"If I can inspire even one more girl to consider IT as a career by taking part then I’ll be happy!"
This year's Women in Tech Excellence Awards will be something special. As well as recognising top-performing women across the industry, they will bring to the fore the great stories about how women across the technology sector have led the response to the Covid-19 pandemic, at a time when many had to balance home and family life.
We talked to Diane Holden, UK UEM service manager at MarXtar and two-category finalist (Rising Star of the Year: SME and Team Leader of the Year: SME), about her history in IT and the advice she would share with new starters.
Computing: Why do you support Computing's Women in Tech Excellence campaign?
Diane Holden: Women are underrepresented in IT, so the Awards help to raise the profile of the industry as a good career choice for women and also showcase the amazing women who are currently taking the field by storm. I am really honoured to be on the finalist lists for two of these awards and if I can inspire even one more girl to consider IT as a career by taking part then I'll be happy!
CTG: How did you get into the IT industry?
DH: I have loved IT since school, because although I wasn't quick with spelling, the language of computers just made sense to me.
We didn't have much when I was growing up, but we did get a second-hand Commodore 64, a beige one with a tape drive that had a broken lid. I'd copy pages and pages of code to search for a missed full-stop, and although it did nothing exciting in the end, I loved that Commodore: it opened up a whole new world for me, it was like a lightbulb going off and I just knew this is what I wanted to do.
It was clear early in my career that there were very few technical women in the workplace and throughout my career I would have to fight harder to be taken seriously, but that only made me more determined. I have worked in companies where I have been bullied by managers and told that I would never be taken seriously, but that just made me try harder. I constantly strive to do better and worked hard to achieve qualifications to support my career. I am very proud that, as a woman, I hold a really senior position in my company, and not just because I'm female but because I am really good at what I do.
CTG: What you think is the main reason why the IT Industry is mainly male, especially in technical roles and senior positions?
DH: The IT industry is still mainly male because of the western stigma women continue to face and therefore suffer an uphill battle to get into the industry; from school when IT is not really considered as a ‘female' career choice, to accessing training, to establishing oneself in a male-dominated environment.
CTG: What is the biggest lesson you have learned in your career?
DH: To treat others the way I want to be treated, and that everyone is equal no matter what level they are at within the business. Having experience bad managers, I have learned more about the type of person I don't want to be, and that has helped me become stronger, more confident and to treat people with the respect that they deserve.
CTG: What advice would you give to young women aspiring to take on leadership roles?
My top tips are:
Find a mentor: Talk to people that do the roles you are interested in and ask questions, it's a fact that IT is still predominately male dominated but if you are prepared to work hard it doesn't need to be an issue.
Believe in yourself: Behind my career strategy the driving force has always been that I will not let someone tell me I cannot do something There is no difference in what a woman and a man can do in IT
My final and main piece of advice would be to just do it! Try out different areas and see what works for you best. I've worked in support, programming, as a server engineer, as a consultant and now as a technical and people manager. I personally love the technical side, but experiencing the other roles has given me a greater understanding as IT as a whole.