What were the biggest learnings in your career so far? And what advice would you give your younger self today? How do you get ahead in your career? We’re celebrating International Women in Engineering Day by talking to three senior Zalando Women in Tech: Mahak Swami, Engineering Manager; Floriane Gramlich, Director of Product Payments; and Ana Peleteiro Ramallo, Head of Applied Science. We caught up with them during the Women in Tech Global Conference 2022 — let’s find out their advice!
What’s the best thing about your job?
Mahak: In my team, we build products for the Zalando mobile app. The best thing is the technical challenges: working on them and solving them.
Floriane: I have an incredible team who I love to work with – it’s fun, but it’s also inspiring. Also, I work in payments, which is all about customer convenience: Ultimately, if I don’t do my job right, then people can’t pay, so I love that I’m making a difference.
Ana: The best thing about my job is that I get to work on super-interesting topics, and with really amazing and interesting colleagues.
Looking back at your career, what’s your tip for fostering a more inclusive environment?
Mahak: It’s really important that everyone’s opinions are considered when you’re solving a problem. An engineer could bring equally important input to the design, and vice versa. Everybody needs to bring their own values to the table, so that we can find the best solutions to the problem.
Floriane: Being yourself is super-important. That means accepting who you are, and not trying to imitate somebody else. Because, if you can’t be true to yourself, how can you be true to others?
Ana: The first thing is to make people aware when there is not an inclusive environment. Many times people want to be inclusive, and don’t realise there’s a problem.
What’s the best professional advice you’ve ever received?
Mahak: The best advice I’ve had was around executive presence: To speak about my work and represent it just as well as I was doing it. A lot of women don’t advocate for the work they’re doing. That’s one thing I’d definitely push for.
Floriane: So, the worst advice I ever received was, ‘Don’t be too ambitious’. I was told that a LOT in previous companies, in almost every performance talk. It’s terrible advice and I wonder if a man would be told the same thing. Now, it’s really important to me to be that multiplier for my teams, I say: Be ambitious!
Ana: The best professional advice I ever got was, ‘If you want something, just go and get it’. Because many times we doubt ourselves, but it’s about wanting to get something and having a plan for how to get it.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Mahak: Try out as many things as you can in your career. It’s very important to figure yourself out. Don’t be afraid to find out what clicks for you as a professional.
Floriane: Know what you want. Say what you want. Do what you want. And stand true to that. It’s super-important to invest in self-reflection quite early. You need to really understand who you are.
Ana: What I learned is to be really proactive and never stop learning. Continuous learning will help you to grow.
What other tips would you give to women starting their career in STEM?
Mahak: In general, women have this perception of tech: that it isn’t a place for them, and perhaps it’s difficult to get into. But that’s not the case. Tech is very logical, a lot of fun and now very inclusive too. When I started my career, I was often the first and only woman on the team. But now that’s not the case. You will have company and you will have fun – try it!
Floriane: Be curious and don’t let other people tell you what you can or can’t do. On a more practical level, look for role models (there are lots out there), find yourself a mentor, build your network, and really learn from others. Getting advice from outside your usual zone is very powerful.
Ana: Never allow anyone to tell you what you can or can’t do. You’re the only one who knows your goals and what you want to achieve. Also, there are no things for girls or things for boys – there’s only things you like. So, if there’s something you like, go ahead and enjoy it.
Curious about Zalando? Learn more about how our teams rewrite the rules of fashion, by building a sustainable fashion platform that is inclusive by design.