On this year’s International Women in Engineering Day, we’re proudly celebrating the work and achievements of women engineers with an interview with Carolina Arcos, a Platform Manager at OES. Carolina joined OES in 2020 and now manages a team of seven within our tech management and innovation portfolio.
Carolina sat down to talk about the challenges of being a female leader in a male-dominated field and her passion of increasing female participation in STEM.
OES: Can you tell us about yourself and your journey in the tech field?
Carolina Arcos: I was born in Chile and as a child I always wanted to be a doctor. However, I ended up in the IT field (although I still love everything medicine related). I fell in love with computers at a very young age when my father bought home an Acer PC, with a monochromatic monitor, a 5 ½ floppy disc drive and a DOS operating system. I completed a Bachelor in Computer Sciences and soon after came to Australia to undertake a Masters in Computer Sciences at the University of Technology Sydney. I never considered staying in Australia, but after completing my studies work opportunities were presented and I took them. Over the years I have had many roles including Programmer, Business Analyst, Project Manager, Release Manager, QA Manager, Head of IT, and now with OES as Platform Manager of Salesforce and Data.
OES: What motivated you to study computer engineering?
CA: I have always been drawn to science fields. When I was in high school it was challenging to decide what professional path to follow. I knew it was engineering but I did not know what type. I did not want to follow my parent’s paths either; my father studied Chemistry and worked for Coca-Cola for over 30 years and my mother was a stay-at-home mum to 6 children. Of the engineering fields I was familiar with at the time, the one that appealed the most was Computer Engineering. I truly enjoyed being behind a keyboard and I wanted to make software; I was not overly interested in computer networks or computer hardware, so I followed a path in software.
OES: What challenges have you faced by being female in a male-dominated field?
CA: Some of the challenges I have faced are mainly lack of emotional support and lacking a voice. When I was doing IVF for my first child, there were a number of medical appointments and I recall my manager at the time asking me to schedule those appointments outside business hours. I can understand that being absent from the office on a number of occasions in a short period of time can be problematic, but IVF is a very time-specific process and scheduling of appointments is a challenge for all parties involved. Fertility issues are experienced by a large number of women in the workforce and I would like to see greater awareness, understanding and emotional support by managers irrespective of gender. I would also like to see promotions awarded more equally and opinions held in the same stead whether it is a male or female voice.
On a lighter note, another challenge has and still is, hearing all the footy or cricket conversations at work during the season!
OES: Can you tell us about what’s behind your motivation to increase women’s participation in the Science, Tech, Engineering and Mathematical fields?
CA: I would really love to see more female participation in technology. I have worked with some great women in technology in the past, but the numbers aren’t significant. Having a balanced mix of both genders in a team, in my opinion, brings out the best in individuals and ultimately achieves better outcomes. I work hard to encourage female team members to speak more and remove the imposter syndrome which many experience in a male dominated industry.
Over the years I have volunteered to mentor females in IT. Not only do we need to increase the number of women in technology, but we also need to retain these individuals and inspire them to stay in the field. I have seen many cases of women leaving technology mainly because of lack of support.
Due to this, having a welcoming and inclusive team where all opinions are valued is a very important thing for me when managing a team. Offering flexibility is also high on my list, for both men and women, but especially women when they often bear the burden of caregiving when children are unwell or need to be picked up earlier.
OES: What’s your experience in leading a mainly male team at OES?
CA: My immediate team at OES is all male. I have to admit that coming into this role last year I was a bit anxious about it, but very soon I learned I have a great team to manage and that they are driven and committed to OES’ values.
Although, a goal over the next year is to achieve greater gender representation of females on our team!