Women in Tech: Janet Li
Synextra’s Development Team Leader, Janet Li talks about her journey as a woman in tech
Having grown up in Guangzhou, southern China, Janet came to England to complete a degree in International Business.
Janet has long been used to being a lone female figure having completed her business degree and then deciding to follow her passion by studying for a BSc in Computer Science. It wasn’t difficult to spot her in the lecture theatre – there were only a few women on the same course and she subsequently went on to achieve a MSc in Network Computing while working part-time in a software house.
Today, as Development Team Leader at Synextra, Janet is involved daily in agile software development and architecture design. She works with product owners and stakeholders to identify requirements or new opportunities to add value to the business and she provides tech leadership for the Synextra team.
Influencing on system design, engineering principles, product development, security and network resilience strategies and mentoring younger members of the team. Janet has some wisdom to impart to other women wanting to get into software development or other technical roles in IT.
We caught up with Janet to ask about her journey in tech.
Did you always know you wanted to be in tech?
My family’s expectations were that I would go abroad to study for a business degree. And I did that, but I was always interested in coding and science and I spoke with the computer sciences course leader at the university and secured myself a place on that degree. I was one of only a few women on the entire course.
What challenges have you faced as a woman in tech?
People don’t take you seriously enough when they first meet you – you have to prove your capabilities and technical skills. Then your voice is valued in the workplace or the community. So, it’s very important to be confident, to speak up with your ideas and demonstrate your knowledge and have all the qualities and experience to do the job well.
What’s your favourite thing about your job?
Everything! I feel helped and supported – the collaboration is the best bit because it feels like an extended family. I have autonomy to work and find the best way to do things for the team. Everyone at Synextra is encouraged to suggest ideas and give their opinions – to speak up. That doesn’t happen everywhere. We want the best quality and the environment in which we work makes a big difference – quality is the most important attribute for survival and success in the industry.
Half of the Synextra Senior Leadership Team are women – which is not the norm in tech – so being part of a company that shows it values people for their skills means a lot.
What’s the best way to stay on top of evolving trends?
Attending technical conferences and meetups, side projects and interests to work on, keeping your skills current and helping you learn new things – they’re coming along all the time. Constantly learning and being interested is part of staying ahead of the trends. I’m often inspired by tech talks and I sometimes write tech blogs about new findings and the latest tech solutions.
Having an open mindset also helps because things change fast.
What do you do when you’re not working?
I love doing acrylics and oil-based paintings. And I am a big fan of musicals and, when the theatres reopen, I can’t wait to see the shows in London with my friends.
What’s your advice to your younger self?
Trust your instincts, follow your passion, don’t be afraid to speak up, don’t or take the lead because you’re female – be confident!