours would allow women, and men, to manage their time better among all of their responsibilities at work and at home.
Q: Have you seen progress in retaining women in the technology field over the course of your career?
A: Yes, there is progress; it is just not happening as fast as we would want it to happen. There are organizations that have programs in place to support women in tech while others are still instituting them. Generally, though, I have seen progress.
Q: What progress do you see legislatively or culturally in your region toward addressing the gap of women in tech?
A: From a legislative perspective, Kenya has some guidelines and parliamentary acts that enable businesses owned by women, including technology businesses, to operate in the country. Culturally, we still have improvements to make as there are cases where women are viewed differently, and unconscious biases prevent them from pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). There are some segments of society where women are encouraged to pursue technology, but we can do better overall.
Q: How does being the ISACA Kenya Chapter SheLeadsTech Liaison affect your ability to influence the way people look at women in tech?
A: Being a SheLeadsTech Liaison has enabled me to be more deliberate in reaching out to women in technology at all levels. It has allowed me to share my story and create a platform where other women can share their stories to encourage women to stay the course of a career in tech. This role has also enabled me to engage leaders (both men and women) to support and put forth deliberate efforts to ensure that more women are encouraged to take up careers in STEM and remain in technology roles. Through this, I feel I inspire confidence one day at a time, one colleague at a time, to work together to increase the number of women in tech.