“What I find rewarding is solving problems,” says Sofia Tania, Tech Principal at Thoughtworks. “When faced with a complex problem, I like absorbing a lot of information, almost so much that it spills over. Then, I go over it again and again, researching and questioning, until things start clicking, and I can see a sensible path forward.”
And these problems aren’t necessarily tech-related — Tania’s job involves finding the best way forward for processes and people, too. “Figuring out a path forward is one thing,” says Tania, “but moving people to align on the same path when you don’t necessarily have enough authority is even harder. But when things start falling into place, it’s very rewarding.”
When she puts the pieces together, Tania achieves a goal that is very important to her — being a role model for more junior women technology professionals.
We recently spoke with Tania about her work at Thoughtworks, how she became a leader and what she does to support younger women in technology.
Tell us about your job.
I’ve been in the Tech Principal role at Thoughtworks for the past 1.5 years or so. It’s a technical leadership role at the account level and across teams in that particular account. That means I’m responsible for the systems and other related aspects (e.g. tech/API/data strategy) our teams deliver.
How do you interact with your team as a manager?
Generally, when there are new workstreams starting, I stay very close to the team to understand the problem area better and ensure the team is moving in a sensible direction. Over time, I step back and let the team run autonomously, checking in every now and then.
Other times, the client loops us into a new problem space, and I’ll see how our teams can help out. I also sometimes assist with “unblocking” our teams. Depending on the nature of unblocking needed, sometimes that calls for me to be an engineer, product manager, data analyst, or even a mix.
What traits/skills do you have that help you succeed as a technology professional?
This may be meta, but I think it’s sensing what’s required of me to make what I’m involved in at a particular time successful and then committing to getting that done.
While I may not be the fastest, smartest or most charismatic, every team I’m in has objectives, and I ask myself: What are they? Are they clear in the first place? Is there alignment on those objectives, and do we know the first steps to achieve them? I also try to sense the team dynamics — Which parts have others covered? Where are the gaps? I look for those gaps and then either try to fill them or get others to see and fill them.
For example, in the first few months of the pandemic, I was involved in facilitating a series of workshops on Enterprise Modernization for a new client. I was the last to join the team, which already consisted of very senior and capable technologists. I was intimidated but tried to focus on how I can contribute. It turns out that while the team is very capable, they are all pulled in many directions due to their other work commitments, so our planning for the workshop was very loose.
I came in and fleshed out the plan, and, whenever it had to change, I made sure the team knew how they could contribute. In addition, to ensure the workshop was relatable for clients, I spent time understanding what systems they had, what the systems had to accomplish and how they interacted. To do so, I used time I knew the rest of the team didn’t have because of their other commitments.
What’s your No. 1 piece of advice for women looking to start a career in technology?
Believe in yourself (impostor syndrome is very real but try to acknowledge and then push past it anyway), find the intersection of what you’re good at / interested in and what the team you’re in needs to be successful, and find people who will support you and your growth.
How has Thoughtworks supported you in your career?
One way Thoughtworks has supported me is with training. Thoughtworks sent me to global leadership development programs, then architecture programs and more, so it felt like the company was looking out for me. These trainings helped me be more comfortable with certain new skills and break down some limits I’d inadvertently put on myself.
Another very important component for me is sponsorship and mentorship (training can only go so far) — the trust that I can do pretty well in a particular stretch role and people I can reach out to when I’m frustrated or confused. I would attribute a big part of this to certain supportive individuals, but Thoughtworks’ overall culture does support this.
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