Maya Dillon of Corsight AI reflects on the path she has taken to this point of her career, and how coaching and mentorship helped.
Maya Dillon has faced many challenges in her journey to becoming vice-president of growth and innovation at Corsight AI, a start-up headquartered in the US and the UK that is focused on facial-recognition tech.
Here, she talks about navigating the world of technology – a field still largely dominated by men – and why she believes mentorship and coaching are crucial to achieving gender equality in the industry.
‘Gender diversity is still a stubborn problem in the technology field and progress remains disappointingly slow’
– MAYA DILLON
In your experience, is there still a gender diversity problem in tech?
Throughout my education and extensive business career, women have accounted for just 5pc of the general populace, with this figure disproportionately lower for women in leadership positions. Sadly, gender diversity is still a stubborn problem in the technology field and progress remains disappointingly slow.
What are some of the ways we can overcome this problem?
While reports claim more women are expected to join the technology sector, there are many reasons why women avoid it, including misconceptions about the kinds of roles that exist and a lack of relatable roles models in the sector.
If technology companies want to attract and retain more women, they need to demystify these claims and recognise the role their policies and culture play in causing inequality and drive organisational change.
Deploying unbiased recruitment strategies, setting specific performance evaluation criteria and being more transparent with gender demographic figures can go a long way towards addressing the gender and equality problem.
Moreover, it should be the responsibility of those men who are in higher-ranked positions to become allies to their female counterparts and to create a more inclusive and progressive workspace. This will encourage more female employees and future candidates to apply for roles as it will give them confidence in the organisation.
Have you faced challenges in your own career? How did you navigate them?
I was born to parents of a Bangladesh heritage who had very stereotypical views of gender roles. In our culture, men are encouraged to meet their full potential, whether at school, university or later on in their careers, while women are expected to become the traditional ‘homemaker’.
Regardless of these ideologies, I battled through and pursued an education and career. I had to achieve this sadly without familial or community support. Nonetheless, I had a real drive to become self-sufficient and successful in my own right. I navigated through this journey with sheer determination and by leveraging my close network of peers and mentors.
I also faced significant challenges when the great recession hit in 2008 and the unemployment rate peaked. I had just passed my PhD and soon realised I could no longer pursue a career in astronomy as originally planned.
During these turbulent times, I sought a life coach to help me decide my next career steps and build confidence to adapt and move forward. This was a liberating and insightful experience, and it was through this experience that I decided to set up my own coaching business.
Eventually, this led me to Pivigo and Luxoft, where I trained and mentored world-class academics from STEM backgrounds into commercial data science roles. The benefits of coaching are wide ranging and I would encourage anyone to utilise this resource to help gain perspective and achieve their goals.
Was there a person who positively influenced your career?
I was lucky, I had a number of teachers in secondary school and in college that influenced my career and ultimately helped shape my future. To mention one would do injustice not mentioning all!
They saw I was talented in STEM areas such as maths and physics and influenced me to pursue further studies in these areas. Without their support I would never have succeeded in the scientific field or pursued a career in technology.
What advice would you give to other women who want to forge a career in tech?
From my own experience battling both gender and cultural norms, I have noticed that insecurities or lack of confidence can limit women and their ability to move into technology roles – entry level or senior. So, I would urge women to enhance their self-confidence and empower themselves to realise their full potential. Coaching and mentoring is a fantastic way to achieve this.
I would advise women to never stop asking questions and always keep their eyes and ears open to latest industry trends and innovations. With this kind of knowledge, you are in a better position to know the kinds of skills and experiences that are required to become truly valuable in the technology field.
Moreover, I believe that there are great opportunities for women to pursue a rewarding and challenging career in technology. In doing so, you can help design and shape innovations that will transform our future. While it does remain a male-dominated profession, this should not be the reason putting off potential female candidates.
If you could say one thing to your younger self, just starting out in her career, what would it be?
Believe in yourself, you can handle anything, and just know everything will be okay in the end.