Alumni portrait - Kristina Brend - NTNU Alumni
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Occupation: Advisor at Webstep
Education: Civil engineer in Industrial Economics and Technology Management
Cracking the gender code in technology
The tech industry needs more diversity and more women, so it can develop solutions that reflect the needs of everyone, says Kristina Brend. In 2020 she was crowned one of Norway’s leading women in tech.
Coding is important, but even more so is cracking the gender code in the technology sector. This is why Webstep needs more people like Kristina Brend from Trondheim, it says on the website for Webstep, a technology and consulting company.
Brend, who graduated in 2018 as a Civil Engineer at Industrial Economics and Technology Management, started working for the company right after graduating. She finds it paradoxical that in Norway, one of the world leaders in gender equality, women still make traditional choices in terms of their careers. A quick glance at the list of employees at Webstep shows there are few women working there.
-I hope I can contribute to being a good role model. Technology infiltrates all industries today, so regardless of your career path, knowledge of technology will always be beneficial. Both in terms of being a well informed and critical user of technology, and a competent requester of tech development, says Brend.
Started Lions Club for students
- What is the most important knowledge you gained at NTNU?
- Learning how to learn and knowing there is yet more to learn. This has been particularly important for me because the tech industry is constantly changing. What you knew yesterday might be old news today, says Brend.
While at NTNU, Brend also worked on gaining more knowledge, network, and experiences outside the classroom. She took part in starting several networks, including Lions Club for students.
- What set me aside from most of the other students was that I held positions and was active outside Studentersamfundet and Gløshaugen. Consequently, it took me more than five years to finish my degree, but it was most definitely worth it. Through the networks I gained many contacts in the business world. And it was through my work in the Norwegian Computer Society that I got to know my current employer Webstep.
Likes to «disarm» technology
Girl Geek Dinner, The ODA network, and Chamber of Commerce and Industry are among the networks she actively participates in. She also works determinedly at raising the number of women at Trondheim Developer Conference. In 2020 she was crowned one of Norway’s 50 leading women in the technology sector. This is highly valued by her employer who writes that Brend is recognised for her unwavering willpower and is perceived as an ultimate motivator by her colleagues.
- What motivates you in your work?
- Many things! Engineers love solving problems. I am motivated by spreading knowledge about technology and contributing to people’s conscious relationship to it. Being able to take down barriers for those who might find technology overwhelming motivates me, as well as igniting their curiosity and interest and seeing how they realise that it doesn’t have to be neither complicated nor scary.
There were other reasons why Brend needed a little extra time to complete her studies. She started two companies while at university. One through the required Experts in Teamwork (EiT) where the group worked with the company Norwegian Rescue Drone, where drone technology is used in rescue services in the mountains. Simultaneously, she started her own company as a digital advisor.
Finding solutions for low emission society
Brend works as an IT consultant and has a large variety of responsibilities. Not two days are alike, which is a dynamic she enjoys. Meeting other people and working with them gives her energy, and she describes herself as a kind of “broker” who likes to connect people.
- What are the most interesting challenges you are working on currently?
- Right now, I work with Enova, which is owned by the Ministry of Climate and Environment, helping Norway on the road towards becoming a low emission society. This restructuring is challenging and for both Norwegian households and businesses it can be expensive to choose new and sustainable technology. Particularly if you have the ambition to develop this yourself, and this is where Enova can help. It is rewarding to contribute to the digitising processes and services for such a key player.
She still enjoys giving lectures, for instance for the elderly who needs to learn uses of digital media.
Worried about polarisation
Technology is about finding solutions to problems in society, but technology has also created new problems. It worries her that society has become more polarised, and here she highlights what she sees as the hostile side of technology and a paradox. Digital media facilitates interactions through belonging to a group. In the comments it can appear as if people forget we are individuals. While we previously met people with opposite views, we now isolate ourselves in echo chambers.
- We have a challenge here that must be taken into consideration when developing new systems. A natural part of building digital systems deals with understanding the world, for instance by making data models and categories. Objects are classified in groups, whereas we humans are best when we meet each other as individuals. As technologists we have a responsibility that the systems we build do not contribute to further polarisation and division, but rather opens the discussions, understanding, teaching and development, says Brend.