"We need to choose a career in sync with our nature"
IT can be a difficult industry to break into for women, especially as many have to go through the process twice: once when they're beginning their career, and again when they return to work after having children.
We introduced the Outstanding Returner category at the Women in Tech Excellence Awards to highlight exactly this issue, drawing attention to the women who have managed a seamless and successful return to work.
Vijayasarathy Kundavi Tirpachur is a project manager, working for a public sector client in Capgemini UK. Unlike most of our returners, she was with a different company before taking her career break, and we talked to her about how the process of joining a new firm after a 3.5 year gap.
Why do you support Computing's Women in Tech Excellence Campaign?
It's a brilliant campaign to recognise and celebrate women. I've found it so important to live for myself and support my family - and bring those skills, the same passion and verve into my work.
How did you get into IT industry?
My passion for IT began when I was growing up in the Middle East, and my dad brought home a computer. From then on, I started coding and gaming and loved it. I did my degree in Computer Science and Engineering in Chennai. When I moved to the UK, I did a couple of call centre roles to start and was involved in the migration to new systems at Santander Banking Group, Belfast. I got my first break into a proper IT job as a tester at MInformation Technologies and then progressed to a Cobol developer at Sanderson, Belfast. I left as a senior programmer analyst from Sanderson and joined CNT Infotech in Chennai as offshore head for their back-end IT/Admin work for US healthcare insurance.
I then joined Scope International as a Senior Project Manager and had to take a break from my career to raise my family. After a break of 3.5 years, I joined Capgemini as a project manager via their returners programme (Relaunch@Capgemini) in 2019. There were two informal chat sessions before I was offered this position. I had lot of guidance, support and training for six months and was then made permanent. The journey was beautifully tailored with the right training, workload, and emotional support from my mentor.
It has been the best opportunity; the team really understand the value returners can bring from their career breaks into work. I've now gone from leading projects of £3,000 to managing a £1.5m project portfolio with brilliant client feedback. Capgemini accepts me for who I am; I'm delighted to have been nominated by my mentor and be a finalist for Returner of the Year.
What you think is the main reason why the IT Industry is mainly male, especially in technical roles and senior positions?
We live in a historically male-dominated society, which is reflected in the workplace. Women's nurturing attitude to raise kids and managing 'the kitchen' makes it a very easy option for men to progress higher than women as they don't need to take a break for family. Things are changing and evolving slowly, but it still remains that a child can be borne only by a woman!
What is the biggest lesson you have learned in your career?
Let go of external expectations or pressure. Work hard with passion and dedication, do your best and recognition will follow. Everything falls into place when you do your best and visualise a positive outcome.
What are your three top tips for women looking to start a career in IT?
There are many career opportunities within IT. I believe we need to choose a career in sync with our nature. I love being a project manager as I am self-driven by nature. I look forward to work every morning. Passion is the key word I would like to emphasise. Knowing who we are and what excites us is very important as without motivation and inspiration, we will easily run out of steam to do the task at hand.
Each job description needs to be read and understood to some degree before attending the interview. Further queries on what the role entails can be clarified in in-person meetings. Certifications can be done to get the role one is interested in. I had done my MBA in project management in 2012 from the University of Wales; to revive my skills, I completed my Prince 2 Practitioner Certification before my informal chats with Capgemini, so the hiring company would have confidence in my skillset.
You can only sound confident about things you are comfortable with and actually know. Always be clear about what you know and don't know, so that areas of improvement can be identified very early on and can be worked upon. The Taj Mahal was not built in a day. Anyone can reach the heights once they start believing and working on themselves. Don't be too critical, adapt an easy pace of life so that you are always approachable. Life should never be a chore or complication.