International Women’s Day (IWD) has long been celebrating the achievements of women across the world and spreading the message of gender equality. Yet the number of women working in technology has always been dramatically lower than that of men – currently only one in six tech specialists in the UK are women and only one in 10 are IT leaders.
At Nitec, we’re a diverse team made up of a lot of quirky personalities, male and female, and we’re particularly proud to have women working in each of our departments, from software development and projects to DevOps and technical support. To celebrate this year’s International Women’s Day, we’ve asked several of our female colleagues about their experience of working in IT, why they chose the industry and what advice they have for anyone considering a career in technology.
Bronagh McKay – Professional Placement Student, DevOps team
I work between the Managed Services and Service Desk teams, each with different responsibilities. My role on the Managed Services team involves carrying out a variety of tasks such as managing customer backups, running updates and resolving issues in the background, while on the service desk I provide support to customers who experience technical issues and resolve their issues.
I didn’t always want a career in technology, however when doing my A–Level’s I started to become more interested in technology as it is continuously evolving. From there I decided to start pursuing a career in IT. There is definitely a lack of female role models working in tech as previously this has been a male dominated sector, however I was motivated to go with my decision to work in technology by my dad, whose hard work ethic, that I’ve grown up watching, has inspired me to give my best efforts to everything I do to succeed.
For anyone (men and women) looking to start a career in technology, I would say to be open minded to the variety of roles in technology, and get as much experience as you can before deciding on what role is best suited for you.
Emma Buchanan – Projects Team Manager
In my role at Nitec, I manage and implement new infrastructure solutions for our customers while also managing our team of Project Engineers. Working with and implementing the latest technologies while being a member of the Senior Management team and working closely with our wide range of customers ticks all the boxes for me and I enjoy the variation in my role.
Growing up I always wanted to be a maths teacher, but my mum convinced me that IT was the future. I didn’t overly enjoy my university course and couldn’t see myself working in IT, but my professional placement year at Nitec as a Network Engineer was a game changer and I was then offered a permanent position which I couldn’t wait to begin after graduation.
Although there has been an increase in women in tech, there are still fewer girls choosing STEM–related subjects in school – from my own experience, I was the only girl in my Design and Technology A–Level class and my A–Level Maths class was only 20% female, so there is still a long way to go. However, I think women like Marissa Mayer will help to inspire more girls to consider technology as a career path – not only was she Google’s first ever female engineer, she was also the lead developer on Google Search for 13 years before becoming the CEO of Yahoo and a member of the Walmart Board of directors. Her drive and her vision are inspiring…who else can say ‘I helped build Google, but I don’t like to rest on my laurels’?
For anyone considering a career in IT the range of careers is huge, and the opportunities are exponential. Look for a focus area that you can see yourself working in but try to get some experience, like placements or internships, before you make your mind up. STEM subjects at school and uni may not be that appealing in the classroom, but the real–world application definitely is.
Rachel Dunlop – Service Desk Engineer
As part of the Service Desk team, my role involves carrying out remote support for issues, for example, faults with PC hardware or software, updating firewall settings, adjusting server configurations, or even issues with mobile phone applications. I also get the opportunity to go onsite and set up new devices, install replacement parts and troubleshoot problems with existing setups.
Growing up I loved figuring out how everything functioned – many a toy got dismantled and reassembled after I worked out how all the parts fit together. With this insight I knew that technology would become part of everyday life and would always need to be maintained and supported, so I found the right courses and became qualified.
I think there is a lack of women following through with their interest in IT, due to these careers not being encouraged. When I was at school this was starting to change – more emphasis was being put on getting women interested in choosing technology–based careers over more traditional ones. On many of my courses there was still a male majority but as I progressed through the levels this started to change and more of my classmates were women.
Women have been involved with technology from the start, but they didn’t always get the appreciation, respect or recognition for what they achieved. Ada Lovelace’s confidence is inspiring because she lived in a world where women and their opinions were not respected, but she worked towards what she wanted and designed the basis for what computing is today. I’ve had the opportunity to become a service desk engineer because people like her paved the way before me, giving women the chance to work with technology and pursue this as a viable career.
For anyone thinking of starting a career in IT, don’t let anyone tell you how it should be – if you’re interested in technology and are willing to put in the effort in to achieve your career, then go for it. After all, it’s your career.
Pauline Gibson – Senior Software Developer
I have only recently joined Nitec’s Software Development team, although I have worked as a software developer for many years. My role involves writing code for software systems which analyse and present data in a meaningful way. I didn’t always work in this sector; however, I’ve always had an interest in technology. After working for several years in the education sector I chose to return to study, completing a part–time computing degree whilst continuing in full–time employment.
The technology sector covers such a wide range of roles and even within software development there are multiple specialities. I think for many there is a lack of knowledge around what a career in technology might look like. There are also still more men working in tech than women, which most likely stems from historic trends and gender stereotypes. It takes time to effect change, and therefore initiatives like teaching primary school pupils to code, can only serve to raise awareness of what a career in technology might look like, regardless of gender. There has never been a better time in Northern Ireland to get into a career in tech, with employment opportunities continuing to rise and technology continuing to evolve.
I have been inspired by various colleagues and managers throughout my career, most notably those who were gifted in people management as well as promoting their chosen discipline; the type of people who encourage progress and achievement whilst at the same time providing constructive critique and thus inspiring continuing professional development.
For anyone thinking of pursuing a career in technology, my advice is the same regardless of gender – if you have the drive and passion to succeed in any career then go for it! Do your research, find out which type of technology role excites you the most and start mapping out your path to get there. If you need qualifications, get them. If you’re already qualified, get your CV updated and submitted. Prepare for interviews, be prepared for rejections, learn from every single opportunity, and when you secure your first role, keep learning!
Laura Ard – Marketing Executive
I’m Nitec’s Marketing Executive, responsible for the business’s marketing function and all marketing–related activities, from strategic marketing, brand management and content marketing, to events management, web development and everything else in between.
Marketing is something I’ve always enjoyed working in as it is used in every company across every industry, so the opportunity to specialise in a particular area and learn something new is unlimited. The technology sector wasn’t something I had initially thought of going into as much of my initial experience in marketing was in the third sector, but I decided to try something new when I was ready to progress in my career and I haven’t looked back – technology is a really interesting sector to work in as it has become part of our everyday life, both in work and at home.
Although my career and my studies aren’t specifically in tech, from my time spent in the tech sector it’s clear that it’s still a very male–dominated field. I went to an all–girls school and I remember there were very few girls studying for STEM–related subjects. There were only a handful studying technology at GCSE, less again at A–Level, and as computers had only started to become commonplace later on in school, it was a very basic education in IT that was on offer. That said, we’re definitely starting to see more women working in tech–related roles than we used to, and in Nitec we now have women across all of our departments, which is very encouraging.
I’ll be the first to admit that I take my inspiration from a couple of very unique characters – Louis Zamperini and David Goggins. Two very different individuals but both have achieved incredible things and their general principles are the same – if you have a goal in life that you want to achieve, it’s all about persevering and being resilient to any obstacles that stand in the way. It’s something that motivates me personally, but I also think it’s a good mindset to have for anyone, male or female, considering a career in a field that is more heavily dominated by the opposite gender. It doesn’t matter what everyone around you is doing – if it’s something you want for yourself, then go for it.