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Inspiring Stories: Mia Meldgaard

As a society, we tend to focus on titles and roles, and we forget that behind each title there is a person who has a story to tell. And truly every person’s story is unique.
In honor of International Women's day, we interview inspiring women from the community on the story of how they got into Tech, and where they are today.

In this post, I interview Mia Meldgaard, who is based in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Meet Mia Meldgaard

I am a fullhearted supporter of women in tech. The goal is to build communities, share knowledge and inspire women.
Now together with other women I am organizing Nordic Women in Tech Awards and WonderTech Summit in Copenhagen, a technology conference especially addressed to women, where we want to encourage more and more women. It is needed to show role models for young women and show the world diversity in tech and that women are able to do more than society often expects from them. 
I am a board member and also do workshops for girls about creativity and tech in the NGO DigiPippi, which helps me to be visible and empower the next generation.

Twitter: @mivsen
LinkedIn: Mia Meldgaard

When did you first become interested in technology and what sparked this interest?
I remember visiting a friend when I was about 10 or 11. Her father had a room and in that room, there was a "large" and I mean "really large" box connected to a strange TV of a sort. "Aha" and I pondered, what could be so important that it more or less had a room for itself? And that stayed with me, maybe unconsciously for quite a while, but I continued my childhood and adolescence as a consumer without understanding the tech revolution that unfolded around me.

What education do you have? 
I have a Cand. IT from IT University of Copenhagen. The question regarding what educational path I would set for myself started to grow inside me. I had a talent and drive to share and develop knowledge, alongside a creative side, in the form of crafts and arts. I decided to put that into a teacher's degree and if not conquer the world, then empower children to be better and believe in themselves. I completed my education and should have been out and using my newly acquired skills but the world had moved on at such speed, and the educational system had shifted focus towards an information society. And it kind of hit me... Why not combine teaching and tech, so I enrolled in the IT University of Copenhagen. They had recently opened a curriculum that wasn't exclusively focused on hardcore coding/engineering but also embraced social technology with a good twist of coding.

Describe your way towards your first job in tech; how did you land this job?
By the time I finished my degree at IT university, the financial crisis of 2009 had worked it's way into the tech industry. I dug in my heels and started applying for positions I felt relevant and interesting. But to no avail, I got a feeling that, at least in Denmark, the mainstream industry didn't really understand the potential of diversified candidates aka. women. I spent about a year knocking on doors and through networking and perseverance landed a position as the first woman in a SaaS startup in the middle of Copenhagen. I understood my role at the company, and even though at times I suffered from "imposter syndrome", it was an awesome experience, even if I was a bit underpaid. Here's a tip to remember: you are probably worth more in salary than you value yourself.

Do you have any role models that influenced you?
Jakob Steglemann. He has had a TV program called Troldspejlet for close to 30 years. For a really long time, it was the only outlet for gaming, gadgets and popular culture in Denmark. Now that he is getting older, he has adapted to embrace a wider audience and I just love his energy.

Who were/are the biggest supporters in your career?
If I have to pinpoint one person, Nikoline Lohmann, an awesome lady, who I met at Reboot, the first Tech conference in Denmark. After I finished at IT University, I started at her company Digital Storylab, making digital storytelling workshops. I felt comfortable and able to grow my skills to a professional level.

Tell us more about your current job – e.g. what do you like most about your role?
At the moment, I work as a software tester in an agile development team. That entails making sure the system is functioning properly and also providing support on the daily incidents on our mainframe. I'm also managing our Test data environment. Right now, I'm not yet developing full-time, but maybe one day I will. I'm on a great code-journey and I love being deep down in the heavy software business. It's great fun as I have the opportunity to learn from my experienced and competent co-workers and feel my inputs are making headway in the day-to-day operations.

What do you do in your free time?
Playing with gadgets, pushing gadgets on my family and friends, - "haha", though I remember to take long walks outdoors. Besides that, I am a network junkie and I give back to the community by #codinglove and mentoring

 What advice will you give to women and girls who dream about a career in tech?
Change the playing field! Don't necessarily fit in, but create your own space and grow in it. And the most important advice: own your product and be proud of it. Everything can be complicated but you are not making everything, you are only making your own little corner.

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