WORK180 asked leading women in IT about their top tips and advice for anyone interested in growing a career in technology.
So, you want to get into tech? Well, now’s the right time. With new innovations impacting just about every aspect of our lives, tech-based companies are experiencing massive growth, and that’s creating some really amazing opportunities. But there’s another reason to be thinking about a career in tech. More than ever, smart organisations are recognising that a combination of transferable skills and life experience often delivers better outcomes than qualifications alone. WORK180 asked women in the industry to share their advice on entering the tech sector and succeeding when you get there. They come from some of the most progressive organisations in the WORK180 network, so make sure you check out their workplace initiatives and job opportunities.
SO, YOU WANT TO GET INTO TECH? WELL, NOW’S THE RIGHT TIME.
With new innovations impacting just about every aspect of our lives, tech-based companies are experiencing massive growth, and that’s creating some really amazing opportunities.
But there’s another reason to be thinking about a career in tech. More than ever, smart organisations are recognising that a combination of transferable skills and life experience often delivers better outcomes than qualifications alone.
Ask yourself … Are you a great problem solver? Do you have high emotional intelligence? Maybe your strength is communication or time management.
Whatever it is, companies are committed to building diverse and inclusive teams, and to attract great people, they’re offering employee benefits that go above and beyond industry standards.
So where to start? First you need to identify the companies that know how to look after employees and their careers. You can find this information in our Endorsed Employer pages.
Next, it’s worth listening to what women who work in tech have to say.
To facilitate this, we asked some inspiring women to share their advice on entering the tech sector and succeeding when you get there. They come from some of the most progressive organisations in our network, so make sure you check out their workplace initiatives and job opportunities.
And lastly, just go for it. Who knows what opportunities are waiting for someone just like you!
ind a sponsor – Sponsoring is very personal. Build relationships with leaders that you respect and are influential, ideally in your direct team who know your ambition and can support your development.
Ask for feedback – It may feel awkward at first, but once you’re in the habit, you can take it for the constructive development it is.
Trust your intuition – Don’t be afraid to challenge (respectfully) things you believe in or disagree on, hold yourself accountable too and don’t dwell on outcomes. A supportive team is one that collaborates and nurtures each other. And at a more senior point in your career, make it your mission to curate great culture in your teams!
Noel Williams, Partner – Technology Risk & Cyber Security, KPMG
If you find that you have to pretend to be someone that you are not, in order to fit in at an organisation – then walk away and find a better place to work! Be your own authentic self, and don’t apologise for it. We are all different and bring different skills and experience to the table. However, there is nothing wrong with selectively adopting successful behaviours, habits or traits from people you admire – constantly adapting to a changing environment means we are growing each and every day.
Ila Lessing, Director – Technology Business Management (acting), NSW Roads & Maritime Services (RMS)
Find a number of mentors. I’m fortunate to have trusted mentors, some managers and some peers. While no two career paths are going to be the same, a great mentor will give you opportunities to learn. It’s up to you to be willing to accept these opportunities and step outside of your comfort zone. There will be others around to help you, make sure you utilise the help!
Fleur Wiley, Senior Manager in Technology Consulting, PwC
Understand your strengths and challenges, both from a technical and interpersonal skills – do I like coding more than designing? Do I like selling more than solving? Once you have identified your strengths, pursue it, as you are more likely to be successful in the area that you are already good at.
Set a 1-3-5-10 year plan, remember it’s a plan to set the goal post, not a mandate. Don’t forget to take calculated risks, take on challenges, learn new technology, and change architecture if you feel that it’s right for you and that trends have shifted.
Sora Cho, Manager Customer Success Specialist, Customer Experience, Cisco
The tech industry can offer an incredibly rewarding career, and it’s important for women to get involved and put themselves out there. A great first step is to present your work on a public platform like GitHub and show the world what you’re capable of. Technology is constantly evolving, and by remaining hungry to learn new languages and technology stacks, there is no limit to what you can achieve.
Lavanya Gowri, Software Developer, Liberty Financial
Don’t listen to the word “no”. Throughout my career, I’ve had countless people tell me I wasn’t suited to work in IT, saying things like, “Why would you want to do that? That’s not the role for you.” Don’t listen to it. Follow your passions.
You don’t need every qualification to apply for a role in IT, it’s more about having the right attitude, mindset, and willingness to learn to succeed in this industry.
Get rid of the imposter syndrome, the psychological experience of feeling like you don’t deserve your success. By overcoming these fears and doubts, you’ll be able to pursue opportunities outside your comfort zone – and that’s where the magic happens.
Don’t try to be one of the boys – be yourself.
Estelle Ivory, Client Delivery Director, Optus
You don’t have to be the smartest person in the room. I wish someone had told me that earlier in my career. At high school and university, I spent a lot of energy on competing with the crowd and being hard on myself because of challenges with dyslexia. But it didn’t take me too long to realise and play to my strengths of data and coding in SQL. I found that with these skills as my foundations, I can work through any changes faced in this scary fast technology changing world. Foundations are FUNdamental!
Tamzyn Bielecka, Information and Data Manager, BP
My advice is to grasp opportunities as they arise and be flexible in the roles you take. Technology is extremely broad and there are many roles that don’t require deep technical expertise. Key skills are stakeholder management, the ability to communicate technical solutions to non-technical people and being able to influence and negotiate well. Soft skills, such as communication, teamwork and problem solving are equally as important as technical skills. Key skills that are transferable across any technology area include business analysis, project management and change management, which covers training and communications.
Sara Braund, VP Digital Operations, South32
What can folks do to be successful in tech? The secret to success is to learn how to learn, to develop empathy, and to learn how to communicate. Mastering these skills is a lifelong pursuit; at every stage of your career, you’ll revisit these core abilities and adapt them to your new role.
Mentorship is critical to growth. No one is born ready to be a Product Manager or Designer or Engineer. We all need role models, people who trust us, give us the feedback we need, and push us, sometimes even before we feel we are ready. And then we need to remember to honor the generosity of our mentors by stepping up to coach others.
Sadie Stoumen, VP, Product, Redbubble
It was a big decision for me to move from professional services into tech, but it has been one that I’ve never regretted! Three things were key for me, firstly asking myself “why tech”? I could see the increasing role that tech was playing in driving business strategy and I wanted to get involved. Next, having the opportunity to “do the doing” on the client side, I knew this would add to my learning and experience for the future. Lastly, by being able to leverage my consulting network, I was able to find the right opportunity for me. That was 4 years ago now, I’m so pleased I had the courage then, because I’ve never looked back.
Aimee Lindfield, IT Business Delivery Partner, Lion
Be brave! In my experience, women tend to shy away from asking specifically what they want or need. Ask! Don’t expect that things will just happen – they won’t.
Tech is a fun space. At Infosys we’re doing it all — from transforming enterprises with 5G technology to reimagining the game of Tennis — who knows what’s next.
Surround yourself with inspiring people every day – mentors, role models – it helps a lot. And remember, you are only limited by your own barriers.
Semra Barutchu, Vice-President Infosys & Head, Engineering Services Asia, Infosys
My first piece of advice is to connect with someone who works in tech and watch what they do. If you can find a mentor, even better. This will give you insights into how IT roles work and what opportunities are available to you. I’d also suggest doing your homework before applying for jobs. I’m lucky to enjoy flexible working arrangements with a really supportive organisation, and that has allowed me to juggle my career and the demands of a growing family. I started out as a developer, but now lead a team of 30 developers, analysts and project managers. The opportunity to solve problems, both creatively and analytically is really rewarding.