From the mag: ProLabs' Zoë Binder on baking an innovative tech career

Zoë Binder, coding manager at ProLabs, chats about women in telecoms, her job, background as a baker, innovation, and more.
Zoë Binder, ProLabs, Tech, Business, Equality, Diversity, Women, Technology, STEM, Society, Future, CAREER

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Image: Zoë Binder

News flash: there are some pretty incredible women working in the telecoms industry. And surprise, surprise: Zoë Binder, coding manager at ProLabs, is one of those.

But Binder’s story is a bit different than most. After all, few people shift from a career in baking – literally – to telecoms.

After working in the catering and hospitality industry for a number of years and running a bakery, Binder decided to take the plunge into the transceiver industry, and self-taught herself the tricks of the trade whilst working at ProLabs.

Working at ProLabs since 2016, Binder has quickly been recognised for her ability to develop codes that allow transceivers to work with different switches and for her organisational and planning skills, rising from CSR to coding manager in less than two years.

Binder sees her transition from one industry to another as something of a highlight. Since joining ProLabs, she has built up her team from the ground, created a large percentage of its products. Oh, and she’s established an extensive knowledge of transceivers and process management.

Needless to say, Binder has strong views about programming optical transceivers, vendor compatibility, network switch, process management, and women in the industry. And guess what? She took the time to have a talk about just that – and more.

CommsMEA: The tech industry is often seen as a very masculine preserve, is this true?

Zoë Binder: On the surface, it could be perceived this way, and historically it may have been. However, if you take a closer look at a number of companies today, there are more women in both leadership and more technical roles than you think. For example, myself here at ProLabs as coding manager, as well as our global marketing leader, Haley McPherson, who has worked tirelessly to shape ProLabs into the brand that it is.

There is no reason it should still be seen as a male-dominant industry in 2018, as women are more empowered than ever to study and work in an industry if their choosing.

Is the playing field in the tech industry fairly even, and jobs given based on education and merit?

I think it completely depends on the company and their ethics, but in most instances, if you work hard, have passion for what you do and back yourself in your experience and abilities, there is no reason why you shouldn’t succeed.

I can see, from my time at ProLabs, and in the industry, that it has started to change, grow and nurture a new generation of talent. Again, this is dependent on the company but from my experience, the playing field is as even as you make it.

What do you do on a day-to-day basis in the office?

An average day for me at ProLabs involves managing the lab to run efficiently for production, as well as developing new codes for future product lines, maintaining the day-to-day coding library and supporting lab operations. I also provide front-line technical support for client and internal sales queries. It’s a busy day, but it’s so rewarding and I enjoy doing it!

What is your advice to students and graduates wanting to enter the sector?

My advice to students and graduates would be to work as hard as you can. It doesn’t matter whether it’s in this sector or any other, if you have a passionate work ethic and a drive to succeed, you will. I have a background in catering and a passion for baking. However, I was able to take the transceiver industry head-on with ambition and adaptability and have since worked my way up from CSR to coding manager in under two years.

Where you are now doesn’t determine your future. Always work to the best of your ability and you will get where you want to be. I’m living proof of this.

What are the challenges and highlights of your job?

I love my role, but it comes with its challenges. In this ever-changing industry, there is a continual need to keep up with market developments in coding and advancing our product lines to ensure we are at the forefront of the industry, meaning we are working on current technology as well as having to be three steps ahead in the future. 

A highlight of my job is definitely my team. I work with a great group of people which make coming to work enjoyable. The company itself also gives us the freedom and support to grow and develop in the industry, there are no glass ceilings at ProLabs!

What innovations have you been responsible for in your job?

When I first started at ProLabs, I had a distinct interest in the programming and coding side of the company. It was from this that I started working in the lab and soon after, began constructing the knowledge base of our in-house coding guidelines.

My actions, knowledge and passion helped shape the lab and the team to how it is today. I also worked hard to create the current coding library which we use every day at ProLabs, as well as building a team of quality production operatives and experienced engineers. It’s been a challenge, but we got there, and the team and processes are now stronger than ever because of it.

This story first appeared in the September 2018 print edition of CommsMEA.

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