Women in tech? It’s a no brainer.

Anna Felicia Valdés knows a lot about Hyper Island as a student, Program Manager and Industry Leader. She's also started an agency service exclusively for tech-savvy female and non-binary members. This is her story!

Q: Hi Anna Felicia! Let’s start by you telling us about your educational and professional background.

Anna Felicia: I studied Social Work at Stockholm University straight after high school. It was great because it is quite a broad subject. The most interesting parts for me were learning about human behaviour. I’m also a Hyper Island alumni. Arguably the most important learning experience I have been a part of. It completely transformed me as a person. I acquired tools and most importantly a mindset of continuous learning. Since then I’ve worked as a program manager at Hyper Island, and as a team coach at the digital studio ustwo. I’ve taken courses in film production, philosophy, web development and the latest area I’ve become interested in is UX. It ties in well with my interest in human behaviour and I think it holds great potential to redesign our society, making it more sustainable. I want to be part of that.”

Q: You’ve created a job agency service exclusively for tech-savvy female and non-binary members, who are typically overlooked by the tech industry. Why hasn’t this been done before?

Anna Felicia: “The idea came to me while I was on leave of absence from my job at the digital studio, studying web development. I started to play with the thought of freelancing, so in order to build my network I started going to meet-ups for women in tech. I realised there were a lot of recruiters there, looking for talent. Their clients were specifically asking for women, and I thought to myself “ Why isn’t anyone focusing on that..?” So I defined the concept and built a landing page to see it there was any interest for such a service. There was.

I think as a society we are becoming more aware of the value of diversity in all areas. The tech industry is one that is particularly unbalanced, and becoming aware of the potential we are missing out on is one reason to create this initiative.”

Q: Is Unicornia Collective an initiative? A project? A business? A cause?

Anna Felicia: “It’s all of the above. On a personal level it’s definitely a cause. It’s driven by a sense of purpose and for me there is no better motivation. From a business perspective, at this stage it’s all about building critical mass and connecting it to a business model. We’re redesigning the site and building new features. In my mind this is only the beginning. Our vision is diversity in tech and there are so many things that we can do to move towards that.”

Q: What are the common challenges that members of the Unicornia Collective face?

Anna Felicia: “In my experience, talking to our members I’ve learned that to many of them it’s important to work for a company who is genuinely making an effort and taking action to promote diversity and inclusion. Soft values are important. The company culture. There’s quite a lot of work to be done in that sense. Tech has been dominated and thus in large defined by men. For women coming in to that environment, it can be tricky.

Q: Women make up just 23% of the tech workforce in Sweden, yet diversity has been identified as a way to increase collective intelligence, push innovation and raise quality. How did things get so uneven?

Anna Felicia: “I think it’s been the norm for a really long time and the tricky thing about norms is that they are extra difficult to become aware of. We have just taken it for granted. But we can’t afford that anymore. Our societies and the planet need female energy in order to turn things around. Women have always been responsible for taking care of children, the home, the family… If we can capitalize on that natural nurturing ability and add a technical dimension to it, I believe we might just have a chance to save the world.”

Q: What do you think of the statement that diversity and inclusion can be competitive advantages for companies?

Anna Felicia: “From my perspective, that’s a no brainer. Leveraging on collective intelligence can be a very effective way to be competitive. I believe the challenge lies in facilitating and harvesting from that diversity. Bringing new perspectives in to organisations will challenge the way things have been done before and that can be uncomfortable. Strong leadership (and by strong I mean humble), a structure that enables the organisation to be a learning organisation and clear company values that are actually alive in the culture are aspects that I believe can help.”

Q: Why do you work with Hyper Island? Please describe what your different roles and interests.

Anna Felicia: “The Hyper Island experience is for me difficult to explain to someone who hasn’t been through it. For me it has been transformational and I have been lucky enough to be part of it as a student, as a program manager and now also as an industry leader. Those are of course very different roles and perspectives but one thing that ties them together for me is a genuine dedication to prepare the students to the work life on a very practical level in combination with personal and team development. I think that combination is unique, I believe it’s crucial to prepare young people to the fast changing world we live in and I will take any opportunity I can to be part of that.

Representation is really important. I would like to see education providers bring in more diverse groups of representatives from the industry for lectures, especially for the technical subjects is one important step. Also, I believe that tech education needs to become more attractive for girls and young women. I think initiatives like Pink Programming and Tjejjer Kodar are great. We need more of those!”

Photo by: Kenny Lövrin

Q: What’s next for you and the Unicornia Collective?

Anna Felicia: “We are exploring what could be next. Tech education for girls could be interesting. So could events, hackathons or conferences. Right now, we are focusing on building a new version of the site, with new features and in the new year we’ll revisit our strategy and see what makes the most sense. There are lots of opportunities ahead.”

Visit Unicornia Collective here

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