100 Sexy Roles Women can Take in Tech: No. 5, Claire Boonstra from Layar
The NextWomen is running a series of stories of women in tech, explaining what inspired them to work in the industry. The baton was passed to Claire Boonstra, one of the founders of Layar, the Dutch company behind the world's first mobile augmented reality browser Layar. Layar overlays digital information on to what you can view via your mobile phone camera, e.g. whether the house you are looking at is for sale. See the Layar demo on Youtube.
Who inspired you to get into technology?
My father and siblings are all engineers or in other technical jobs. In fact even my mother wanted to study a technical subject but didn't get the chance.
How were you educated in technology?
I studied civil engineering. I still hope to someday build a "Boonstra bridge". Unfortunately, the construction industry is very conservative and I could see that I wouldn't last longer than a couple of years there. But I still really like creating big things.
I went to work for KPN in the i-mode team (i-mode was one of the earliest forms of Internet access on mobile phones pioneered by the Japanese mobile operator NTT DoCoMo) because they had a very good training program. That's really where I got my education as a junior marketeer and mobile service developer.
What has your experience been in the technology world?
After KPN I worked at Unilever as a European brand manager - nothing to do with technology. I tried to move Unilever towards social media but it was hard to do in that environment. That experience made me realise that the corporate environment is a great for learning but it was not the world I wanted to be part of long-term. The objective within a corporation is to create good general managers and that was not what I wanted to be.
Later I worked in the digital arm of a Dutch TV company (Talpa) who had some very forward-thinking initiatives in areas like social media and mobile, e.g. they wanted to send mobile alerts to people when a something significant happened in their favourite reality TV show. Some time later I started the Mobile Monday Amsterdam event with some colleagues. We realised that we worked very well together and that led to the formation of SPRXMobile.
I love working in the technology world. It's male-dominated but that also means that it is quite straighforward since men are, in general, straightforward and I find them easy to work with.
It's fast-paced and you are always doing something new.
Any advice to those considering a career in technology?
My advice is not to worry too much about what you study. Just do what you are interested in. You will be successful when you do something you love. But don't opt out of science subjects. Math & Science can provide access to almost any type of career, not only directly in technology but in marketing or other areas.
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