Women in IT: Evelina Lye, Co-Founder of UNTAM3D

UNTAM3D provides a psychologically safe space for women+ interested in emerging tech.

Ahead of the Women in IT Summit Asia 2023, on 28th June, we spoke to Evelina Lye, Co-Founder of UNTAM3D.

What inspired you to co-found UNTAM3D? How has the community evolved since its inception?

UNTAM3D is a web3 community for women and non-binary people to navigate, build and grow in the Web3 space. We officially launched in March 2022 and quickly grew to over 1200 members. Our mission is to decode web3 for women+ and bring more representative voices into the space as both builders and benefiters of web3. We host regular events, meet-ups and training, as well as curate a monthly newsletter. Our collective is founded by six founding members – Karen Lam, Evelina Lye, Grace Clapham, Saranta Gattie, Stephanie Dickson and Grace Astari.

The inspiration for UNTAM3D originated from our own experiences and a problem we encountered as we started to get curious about this space. As founders, we were all intrigued by Web3 but couldn’t find a psychologically safe environment to share and ask questions. We found the space was predominantly occupied by male “degens” and the bro culture that comes with that. So we created our community to address the gap, and UNTAM3D was born.

What challenges have you faced as a woman in the tech industry, and how have you overcome them?

In the early part of my career, I faced being underestimated or not being taken seriously enough at work, often being designated the ‘admin’ type roles because I was a good organiser. I worked really hard to prove I was also good at other things. This required grafting, asking questions, building confidence in my abilities, speaking up, having an informed opinion and finding inspiring female mentors to guide me.

Recently I have also focused on learning to stay relevant. Co-developing UNTAM3D hugely accelerated my understanding of web3, AI and emerging tech. Keeping up with the latest technologies and surrounding myself with curious people has helped me remain confident and given me the ability to contribute meaningfully to current thinking and debates.

What are the most critical skills for tech professionals in the Web3 era? How can women+ acquire and develop these skills?

In the Web3 World, ‘community-building’ is a big focus. Nurturing and building trust is an essential component for the operation of any DAO or successful NFT project or Metaverse game. Fortunately, this ‘community-building’ skill plays right into the hands of women because we’re generally better ‘community-builders’ than men. Our natural instincts to foster relationships and nurture are a real advantage here.

Aside from that, I’d say all other ‘technical’ skills can be learnt – you can learn about the fundamentals of blockchain technology and principles of decentralisation or skills specific to the tech sector you’re looking to enter. I’d focus on harder-to-learn skills like building resilience and grit. The Web3 industry can be challenging and demanding, it’s fast-paced, ever-evolving, and going through a tough moment right now. Building skills such as resilience and grit will set you up to thrive no matter what comes your way and are transferable skills that can be used across our professional and personal lives. 

What role do AI platforms like Chat GPT and Google Bard have in the tech industry? How do they enhance or hinder opportunities for diverse tech professionals?

One of the concerns with AI platforms right now is a model’s propensity for bias based on the existing biases in the datasets it’s being trained on. An AI model is only as good/ ethical/ fair as the data it’s trained on, and the reality is data and particularly information on the internet, is full of biases. How we solve this problem is a huge debate right now, but firstly being aware that biases exist in any AI model’s output is a good first step.

Related: How Speechmatics is leading the way in tackling AI bias and improving inclusion

One of the solutions to this problem is for AI companies to prioritise hiring more female and diverse tech professionals into their teams and for them to be involved in the entire AI lifecycle development. By diversifying the teams involved in AI development, we can begin to counterbalance the biases present in AI model outputs and foster a more inclusive and equitable tech industry.

What advice would you give to women+ who are interested in pursuing a career in tech but may feel discouraged or intimidated by the male-dominated industry?

It’s important for women+ entering any industry, but especially tech, to embrace and truly believe that our unique female perspectives are a value-add to any organisation. As women, we have distinctly diverse experiences and viewpoints that bring different solutions to tech problems. My advice would be to believe in yourself and your capabilities. Surround yourself with supportive networks, both online and offline and where you can find mentorship, guidance, and inspiration from other women in tech.

Remember that our gender does not define our skills or potential. I’d also say never underestimate the power of representation. As you progress in your career, don’t forget to also be a role model and mentor for other women considering entering the industry. Your voice and story can go further than you think.

What initiatives can be taken to improve gender diversity and inclusivity in the tech industry in companies and the wider tech community?

Initiatives like ours, UNTAM3D, are a big first step to increasing female participation in Web3. Bringing to life a community of women, where it’s a safe space for women to ask questions that they would otherwise feel too intimidated to do in male groups, is of huge importance. Building a community like UNTAM3D, we believe, is the foundation, and we’ve seen from past experiences it can be an effective catalyst for more diversity and inclusion. 

Bringing more education and awareness around Web3 is also essential to make it more accessible and, in turn, create more opportunities to collaborate or start meaningful projects. There are also already several women who have been heavily involved in Web3 from the early days, and having these women continue to be highlighted, speak at events, and even mentor other women coming into the Web3 space is crucial.

Breaking down social stigma through articles (hopefully such as this!) that can influence social norms. And not forgetting working with male allies who can equally champion greater representation in the space is something we will look to do to attract more women into the space.

As someone with experience in Asia-Pacific and Western markets, how do you see the tech industry evolving in these regions? What are the key differences and similarities?

The appetite for growth is probably greater in the East. There’s a real hunger for tech development. Whereas in Western markets, there’s growing scepticism about tech companies when it comes to data and privacy protection. In Asia, there appears to be more enthusiasm and willingness to embrace new technologies like the Metaverse.

Numerous academic studies have supported this hypothesis, too – a report by Gowling WLG found that four-in-five consumers in China surveyed said they would consider taking part in Metaverse experiences more than twice as many in the UK. The report called it ‘The eager East and wary West’, which I think sums up attitudes in both geographic locations pretty accurately. 

We saw this ‘eager’ trend in Asia during the pandemic when Metaverse games like Axie Infinity skyrocketed in markets like the Philippines more than anywhere else. At the height of the pandemic, Play2Earn games in the Philippines soured. It was estimated in 2021 that more people in the Philippines had a Meta Mask wallet than they did a Credit card. Meaning that access to new tech infrastructure was giving previously under-represented, unbanked socio-economic groups new financial models. Axie Infinity is a contentious story, as it left many financially broke. However, I think it shows the sheer appetite in Asia for adopting new technologies and their eagerness to embrace new economic models. 

How do you balance leading marketing efforts for the Meta Content Partnerships team while dedicating time and energy to UNTAM3D?

When you enjoy something, you find the time. When you get to collaborate with interesting and purpose-driven people, you find the time. UNTAM3D are both of these things for me. We, as Co-Founders, are all friends; we respect each other, we lean in for each other when one of us has to lean out because of work or family commitments, and it’s a really easy, no questions asked dynamic. We also only take on projects that truly energise us. We then just work around our varying commitments to make it happen. That’s our balance. 

Can you discuss a project or initiative you are particularly proud of and how it has contributed to your professional growth? 

Last year, as part of UNTAM3D, we hosted a GenZ change-makers event and featured female change markers under the age of 18 running Web3 projects tied to social impact causes. As part of that event, we found Ava Soh, 16 years old, who created an NFT for Ukraine and started a fundraiser effort for the citizens of the country. Her fundraiser NFT effort was so powerful that the President of Ukraine, President Zelenksy, publicised her work at a National conference.

I had the privilege of hosting a fireside chat with Ava and the Ambassador for Ukraine in Singapore, H.E. Kateryna Zelenko. It was so moving to witness the power of young female change-makers like Ava Soh, leveraging web3 technology to make a positive social impact at such a young age.

This is what our UNTAM3D community stands for, and I was incredibly proud to be part of her story and help amplify her effort. Professionally, hosting the GenZ change-makers event taught me a valuable lesson – that you can learn and be inspired by anyone, regardless of age. Being open to learning from individuals of all ages and backgrounds can lead to transformative experiences.

What exciting developments do you foresee in the tech industry in the coming years? What role can women+ play in shaping these developments?

Top of mind right now for everyone is AI and the opportunity, as well as the fear it brings.

AI and Machine learning will rapidly evolve in the next 6 – 24 months and transform entire industries. We’ll see a huge transformation in healthcare, new drug discovery, education, the legal sector, journalism, and more. Given the scale of what many predict as a new tech era, ensuring women and diverse voices are included in AI development can not be overstated here. Female perspectives are crucial to aid in identifying and mitigating biases and ensuring AI systems are designed to meet the diverse needs of populations.

With greater use of AI, we’ll see more being done to address Cybersecurity and Data Privacy. Expect developments here.

There will be exciting developments in ‘Green’ technologies. Being corporately responsible is no longer a nice to have. Customers are starting to demand it, and this will just continue. I see women leading in championing green technologies, driving innovation and sustainability forward.

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Cheryl Cole

Cheryl Cole is the Editor of DiversityQ and has worked for GSK, The Birmingham Post, Investment Week and Bloomberg.

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