"I failed in one role. Eight years later, I'm in a more senior version and I'm rocking it"
We all fear failure, whether it's in our personal or professional lives. But Women in Tech Excellence Awards finalist Renee Hawkin, of Thoughtworks, says we should embrace the possibility.
Why do you support Computing's Women in Tech Excellence Campaign?
Hardworking women are often overlooked for their contributions to business success. I often see friends and colleagues who are silent about their roles in driving change and results in the technology industry. I believe that it is really important to acknowledge and celebrate these amazing achievements.
McKinsey's Women in the Workplace 2021 report states, 'The path forward is clear. Companies need to take bold steps to address burnout. They need to recognise and reward the women leaders who are driving progress. And they need to do the deep cultural work required to create a workplace where all women feel valued.'
It is great to see Computing's Women in Tech Excellence campaign available to provide an avenue to celebration and recognition for numerous deserving women. In addition, the campaign provides role models and inspiration for younger women looking to grow their careers in technology.
How did you get into the IT industry?
I studied Mechanical Engineering back in the 1990s. It was a time when there were very few females in engineering and technology. I was raised by my father, who was an architect. His passion for design and creating things very much influenced my love of engineering. I was blessed to have that positive influence in my life and his encouragement that I was capable of doing anything I set my mind to.
What do you think is the main reason why the IT Industry is mainly male, especially in technical roles and senior positions?
Lack of representation plays a key role in the lack of women in technical roles and senior positions. It leaves younger women without a clear pathway of success into leadership roles.
In addition to fewer women in senior roles, there is a lack of support for women to move into those more senior roles. Research from Harvard Business Review found that US women working in science, engineering and technology fields were 45 per cent more likely than their male colleagues to quit within a year of taking a job. Many women leave the industry noting a lack of support, self-confidence, and mentorship, as well as feeling the need to 'prove themselves more than men to get promoted.'
What is the biggest lesson you have learned in your career?
It's ok to fail. We all make mistakes - small ones and big ones. Each one of these mistakes are opportunities to learn and grow. I took on a role a number of years ago which was a new role for the business and not set up for success. I ‘failed in that role' and I was devastated. Eight years later, I'm in a more senior version of that role and I'm rocking it. I used my ‘failure' experience to learn and develop my knowledge and experience, which has led me to being very successful in my role today.
What are your three top tips for women looking to start a career in IT?
- Build your network. Don't be afraid to reach out to other women in your company or industry for support and guidance on your career. I've not come across another woman in tech who was not willing to give support.
- It's OK to take on a stretch role. Studies show that women will not apply for a role unless they meet every single criteria on the job description. Don't be afraid to take on a stretch role. Play to your strengths and know that they will help you overcome the unknown.
- Live your values. Ensure that whatever role you are taking on aligns with your values. There is little point in taking on a role that would require you to sacrifice how you live your life.