It is vital to highlight the work of women at a senior level
The technology industry has a diversity problem, especially at senior levels. Without being able to see themselves in leadership roles, many women are turned off from joining the IT space: women who could bring much needed skills and experience to the table.
That is why Computing launched the Women in Tech Excellence Awards. Now in their fifth year, we've already helped to tell the stories of more than 1,200 women - a number that just keeps growing. Every year entries grow and it becomes more and more difficult to cut the shortlist down - which can only be a good thing!
Erin Gray, scrum master at Tecknuovo, is one of this year's high-achieving finalists. We sat down with her to talk about the importance of highlighting the work of women in tech.
Why do you support women in tech initiatives?
IT is playing a pivotal role in shaping the world of our futures, and it is essential for women to be included in those conversations. To ensure our voices are heard, we need more women in senior leadership roles, and onto company boards. We must also educate and bring more awareness to the younger generation about the many varied career options available in this industry.
How did you get into IT?
Growing up, I was fascinated by my father's Amstrad PC. I would type paragraphs from books into Word just to hear the sound it made when you saved the document to disc. I was equally fascinated by watching the cogs in our huge printer turn when you printed a document! I didn't know what I wanted to do after finishing my A Levels, and my brain kept coming back to computing. It was actually my sister that recommended I look at starting a career in IT. I eventually found a beginner university course that didn't require any prior programming experience or computing-specific A-levels, and I jumped at the opportunity. I passed every year and had a great time doing so, which led me to where I am now!
What is the biggest lesson that you've learned in your career?
Be a relentless learner; always remain a student of your industry. This concept is so critical in a field like technology, where new innovations appear daily. Developing yourself and your skillset is one of the best techniques for career advancement. I learn every day; I fail every day. Failure is an essential learning tool.
What do you think is the main reason why the IT industry is mainly male, especially in tech roles and senior positions?
That's the million-dollar question! I believe part of the problem is the lack of awareness around the many different types of careers in IT. You don't only have to be a programmer, there are so many options such as data scientists, system administrators, product owners, etc. These opportunities must be marketed better so girls and young women can decide if they are options for them.
What are your top three tips for women looking to start a career?
- You don't need to pretend to be someone else. In particular, never emulate male characteristics just to be heard. Diversity of thought is so important. If you are invited to the meeting, you have earned a place at the table and have a point of view, so make sure you feel you can share it.
- Find a good mentor: Seek out people whose work and approach you admire. I have been fortunate enough to have excellent mentors who have provided me with guidance and direction and functioned as a sounding board for me. Having these meaningful relationships will be invaluable throughout your career journey.
- You can have a much more fulfilling career if you are working on projects that you care about and for an organisation that values you.