Noelia Díaz Bernal’s career is impressive proof that women can make it to the top in the tech industry. As Head of Big Data Hub at DEKRA DIGITAL in Málaga, she has been successfully leading a 34-strong team for two years. Ms. Bernal has been loyal to DEKRA for more than two decades, even starting her career there as an intern after graduating.
Noelia is a role model in “Women in Tech”.
In this interview, she talks about her job, her role as a leader, women in the tech world, and today’s recruiting and retention challenges.
Can you tell us a few words about yourself and your role at DEKRA DIGITAL?
I have been strategically and operationally responsible for managing DEKRA DIGITAL’s Big Data Hub for just over two years. However, DEKRA has accompanied me my entire professional life since I started here 23 years ago as an intern after studying software engineering. Up to my current job as Head of Big Data Hub, I held various positions in the company in software development, project management, and as an analyst. All this experience and the knowledge I have gained help me do my job as well as possible together with my team.
Currently, there are 34 people in the team – by the end of 2022, there are expected to be 40 – divided into the three areas of sales, operations and development. We want to position ourselves as a data-driven tech center serving companies worldwide. To achieve this and meet the high standards we set for ourselves and our customers, we have built a team of top experts in big data, data science and machine learning here in Málaga, which enables us to create innovative state-of-the-art software solutions for our customers.
We are very proud of what we have achieved so far. Last year we were able to increase our EBIT by around 70%. In the future, we want to grow even more and open up new business areas for ourselves.
What sets DEKRA DIGITAL apart for you? Where is the company headed in the future?
DEKRA has always been a company that has offered its customers a diverse range of analog & digital products and services. The creation of DEKRA DIGITAL has made it possible to plug digital services into DEKRA’s portfolio even faster, while creating an environment where today’s tech talent wants to work. At the same time, we’re thinking big: as a tech center, we want to become a globally recognized address for software development, digitalization and automation with special expertise in the application and scaling of big data solutions in the TIC sector, and to be perceived internally and externally as a competent technology partner.
Today, people like to talk about skill sets and mindsets: How important are actual skills and personal attitude or motivation when it comes to pursuing a career as a manager?
I think the two are mutually dependent. On the one hand, you need the right mindset: you have to be motivated, show initiative, be creative, not be afraid of new challenges and take risks. You have to be strong to handle stress and lead teams. On the other hand, experience in this sector helps you handle many situations better. It enables you to have different perspectives and to know how to tackle each challenge, and it also makes you well equipped for a leadership position where you have to take risks without being afraid of them.
My personal aspiration is to help my employees to be their best selves by supporting them professionally and mentally as they progress in their careers, and by motivating them.
“You cannot grow alone; you need to lift your team first.”– Noelia Díaz Bernal
The ‘war for talent’ is a real problem for many employers. What can we do to recruit and retain the best employees?
Competition for talent in the tech industry is fierce. People today, especially young people, attach great importance to combining family and career and having more free time – this is very important for women in particular. That’s why at DEKRA DIGITAL we offer proven benefits such as mobile working, flexible working hours, individual solutions for maternity and paternity leave, and Málaga-specific half-day working when it gets too hot in the summer.
Working in a good environment and feeling comfortable at work are just as important to people. The location of the office is also very important in this context. Here in Málaga, our office was still outside the city a few years ago and you could only get there by car. We deliberately changed that. Today we are in a central location and have new and modern premises. Of course, this also makes it easier to connect to public infrastructure, with short distances to daycare centers, buses and trains. Apart from the work/life balance, DEKRA DIGITAL is also a good employer because we see people, we respond flexibly to them, and our employees have the opportunity to work on exciting and innovative technology projects every day.
Is it easier to attract female tech talent these days? What can we do to advance equality?
Unfortunately, there are still far too few women opting for the IT sector in Spain. Maybe our traditional structures are the reason why women find it harder to imagine themselves in tech jobs. As far as DEKRA DIGITAL is concerned, we are fortunate to have some very valuable female talent on our team.
Regrettably, I believe that we will have to fight for years in Spain to increase the presence of women in IT professions and also to get them into positions of responsibility. Likewise, the salary gap between men and women in our sector must disappear. As a female manager, I also see myself acting as a role model. In negotiations, for example, I support female employees in correctly assessing their salary or their value.
What advice would you give women on how to succeed in the tech industry?
I would say to them that they should be brave! Don’t be afraid to take risks, make decisions and take responsibility. It is human to make mistakes. If you don’t make mistakes, you won’t learn anything, which means you won’t develop personally or be successful in your career. At DEKRA DIGITAL, we have the motto “fail fast, learn fast”. Not every idea has the potential to be followed up. Occasionally, unprofitable projects or ideas are abandoned. However, what may seem like a professional failure at the time is actually an important step in your personal development and should not be underestimated.
As a second piece of advice, I would like to offer the following: Seek out role models! Women in the tech industry often lack role models and mentors with whom they can talk as equals. Women who want to pursue a career deliberately do not address their questions and ‘concerns’ to male superiors so that they are not classified as ‘weak’. A mentorship can help here. Women can benefit from the experience of others, which can help them steer the right course both professionally and privately.
This is precisely why I would like to use my pioneering role and share my many years of experience with other women. To reduce women’s reservations about IT jobs, we are currently working on a mentorship program to appeal to female tech talent and give them insights into the world of DEKRA DIGITAL. I will be on hand as a mentor to provide advice and support for further career planning and, with a bit of luck, we will help some talented people enter the company directly, as I was able to do back then.