5G means more innovation and collaboration, which might offer increased opportunities for the female workforce
Maria Lema, the co-founder of Weaver Labs, spoke with RCR Wireless News during the latest Women in Telco Forum about working in a 5G world and how the accompanying technology changes, particularly those that require the shift from telco to techno, are leading to greater opportunities for the female workforce.
The below Q&A pulled from the event has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
As networks become disaggregated, it’s becoming increasingly important to think about integration, both when it comes to technology, but also within an organization itself. Historically, telecom has been a pretty siloed industry, with workers focusing solely on their part of the network. Is that changing? If it is, is this increased emphasis on communication and knowledge sharing creating more opportunities in the industry for women, and for traits typically considered female?
Disaggregation means more integration, yes, absolutely. The delivery of projects nowadays … involves much more than just networks, and just people that know how to configure a couple of switches. We need to think about software infrastructure, and overall, we need to be thinking more in a product-oriented way. Being a techno or a tech company, actually, it’s building platforms, and in the telecoms industry we have been doing that, but in a very siloed way. Essentially, it’s tools and functions, and it’s an aggregation of a lot of things. We need to be creating products, we need to be getting user feedback, we need to be onboarding fast, and all in all, I think female talent is extremely [able] to do that precisely. We’re excellent managers, we’re excellent at making things happen… Delivery now is a lot more challenging. You have more moving plates, and it’s easier for us for some reason, maybe because we have to manage families, jobs and all of these things, but we’re used to having a lot of things moving at the same time, and making it work. More importantly, we make people talk and collaborate, and that’s what great product teams eventually do.
Yeah, absolutely. Shifting from maybe traits to skills, what are some of the new skills emerging in a 5G world? Do you see the promises of 5G in terms of innovation and pushing boundaries as potential key enablers for creating a more diverse workforce?
Interestingly, when I started working in the 5G lab, working more across verticals, and across innovation in different industries, I started to work with a lot more women. Essentially, we were opening up to a lot of other industries, which was great, because it’s more like the arts, or getting more feedback from user experience, and stuff like that. Eventually, because it’s more diverse industries, it’s a more diverse type of people that you get to meet, and of course, more balanced, because in tech, it’s just predominantly males. I think the shift from telecoms to a technology company, it’s about allowing innovation to happen across different sectors, and again, building those platforms that allow [the creation of] innovation leveraging the power of networks. There are a lot of new skills that are needed in the industry. We have to think from the user perspective. How do we make the user experience more transparent? How do we onboard these users faster, and make this complexity of networks almost transparent for them? There you have people that can come from the arts industry, from the design industry, that can come and contribute with those out of the box ideas into tech.
To bring the conversation to a more practical place, how can women either already in telco or considering entering this space take advantage of or prepare themselves for these tech trends, or maybe these new skills that are needed? What can they do to make sure they’re ready for this, and that they’re a desirable candidate?
It’s this story that we have been talking about for a very long time in the telecoms industry, but it’s about partnerships and collaboration. The industry is evolving into a much more close-knitted way of companies working with each other, and within the same organization, collaboration. Embracing co-creation and collaboration and partnerships, it is something that is definitely going to put someone at the top of what the industry needs, because we do really need to create that collaborative effort in the telecoms industry, and I think we can definitely shine there.