26 October

#ItoWomen – Melanie’s story

From teaching herself to code on the world’s first computers to leading her own team of developers – Melanie’s story

Melanie is a Team Lead at Ito World, and while she has always been interested in technology and engineering, her path to get to where she is today has not been linear. Starting her career in the 80s, Melanie has witnessed first-hand the evolution of coding and programming since its inception. At Ito World, Melanie leads the real-time data team, matching and interpreting live data before pushing that data out to platforms such as Google Maps and Apple Maps. This data processing is a core part of Ito World’s business, and Melanie is essential to its success by ensuring her team has the appropriate resources.

Part of the 25% of Ito World’s female cohort, Melanie is in a growing group of women in tech and transport businesses that are helping to create inclusive solutions for all public transport users.

Operating in the male-dominated universe of technology, data, and transport, Melanie has shared her story as part of #ItoWomen, the company’s initiative to showcase the career paths and histories of women across its teams. The aim is to inspire more women to move into STEM-based careers and to promote a more balanced and inclusive workforce.

Originally from Germany, Melanie’s first exposure to the world of tech came with a visit to a department store as a child. There she noticed the Commodore PET 2001, the first computer to hit the mass market in Germany. Instantly fascinated, Melanie read the manual cover to cover, and something in her brain clicked. From there, Melanie began writing programmes for fun and learnt how to code – and never stopped learning as the field advanced. As a result, Melanie has a deep understanding of the full breadth of programming history, from Cobol and Fortran through C and C++ to Python and Full Stack, and everything in between.

Although programming is a passion, Melanie’s career trajectory has also equipped her with a wide range of experiences. After training as an electrician, Melanie cycled through different tech adjacent industries, including telecoms, Virtual Reality, and virtual worlds. In telecoms, Melanie went from working for a business to starting her own, where she became familiar with the hiring process, and the struggles of finding female candidates. As a business owner in a male dominated industry, Melanie wanted to widen the diversity of her team, but found that at that time, in 1998, the pipeline of female talent was small. Despite her best efforts, she was still having to hire men.

Observing the changes that have occurred across her career, Melanie notes, “When I worked in telecoms in the 90s I definitely experienced ‘lad culture’ and inappropriate experiences in the workplace. It was a completely different time, with no formal policies or even a mention of the word diversity. There were almost no women in engineering roles either and the call centre was exclusively made up of women. If I saw a woman in a senior tech role, I would be surprised.

“These past 20 years have seen a total paradigm shift in work culture, such as the introduction of safe spaces. In most offices I have worked in, women were office managers and not working on the tech side, but this has changed now I work at Ito World. Ito World is extremely welcoming, and the best people I’ve worked with so far. That said, the industry still has a long way to go before we can look up the ladder and see not only white males.”

Melanie is hopeful that the tide is turning in the tech industry, as more and more young women are exposed to careers in STEM, and flexible modes of working attract a wider variety of candidates to job roles.

“There can be a strong clique mentality in STEM that forces out women, but we have a new generation now that will turn that on its head. Writing program code is not just about learning a new language, it’s about learning a mindset – and the next generation is learning that mindset before they even hit university. We have a whole cohort of capable young people who know Python, and this next generation will hopefully bring with them a change to some of the stigmas around working in tech.”