Women in Tech

Nuria Manuel discusses software QA

8th February 2022
Kiera Sowery

For this month’s Women in Tech piece, Beatrice O’Flaherty interviewed Nuria Manuel, a Quality Assurance Consultant who recounted her impressive engineering career journey. Rich with experience in a diverse range of fields, Nuria has recently founded her startup, Veriom – a company focused on offering quality assurance to its clients’ software.

This article originally appeared in the December '21 magazine issue of Electronic Specifier Design – see ES's Magazine Archives for more featured publications.

Descensitised to adversity

From the age of 14 years old, Nuria knew she wanted to pursue engineering. Despite her curiosity of the subject, she recalled the adversity that she faced as a girl interested in STEM.

Nevertheless, her passion was ignited after a school visit from someone who studied Chemical Engineering. “They talked about the processes involved – it was about creating things out of raw materials. It sounded amazing and like something I would want to do.

“I started communicating to my teachers that I wanted to go into engineering. I noticed it was actually female teachers telling me not to go into it because they thought it was a man’s role in a male-dominated industry.

“It was finally my male Chemistry teacher who told me we need more women in engineering. His encouragement pushed me to go forward. I found that this seemed to be the case across the board – a lot of teachers were preventing female students from going into STEM subjects.”

Upon starting university, Nuria became very conscious of the effect that a lack of encouragement can cause. She was one of three women on her course. She said: “Of course it was overwhelming, but by that point, I’d heard so many people tell me ‘No’ that whenever I heard it I just wanted to work harder. I became desensitised to the word.”

Transitioning between sectors

After studying Chemical Engineering, Nuria worked in a plethora of related industries. These included oil and gas, as well as wastewater treatment and construction.

Nuria then spent four years in a diesel engine manufacturing company, having initially started as a product validation engineer to identify problems reported by customers and find solutions. Such problems related to both hardware and software, which incited a newfound inquisitiveness in Nuria.

Nuria explained her career jump: “There were a lot of changes happening in the industry and across the tech sector. I transitioned from being a product validation engineer into software. I became a senior onboard diagnostics engineer, which involved developing, testing and implementing diagnostics.

“The role was focused on hardware. As part of this, I realised I had a passion for core software. I used my transferable skills from the role I worked in to get a job with a startup. At that point, I wanted to know what it was like to work for a startup in the hopes that one day I could establish my own. “I also wanted the ability to work on core software products – because for me, this was the future of digital transformation.”

Gaining experience

Nuria began working for a startup as a project manager. Within the company she identified some software development areas that could be improved, which were specific to software quality. She started implementing frameworks to improve software quality assurance for the various customers who were consulted by the startup.

Nuria noticed unwelcome parallels between how software quality assurance is implemented and her own experience in the manufacturing industry. “It didn’t make sense,” she said, because software should have “versatility and flexibility”. And as she put it, this should be in contrast – not comparison – to hardware: “hardware degrades over time”.

“I set out to make a framework that would suit customers in making software quality more cost-effective, manageable, predictable, and overall customisable for businesses. That’s when I moved away from the startup and started my own business.”

Turning a dream into a reality

Starting Nuria’s own business brought its challenges. As she reflected: “At first I greatly suffered from imposter syndrome – thinking, ‘I’m not capable of doing this. Why am I doing this? This is probably something people are already doing.’

“However, working for a startup gave me the courage I needed to realise that I had the ability to this. I had really good mentors who pushed and encouraged me to move forward to start my own business.”

As soon as she settled into her new role, though, Nuria found that she loved to be customer facing. She could understand customers’ problems and help to build and maintain innovative products, as well as create partnerships.

When asked about her funding process, Nuria explained that she currently had none. She continued: “I believe that funding is required if you’re in a position where you absolutely need it.

“At this stage, I’m in a position where I want to organically grow the business. I want the right frameworks and processes in place first. Then we seek funding as and when we feel it’s necessary.”

At this early point in the company’s development, Nuria currently has four volunteers in her team. For customer projects she contracts people accordingly.

Choosing values and goals at the beginning 

Nuria was vehement about outlining two core values for her company from its genesis. She expanded on her first principal: “Happy people result in a happy business. It’s important to invest in the people who are working on your projects and make sure that they feel they have opportunities for growth.

“It’s extremely important to me that we support mental health. I’ve worked in places where you can get burnt out. I didn’t want anyone working on my projects to feel that way.”

Nuria’s second value is honesty.

She said: “Being upfront with customers – being upfront with them and giving them visibility – is very important in building a partnership. I find that customers tend to respond much better to business this way and they prefer you to tell them when something isn’t working, or that you’ve made a mistake. This is how we rectify things: through communication.”

Aiming for gender diversity

Currently, the gender split in Nuria’s team isn’t what she’d like it to be: scouting women in the field of technology can be difficult. To combat this, Nuria said: “I’ve connected with a lot of communities within tech and started linking with more women in the sphere of software engineers.”

Nuria finds that being a women in tech is problematic for various reasons. As she explained: “I find that, because there are not enough women, you end up almost being the token woman in some situations. Even though you can see that companies really do want to hire more women, they end up using the woman who has joined to say ‘Hey, we have a woman!’ – which isn’t necessarily the right way to recruit.

“I think you need to be in those spaces where you can gain more women in tech. Go to events, participate in communities for women in tech. Show women that your business is open and you invite their skill sets.”

Admittedly, Nuria said that implementing gender quotas was not something she’s wholly in favour of. When asked about them, she responded: “They can lead to positive and negative outcomes.

“An example of a negative outcome that I noticed was an engineering company that decided in one recruitment unit to only hire females. That then meant that men who applied were automatically rejected for being men.

“That’s not necessarily something we want in equality.

“I haven’t seen enough situations where companies are actively going to spaces where they can make a change and get young girls to understand that they can go into STEM subjects and remove the bias.

“I see a lot of companies talking about the need for a 50/50 split, but they’re only focusing on the candidates coming in. They’re not doing anything to increase the number of candidates. What’s causing these low numbers? Are you recruiting in the right places? Is the application process limited to just your website? You need more diverse talent.”

Advice to female engineers

Nuria wants to help the future generation of female engineers in any way she can. Her advice to any women looking to enter a STEM field was: “Don’t listen to the naysayers. If you truly believe that this is something you want to do, then do it.

“Put a plan together. What is the structure that you see for yourself from a university or career perspective? Start doing your research. Also, failure leads to continuous improvement. For example, you may have failed an exam. Don’t see failure as a negative: you can always go forward and do more.

“Finally, look for support. Mentorship is important. If you feel like you need a mentor to help you gain confidence to overcome imposter syndrome or help you in understanding how you can build your career within engineering or technology, then get one.

"Also, find a circle of people who are in a similar situation to you so that you have an accountability partner. This is someone you can go back to even if you doubt yourself – they’ll be there to give you a little push when you need it.”

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