In this latest interview with an inspiring woman in tech, we spoke with a leader of a team that spans the UK, Benelux and DACH regions.
Agata Nowakowska is Area Vice President EMEA at Skillsoft, where she leads a team of field-based, enterprise-sales Regional Vice Presidents.
Before embarking on her 17-year career at Skillsoft, she held leadership roles at SmartForce and Tulip Computers.
How and where did you start your career in tech?
To be completely honest, my career in tech started by accident. I was young and looking for any job that interested me when I saw a role advertised at a well-known hardware company in the Netherlands, looking for an international sales manager. Confident that I could learn about the industry on the job, I applied. And, whilst it turned out to be a little harder than I’d envisaged, I’ve never looked back!
Do you have any role models?
My mum is my ultimate role model. Having left Poland when I was about 20, her support was vital. She has constantly challenged me in the right ways and lifted me with her positivity and faith. She is an incredible advocate who taught me to believe in myself, never give up, and be strong, advice I now instil in my 15-year-old daughter.
What’s the most pressing issue for women in tech today?
The most pressing issue facing women in tech today is the lack of learning and development opportunities, with 32% of women in the sector citing this as a primary concern. Women must be supported to progress, with technical certifications offered to women in the industry as readily as men.
Furthermore, a broader range of training offerings in power skills such as emotional intelligence, leadership and strategic thinking are crucial for development into leadership roles.
What challenges have you faced in your career?
When I applied for my first job in tech, I gave the HR director of the company a call before I submitted my application to ask some questions about the role. After I told him about my background and lack of experience in the sector, he politely recommended that I didn’t apply.
However, while I could have easily been discouraged, deciding to seek a different and more accessible path, I persevered. It was a difficult process, but I got that job, and it completely transformed my career. I would say to any woman experiencing similar setbacks, never give up. It’s always worth following your dreams.
What advice would you give to women looking to get into tech?
Firstly, don’t be put off by outdated stereotypes about what it’s like to be a woman working in the sector. Skillsoft’s 2021 Women in Tech Report found that 91% of respondents are extremely or somewhat satisfied in their roles, signalling that tech is an industry where women can thrive.
Secondly, take full advantage of all the learning and development opportunities. Certifications and qualifications open the door to greater opportunities. Equally important, however, is developing power skills that are vital for progressing up the company’s ranks. And most importantly, don’t give up!
Read the previous tech-themed interview with Joanna Hodgson, UK Country Leader at Red Hat, here.