This week we had the pleasure of catching up with TechFems board member Esther Pinyol, a self-proclaimed pragmatist with a passion for empowering minority groups within the tech industry. We discuss her unique journey from politics to tech, the skills and knowledge she brings to her new role and some advice for women+ venturing into the industry.

Like a lot of our TechFems community, Esther’s journey didn’t start with a degree in computer science. As a young graduate, she worked in government and politics on a scholarship that saw her spend time in Sweden as well as several years in New York. Esther’s transition into tech came from an unlikely role in the Catalan Lottery where she quickly became acquainted with the industry from the tech provider perspective. It wasn’t until later, with the Barcelona Digital Talent Project, that she found a platform to channel her passion for developing talent in the technology sector. This pivotal moment marked the starting point for the work that would continue to impassion and characterise her future career. Through what she describes as a ‘chance’ encounter, she was invited to create a training programme for at-risk people in coding, where she worked closely with TechFems founder, Henriette Hettinga. Ever since, Esther has found a place for herself working with and managing various NGOs’ programs to utilise and capitalise on funding. Her most recent role at Google’s “Work in Tech” program has allowed her the freedom and resources to develop a holistic approach to support and train minority groups in tech. As she explains, she has never wanted to “just give money” to NGOs, instead she wanted to create a full support network for the people they were aiming to help, citing that “there is no point just giving people training if they cannot eat or are having trouble finding a flat […] or don’t have papers”.
Despite having made her career in tech -although not a coder, Esther is no stranger to the volatility of the industry. Funding uncertainties and missed grants are part for the course in the ever-evolving tech landscape. Although she has worked with industry giants, she is very clear about where her loyalties lie and isn’t shy to criticise the likes of big industry players for their role in destabilising the tech landscape. Esther very much sees herself as a user of these companies, taking from them what she needs to develop grassroots talent. This pragmatic and calculated approach has allowed her to use her influence and power under the banner of big brand names, to support and develop the careers of underserved ones. Although she is realistic about the volatility of tech, Esther praises the innate openness to talent that is unique to this industry. She explains that there is a big need for talent across the sector and unlike a lot of other industries, tech is often indiscriminatory, offering possibilities to people from less advantageous backgrounds that is not common across more traditional disciplines. She has observed a positive shift in recent years, with tech becoming more inclusive and welcoming to at-risk individuals. Ultimately, if you are willing to learn and jump on opportunities when they appear, you have a big chance for success in tech.

Looking to the future, Esther is excited about making the most of her connections across the industry as well as her knowledge of politics and governance to help TechFems grow. She believes inherently in the critical importance of organisations such as TechFems for balancing out the industry and creating a space for women+ to find their deserved place. Esther is an advocate for the important role of community in TechFems as a place for women+ to share their struggles and issues because “somebody else for sure had this problem […] and they know how to solve it”. She believes that this sense of community coupled with the huge amount of generosity within TechFems, makes for the perfect breeding ground for success.

“I love the vibe […] it’s wonderful”

Esther is filled with praise for the community already created within TechFems; “I love the vibe […] it’s wonderful”, calling the willingness to support one another “a beautiful thing”. Not only this, but she feels TechFems deserves a space of its own in Barcelona, provided by the local government, and is keen to use her knowledge to find a ‘home’ for TechFems where the sense of community that has already been built can be shared.

“be loud, complain, talk, because it is the only way to be part of the team.”

Finally, we asked Esther to give a quick dose of advice for the TechFems community at any stage of their career, particularly those just starting their journey. She was quick to reassure that “all women, we suffer from imposter syndrome […] we never know how to negotiate salaries, we never raise our hand because we don’t want to be seen as difficult.” But she urges us to do the opposite, “be loud, complain, talk, because it is the only way to be part of the team.”

Esther recognises that the journey may look daunting but is confident in her appeal that “tech is a place where you are going to be accepted for your talent.” True to style, ending on a pragmatic note she urges those at the start of their career to take advantage of consultancy firms for the training, acknowledging that they may not be everyone’s cup of tea but a big name at the start of your career can provide you with experience that a start-up may not be able to do.