Senior women in IT and technology jobs: careers advice for female students
Knowing what you want, successful networking and throwing caution to the wind are the keys to succeeding as a female graduate in the male-dominated world of IT. That’s according to senior female IT professionals and academics from organisations such as Cisco, SunGard, University College London, Deloitte, Lloyds Banking Group and Bank of America Merrill Lynch, as well as a leading happiness coach, who advised students at TARGETjobs’ IT’s Not Just For The Boys careers event.
The experts emphasise the importance for women of not overanalysing whether they and a job role are suitable for one another, and thus talking themselves out of it. Maja Trinic at Cisco highlights: ‘Women often look at a job description and think they have to tick every box in order to apply. Men will often think they are perfect for a job if they just tick a handful of them.’ Cheryl Newton adds: ‘I very rarely take on a role that I know I can do.’
Jemma Ingham at Deloitte warns students against writing off appealing career options by attempting to think too long-term. ‘Don’t look at a job as a student and ask yourself “Will I be able to manage it if I have children?”,’ she advises. ‘Workplaces change over time. For example, there is now much more flexible working in the IT industry than there was in the past.’
Show your enthusiasm for the job
Lucia Pino-Garcia from Bank of America Merrill Lynch is keen to stress the value of choosing work that motivates you. ‘Focus on the things you are more interested in and enthusiastic about, as you will put more effort in,’ she advises. The theme is echoed by happiness coach Alexandra Watson, who states: ‘When you are happier your energy changes. Then people have to treat you differently.’ She adds that clarity about career goals also helps in job interviews.
Meanwhile, Shilpa Shah, a director at Deloitte, emphasises the importance of women who are pursuing IT careers letting their enthusiasm for technology come through in their applications and interviews as well. ‘It’s a fact of life that good businesses always support passionate people who are genuinely interested in the work, and willing to try different things. So, during the application and interview stages, show some passion and excitement about technology!’
Get a network
You don’t have to climb the career ladder alone – get yourself a network. ‘Your network will promote you and help you get noticed,’ explains Clare Porter from SunGard. Cheryl Newton at Lloyds Banking Group cautions: ‘Women are not as good as men at building networks. You can end up thinking “I’m doing a good job; why has no one noticed?”’.
Separately, research suggests that some female students are less confident than their male peers. Leading businesses that are keen not to miss out on talent attempt to counter this and support their female recruits by developing networks that enable women to share experiences, get support and develop their careers.
Shilpa says, ‘Women undergraduates should seek out organisations that are committed to equality and diversity; organisations where women are in senior roles and are passionate about supporting new graduates at the very start of their careers.’ The Women in Technology (WIT) network at Deloitte that Shilpa leads organises mentoring, seminars, training courses and events with external speakers, and also works in schools.
Get work experience
It goes without saying that work experience is useful for job hunters, not just because of what they learn on placement but also because it gives them examples to talk about at interview. Shilpa highlights the range of work experience opportunities on offer for students to take advantage of, from insight days, career fairs and campus visits to events such as IT’s not just for the boys!, run by TARGETjobs Events specifically for women undergraduates.
She stresses that students need to make sure their work experience is as broad as possible, and, touching on the point above, draws attention to the value of networking: ‘However long you work in technology, you should always have the same goal: to talk to as many people as you can, learn about what they do and start networking with them and their colleagues.’
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