“What do you do for a living?” Many people seem surprised when I answer that I work in IT. Almost as if the phrase “woman in IT” is some kind of mythical creature, akin to Big Foot or a unicorn. But should they be surprised?
I developed an interest in math and sciences at a very young age. I remember begging my mom to buy me the practice math booklets at the store that were intended for 5th grade and up when I was about 6 years old. I excelled in these areas and was placed in the “gifted” program all throughout middle and high school. For my electives, I took classes such as AutoCAD, Intro to C++, or other computer-related courses. Even then, I noticed something very obvious – there were more boys than girls in all of these classes.
I know that this was not because the boys were encouraged more than girls because I had teachers and advisors pushing for me and suggesting that I go to college to study in a STEM field. At the time, I did not understand why they wanted me to study math or science. As much as I liked getting praised for getting higher grades than most boys in my classes, I did not think that working in a STEM field EVERY DAY for the rest of my life sounded like any fun. The only images of tech jobs I had been exposed to featured exclusively men, generally sitting with their face six inches from a screen staring at lines and lines of code.
Since arriving at fusionSpan I’ve discovered another side to IT. The side that requires problem solving, team work, collaboration, strategic planning and people skills. One day I may be studying a new tool, the next I’m working through mountains of data, and the following day I’m working one-on-one helping someone through their own IT problems. It’s made me realize that there’s actually a lot about technology I really enjoy.
My first large scale project was with our Senior Network Engineer. We would be implementing a server migration to the cloud for an association. I expected to just be responsible for documentation and other administrative tasks. I was surprised and excited to learn that I would be playing a large role with the implementation itself. I personally backed up data and moved it to the new server, and physically assisted with installing the new server into the rack. Dare I say it was FUN?!?
Some may argue that the opportunities just aren’t there for women. I happen to know from my own personal experience that there are if you want them, you just have to know where to look.
- In high school, advisors encouraged me to participate in math “competitions,” take computer classes, and take the ACT versus the SAT because it includes a science category. They’re a great way for girls to get serious about STEM.
- Scholarships are offered specifically to women seeking education in STEM fields to encourage them to participate.
- fusionSpan hired me initially as an event registrar, saw my interest and potential in IT, and offered me the opportunity to learn and grow in this field. Finding the right mentor is key!
Now to answer the original questions: Should people be surprised to find women working with technology? No, absolutely not! There are so many fascinating ways to engage with technology that I know I’ll always find something exciting and new in my work. And I hope that for all the young girls out there who like math and science that you’ll remember that technology isn’t just for boys, it’s for everyone!