I’m Tanja Lichtensteiger and I’m an Engineering Manager at Sky Betting and Gaming based at its offices in Wellington Place, Leeds.
I manage six software engineering Squads and we are all responsible for making our Sky Bet product the best in the industry. I have been working professionally in technology for 18 years since starting as an apprentice software engineer at 16 years old. I discovered my enjoyment for software engineering when I started coding at eight years old and haven’t stopped since.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
Not at all, which would surprise many friends as they have me down as a planner. I stumbled into tech after learning how to code at eight years old and that led me to where I am now. I knew Technology was an industry I wanted to get into as I grew older but I struggled to find the right path. A lot of doors closed on me, including University, so I can’t say things ever went to plan. I feel lucky that I was able to land a very good apprenticeship in Switzerland which set the foundation of my career. Since then I’ve just focused on working hard, learning as much as I can and consistently building great tech products. I never sought the next step, somehow the right opportunities just naturally came my way and I grabbed them.
Have you faced any challenges along the way?
As a mixed-race woman in Tech I can say from my experience that sexism and racism existed in technology when I started 18 years ago and are present even now. Phrases as “Women aren’t as technical as men”, “Women don’t belong in tech” or “why are you here? Aren’t you the cleaner?” bring up memories of past challenges. Thankfully the environment has much improved with a lot more support and people willing to stand up to do what’s right. More of us willing to use our voice.
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
After a long career it’s pretty hard to decide on one. Personally I feel it’s the individual achievements I gained through working with technologists more than technical achievements that mean more to me now. Whether if it’s helping coach a budding software engineer into an extremely capable technical lead over the span of a few years or helping a squad upskill on new technology that they’re excited about. Don’t get me wrong, I love building and successfully delivering amazing technical solutions, but the tech we build will eventually go out of date. Those individual moments of growth are with these people for the rest of their lives.
What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?
Resilience. I’m passionate about technology, but I believe that passion would’ve died a certain death if I listened to the feedback that I “did not belong here” or took every stumble as the end. That bouncebackability needs to be practiced and nurtured, embrace the struggle and come out stronger for it. Because if you can stand up after every fall, you can achieve anything.
How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?
I believe mentoring is a very valuable opportunity for both mentor and mentee to grow. I mentee a couple of women in technology and I find the process not only benefits them, but msyelf as well. It gives me a lot of food for thought. Either different perspectives on tackling a problem or new challenges I would not have come across. It’s satisfying to see my mentees successfully take the steps forward that they want in their career. By being a mentor I am paying forward what others have done for me. I have a couple of informal mentors both in Tech and outside, who I came across naturally and now consider good friends. I believe in having a growth mindset and allow myself to constantly learn from people around me.
If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Parity, what would it be?
Employers need to realise that hiring those only from traditional paths (University degrees) isn’t wise as it excludes amazing talent who come with transferrable skills from other walks of life.
If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?
Some people will find fault in you no matter what, do it anyway!
What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?
I’m looking forward to watching my squads grow not just as excellent technologists but as great human beings while we, together, go solve some extremely complex technical challenges that face Sky Betting and Gaming. It’s exciting and something I can’t wait to get my teeth into. I know that after it, myself and my squads would have gained so much in knowledge and levelled up significantly.