Q&A: Lia Kampantai On Her Game-changing Surface Dial Project, And Why We Need Mentorship In Tech

photoThere’s no doubt that mentors are important for career development. But women often have a difficult time finding them in industries that employ a higher percentage of men - the tech industry included. According to Window Development MVP Lia Kampantai, the core concept of the MVP Award is sharing with the community, so we should all consider becoming a mentor to guide those who seek advice. Because when women are mentored especially, it plays a part in bridging the gender-gap in the industry.

Based in Greece, Lia’s been a professional software developer for the past six years with a focus on .NET technologies. We spoke to her about how mentors have helped on her career path - and more, the amazing work she’s doing with Surface Dial. Check out what she has to say:

1) What kind of stuff are you working on now?

I am experimenting with the Surface Dial in my personal projects. I created a project on GitHub, where I publish concepts that I think are interesting for developers like me. This peripheral is a game-changer in certain app scenarios.

2) How is it a game-changer?

There are types of applications that can be significantly enhanced by supporting [Surface Dial], mostly the ones that have to do with creativity - like apps for artists and designers. It offers more precision than a mouse in certain functionalities, and the interaction feels more natural.

3) How will this help developers?

Application developers now have a totally new approach to user interaction. The Radial Controller APIs can change the way we develop app features. Certain options and controls can be added to the Dial to offer a more intuitive user experience. Moreover, the Ink controls are designed to work with Surface Dial, and we can easily integrate it in our apps.

4) How has your experience been as a woman in tech?

I think if you really want to pursue a career in tech as a woman and commit to it, you will eventually succeed. However sometimes your gender becomes an issue. For example, when it comes to role assignment. Gender discrimination does exist in some environments - that’s why often a woman has to try harder to prove herself.

Any woman who wants to follow this path should bear in mind that she will most likely face problems and setbacks. It might take longer and require more effort. You need to be patient, work hard, focus on your goals and ignore these issues. And on the bright side, there are people who are willing to help you and mentor you through this process.

5) How exactly have mentors played a role in your career?

During my career development I was lucky to have people who helped me in various ways. The most important mentor I had throughout the past years is George Kanellopoulos. George works at Microsoft Hellas and we met while I was part of the Microsoft Student Partners program. He was the first person who encouraged me to step up and believe in myself. He helped me to grow professionally and offered me advice on important matters and choices I had to make. He also helped me grow my network, which contributed to my progress. His guidance had a huge impact on my early steps as a professional, and I still value his opinion and follow his advice.

7) Lots of women say they lack mentors in the tech industry. What advice would you give to women (or anyone) for finding a great mentor?

In my opinion there are two reasons for this issue. The first is that unfortunately, not many experienced professionals think about mentoring others. The second reason is that even the ones who choose to do so, probably do not chose to mentor women. I think the best way to find one is to grow your network. Someday you will meet the right mentor.
Since there is a lack of mentors, women who are successful in the tech field should consider acting as mentors to other women who try to follow this path. Being a mentor can be very rewarding for the mentor, too - they could help to bridge the gender gap in the industry. Personally, I am looking forward to mentoring someone in the future and offering them the help and guidance I received.