We first met Anja Schumann roughly one year ago at Mindspace Tel Aviv. As a member, she was part of our fast-growing family. Schumann was well versed in the world of Business Informatics (BI) – a discipline that combines information technology (IT), informatics, and concepts of management. It led her to work with well-established enterprises like Lenovo and Tchibo, where she was responsible for transforming business processes through the integration of information systems. But working in the tech world as a female proved, at times, to be difficult. It was challenging to stand out as a woman in an industry where males held the majority of key decision-making and influencer roles.
Schumann set out to challenge this norm. She joined the startup world and sought to empower women. On her search for the right way to do so, she came across TechMakers: a Google initiative that provides women in technology with a community, visibility, and resources. “It’s about bringing women together to develop and program, and building a community of like-minded individuals,” she says.
TechMakers has chapters in major cities all over the world. Schumann brought the initiative to Hamburg in January of 2016, and has since garnered a great team of mentors, organizers, and participants. Her goal in Hamburg is “to provide the community with the knowledge needed to build a tech startup.” Meetups often involve hands on sessions, to complement Schumann’s belief that learning is done best through doing. “I am excited by the strong community feel that we already have”, she says.
The inspiration for Schumann bringing TechMakers to Hamburg was her interaction with Israel-based She-Codes during her time in Tel Aviv. Similar to TechMakers, SheCodes also unites women under a coding framework; The program seeks to increase programming literacy amongst women significantly, and as such, offers guided coding sessions to the curious. “I really liked the idea [of SheCodes],” says Schumann. “I had been to so many tech meetups where I felt like the odd-one-out because I was a woman.”
Schumann wanted to bring a similar initiative to her hometown of Hamburg. She discovered the TechMakers chapter in Berlin, and was drawn to their concept. So she organized the same for the women of Hamburg. “My goal is to bring more diversity to the tech world. When I see how many women are really interested and coming to our meetups, I know it is possible – we just need a different approach,” she says.
During her time in Israel, Schumann was exposed to Mindspace and the world of coworking. Her friends recommended she look into the space when seeking a spot to work from and get involved with the local startup scene. “I was impressed by the flexibility – other places didn’t have short-term contracts,” she says, “Mindspace was my office in Tel Aviv for one month. At the time, I was working on a different startup idea and liked the feel of the Mindspace family.” The interior design, bubbling community, and caring management, all made her feel at home – and she was happy to find the same community waiting for her back in her long-time home with her return to Hamburg. “I am happy to have the same quality of coworking in Hamburg,” she says. “We have a lot to learn from the Israeli startup ecosystem, and Mindspace brings some of that spirit to Hamburg.”
Schumann chose Mindspace as the backdrop to TechMakers in Hamburg due to its energy and already existing status as a startup hub. “It’s a great place to bring women together to discuss entrepreneurship and tech because people are already working here on future solutions,” she says.
Women TechMakers creates an environment where women can thrive, says Schumann. Up until now, the initiative has been a great success and attracted a slew of women interested in tech. While the high-tech world is still “a boy’s club where women may feel out of place,” corporations are aware that they need to promote diversity and close in on the gender gap. “There’s a lot of support out there for women right now,” says Schumann. “And this will continue to grow.”
Schumann encourages women to step outside of their comfort zone and stretch the limits of supposed boundaries. “Women actually played a big role in the industry of computing,” she says. “Many of the early 20th century programmers were female, we’ve just forgotten about it over the years.” Now, she says, is the time for any curious woman to challenge herself and consider a career in this thriving sector.
When asked about the future of the workforce, Schumann expresses her belief that the “environment will become more flexible” and stray away from the constraints of the 9-to-5. “The classical career job is eroding – people are taking control over their professional life by going out on their own and having diversified income streams,” she explains. In accordance, flexible working patterns are becoming the norm. And coworking is the perfect solution to accommodate the shifting norm, “bringing together a perfect mix of multidisciplinary collaborations.”