Ai Allies – Daniela Colombo

With a fierce passion for mathematics and the academic qualifications and professional experience to prove it, Daniela Colombo is certainly an outstanding representative of the ‘M’ in the STEM field. In her role as Senior Partner Technology Manager and throughout her international studies and career, Daniela has always maintained an outstanding level of dedication as a woman forging a career in the technology industry.

“I have lived, worked and studied in the US, Shanghai, the UK and now Italy. I always loved being able to apply mathematical models to the real world and in my professional life, which led me to the position I am in now, but it wasn’t easy. The career path for most people who study mathematics is to go right into teaching, but that wasn’t for me.”

Instead, the tech-industry beckoned and a graduate program with an international telecoms organisation offered Daniela the opportunity to pursue her ambitions.

A successful number of years followed with the organization, however, Daniela tells a story that may be familiar with many women working in the technology field.

“My manager asked me if I would like to work in the marketing department as there were a lot more women in that part of the team. I thought that was really typical and that I was not fully valued as somebody working on the tech side of things. I took a positive though, and decided to move to China and complete a master’s degree in order to complement my vision with business acumen.”

Following the completion of her studies in Shanghai, where she graduated at the top of her class, a move to London followed and a period of time working as a Data Monetization Consultant and a business developer executive proved to be an invaluable experience.

“I was able to combine my technical skills, my ability to sell, and my knowledge of tech products for the first time. I really got to understand how to negotiate and how women can use their best attributes in a professional setting.”

The success that Daniela enjoyed in the role, quickly caught the attention of Microsoft and an offer to move back to her native home of Italy was offered.

“At first, I wasn’t sure about the offer because I didn’t want to be contained within one country, I wanted to work on a global scale and with an international team with worldwide reach. Fortunately, I was able to secure exactly what I wanted.”

Six years and several promotions later brought many challenges, including one that only a woman can truly understand.

“I have two kids now but when I first got pregnant I was really worried about what would happen. I didn’t know how to communicate it to my manager so I just sent an email telling him the news, of course he replied saying how wonderful it was, but I think that a lot of women may have the same anxiety if they are doing well in their career and are worries about how it might impact their development.”

The support offered during and after her pregnancy is something that Daniela believes is the most important things that the tech industry can do to help women more.

“I was able to work from home when I wanted, I was asked if the work life balance was ok and if the travel was ok. It was really helpful because I know that a lot of women worry that they could fall behind if they miss six months of work.”

Daniela’s Advice for Women in Tech

Having worked out a balance between family and career, Daniela has a strong understanding of what is required to achieve a healthy lifestyle and successful career.

“I have learned that women must raise their voice and make an issue to get what they want. If there is a pay gap, demand to know why and what is the plan to close that gap. This is exactly what happened to me a year ago, but I spoke up and made a point to my manager. Now, we’re on the path and I have also received a promotion.”

Outside of her work with Microsoft, Daniela also works to promote people studying mathematics into the world of tech, sharing opportunities with people who may not have known about the opportunities in the STEM field.

“You can use mathematics in every single field and there are a lot of highly paid jobs. I’m working with a school to really help kids at the youngest age to pass on my skills and show that anything is possible in this area. We help the kids with coding and really push them to engage with it using creative ways, so that they can take on issues around sustainability, artificial intelligence and future technologies.”

Though having an education and background in tech is a major advantage for women in the STEM sector, it is not critical, a point that Daniela is eager to highlight.

“I think more women than men think about changing career, maybe that is because so many industries are changing and tech especially offers a growing number of attractive elements, so the first thing I say to anyone who asks me, is take an online course. There are so many resources and learning opportunities and get hands on.”

“Connect with people on LinkedIn and talk to them. Find people who have the role you want and reach out. I would also like to say again, women need to speak up. If we accept everything, we wont change anything.”