National Instruments (NI)—the provider of flexible systems that increase productivity and drive rapid innovation—supports progress in society, among other ways, by applying its experience with its global customer base of engineers and scientists to the benefit of future innovators. This is why we at NI Hungary Ltd. take Girls in ICT Day so seriously and, similarly to last year, contributed to the 2015 event with the most popular program any Hungarian tech company had to offer. If only we managed to kindle the curiosity of enough young girls and convince them that ICT and engineering careers were well within their reach, it could go a long way in addressing the shortage of professionals in these fields, which limits the potentials of the Hungarian ICT sector and hardware industry.
After registration, our Girls in ICT Day program started out with an informal discussion about the purpose of this initiative and the future of women in technology. General Manager László Ábrahám courteously welcomed the participants as the only male speaker of the session, stressing the need for their talent at NI Hungary Ltd. as well as in Hungary’s high-tech industries and scientific community. We invited Diána Széles, Debrecen’s first woman vice mayor, and Éva Ötvös, economic director of the local school board, who shared their experiences of succeeding in fields that once used to be considered men’s prerogative. The vice mayor acknowledged that reconciling private life and career might be more challenging for women, as society still sometimes judges their success by double standards. But with passion for their work and especially in such a progressive corporate culture that NI brought to Debrecen, she asserted, it could be accomplished.
Angéla Váradiné Szarka, head of the Electrical Engineering Department of the University of Debrecen, told the girls about her experience of building an academic career in engineering and what they might expect if they continued their studies in her institution. Although currently women make up a small minority of the student body, she said she personally paid special attention to them and that their male peers are a lot more accommodating than men used to be a generation ago. The last speaker of the session, NI Hungary Ltd.’s senior manager for procurement Katalin Rádai introduced the participants to the company and shared with them its fundamental mission: driving progress in society by assisting engineers and scientists in overcoming the engineering grand challenges and making technological breakthroughs. She also let on her own career as a case in point. (Women make up roughly one third of NI Hungary Ltd.’s employees as well as its senior management, the latter figure well exceeding the Hungarian average!) Her closing words highlighted what she believed successful women had in common, regardless of their profession—they dared to venture beyond their comfort zones and try themselves in new things, which she encouraged the girls to do when considering career options.
The day’s programs indeed initiated the participants into what proved to be an unfamiliar world to most of them, namely applied sciences and the operations of a high-tech company. Yet the playfully interactive activities were so engaging that the girls seemed to enjoy every moment and did their best to make their own team win in the overall contest. In teams of ten, they visited the major stages of hardware production and tried their hands in several steps of the manufacturing and testing process. Demonstrations of the various applications of NI technology allowed them to see what kind of solutions make everyday products work, from bridges and cars to phones and computers. At lunchtime, they had the opportunity to ask questions in small groups from women leaders and experts working in various positions at NI Hungary Ltd. over a delicious pizza. Finally, we closed the day with a virtual tour of CERN, the world’s largest particle physics laboratory, guided by two Hungarian women scientists who are conducting cutting-edge research there. After the wide range of career opportunities in industry that the girls had heard about during the day, Anikó Rákai and Noémi Beni showed them that there is also a future in world-class research for the most talented women.
According to the results of the questionnaires completed by 132 of the participants, 95% of them found that our Girls in ICT Day program had made science and technology more interesting for them. 38% would be very happy to work for a company like ours, while another 42% could imagine themselves at such a workplace.
From the girls’ testimonials:
“It was really fascinating; in the factory we were introduced to a whole new world.”
“I had a great time and all of you were so friendly! I would love to return next year.”
“Everybody was really helpful, and we received a lot of advice.”
The day couldn’t have been such a success without the extensive help of 71 colleagues who volunteered their time and enthusiasm to pave the way for the next generation of innovators, and NI Hungary Ltd. thanked them for their efforts.