Two women currently blazing a trail at IBM Canada are Ilse Breedvelt , UX Architect and Designer, Master Inventor for IBM Canada, and Stephanie Hazlewood, STSM (Senior Technical Staff Member) IBM Analytics for IBM Canada.
Ilse currently works in the field of analytics software. Ilse makes sure ‘hidden data’ can support analysis used to identify trends in the market, and to compare data sets between competitors or products. Ilse is also a Master Inventor, which means she spends time thinking of ideas using new technologies that improve user experience. Ilse has 43 patents filed.
“Growing up in the Netherlands, there was never a mention [at home] of anything related to STEM, and because of that I did pursue the appropriate opportunities at high school to pursue a technical education.”
“I [previously] worked at a company where I was one of two women in the whole research organization. When I came to Canada for a new job [at IBM], the culture was very different. The first patent I ever worked on was alongside two other women, which was great.”
“However, if I’m working on a project, the majority of the team tends to be men. Although the field is very male dominated, it does not feel that way at IBM. The company supports us and we have so many internal communities [like the Super Women’s Group] that are created for employees to connect and support one another.”
“Formally, I help colleagues who are interested in becoming inventors with their ideas. I regularly run workshops to help others write invention disclosures. Informally, I mentor younger staff as much as possible. If someone tells me they are interested in a certain topic, instead of explaining it I try to bring them into projects or tasks so they can learn through experience. I enjoy being a mentor, my mentees ask me really hard questions, which stimulates me and encourages me to think in different ways.”
In terms of advice for women considering a career in STEM roles, Ilse Breedvelt said, “Never think you can’t do it. Just do it, and improvise while you’re there! Based on my own experience, it’s not that you need to be an environment with a high percentage of women, but you need to bring your expertise to the table regardless of your gender. Don’t think a job is not for you because you don’t know another woman who does that same job. The movie Hidden Figures shows us exactly the opposite: you can do whatever you set your mind to; just make sure you have tough skin!”
Stephanie works on a strategic project leveraging open-source technologies to help organizations effectively and efficiently govern and comply with data privacy and other regulatory requirements.
“I never considered a career in technology even though I spent a lot of my spare time tinkering with code. I spent my university years studying how people think, learn and perceive the world around us. After completing my graduate degree, I started working at the University of Toronto’s Center for Applied Cognitive Science on a research project where the team was developing software designed to support a collaborative learning process. It was exhilarating: figuring out how to better help people work together and learn from each other and expedite learning and business outcomes. This was where I had my first real taste of applying technology to a set of problems I was curious about. And, I haven’t stopped being curious since!”
“Being part of a company as large as IBM has given me the opportunity to work with and be mentored by very successful female leaders in technology– whom I deeply respect. IBM takes diversity and the development of women seriously and has programs and initiatives in place to develop technical talent.”
“I have a deep sense of responsibility to coach women and girls in the community. At IBM, this takes shape by helping to drive programs that reach out to girls and teens in the community who may not be considering technology as career.”
Stephanie Hazlewood’s best advice for your women considering a career in STEM roles, “Get the technical chops you need and never doubt that there are exciting problems out there for you to solve that will really have an impact on the world. Surround yourself with people that love to think and challenge your ideas and get yourself a mentor to bounce ideas with along the way. Enjoy the ride – it’ll be the journey you never forget.”