Working women are keenly aware of the juggling and multiple-hat-wearing that must be done in the face of the current global health crisis. Professional women in RPA (robotic process automation), whose careers are built around transforming business through efficiency and productivity, are now finding themselves working to maintain productivity, lead teams, and meet KPIs while managing households, children, and other personal responsibilities.
Recently I was privileged to moderate Kryon’s “Women in RPA: Reclaiming Our Time,” a panel of women RPA professionals that explored how we’ve transitioned to working remotely in the wake of COVID-19, the changes and challenges we’re experiencing, and what it all means moving forward.
Three extremely talented and thoughtful women joined me from their homes across continents and time zones: Sidney Madison Prescott, Global Intelligent Automation Leader at Spotify, Debby de Gelder, Managing Director at Visma/RAET Netherlands, and Sneha Kapoor, Lead Analyst, Intelligent Automation and AI, Financial Insights at IDC Asia/Pacific. As we discussed our experiences, we found more commonalities than differences, and shared revelations that go far beyond work-life balance.
Professionally, we all agreed that COVID-19 has shined a spotlight on RPA and accelerated automation planning and initiatives. As an innovator in this industry, we at Kryon are seeing new demand, particularly in healthcare and BFSI (banking, financial services, and insurance). I’m extremely proud that Kryon technology helped integrate COVID-19 test results with Maccabi Healthcare Services, one of the largest healthcare providers in Israel to immediately improve care. Technical initiatives like contact tracing and remote learning have also spiked.
Panelists also noted clear shifts in RPA perspectives. Workers are less threatened by robots, recognizing that bots can free up time for more important and rewarding tasks and increase productivity. At the same time, senior leadership at corporations worldwide are more receptive to citizen-led automation, understanding the benefits of upskilling workers and investing in human capital as well as ROI.
As RPA is bringing much-needed benefits across sectors, work from home has blurred, maybe even eviscerated, the boundary between personal and work time. Three words came up repeatedly as we discussed our attempts to re-establish the distinction between our personal and professional lives: discipline, prioritization, and patience. We need discipline to adhere to clear workday start and end times. Clear prioritization of tasks to make sure we’re achieving what’s most important each and every day. And patience, whether with small children interrupting our work time (and conference calls!), or with team members who may be struggling to complete projects.
In light of this, the notion of productivity has taken on new nuances. The current reality requires us to be more creative and communicative, though I think we’ve all had to reconsider the amount of time spent in online meetings. And while personal distractions at home may challenge individual productivity for some, fewer office interruptions have meant more focused time to work on actual deliverables, resulting in increased productivity for others.
The pandemic has also highlighted something all of the panelists noted. Women have the ability to multi-task and deliver more than what’s expected, even when lacking adequate systems and support. Perhaps as underrepresented women in technology, that’s just what we’ve needed to do throughout our careers. We’ve had to prove ourselves and deliver higher-quality output than our male colleagues.
Finally, we’ve all been reminded that humans are social animals. We need connection, and as women, we long for balance. The new work reality has pulled back the lens on our humanity, as we spend less negating our personal dimensions. As one panelist put it, “This time has allowed us to get a better glimpse of our peers, and what their lives are like on a personal level. We understand that work is a key component, but it’s just one component of our lives.”
I couldn’t agree more. What a pleasure it has been to get to know some of the top women leaders in RPA, not as professionals but as people. If you missed it, listen to “Women in RPA: Reclaiming Our Time.” And join the conversation.