– Meet Rachel Cachia
Can you share a little bit about what it is that you do and what a typical day for you is like?
Any entrepreneur – and especially those who are also parents – will tell you that the so-called work-life balance is one hell of a balancing act. So being the mother of a toddler, my day, of course, starts with toddler-focused duties. Once I’m at the office, I focus my energy on the two companies that I’m involved with – VSQUARED, a digital creative studio that focuses on digital and video marketing, and GADGETS, our infotainment hub about everything tech and the online world. I start off my days at the office by making myself a coffee – that I definitely cannot do without. Once I get my caffeine fix, I go on to meet the team, attend client meetings and carry on with continuous collaboration with the team with respect to strategy, problem-solving and of course, creating. I don’t think you can ever really refer to any of my days as typical, which is the great part about running this type of business.
‘Gadgets’ strives to be the pace-setter when it comes to reviewing and discussing the latest innovations. How did you get to where you are today? Did you always have an interest in technology?
With GADGETS, our idea was to popularise technology and technological developments – we wanted to bring out the beauty of technology and fascinating technological developments, and the various ways in which they can improve our lives if we use them properly. We’re very proud to have been pioneers in the local TV scene by introducing the first and only TV show on tech when GADGETS came about 12 years ago. We have built upon our original idea, always ensuring that the presentation of our tech updates is done is an entertaining way. In the same way that falling behind in the world of technology is not an option, GADGETS has been evolving over the years and strives to continue to play a leading role with respect to education and information on tech updates.
A younger me was never really a techie, so for me, it was more of a case of having grown interested in technology over time. I think it was the internet that started getting me hooked; the internet age brought about massive change, and to me, it presented a world of learning and business opportunities.
Falling behind on tech developments would mean missing out on numerous opportunities. And this holds especially true for businesses – there is no way any industry can survive without keeping up with the fast pace of technology.
Do you notice a lack of women in technology? If so, why do you think that’s the case?
In no way can I possibly say that we have solved the issue of gender imbalance in the technology industry, but I cannot say that we haven’t come a long way. Of course, a lot has changed over the years; however, I feel that the pace at which this has been happening is still far too slow. Beating gender stereotypes is somehow still very tough, and a very big part of this has to do with mentalities, which take a long time to change. Societal trends in our recent history, and above all the models used in our education sector are sadly a reflection of the low number of women working in the tech industry.
Interestingly, the countries in Europe that have the highest proportion of women in tech are the Eastern European nations with a communist legacy. The reasons are twofold: women were obliged to work under the communist regime, and they would somehow prefer investing in roles in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), rather than the humanities. Under state communism, going for tech subjects felt safer than the humanities due to freedom of expression issues, and STEM also presented options of jobs with more financial security.
But post-WWII Malta and other countries in Europe didn’t exactly encourage women to join the workforce, and if they did, they would often go for teaching jobs and others that gave them enough time to be with their children. And this still holds true, to a certain extent, to this day. There are also not enough role models of women in tech, and many women don’t feel too comfortable going into jobs in what is essentially still a man’s world. Clearly, both employers and employees’ mentalities need to continue to evolve in this respect.
Who are your role models for women in tech?
Growing up, I don’t recall having had any Maltese women role models in the tech industry to look up to and unfortunately, the ones that do exist today aren’t as visible as they should and need to be in order to inspire the future generation of girls. Women currently working in tech and other industries need to be role models for girls and young women who see themselves around the table of decision-makers in any industry.
Having said this, we have some amazing women, one of whom is Adrianna Mangion, who has held senior positions at Microsoft for the past 10 years. Before joining Microsoft, Adrianna worked in a similar role in sales management for Texas Instruments (HKI) in San Diego, California. She also conducted research for NASA in addition to taking an active role in her community through various outreach and community service events.
How could the tech industry be more inclusive for women? Would you say from your own experience, that you’ve seen improvements in diversity over the years?
When Martina Zammit and I introduced GADGETS to the local TV scene, we wanted to take the lead by showing that change is possible. Being the first tech TV show, part of our aim was to show that the world of tech isn’t only for men – far from it! The message was that you have two young women trying to bring about some form of change and we wanted to be leaders in this regard.
As I mentioned, this type of change cannot possibly happen overnight since it deals a lot with mentalities, but we have seen some improvements over the years. We’re definitely seeing more gender equality in society at large, but when you think about many places of work in the technology industry, they are still dominated very heavily by men. Women need to somehow feel like they’re going into a welcoming environment if they’re going to take up a role as a software programmer, for instance. I would say that we need to increase access to tech careers, and the few female role models in tech that exist need to be more visible. If there is a gender pay gap in the tech industry, this needs to be addressed to attract more women to join this work-force, and tech companies should take more ownership when it comes to educating students about technology.
Technology moves so fast, how do you keep up to date?
Technology moves faster than our very fast-paced lives, so keeping current can be somewhat daunting, and as much as we often don’t even have time to sit down to read, I make it a point to do so, every day, even if just for 10 minutes. I find that reading up on technology news and blogs every day is one of the best ways to keep up to date on the latest technological trends. Sometimes I also listen to podcasts or watch Ted Talks, which means that I can then multitask while catching up on tech updates.
What advice would you give to a woman considering a career in the tech industry? What do you wish you had known?
Without a doubt, my underpinning piece of advice is this: love what you do. Let that sink in – choose a field of study/work that brings you joy, that you’re passionate about; and don’t be scared to go against the flow. This, of course, applies to any line of work, but more so for girls and young women who might be considering a career in the tech industry; the opportunities in the digital world are there, they’re up for grabs, often rewarding, well-paid jobs – just go for it. I think one thing that’s especially important is to find women already working in the industry who you can turn to for support, so networking is key in this regard but also finding mentors who would be willing to help you break through any glass ceiling.