RMIT runs a very worthwhile mentoring program called Women in Engineering and Technology which aims to support final year female students in Engineering and IT disciplines by matching them up to successful female mentors for coaching, guidance and sharing of professional knowledge and experiences within male dominated working environments
I have had mentors in the past and having access to andbeing able to pick the brains of someone who is where you want to be is invaluable. When I graduated with a Masters in IT, such a concept didn’t exist.
Whilst there are definitely more women in the IT world now, when I did my degree only 9 out of 45 were female probably because computing suffered very much (and still does to an extent) from the unattractive pizza eating geek image. Some roles were considered ‘more female appropriate’ than others – training, testing, project coordination, Business Analysis, project management.
Hard core programming, website development, database development networks, infrastructure was for guys.
I am the only female from that course who actually stayed deeply technical.
One of the things we will probably be discussing is gender and discrimination – certainly in my first job straight out of Uni I did experience a bit of that – I was not paid as much as the guys to do the same job.
In my 2nd job, where I got to be developer team lead I was still not paid as much as some of the guy developers, even though I client interface and essentially shielded the rest of the team from flack, issues or generally having to deal with people. I remember one client installation that went atrociously wrong
and I had BMW on the phone every 30mins asking me if it was fixed yet. I seem to recall telling the development manager
who was also pestering me every 5 minutes to see if it was done, to ‘fuck off back into his office and don’t come out until I tell you to’
It could have been a seriosuly career limiting move, but they didn’t sack me because they couldn’t have got it done without me and then the client head hunted me a few months later for a significant pay rise 🙂
I think that was the point when I worked out not only was I as good, if not better than some of the guys, but also that being female could be a distinct advantage.
It also showed me I could take a risk and win – maybe thats why I’ve contracted for virtually
the entire of my career.
soemthing that has been a recurring theme in all the jobs I’ve been to is that a) I am nearly always the only female in a tech team
b) Because I am female, I have the ability to be empathetic, I can put myself in the clients shoes and really
understand their needs then tell them in non tech speak what the solution is, how we’re going to do something, and why
c) I’ve often ended up being client/business point of contact for the tech team instead of the developer team lead because I can visualise and discuss at all levels of planning from the blue sky big picture, right down to the spelling mistake 3 menus deep in a website – and can pitch the level of jargon appropriately or not get stuck in solution mode which so many programmers do.
d) My versatility, adapability and ability to learn/absorb knowledge incredibly quickly means I am the ultimate Jill of All Trades and can apply myself to any role I choose to have a go at.
I’ve been Developer, Team lead, Web developer, Project Manager, Project Coordinator, database programmer, database administrator, test team lead, tehcnical writer, business analyst, data analyst, system analyst, network troubleshooter
I have talked my way into roles that I haven’t done…and then done them very well.
In short, I am very good at what I do, I know how to play the system, I am not afraid of having a go, I routinely bring so much more to the table than standard job descriptions ask for. .I know my strengths, my weaknesses, my ‘x’ factor I know exactly what my skills are worth, I know how to sell me, and because of that I ask for and get top rate at every job I go for…for the last 20 years or so I’ve also been offered about 95% of the jobs that I applied for, this I can pass on to my mentee and hopefully give her a flying start to her career.
And no, I’m not being arrogant. It’s just how it is.
I wish I had a mentor like me when I graduated to tell me how it works.
That is why I am grateful for the opportunity to be that person for someone else.
My mentee has already told me she wants to be the best system administrator there is…I like that attitude, I think we’re going to get on great!