Gina was born and raised in the UK, her father is British, and her mother is Filipino, she has an unconventional background. She does not have a background in tech and actually did not complete her formal education. Her first career was a Cabin Crew for ten years at British Airways. During that time, she met her husband who is in tech and together they started a small business in the technology industry. She managed to juggle two careers as a cabin crew and family business in the UK.
However, she decided to give up flying in 2006 because their business grew, had children, and one of her husband’s clients offered him a job in Singapore. So, in 2010 the family moved to Singapore and launched Connected Women, from there she embarked on her career journey as a full time Woman in Technology.
Here is her story.
#1 How is your journey as a Woman in Tech?
I’ve never really considered myself a techie as I never “fell in love” with technology itself. What I love about technology is how it helps people, and how empowering it is.
I was working as a Cabin Crew member when I met my husband. I had no interest in technology but when we had children, my husband who was in tech, decided to set up a small IT business. We used technology so I could help him with the business while I was flying. I would fly all around the world and login to our office from my hotel room, and print out client invoices. This was in 2002 when remote work wasn’t something that most people knew about!
In 2005, I joined a women’s business networking organisation in the UK called The Athena Network. I started noticing that many women in the network had excellent skills and a wealth of experience, but they were not confident when it came to technology. I became quite well known as an advocate for technology in the UK network, and when we moved to Singapore in 2010 for my husband’s work, I launched Athena in Singapore and continued my personal advocacy for women and technology.
In 2013, I founded Connected Women because I really wanted to focus on encouraging women to use and embrace technology. We worked with a lot of big tech companies in Singapore to provide training for women as part of our shared mission to help women leverage technology for business success.
During my time in Singapore, I met a lot of Filipino domestic workers who had no choice but to leave home to look for opportunities overseas. This made me sad because my mother is a former domestic worker who is from a very small town in the Philippines. She left her home in the 1970s to look for a job so she could support her family and decades later, this situation hasn’t changed for so many Filipinos.
I moved back to the Philippines with my family in 2016 and launched Connected Women here with my passionate co-founder, Ruth Yu-Owen.
#2 Are there any challenges you found in your career?
My career path was not very traditional. I didn’t finish my university degree and became a Cabin Crew, and then an entrepreneur and community builder. I think as an entrepreneur you have more control over your decisions so most challenges I experienced were just normal business problems related to growing and funding a business. As a woman, I think the biggest challenge is still balancing a career with family responsibilities. This is why having access to flexible, location independent work is so important. It’s also important to have enough support from your team and family. Too many women give up work to start a family, because they don’t have options that give them enough flexibility, or because they don’t have the support they need.
Regardless of what challenges I have experienced, I am definitely the type of person who loves to solve problems. I think this mindset is why I am entrepreneurial and why I love innovation.
#3 As a wife and mother of three sons, how do you manage your career and family?
I have been lucky in many ways. I was always close to my parents and my in-laws, so we’ve always been fortunate and privileged to have a lot of help with our kids, especially when they were small. I also have a very forward minded husband who has always encouraged me to follow my passions, even when we were not in a financial position that allowed us to take risks.
And of course, technology has always played a big part in our family, being able to work from anywhere at any time gave me the flexibility to help run the business, continue my flying career for 10 years, and raise a family. So many women have to choose between having a family or their career. I hope that as technology continues to evolve and as employers recognise the importance of providing flexible, location independent work, things will change.
This isn’t just the right thing to do, but it makes good business sense. Business leaders, especially in the technology industry, are always talking about lack of talent. Retaining female talent in the workforce is a practical and viable solution to the talent crisis. It also helps create more diversity in male dominated industries like STEM.
#4 What is the interesting part you found in the Tech industry?
When my husband and I started our small business in the UK in 2002, we were initially just trying to find a way to earn extra income to support our young family. We started out buying and selling laptops online and built a website where you could order a made to order laptop for gaming. I did the marketing and customer service, he imported parts and built the laptops.
Then one day, when I was on a trip to New York, I went to a cafe and saw one of the first commercial WiFi hotspots being tested. I was amazed! Customers were able to go online wirelessly while drinking their coffee. When I went back to the UK we started specialising in WiFi hotspots and deployed the very first commercial WiFi pilot in a residential building.
We both love to play with technology and experiment with solutions. My husband comes in from the technology angle and I look at it from the solutions perspective. It’s important to focus on your strengths and work with others who compliment you.
I personally find the potential for Artificial Intelligence very exciting. There are so many real world problems that can be solved with the development of AI, as long as we are mindful about what we build and how it is used.
At Connected Women, we have a flagship program called Elevate AIDA (Artificial Intelligence Data Annotation). The program aims to equip women from grassroots communities with market-aligned data annotation skills for the AI industry. With these in-demand skills, we can provide them with jobs they can do from home.
Data annotation skills including tagging, classification, and processing text and images for AI applications. Our clients and partners include PLTD, Union Bank, ScaleHub and many others.
Many women come to us without any educational background or experience in technology or AI. After they graduate from our training, we give them access to remote and flexible work, and make sure they are paid a decent wage and have opportunities to upskill.
Many of them are not only earning additional income for their household, but have also found their passion in this exciting industry. We see their confidence grow as they learn how to take on more complex work, and it’s amazing. We are really proud of our Elevate AIDA graduates and plan to expand this program to create a bigger impact.
#5 What is your dream for Connected Women?
Connected Women is still a very young company but I see us scaling quite rapidly considering the demand for the type of work we do. With the rapid growth of the AI industry (the Global Artificial Intelligence Market size was valued at USD 136.6 Billion in 2022!) human talent is very much needed.
With Connected Women being a for-profit social enterprise, we also want to prove that doing good does not have to be at the expense of building a profitable business. We hope to inspire other businesses to be more socially responsible when they hire, to consider gender responsive business practices and to join us in our vision to make sure no women are left behind in the future of work.
#6 What is your advice for other fellow women in the tech industry?
- Women in tech- speak up and tell your story!
Unfortunately, today we still do not have enough female mentors, role models, leaders in the tech industry. Your voice matters and will encourage other women. Let’s speak up against gender stereotypes.
- Stop saying “I’m not a techie”.
Everyone is a techie in this day and age, so don’t be afraid of technology. Technology changes so rapidly you need to be willing to learn new things every day to be successful in the tech industry.
- Be curious!
Watch the trends, be interested and open to how technology can improve the world for the better. There is so much that technology can do to create a positive impact in our lives and the lives of others.
#7 Who would you want to thank and appreciate for helping you in the tech industry?
Connected Women would not be where it is today without the amazing contribution of each and everyone on the team. My co-founder Ruth Yu-Owen was the catalyst, bringing in her business development expertise, network connections and continuous hard work to create the partnership that helped us grow. I’m so grateful to her and the many, many partners who have supported us in our mission. We still have a long road ahead and a lot of work to do!
Also, my husband, who introduced me to the tech industry, and mentored me over the years. I learned to love tech and became a geek in my own right thanks to his encouragement! He was also willing to quit his job in Singapore so we could move back to the Philippines to launch Connected Women. He is now our CTO, Bobby Jimenez.
My friend Yohana Habsari, founder of the Indonesian Baby Wearers community, has a mantra that successful families are all about teamwork, and if a husband and wife work as a team, they will always achieve more together. I truly believe this, and I admire the work she is doing to empower families in Indonesia.
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