Mon Jan 10 2022

MLE Janine Khuc writes about overcoming challenges facing women in the tech world in new book

Machine Learning Engineer Janine Khuc wrote an essay that was published within the anthology Ready for Female Leadership: The Future is NOW that was released in early December.

Janine, who joined Xomnia’s Machine Learning Development Program for a year starting early 2021, discussed in her essay, “Opening Doors,” how stepping outside her comfort zone and supporting others to do the same has enabled her to co-found the local R Ladies Amsterdam chapter, an organization focused on promoting diversity in the R community worldwide via meetups and mentorship.

“Coming from a background in psychology, I always felt a great interest in what motivates people and makes them ‘tick’,” Janine recalls. “Due to this interest in understanding the ‘why’ behind people’s actions, I knew after graduation that I wanted to do something with data and statistics, which is where I came across data science.”

Coming from a non-technical background, Janine discussed in her essay the internal dilemmas that she has gone through working in the tech field.

“When I entered the field with about half a year of experience, it was quite daunting to navigate this male-dominated field. In my head, there were all those 'should have's':  You should be experienced, more capable, more assertive, and more loud and extroverted to be in tech or to lead a community in tech," she explains. "These are commonly held believes of women within the tech field.”

Realizing that the negative thoughts were holding her back, she shares in her essay what starts to happen when you remove some of the "fog" created by your own thoughts.

“One aspect is about moving around in this mental headspace that you created, and understanding how you are holding yourself back. Navigating this uncomfortable space enables you to discover doors that you didn't know existed. This enabled me to start the R Ladies Amsterdam community to support others within the tech field,” she adds.

The machine learning engineer also shares in her essay that her previously-perceived shortcomings, which she labels as the more “feminine” qualities - such as the inclination to cooperate, incorporate others’ opinion, and be more people oriented - are actually points of strength for female leadership.

She argues that the success of female leadership, however, requires work at an organizational level.

“In order for female leadership to flourish, you need to create a safe space for everyone to be able to express their own emotions and opinions and feel empathy.

"Having high level managers in organizations contributing to this space shifts the responsibility from the women themselves to the organization to make everyone feel safe and heard. This will turn the focus from work cultures that are all about bragging, to cultures focused on sharing achievements,” she elaborates.

Finally, as biases are something that everyone can have, Janine argues that the conversation about female leadership in tech should ultimately become a conversation about making companies in the tech and other industries provide an inclusive environment for people- regardless of gender.

“A safe space is where it is OK to make mistakes, or say I don’t know or I am sorry or I have made a mistake. A conversation about people is the discussion that I would rather us move to instead of focusing on women in tech – but we are not quite there yet,” concludes the machine learning engineer.  

For more information about the book and to order it, click here.