Developers & TechnologyView profile
The purpose of the ‘MotherBoard’ content series is to highlight incredible working mums within tech & data, as well as individuals and businesses that are supportive and progressive within their approach to creating more inclusive tech & data teams for women.
Paula: I’m Paula Fernández, Head of Informatics at Colorifix, a company that is trying to revolutionise the fashion industry by developing a sustainable and scalable dyeing process that saves energy and water and reduces waste.
I joined Colorifix as a DevOps engineer and backend developer in 2020, at a time when there were only two developers in the Informatics team. Our goal was to support the rest of the company by automating processes and developing applications to store, process and analyse the data gathered by the scientists. My focus was on introducing standard software development practices and creating pipelines to speed up the deployments.
The Informatics team is now comprised of nine people, ranging from data scientists and software developers to embedded systems engineers and system administrators and I have very recently been promoted to Head.
“I wouldn’t be where I am if it weren’t because of the company’s approach to flexible working and mental health. I feel very privileged to have had such support in my career and I strongly believe this should be the norm and not the exception.”
But I wouldn’t be where I am if it weren’t because of the company’s approach to flexible working and mental health. I feel very privileged to have had such support in my career and I strongly believe this should be the norm and not the exception. There are thousands of very capable and motivated women that would thrive in a tech environment if they were given the support they need.
I have also, for the past 5 years, been part of the instructional team at General Assembly where I work freelance to help deliver Product Management training courses. This has always been a passion and I love working with GA. I feel lucky that most of the team there understand and being that we work freelance we are able to make arrangements in advance or be selective over which courses we can work on, and I can continue to do this.
It’s so important that more mums are supported to return back to their roles or into new ones within tech and data, I really feel that it’s one of the least equipped industries to work in as a mother, especially as a new mother with a child under the age of 2. Many of the organisations I was keen to apply to had very rigid ideas of flexible working.
Paula: After the school run, I work from home in a very flexible environment, so each day is slightly different. I try to organise all of my meetings in the morning, while my son isn’t home, and I take breaks during the afternoon to pick him up, take him to clubs or help with homework. To compensate for the lost time during the day I might finish later than the official working hours or at times, continue working after dinner. My husband also works from home 2 or 3 days a week and he will take over on those days, so not everything is on me!
Paula: I consider myself very lucky on two accounts. One is that my husband is a great dad and partner and we are a team. The other one is that my job allows for great flexibility.
“ I consider myself very lucky on two accounts. One is that my husband is a great dad and partner and we are a team. The other one is that my job allows for great flexibility.”
A little backstory: My husband and I were both working fully presential when our son was born. We had good-paying jobs so we could afford childcare, but we barely saw our son. On December 2019, I finally decided to resign and explore different career options within tech and soon afterwards, the pandemic hit us in full force, schools were closed, and parents were supposed to home-school. Our son was 4 at the time.
And that’s when Colorifix approached me.
I was honest with them, I doubted I could get much work done with a 4-year-old at home. They offered me a freelance contract: I could choose to work between 10 or 20 hours a week, whenever I wanted, fully remotely, and pass them my invoice monthly.
Months later, when the schools opened again, I signed a permanent contract with them and while the hours went up to a standard 40 hours a week, many of the flexibility aspects remained.
Paula: The hardest thing, in general, was missing my son grow. Once the maternity leave finished and until I found the balance I needed, I could only see him for a brief time in the mornings and evenings, before going to bed.
Paula: There are many things businesses can do. In tech, especially, it is more than possible to have hybrid or fully remote jobs. Not to mention flexible hours: being able to start or finish outside of core hours to allow parents to attend functions, do the school run or take the children to the doctor.
“As long as targets are met and important meetings are not missed, there is no reason not to allow for flexible working.”
As long as targets are met and important meetings are not missed, there is no reason not to allow for flexible working. I would argue that work quality increases if employees feel empowered to organise their own lives and work and this extends to non-parents too.
Paula: There is a lack of affordable quality childcare and not enough help from the government in that area but that is only part of the problem. Parental leave, flexible working schemes… even education, as women shouldn’t be the ones always renouncing to their careers and taking the bulk of the responsibility of raising children. I believe there is also a bit of stigma against part-time work, while there is no reason for it.
Paula: Hang on in there! I think the market is slowly shifting. More and more companies are open to hybrid and flexible working now and we should be asking and pushing for it until it becomes a reality.