This week’s interview is with a woman who has worked in the IT industry for more than 25 years, including senior business and technical leadership roles.
Joanna Hodgson leads the UK team at Red Hat.
She is a technologist at heart and is fascinated by how technology can be applied to business and social challenges.
How and where did you start your career in tech?
I did a computing science degree and had intended to become a teacher. I had just qualified as a maths and computing teacher and was looking for a job. I applied for lots of roles in industry and education and was offered a role at IBM supporting developers. Just before I was due to start at IBM I was offered a place as a maths teacher, covering maternity leave. I decided to join the industry and see what difference I could make there.
I loved my first job! I was learning loads and getting to try all sorts of new things. As well as helping developers and Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) use our application programming interfaces (APIs), I was designing artwork for CDs, negotiating manufacturing contracts, coding to solve real business problems, setting up websites, creating marketing material for trade show events and working with fabulous people. It was a great way to start my career and taught me a lot.
Are there any women in tech that have particularly inspired you?
I’ve worked with some incredibly inspiring women, who continue to support and encourage me and each other long after we’ve worked together.
One of the stand-out, inspirational moments from my fledgling career was when one of my lecturers, now Professor Muffy Calder, gave me words of encouragement just when I was doubting myself. When someone told me that asking questions made me look stupid, she encouraged me to keep asking.
The value of that advice throughout my career is immeasurable. Being curious is such a valuable trait in tech and in business, imagine if I’d let that criticism hold me back? I am fortunate that women like Professor Calder and the many other brilliant women I’ve had the privilege to work with over the years, were invested to help and encourage me.
What’s the most pressing issue for women in tech today?
Not enough women are shaping their future in terms of tech. The future of tech is being designed for women to consume. We need to be more in the driving seat and shape our own future. Tech needs everyone to fulfil its full potential and we need more women to get there.
What challenges do you face in your role at Red Hat?
At Red Hat my biggest challenge is having the time to do everything I’d like to. In the world of open source there are so many incredible projects and initiatives improving the way we work and live, there is so much we could contribute to. Deciding what matters most is key.
What advice would you give to women looking to get into tech?
Tech is pervasive in every industry and every walk of life. Find what you’re passionate about and start there. Whether you’re passionate about climate change and finding new ways to use tech to improve soil quality or reduce soil erosion, or you’re interested in finance and use tech to make it more accessible to more people. Whatever it is, with tech you can shape the future.
Check out the previous tech-themed interview with Nicole LeBlanc, Partner at venture capital firm 2150, here.