Let’s be honest: we don’t need a sanctioned day to appreciate all the ways women make our world amazing. But since there is one — International Women’s Day — we thought we’d talk to a few of our favourite women at Nearmap.
Women have a long history in mapping; they’ve been the first to create a scientific map of the ocean floor, map the dark side of the moon (sorry, Pink Floyd), and introduce the use of maps to illustrate demographic trends to engender change.
The three women we spoke to work on quite a different kind of cartography: digital maps of reality created through high-resolution aerial imagery, processed with modern photogrammetric methods. But their stories of how they became the technology leaders they are today, and what lessons they learned along the way, are just as intriguing.
What’s your role at Nearmap? Not your title – what do you actually do?
Silvia Arrigoni, VP Marketing
I try to know the user, know the magic, and then connect the two. It works best when we can use real-life stories to communicate the benefits of what we do. I want to inspire the Nearmap community to transform the way they work through our mapping technology.
Mina Sistani, Sales Operations Manager
My main focus is on process improvement, reporting initiatives, and data management. This means constantly reviewing current procedures to identify gaps in processes and systems while driving timely resolutions that can lead to organisational improvement. Part of the implementation and integration of new processes will be the UAT that the team does. I also work closely with other departments in the company to work towards the best process across most areas to meet the rapid growth of the business.
Mary Cudmore, Director of Global Survey Operations
I lead and support Nearmap’s global survey operations group, working with my teams, our aircraft operator partners, and across the company to capture our imagery and content.
Have you always worked in tech?
SA: I’ve worked in both. What attracted me to Nearmap was the amazing Aussie-grown technology and the culture. Nearmappers are a bunch of passionate, smart, driven people. We exist to help businesses thrive through richer location content, better data tools, information and connections.
MS: I have been working in the technical space for most of my career, and my previous experience has certainly played a role in what I deliver day-to-day in a niche industry like Nearmap’s. The primary role, composition, and hierarchy of sales ops may vary across industries and even across similar businesses, but we all perform a standard core set of functions. While my technical background helped me understand the business requirements from a sales ops point of view, I still needed to develop from a technical point of view, specifically understanding aerial imagery and what makes Nearmap stand out from its competitors, like the quality of our service and the frequency of our updates.
MC: Yes. I’ve always been attracted to how things work and the meaning behind things. I studied engineering and early on got hooked on working with great people solving big problems working with complex technology. I’ve since worked in many different areas, in different roles in both larger and smaller startup tech companies, loving the opportunity to learn and work with interesting people on new challenges. Nearmap is a perfect company to work for if, like me, you enjoy this type of fast-moving, small company technical environment.
“Women in technology” is a buzz phrase at the moment. Is that something that resonates for you personally? When Melanie Perkins of Canva (another of Australia’s homegrown tech success stories) is asked about this, she often says it’s not something she thinks about per se — she just tries to be the best she can be and the build the best company she can build.
SA: To me, it’s about empowering others to achieve their potential and, by doing so, achieving success for the company they work for. I have teenage daughters, and I love it when they get excited about doing what they’re doing, and feel they have the confidence and know-how to tackle anything. This is also my approach with my team and colleagues.
MS: I believe companies should provide enough opportunity and flexibility for women at all levels and in crucial roles. I am one of the strong believers and I try to provide any support I can in order for women to maximise their potential professionally.
MC: It’s a concept I’m familiar with and has been around for many years under a number of names, but I have not usually felt a strong need to be involved. For a lot of my career there were very few to zero women, but it didn’t matter to me — they were just great people to work with. I feel that I’ve been lucky and have had so many great experiences, so “women in technology” for me is about being able to provide support and encouragement to other women as the opportunity arises.
This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is “no woman left behind.” What leadership techniques do you use to ensure that all members of your team share in opportunities to learn and contribute?
SA: Everyone wants to be successful and achieve amazing things at work. So create an environment and culture that enables that. Celebrate every single success, no matter how big or small. And don’t shy away from failure. Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” There’s no doubt we’re going to mess up time and time again; it’s what we learn from those times that helps us improve.
MS: I try to be a good coach rather than a mere leader by giving my team space and opportunities to learn. I challenge them to find their own way of resolving issues. Supporting new ideas can build their confidence towards the best resolution. Finding your own way through creativity and self-discipline is a long term asset.
MC: Working in technology and operations, there is no other option — there are always things to learn together, and in operations the team is instrumental in deciding how we best work together. I’m passionate about providing a framework and direction that the team can step into and own.
Was there a woman who had a significant influence on you professionally?
SA: My mum. She was very successful in her career at a time when women were expected to stay at home and raise kids. Growing up, I never felt I missed out because she was working. She showed me that the one limiting factor is yourself. And my team inspires and challenges me every day to be the best leader I can be.
MS: Anousheh Ansari has always been one of the inspiring women in my life. When she was asked what she hoped to achieve on her spaceflight, she responded: "I hope to inspire everyone — especially young people, women, and young girls all over the world, and in countries that do not provide women with the same opportunities as men — to not give up their dreams.”
MC: Not obviously, no. But I’d like to say that I think my upbringing meant that I was able to pursue what I was interested in without a sense of gender giving pause for thought — it just didn’t matter. I guess that allowed me to forge ahead in a very male-dominated area with confidence — so I suppose that means my mother 😊.
Nearmap’s staff is 38% female in Australia – well higher than the national average for women in technology, but there is always room to grow. There are different theories about how to attract more women to careers in technology. What technique or agenda do you see having the most traction?
SA: Teaching STEM in schools, because it foster a lifelong love of learning. Also increasing Australia’s technology workforce is very important, as is creating opportunities for future generations so they don’t feel they have to go off-shore. Getting the core tech subjects into schools is something I’m very passionate about.
MS: I believe that the mindset for technology needs to be developed in women from early on. Industry can play an important role in building this passion in the younger generation by providing them exposure and insight to what is involved in different aspects of technology. I was always fascinated from an early age because I was exposed to the world of engineering and technology both by my family and by my teachers, and that led to my eventually earning an engineering degree.
MC: I feel it needs to start with a broader cultural message about the opportunities and excitement available by following STEM as a career. We need that interest and passion across our population.
At Nearmap we celebrate the success of all of our staff, and thank them for creating a professional environment where everyone has the opportunity to thrive.