Women In Tech: Finding Your Voice, Owning Your Strengths, And Making Space For Your Passions
We’ve been inspired as of late by women who are stepping into uncharted territory, taking up space, and embracing the many dimensions [and roles] that come with womanhood. Pioneering “the new” comes with a few deep breaths + trusting that your voice has the impact to help move the needle towards change. At least, that’s what we gleaned from our recent conversation with Kimly Phamvan.
Kimly, a senior product owner + ceramic artist, opened up to us about being a woman in tech. From pursuing representation, finding her voice and embracing her strengths, she shares insecurities x victories that have benefitted both her career and others around her. “Representation matters, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to show others that ‘diversity in the workforce’ results in a diversity of ideas — ultimately, this benefits both a company and team overall.” If that wasn’t inspiring enough, Kimly also runs a side-hustle creating gorgeous ceramic pieces as a creative endeavor + passion project. Whether she’s throwing new mugs for a pop-up shop or inserting her idea into a brainstorm at the office, Kimly’s introverted personality doesn’t hold her back, as she recognizes the value her voice brings to the table.
To the woman seeking to find her stride in her workplace, community or at home, we think you’ll enjoy Kimly’s wise words — inspiring us to embrace where we’re at + take up space confidently to spark change + create lasting impact. Listen in xx
Aisle 9: How did you get your start working in technology?
Kimly Phamvan: Working in technology was more serendipitous than anything else. After doing a marketing internship at a startup and learning that marketing wasn’t really for me, they asked if I’d be interested in working on their product team. The rest was history. . .
On that team, I worked with a designer, a copywriter, and a developer. It took research and time for us to become on the subject matter and to really learn how to empathize with [the client’s] problems. Empathy is a core factor in product management — technology can only go so far if the people behind it don’t truly understand the people they’re building products for.
A9: What has been your personal experience specifically as a woman in the tech space?
KP: As someone who has often been one of the only [or one of a few] women on the team, it’s easy to tell yourself the lie that you’re on your own without any advocates. My experience has taught me that assuming you’re alone is a dangerous lie. I’ve had male leaders advocate for equal pay, push for more diversity within teams, and encourage me to share my thoughtful insights in rooms that tend to be filled with a lot of loud voices.
As a woman in tech, I’ve learned that just because someone says the most words in a meeting doesn’t mean it’s the most helpful. Slowing down and being intentional with how you use your voice will take you far and not go unnoticed, regardless of who is in the audience.
A9: What is your advice to women who are the minority in their workplaces or environments who may be intimidated to enter male-dominated fields?
KP: I still remember my first day walking into the office at a startup, and the first thing I heard was, “Is that a girl’s voice?” That wasn’t the last time where I was the only woman on the team, or even within the company. While it can be daunting, I quickly realized if I had turned down opportunities just because I was “the first female” on these teams, there wouldn’t be anyone else like me represented.
I carry that mindset with me as an Asian-American living in a predominantly white community, as well. While it’s not necessarily the responsibility I would have asked for, it does give a deeper meaning to my work. Representation matters, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to show others that ‘diversity in the workforce’ results in a diversity of ideas — ultimately, this benefits both a company and team overall. My advice would be to find your strengths and own it.
I took a StrengthFinders test a few years into my career and hated that “harmony” and “positivity” were my top two because they didn’t seem strong enough in the tech world. Once I finally learned to embrace those strengths, I was able to see a positive improvement in my career.
A9: Where do you find retreat + relaxation away from your work?
KP: I was always the introverted kid who would sit in my sun patio making up my own creative projects for myself, and I’m very much the same way to this day. You can usually find me in my home studio throwing pottery or having a nice evening with my husband either reading a book or watching reruns of Parks and Rec.
A9: Tell me about your ceramics business + how you got your start:
KP: I first started throwing when I met a friend in a church small group who made so many creative pieces and was incredibly generous with them. One day, I told him that I wanted to do the same thing, and he invited me to join his studio. I haven’t stopped playing with clay since that night 7 years ago. When I moved to Fayetteville, AR, I didn’t know many people and was really craving community. The public studio in town quickly became a place I would spend Saturday afternoons, humbling myself in front of the wheel [I wasn’t very good yet]. It wasn’t too long before my house was filled with pieces and so I started to sell them. I’ve been so grateful for the people who have believed in my small business and have helped me grow my vision for where I want the business to go.
A9: Where does your inspiration for your art x ceramic designs come from? Are there any women or artists who inspire + spur you on [personally x professionally]?
KP: Travel definitely brings inspiration to my art. The clean forms from Scandanavian and Japanese pottery pair function and form together beautifully. From there, I’ve started applying my love of sketching and embroidery into my latest style of mishima designs on pieces.
There are different women in my life that inspire me — who I see care deeply about the people they interact with in their work or within their shops. I want to see this mentality in my own career as I create products:
Bea Apple and Trisha Logan, founders and owners of Hillfolk, have rejuvenated what craft and community looks like. They don’t just care about good quality products, but the stories and the people behind them. Natalie Freeman is another whose words remind me of why I do what I do — she doesn’t just care about the output of her shop, but the people who walk through the doors every day. Faith Hundley x Molly Barnes at Meus Floral embrace the natural beauty behind flowers — I’ve especially appreciated Molly’s cyanotype work, transforming the three dimensional beauty of flowers onto paper or fabric. Lastly, Kiara Page has taught me so much not just around specific skills with pottery, but also the importance of the process and learning from it.
There are days in the office where imposter’s syndrome can hit hard, but I have to remember that learning and appreciating the process of my work is just as important as the output.
A9: How does creativity play a part in your life, both personally + professionally?
KP: As a professional in the technology industry and as a potter, I ask “what if” questions a lot. I’ve learned asking these questions out loud, not just keeping them within my own mind [hello, introvert], can be the start to creative conversations within your team. There’s a bit of humility in the process of putting your ideas out there, and sometimes those ideas are rejected — that can still hurt. You can be surprised though at how often people will listen, and offer their own insights, to make an original idea that much better. That’s where there’s beauty in a diversity of ideas in the creative process.
You can find Kimly’s ceramics on Instagram for spotlights on new pieces x pop-up shop announcements.