Joanne has a passion for diversity in tech and is a champion of women playing key roles and being represented and recognised for their contribution to the sector.
Next week sees the Women in Tech Excellence Awards taking place in London. The awards provide a great opportunity to share and celebrate the achievements of women working in the tech sector, and also an opportunity to extend all important business and personal networks.
Joanne Buckley, Client Services Director at Cognizant, explains what attracted her to the industry, as well as what keeps her there, and shares advice for women at an earlier stage in their careers.
Why do you support Computing's Women in Tech Excellence campaign?
I'm passionate about creating a community in which women can find connection and mutual support, which attracts more women and girls to build their careers within the tech industry. That's why I'm one of the leads for Cognizant's Women Empowered Affinity Group.
The Women in Tech Excellence campaign amplifies our aims and provides a powerful platform for promoting opportunities and inclusive activities, as well as recognising the successful endeavours of Cognizant and other industry leaders.
How did you get into the IT industry?
My career actually began in the German brewing industry! I'd studied German at the University of Hull - a world away from IT. When I moved to Ireland, my career took a new direction into the tech sector.
Ireland is fertile ground for IT companies and technical talent. My German language skills provided an entryway into Business Process Outsourcing in a tech support role and then to working for a government organisation responsible for developing and growing Irish enterprises in world markets.
As a "non-techie" type, at first I found it daunting supporting so many Irish tech players with their international development, partnering with research institutes and education to enable the growth of these companies and in turn the local economy.
I still feel that I have a lot to learn - but I also know that tech is the perfect industry for me: fast-paced, ever-changing and bringing new challenges every day. I'm inspired by the new technologies our clients are constantly innovating and in awe of the array of talent among our teams who help some of the world's most influential brands to grow.
Tech is such an exciting place to be.
Why do you think the IT Industry is mainly male, especially in technical roles and senior positions?
I can't recall any role models from my youth who'd inspire women and girls to engage with the industry. There were almost no female industry leaders and the accomplishments of pioneering women from the history of technology - Ada Lovelace, Hedy Lamarr, Katherine Johnson, et al - weren't widely known. So women with talent simply didn't view tech as an industry in which they could thrive and be successful.
Although the industry is changing incrementally, even in 2022 only 10% of the world's biggest tech companies have women CEOs. Many women still don't feel it's a sector where they belong - for me, feeling a sense of belonging within a company is hugely important. I want to change that, to demonstrate that female talent can find a home within the IT industry. I want to encourage women to explore how they can grow in tech and cultivate a sense of community that will mentor them, support them and build their confidence.
I hope that this will inspire more women to apply for senior and leadership positions, so that we can demonstrate that the IT industry is a place where women can excel and become the leaders of the future.
What's the biggest lesson you've learned in your career?
When I started out, I accepted everything I was told about how to do things, even if I knew there was a better way. I thought my own understanding must be wrong whenever it didn't align with the ideas and solutions I was hearing. Consequently, my career didn't take off as soon as I'd wanted it to.
Eventually I realised that imposter syndrome was preventing me from speaking up and challenging established ideas. Gradually, with the guidance of a strong mentor, I started to ask questions in smaller forums… and people listened!
This experience taught me that we shouldn't be afraid to speak up or challenge the status quo. You may not always get the result you want - but if you don't ask then the answer will always be no.
What advice would you give to young women aspiring to take on leadership roles?
Network, network, network. And then network some more.
Build your team, know your allies and grow your fan club - by supporting each other at every turn, women will continue to develop diverse communities that drive success.
Finally, always be curious. Ask questions, challenge thinking and be open to feedback that will help you develop.