This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is #BreakTheBias. This couldn’t be more applicable to the IT and technology industry. According to a study by STEM Women, just 19% of women were studying computer science subjects in 2019 and even fewer (16%) work in professional IT roles. Positively, female numbers are increasing, but there is still a long way to go.
Traditionally people think of men in IT roles – I’ll admit that I have been guilty of this. And shows like, ‘The IT Crowd’ haven’t done this stereotype any favours. The good news is these shows most definitely don’t represent real life (at least not at Select Technology) and we are very lucky to have some fantastic, intelligent women working in senior and key positions across the company. When it comes to purely technical roles though, like many other businesses we are a bit thin on the ground.
Alex is helping to change that. As one of our newly recruited Service Desk Engineers, Alex is not only challenging the IT technician stereotype, she is absolutely smashing the role, receiving consistent positive feedback from customers and showing a real thirst for learning and progression.
I spoke to Alex about her journey, from choosing an education in IT, to what it’s like working in a male dominated industry and how she feels about her flourishing technical career.
Here’s what she had to say…
Why did you choose a career path in IT?
I was fairly interested in it as a kid. My parents bought a computer when I was very young, so I quite enjoyed playing it. My brother had a PlayStation, my sister had a Nintendo, and I had the computer!
But what really got me into it was in sixth form my best friend went for a BTech in IT and I figured I’d follow her and I found that I really enjoyed it even more than I realised. My teacher was amazing and I’m still good friends with him now. I really enjoyed it and I seemed to be quite good at it, and it went from there. I also figured, it’s a smart decision. There’s always going to be IT jobs out there, so why not?
What do you love most about working in a technical role?
I like the challenge every day. It’s different, it’s challenging. Every day I’m learning, especially since I’ve been here, my skill level has just increased so much and I enjoy that.
What about the technical aspect?
Some of the tickets are fairly easy, but I quite like getting the harder tickets. I can feel everyone here is pushing me towards becoming Tier 2, which is fantastic. Everyone’s giving me slightly harder tickets so that I can increase my skill and get better every day.
During your education and early career, did you experience any barriers or has there ever been a lack of opportunities because you’re a woman?
Not barriers per say. There’s definitely been quite a lot of bias, I’ve felt a lot of that. My first experience of bias was in sixth form. A student the same age as me in the same class was struggling with one of the mock tests we were doing. I offered my help and he completely refused and then asked a guy instead. That was my first experience. In my last job, people – usually older people – would ask my male colleagues for help rather than me. And I’ve experienced a lot of that, but I have been lucky enough not to have anything stopping me getting to where I want to be.
I offered my help and he completely refused and then asked a guy instead. That was my first experience of bias
And that kind of attitude hasn’t stopped you?
No, not at all. I just push past it and ignore them. I was lucky enough in my last job to have my male colleagues. A couple of them started to learn which teachers [Alex worked at a school] would ignore me and then they would just ignore the teachers’ questions, forcing me to answer which was quite funny.
How do you feel about working in a male dominated industry?
It was something that was quite scary to get into. I was very aware that that was going to be the case, I was going to be the only woman working with a bunch of guys.
But then I haven’t really felt uncomfortable and I’m quite happy working with just guys generally. Thankfully my fiancé isn’t the jealous type because I’ve got more male friends than female now!
It was nerve wracking to start with because I didn’t know what to expect, especially with how the media portrays a lot of it. For instance, the IT Crowd. Hilarious show, but I was expecting something more like that, which wouldn’t have been a comfortable environment to work in.
What gave you the drive to continue pursuing a career in IT?
It’s just something I’ve really enjoyed. I’ve never really cared what people thought of me, I’ve always been very open. I do what I want, so I push forward with that same feeling of wanting to do something I enjoy. Screw anyone else, you know.
Do you think there are more opportunities for women to work in technology now than previously?
Yes, a lot of people are becoming more open about it as obviously a lot of the CEOs are starting to get a bit younger. A lot of younger people have less bias than older people you know. There’s more in the media of there being women in higher positions and technical positions and there’s push towards STEM too.
There’s more in the media of there being women in higher positions and technical positions and there’s push towards STEM too.
What do you think would encourage more women to choose a technical career path?
I think seeing more women helps. Just seeing people on television and more women in technical positions. I’ve only seen one show that I can think of where there is a female technician, every other show you see women in higher positions but they’ll always have male technicians – the male IT guy that turns up.
What is the program that’s got a female technician?
Zoe’s Extraordinary Playlist. Zoe’s the main character, she’s a coder.
What would your advice be to girls and women who are considering a career in technology or IT?
Don’t care about what anyone else thinks. Just ignore them and do what you want to do and just push through the bias. Do the same thing I did. Just ignore everyone else that thinks you can’t do it. Because you can.
Just ignore everyone else that thinks you can’t do it. Because you can.
What does International Women’s Day mean to you?
I think that it shows how far we have come, but we also have quite a way to still go. Out of 25 students, me and my best friend were the only females in my class. That was only a few years ago now. I know there are a few more now. I’m still friends with my teacher, so I’ve spoken to him, and he said there’s 5 or 6 on average, but that’s still less than a quarter. So, there’s still a way to go and International Women’s Day advocates for that.
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
Women in IT is a great thing. I quite like that I am pushing the boundaries and it’s something that more people should do.