Founder & Lead Organiser of Women Techmakers KL
After getting involved with the local tech community, Nazlina saw that there was a major gender diversity gap in the industry. This meant a huge potential for women to succeed in the tech scene, but the industry lacked a platform to provide inclusivity and bring them all together. Women Techmakers (WTM) is a global Google program which kicked off in 2012 to empower women in technology by cultivating a wholly inclusive workplace through increased visibility, community and resources. “Events are designed to promote inclusivity for women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and to grow and celebrate women developers, designers and tech entrepreneurs,” she elaborated. With Women Techmakers KL, Nazlina aims to empower Malaysian women in an industry dominated by men, by providing a community to pool resources, celebrate contributions, expand the ecosystem, and to help them help themselves by working together as a team. All events under WTM, including main global events like International Women’s Day, have been led by her team since 2015.
“The community has grown extensively over the past few years, and we even have men who are interested to know more about WTM and participate in our events,” she said. “We also connect our members to new opportunities and global scholarships to encourage more women to be in tech.” Management at a global scale doesn’t come without its challenges however. “Funding for our events is our biggest challenge. Every year we seek out new partners who are keen to support our programs and whose objectives are in line with ours.” Another ongoing challenge is finding good women speakers. “Most of our invitations were rejected initially, because women by nature are generally less aggressive self-promoters. They tend to shy away from the spotlight and struggle with feelings of not being able to measure up to others’ expectations. We address this issue constantly in all our events and challenge participants to get out of their comfort zone and speak their minds. We also run soft skill workshops to help women improve personal branding and stand out as a public speaker,” she added.
When Nazlina started out, there was only a handful of women in the industry, and it was a fortuitous turn of events when she was invited to the Women Techmakers dinner by Megan Smith in 2013 in San Francisco. “It really opened my eyes to the issues and challenges we face. Asian women are more reserved because of our culture, but I hadn’t realised that it was in fact a global issue. That made me see how important it was for us women to band together to share and empower each other in our technological pursuits. I was overwhelmed by the warmth and support of the community. I wanted to share what I had gained back home and make the experience accessible for Malaysian women.
What part does Google play in all of this? “Google has been very supportive of our endeavours by providing us with the space for all our events and connecting with Googlers who come on board as speakers and mentors,” she shared. To raise awareness around this movement and to continuously promote female inclusivity, Nazlina emphasises the importance of integrated marketing. Every platform and channel is leveraged upon to engage with community members. “We believe this is the way forward, in tandem with social media and data analytics derived from our events.”
Nazlina upholds the community as her main source of inspiration. “Just being around passionate people, meeting new friends, learning new ideas, and sharing our stories. Every one of our events are special to me, and we’ve received tons of positive feedback from our participants, which is very encouraging indeed,” she shared. “I believe that the ecosystem has already been kicked into place, and we are now focusing on growing the community, locally and globally. We are currently looking into collaborating with other tech communities to expand our networks and to form partnerships with local tech companies, to increase their visibility. Her ultimate goal? To have at least 30 percent of women in the Malaysian tech industry.