Sheree Atcheson, one of the key note speakers of the second edition of the IAA Global Conference, is the Board-Appointed Ambassador of Women Who Code, an organisation that aims to support women in tech. Sheree is a powerful, determined and courageous woman who strives to give a voice to those in need, such as women in a (white) male dominated industry, the role models of Sri Lanka (through her NGO I Am Lanka) and also her business clients at Deloitte.
We chatted with Sheree to see where she gets her strength, to learn more about her demanding projects and her overview on equality.
You strive to empower people around you – women in tech through Women Who Code, the people of Sri Lanka through I Am Lanka – but who (or what) empowered you?
I have regularly said about how I would never have chosen a career in technology if it weren’t for the excitement and passion my A Level Computing teacher had in secondary school. Excitement for work is infectious and he always pushed me to my limits with my work, even back then when I was just 16-18.
Tell us a bit about Women Who Code. How has it evolved since you initially joined and where do you see it in the next years?
WWCode is the world’s largest non-profit dedicated to women excelling in tech careers. We are over 140,000 members strong, with a presence in over 50 cities. We have given over $2.5 million worth of scholarships and ran over 700 free events.
When I began with WWCode 5 years ago, we had approximately 5000 members. We have grown substantially and I fully see us continuing that growth in the next coming years, with many more fantastic global partnerships on the horizon.
How can you cope with a corporate job, leadership side projects and so many key notes or panels in events across the globe?
I struggle. A lot. I view myself as an incredibly powerful person, and that means I put a lot of pressure on myself. I am constantly striving for my next step as I don’t like to be bored or plateau. I have had many burn outs in my career, and last year, I had to take substantial time away from work to recollect and regroup. I rely on my husband a lot to help me take a step back – something I’m not good at doing yet, but getting better. It’s not easy but I am doing what I love. Of course, there are times when I wished I had never pushed myself into the positions I have now, however the impact I’ve been able to have is so humbling that I can’t help but want to continue. I will be taking a next step at some stage which will see my full-time role become Diversity and Inclusion focused, as that’s where I see myself.
Tell us a bit about your vision for I Am Lanka and its results, so far.
The I Am Lanka organisation is here to highlight Sri Lanka’s local & global role models who have accomplished great things in their lives and careers.We are working to empower & inspire our people through showcasing the current Sri Lankan change makers, in order to foster innovation & change in our and the next generation.
At end of February ‘18:
Watch Sheree's I am Lanka role model video:
We are a movement, inspired to change & empower our generations.
What’s your view on gender equality in tech and how do you tackle the glass ceiling issue?
Gender equality doesn’t exist in technology yet. There is a lot of great work being done but we have to continue to push. Additionally, we must remember that gender equality is not just focused on white women, but women of colour also. Achieving gender equality with no ethnic diversity is no use – that is not diverse, but rather creates another type of separation which actively negatively affects business. Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity outperform their competitors by 15%, and those in the top quartile for ethnic diversity outperform competitors by 35%. We cannot become complacent. And that means all people standing up and accepting their privilege (in whatever form that may look like) and using that to amplify non-majority voices.
Sheree will be an exciting & insightful presence at the IAA Global Conference, on 2-3rd October at the National Theatre of Bucharest.
Make sure to save your spot!