Each month we have the honor of interviewing WOMEN WHO INSPIRE US. This month we talked to Priska Burkard, co-founder of TechFace & founder of Skills Finder. We learned about her inspiring career path and how she transitioned into the tech industry. We also discovered how she created her purpose: helping other women in tech through both Girls In Tech Switzerland & TechFace.
Tell us about where you’re from – your background and how you found your way into the tech industry.
My name is Priska and I am the co-founder of TechFace, an organization helping women to get into the tech industry.
I was originally trained as a medical laboratory assistant but then I went traveling for a little while. When I came back to Switzerland, I realized I wanted to try something new. I joined a program led by one of the big banks in Zurich which gave me the opportunity to switch my career into the tech industry.
There, I learned programming for 8 months which was then followed by an internship. I started as an application engineer and became a business analyst and project manager always working on IT projects. Additionally, I had the opportunity to work and study in Hong Kong for over 4 years.
I had always wanted to start my own business and be my own boss.
Around 5 years ago, I had the idea to create a platform helping freelance consultants finding project-based work. I had always wanted to start my own business and be my own boss. And with that idea, I left the finance industry and my secure corporate job and started my own company, Skills Finder.
At the time, I also met Stefany Barker. We realized that we had similar experiences, sometimes being the only woman in meetings. Stefany had heard about Girls In Tech and we decided to build the Swiss chapter together.
As I experienced what it meant to be a woman in tech here in Switzerland, I realized that there were a lot of women out there who were really interested in learning more about tech and who were looking for opportunities to get into the industry as well.
Girls In Tech Switzerland is a great community to start your journey into tech and build up your network. However, I also wanted to support women further which is why we started TechFace with the goal to help women transition into the tech industry.
We offer services such as talent matching in which we really focus on culture and purpose match to help women find a company that truly matches their value.
We also organize the full stack developer program and the WeTech together conference. This conference is an event that brings together different communities with the shared mission of more diversity in tech – to have a bigger voice. It also provides women with an opportunity to learn more about tech.
Could you elaborate on the importance of diversity in tech and what you hope to achieve by co-founding the organization?
My goal is to reach a situation where every single person is valued for what he/she is, what they can do, and the expertise they have. We use technology every day and we need to ensure that this technology is built with everyone in mind. We have the opportunity to do that now and this is why I believe diversity is so important.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges for women in the tech industry in Switzerland?
I think the social environment is more difficult in Switzerland. I used to work in Asia and over there you see more women in the workforce and also at the management level. One of the reasons for this is that they have a different social structure when it comes to balancing work and family.
Also, we don’t have many women in the tech industry in Switzerland and as a result, many young girls do not realize this is actually a possibility for them. The younger generation doesn’t really have the role models to inspire them to go into tech.
These are some of the challenges we currently have to get more women into the tech industry in Switzerland.
Which aspects of your work are you proudest of?
I love working with our members at TechFace helping them find their way into the tech industry. A lot of times, the women I speak to struggle with how to best transition into a new career.
Usually, I have coaching calls with them to share insights and tips and when they tell me that my advice was useful to them, it makes me really proud. I want to build an environment where women find the confidence to achieve things by themselves.
I want to build an environment where women find the confidence to achieve things by themselves.
What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in your success?
I would say my curiosity without limiting myself to what I can or can’t do. I don’t overthink it and want to give it a try which has served me well over the years.
What advice would you give other women in relation to this?
I always ask myself what could happen? That helps me realize that nothing really bad will happen. I try to think about all the positive things that could happen and this gives me the strength to move forward.
It also helps to discuss it with your close friends who believe in you and will give you the confidence boost to actually do it.
In your opinion, how important is male allyship for diversity in tech?
I have a lot of women in my network and I get a lot of support from them but I am always happy to see men supporting women. Sometimes men are not sure what to do as they fear they might not be doing the right thing.
I believe that as long as it is done with the right intention, even if it is not the right thing to do, we can discuss it together and see how they can best support gender equality together.
What was the toughest challenge you have faced in your career?
When I talk to some people, I sometimes feel that they know everything and I end up doubting myself. It can put me in a corner in which I struggle to have a conversation that is beneficial for both of us.
I also still find it challenging sometimes to ask questions. When this happens, I have to remind myself that it is normal not to know everything.
What valuable advice did you get from your parents or the people closest to you?
I went traveling to South America once and before leaving a close friend of mine told me to never hesitate to do anything, whether it was climbing a mountain or anything else during my trip because I might never get the chance to do it again.
I love that piece of advice and think it can also be applied to your career. Just say yes to new opportunities and think about how you to do it later.
Becoming an entrepreneur also changed a lot of things for me. When you become an entrepreneur, you can choose between planning things or doing things. I realized I could spend a lot of time planning great processes but that did not matter if I did not get anything realized or done. I had to switch from this mindset to the mindset of saying “just do it” and then see afterward.
Just say yes to new opportunities and think about how to do it later.
For example, for the full stack developer program, we just started it and then took it step-by-step from there. You’ll find problems in the process but you’ll also find your solutions along the way.
Also, do not focus on what failed or did not work in the process but instead focus on what you have achieved. If 90% of your project went really well, do not end up talking about the other 10%.
What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?
I am at a point where I want to scale my business, reach more women in tech in Switzerland and have a strong impact on a larger scale. I need to trust myself more and believe I have the ability to achieve this goal.
Anything else you’d like to say to our readers?
First of all, try whatever you want to try as there is no such thing as failure. Second, technology has so much to offer. If you feel tech is for you, do not doubt there is something in there that is right for you.
We also talk a lot about finding your purpose but actually, I believe in creating your own purpose instead.
We would like to thank Priska for her time and for sharing so much great advice with us. We wish you all the best for future endeavors of TechFace and Skills Finder and we are grateful to have you on our Advisory Board. Thank you for being a woman who inspires us! 💙
BONUS: Listen in on Priska’s podcast called Tech Inspired to find out about the fascinating careers of women in tech.
Author: Anne-Sophie Scharff
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