Daniela Colombo has a strong passion for mathematics, backed by academic credentials and professional experience. She exemplifies the ‘M’ in STEM. In her global studies and successful career, Daniela consistently demonstrates dedication as a woman advancing in the tech industry.
From Math to Tech
“I have lived, worked and studied in the US, Shanghai, the UK and now Italy. I always loved being able to apply mathematical models to the real world. My professional life allowed me to do that, but it wasn’t easy. The career path for most people who study mathematics is to go into teaching, but that wasn’t for me.”
The tech industry called Daniela, and an international telecoms graduate program let her chase her dreams.
She spent several successful years with the organization. Yet, Daniela shares a tale common to many women in tech.
“My manager suggested I join the marketing department since more women worked there. It felt stereotypical, as if my tech contributions weren’t valued. But I turned it positive, moving to China to earn a master’s degree and enhance my business insight.”
After excelling in her Shanghai studies, she moved to London. Her stint as a Data Monetization Consultant became a priceless experience.
“I was able to combine my technical skills, my ability to sell, and my knowledge of tech products for the first time. I really got to understand how to negotiate and how women can use their best attributes in a professional setting.”
The success that Daniela enjoyed in the role, quickly caught the attention of Microsoft. As a result, an offer to move to her native home of Italy was offered.
“At first, I wasn’t sure about the offer. I didn’t want to be contained within one country. I wanted to work on a global scale and with an international team with worldwide reach. Fortunately, I was able to secure exactly what I wanted.”
Six years and several promotions later saw many challenges, including one that only a woman can truly understand.
“When I first got pregnant I was really worried about what would happen. I didn’t know how to communicate it to my manager so I just sent an email telling him the news. He replied saying how wonderful it was. However, lots of women may have the same anxiety if they are doing well in their career. They may be worried about how it might impact their development.”
The support offered during and after her pregnancy. This is something that Daniela believes is a must that the tech industry can do to help women more.
“I was able to work from home when I wanted. I was asked if the work life balance was ok and if the travel was ok. It was really helpful because I know that a lot of women worry that they could fall behind if they miss six months of work.”
Advice for Women in STEM
Having worked out a balance between family and career, Daniela has a strong understanding of what is required to achieve a healthy lifestyle and successful career.
“I have learned that women must raise their voice and make an issue to get what they want. If there is a pay gap, demand to know why and what is the plan to close that gap. This is exactly what happened to me a year ago. But I spoke up and made a point to my manager. Now, we’re on the path and I have also received a promotion.”
Making An Impact on Younger Generations
Outside of her work with Microsoft, Daniela also works to promote people studying mathematics into the world of tech. She shares opportunities with people who may not have known about the opportunities in the STEM field.
“You can use mathematics in every single field and there are a lot of highly paid jobs. I’m working with a school to really help kids at the youngest age to pass on my skills. I want to show them that anything is possible in this area. We help the kids with coding and really push them to engage with it using creative ways. We hope that this will help them take on issues around sustainability, artificial intelligence and future technologies.”
Though having an education and background in tech is a major advantage for women in the STEM sector, it is not critical, a point that Daniela is eager to highlight.
“I think more women than men think about changing career, maybe that is because so many industries are changing and tech especially offers a growing number of attractive elements, so the first thing I say to anyone who asks me, is take an online course. There are so many resources and learning opportunities and get hands on.”
“Connect with people on LinkedIn and talk to them. Find people who have the role you want and reach out. I would also like to say again, women need to speak up. If we accept everything, we wont change anything.”