Do you think of being a woman in technology? Patricia Faith Martin is a soft-spoken, IT Consultant. Being deterred not an option for this woman in technology. She is the owner of Novus Consulting and AI startup Novus Technology Solutions Inc.
Unless you have a parent, a relative or know a woman in technology who lives and breathes hi tech, the likely influence of this as a profession gets lost in the shuffle of household chores, babysitting siblings, and helping your parents to simply survive by the time you’re the age of twelve.
As women, we are often asked to carry more than our shoulders can bear. Women move through life with a certain knowing they are more than what is incessantly projected in movies, videos, and social media.
The ripple effect of women who are choosing technology as a career is growing, however, not as fast as one would hope. According to techjury.net “Only 37% of tech startups have at least one woman on the board of directors.”
Technology isn’t always the first career choice for women.
WomenTech Network states “Only 3% of females say a career in technology is their first choice.”
Given the sad reality of women in technology, how did Patricia Faith Martin succeed where most will walk away or pass on even applying to a technology program?
Tenacity Grows From Patience
As Patricia describes her career, you immediately get the sense, she is an private, thoughtful individual. A graduate of economics, a job at a well established financial institution changed the course of her life journey allowing her to flourish beyond anything she imagined.
There is a resiliency to Patricia. This innate disposition, nurtured by a childhood filled with hardship and disappointments is at the heart of her drive. She describes that it was challenging getting to where she is today. Immigrating and adjusting to a new way of life in Canada requires a certain kind of malleable determination. This is hard to define when you’re a child. Growing up in the community of Jane and Finch with a single mom, socio-economic challenges almost sidelined her dream.
Despair Shaped Self-Confidence
Uncertain moments plagued her with thoughts of “am I doing the right thing or how am I going to make it to the next day?” Despite this, deep down she had faith in herself (her name Faith is very much core to who she is).
One important factor that keeps her moving forward is a strong support system. Patricia surrounds herself with people who she can talk to. This is especially true in high school where she found a mentor to encourage, and push her to keep striving for what she wanted.
The experience ingrained within her a resolve to believe in herself. In her words, regardless of the dark times, you are going through, don’t give up in the face of adversity. Instead, embrace the lessons you are being asked to withstand.
When Patricia looks back, she is awed of how she and her family turned the negative experience of being homeless into a positive one. They stood together to overcome their struggles. She credits finding her inner strength to step into her potential. To be greater than what was before her.
Persevered Beyond Racism
Patricia recalls having great teachers at Westview Centennial High School who motivated her and other students. She was fortunate to grow up with a diverse group of students from different backgrounds and cultures. And, learned how to deal with a lot of racism within the community.
She recounts, “you felt it when you went to their house. At the time, one of my best friends was Italian. Her parents made me feel welcome. When she liked one of our mutual black friends, they refused to allow my girlfriend to go out with him. The experience made me see that even though they appear to like me, I am not seen as their equal.”
Carrying the burden of these moments with her, she also weighed the challenge of completing university.
While she was deciding between attending or giving up on university to support her family (she admits being low on funds at the time), an anonymous person donated to at-risk kids. Unknowingly, their simple donation was the turning point in Patricia’s life. Patricia was happy to receive the gift. Consequently, it solidified her dream of going to university. Not only did this simple act of kindness make a huge impact, but it is also a driving force today as she strives to lift up others.
Discovered Her Affinity With Technology
It was not until she started working in corporate environments, did she discover her natural love for technology. Acutely aware she lacked experience in computers or displayed any particular interest because it was technology, Patricia set her focus on landing the job.
Oddly enough, she went to the interview using computers. Her interest grew at this financial firm as she was the only female and minority working with computer science
wizards from Waterloo University. Recognizing that the Risk Management department was big on technology, Patricia’s first exposure to programming sparked her desire to explore more. The firm invested in Patricia’s development which included traveling to learn about database programming in Manhattan, New York.
Technology Frees Your Imagination
Patricia’s fascination with technology flourished because the team she worked with allowed her the ability to expand, research the concepts of technology, and identify how to use tools and machines to solve real-world problems within the Risk Management department.
In her words, she states “I needed to know the technology as a research assistant, and I needed to understand the technology to be able to produce the reports within the department. The IT team allowed me basically to learn from their code.”
Programming did not come naturally, as a result, Patricia set out to learn in her way. This is a choice she made. It was an opportunity, and she took it upon herself to absorb as much as she could.
What Challenges Does a Woman in Technology Face?
Patricia is unable to pinpoint exactly what the underlying challenge is except there are too few women in technology. She, herself, does not know many women in the world of ones and zeros.
One possibility is the opportunities are not readily there for women. The other is young women of color have little knowledge about the variety of options in technology. In addition to, scant exposure. Exposure is helpful.
Bumps Along Technology Journey
Her journey as a woman in technology is an interesting one.
“I’m an IT consultant or database expert. I am currently learning about artificial intelligence (AI) coupled with machine learning and its relativity.
It’s almost as if it was meant to be for me. With each step, no matter what the obstacle, I was able to make the right move to get to where I am today. Having a university degree provided more opportunities for me to get here.”
With the completion of university behind her, the next goal was to find her first job. During this time, she also contemplated starting her own business at some point.
The lesson she takes from this is to look at the long-term benefits. Too often, people make decisions based on short-term benefits of working any job (especially in lower-income families). Rather than do this, look at it from a long-term perspective.
Before taking on the research assistant role at the financial institution, another enticing job opportunity pulled on her. The offer of a management position at a food franchise sounded interesting as well. Patricia faced a difficult choice.
Depleted or Character Building?
She chose the role of the financial institution and is grateful. The first job at this corporate office was in a department referred to as the ‘cage’, not a high position as it was in the back office. Her intuition told her there would be more room to grow.
Her drive to succeed came with confronting racism in the workplace.
“I took the ‘cage’ position as I wanted to see what else was there for me.”
The manager, a black woman (a good thing) told her the rule in the cage was you had to work for a minimum of one year before you could apply elsewhere within the company.
“I wanted to get the experience. When the opportunity to risk management came up, I had been there for ten months. Even though I understood the rule, I still applied anyway.
A friend of mine applied for the same role as well (white guy) and well-liked in the risk management department. In the end, I got the position.
One thing I do remember (this stands out), is he started a rumor that I did something to get the role. I had to deal with the unwarranted, negative backlash. My personality is such, when faced with things like this…as long, as it doesn’t prevent me from where I want to go, I remain focused on the goal.
A very disappointing time for me.
The bright spot in this experience is the risk department looked to hire the person with the knowledge. I know Economics and demonstrated this, besides, showing the research papers from the university which I brought with me to the interview. He had a commerce background that wouldn’t have been a fit as the risk management department was looking for someone comfortable in doing research.”
Patricia pauses reflecting upon the fact that taking the job within the ’cage’ allowed her to be where she is today as a woman in technology; a life-changing decision.
Starting small is not necessarily a bad thing.
Continual Growth for This Woman in Technology
An introvert, she is most comfortable being a programmer. As a result, this limits the amount of interaction with other people. And, conscious of this, Patricia steps outside her comfort zone as a real estate agent. This role encourages her to be involved in other people’s lives.
Her journey has afforded her many opportunities to grow as an individual. Patricia is determined to help young people achieve their goals. She is keen on sharing her knowledge and experience to embolden others.
She admits there is more to discover about herself and is continually figuring out who that person is. Ultimately, her desire is to be more open-minded. One aspect of her personal growth is being a parent which makes her a different person. The parental experience has reshaped her views and she is thankful for this.
On the Leading-Edge of Technology
Crunching data has given Patricia a spectrum of being true to herself. She is adamant that there are not many other things she sincerely enjoys. She loves the field she is in.
She is an avid learner. This willingness to learn and be challenged, keeps her mind engaged. The quick pace of change in technology pushes her to learn new things to stay ahead now that she has her own business.
More Than One Path Within Technology
For those who are thinking about this field, Patricia shares this insight.
“Allow yourself to be exposed to more than one area. I’ve been in it for twenty years. I consistently find work as I am willing to wear more than one hat. I don’t think of myself as just being in a specific role. I look at it as we are a team. The idea is to do and be wherever you are needed. Because of this thinking, I’ve been able to do more and contribute more.”
She shares this sage wisdom with her son.
In her words…
“Life at times takes you on different paths. If you are unable to find something in a specific area within your field, be willing to seek out new opportunities in similar areas as this can open unexpected skills. This means allowing yourself to be impartial and receptive to other things as well.
I try to be the best me I can be.
My latest dream is to bring this new AI venture to life. I still have a lot of work to do to get there. I started the journey and now it is a matter of making this come true.”
Lastly, Patricia, like many women of color, will continue to make a difference and gradually shift the dynamics of being a woman in technology.
The more, young women of color are given the avenues to explore technology, the greater the possibility for them to realize they can make, and be the difference in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) for progress in five to ten years.
Her Story: Believe and trust your intuition. You can be and do whatever you choose, and of course, you can be a woman in technology.