Empowering Voices: A conversation with Imma Valls, Board Member of TechFems

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This article was initially posted at https://techfems.org/2023/11/24/immavalls/.

Imma Valls

Meet Imma Valls, one of our dedicated TechFems board members, committed to changing diversity in the tech sector. She’s dedicated to supporting women and underrepresented individuals in tech, creating a welcoming space within TechFems for anyone looking to change careers or find their place in the tech world.

Recently, I had the chance to sit down with Imma at a TechFems event and let me tell you, I was genuinely inspired by her commitment to mentoring our women+ in tech. Her support is an inspiration for all of us.

Join me in this conversation, where we explore Imma’s journey, her insights on the tech scene, and the transformative power of mentorship. Let’s tap into her experiences and wisdom as she champions diversity within the tech sector.

TechFems: Can you share a bit about your background and journey in the tech industry and what inspired you to join this field?

I was born in the countryside, in a farmhouse without electricity or a phone. And water from a well! I was raised by a very conservative family where women were supposed to get married, not work outside the home, and raise a family and support their husbands and children. To this day, I still don’t understand why they allowed me to study electrical and electronics engineering. On top of that, it was also costly for my family since I had to move to Barcelona to follow my studies.

At university, I had a colossal impostor syndrome. I felt very much out of place in the big city. I was lucky with the friends I made at university, as they supported and encouraged me. Even if we were 20% of women, our group of about 20 was almost half women. And the guys in the groups were great allies. So, until I started my first job, I did not realize I was working in a men’s domain. Back then, it was relatively easy to land a job in tech if you had an engineer’s degree. And for the following 15-20 years, I almost felt like one of the guys in most teams.

Almost 6 years ago, I joined elastic.co. t was in my first genuinely diverse company. People from around the world. And the company made a real effort to support underrepresented groups in tech. For example, there was no gender gap in payment for women, and the company valued diverse viewpoints. They walk the talk. Some of my co-workers already volunteered at underrepresented groups’ communities, inspiring me to follow the same path: to help the tech industry become more welcoming to all sorts of folks.

My current company, Grafana, is similar in culture. And I love how the company supports the causes their employees care about, sponsoring when needed.

TechFems: What motivated you to join TechFems, which supports women in tech, and how has your experience been so far?

I met Henriette at one of Codebar’s events in Barcelona that my previous employer, Elastic, sponsored. I found her story inspiring: changing your career is never too late. Once Henriette started a group to support migrant women who were trying to make a career change to tech, I joined the group. And here I am.

It’s great to be in contact with people who are not as privileged as I am. It’s humbling. Even if being a minority in the team is not easy, I have been able to follow my passion and work in tech. Having an engineering degree was crucial. That path is unnecessary these days, and I love seeing how women discover what they enjoy in tech. They can get the skills via bootcamps and self-learning and then land their first job in tech. It democratizes access to a career path that can significantly impact and be very fulfilling.

TechFems: In your opinion, what unique challenges do women face in the tech industry, and how do you see this organization addressing those challenges?

Being a woman in tech means navigating an industry where we are underrepresented, it is difficult to enter, and even more challenging to stay and advance. TechFems is uniquely positioned to help women navigate the entry phase by offering coaching and knowledge sessions for students.

And, for coaches, it supports staying in tech and advancing. We realize we are not alone in tech and thrive by supporting each other.

One of the challenges for women in a male-dominated field is speaking up and being heard. TechFems provides a safe space for women to ask questions and express themselves more freely. Women-centric tech events are crucial to creating safe spaces where women can share their unique experiences – failures and successes – when facing challenges in the tech industry.

Adding skills is particularly helpful to get started and increase confidence.

TechFems: As a member of this community, what role do you play in fostering a supportive and inclusive environment for women in tech?

I am in the community as a coach. I enjoy 1:1 interactions where I learn so much from women just entering the field; we have fantastic conversations. I love listening to their experiences. Even though I cannot join events as often as I wish, I’ve greatly enjoyed each event I attended.

Apart from being a coach, I am a teacher assistant for some knowledge sessions. This I enjoy the most as I like hands-on sessions where we learn skills.

Finally, I aim to spread the word with companies that can support the organization with their space for sessions or financial support to provide snacks & refreshments at events. It is easier for coaches already working at companies to ask for help internally. And we can also use our networks to help TechFems connect with those who can support the community.

I started in a men’s world 25 years ago when these communities were unavailable. What would have been different in my career if that support existed? I would have struggled less, for sure.

TechFems: Could you highlight a specific achievement or project within this organization that you are particularly proud of and that has positively impacted women in tech?

I particularly love workshops (e.g., a GitHub actions session) and general “hands-on” sessions like creating your LinkedIn profile or practicing for a coding interview. Adding skills is particularly helpful to get started and increase confidence.

For coaches, the networking sessions have allowed us to connect with many other women and broaden our network. And as a bonus point, we sometimes have our own knowledge sessions, with insightful workshops.

TechFems: How has being a part of this community influenced your professional growth and development in the tech field?

I started in a men’s world 25 years ago when these communities were unavailable. What would have been different in my career if that support existed? I would have struggled less, for sure. Even if I feel privileged – I found my place in tech and have stayed – it’s great to meet other women and help each other thrive. Feeling represented is necessary, and these sessions highlight we are not alone.

TechFems: What advice would you give to other women aspiring to pursue a tech career, and how can organizations like this one contribute to their success?

Come check it for yourself. You’ll learn if a tech career is for you. Don’t be shy with coaches or anyone in the session. Ask anything! It’s a safe space, and all questions are good questions.

Also, nowadays, having an engineering degree is optional. There are many more options to learn and many different paths to take to make a career in tech. Any way that works for you is good.

TechFems: In your view, what initiatives or programs could further enhance the impact of organizations supporting women in tech – like TechFems, and how can members actively contribute to these efforts?

I’d like to see options for mentoring 1:1. Mentoring has a mind-blowing impact, both for mentors and mentees.

And we could also do some hackathons. It helps to realize that we can all be creative in tech and that previous experiences not in tech are also helpful; they add to your new career. Changing careers is not starting from scratch: you bring soft skills, domain knowledge, and many valuable abilities.

TechFems: Is there anything you would like to share?

Keep rocking!

TechFems: Thank you very much for your time and support!