From humanities graduate to Deloitte consultant: tips from a woman graduate
Female undergraduates need to stop thinking about technology as cables and hardware and start thinking of it as an enabler of change. That’s the advice from Crystal, who graduated from the University of Cambridge with a degree in politics and a masters in history, and is now working as a consultant for Deloitte. She explains that the work she does now has similarities to her arts degree, as it involves developing a hypothesis, testing and, if necessary, re-working it to achieve a logical and creative solution.
Work experience at an early age
When she was 16, Crystal did work experience with Deloitte and at 18, she applied for the Deloitte Scholar Scheme, which involved a year’s work experience before university plus a series of placements while studying. The team on her most recent project, a customer segmentation using statistics software, was comprised mainly of females – a ratio of 3:1. Her cohort at Deloitte has a more or less even gender balance and the organisation aims to recruit 50/50 men and women into technology jobs by 2016.
Seize the opportunity
Shortly after graduation, Crystal was asked if she wanted to work on a project with one of Australia’s leading retailers. She had been recruited into strategy, not technology, but the project involved working with transactional data to help buying and merchandising teams make more intelligent decisions around planning, buying and trading. She particularly enjoyed analysing store sales data to craft a narrative to the client to help understand customer needs.
Storytelling is synonymous with working with data
Crystal explains that she regards storytelling as the most important part of her job – by which she means giving people at all levels compelling reasons to act upon the insight that you give them from the data. Those who work in retail tend to be highly visual, so part of her task was to think about how to present data in visually stimulating yet clear to understand ways. Looking back, she describes her work as 20% number crunching and 80% people.
Her top tip for women thinking about careers using technology or based around data, is to first decide if you enjoy talking to people, taking complex concepts and un-packaging and re-packaging them in a way that makes sense to others. If the answer is yes, you can be trained to understand and use technology – but only if you have an appetite to learn and if the application of technology really excites you.
She believes that for any graduate, male or female, from any degree, there are now only a handful of jobs that do not have an aspect of technology at their core. The typical project lifecycle for a data analytics project, she explains, entails an initial few weeks of number crunching, cleansing the data and then the actual analysis but after that, it’s what you do with information that matters, so you need to be expressive, creative and good with people.
Another tip for women is to be prepared to speak out and give an opinion. ‘Have a point of view,’ Crystal says. ‘Be prepared to defend it, no matter how junior you are. Certain personality types are sometimes more willing to give their views, even if they are wrong. You very quickly learn to speak up when you have something to say; you need the confidence to make yourself heard.’
Tips if you’re a non-technical undergraduate seeking an IT job
Here’s some practical advice from Crystal to help non-technical undergraduates make themselves better job applicants.
- Remove any psychological barriers that suggest you are less suited to technology than men.
- Take advantage of university courses and online opportunities to learn coding and software packages. Create your own website.
- Read the technology press, because ultimately you need to have not just an interest but a passion for what technology can mean to lives.
- Whatever your interest is (fashion, healthcare or finance, for example) there will be a part of the firm where you can work in technology in an area that excites you.
Follow us on Twitter @TjobsEng_Tech.