Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Celebrating women in IT this International Women’s Day

In CiCS we have women doing amazing work across all areas of the department. Here we profile just a few of those women. Finding out more about how they got into IT and their advice for other women pursuing a career in IT.

Abbie McGregor
Faculty IT Manager

I stumbled into a career in IT! I moved to London in 1998 and got a clerical job in a Chartered Surveyors. I hated it as it was incredibly boring. After a few months I was moaning about it to my brother who worked for an IT consultancy in Manchester. He said they had a London office that needed a good office manager. So I had an interview over the phone and got the job! It was a really small office so I ended up doing everything including being talked through fixing computers over the phone. After a year, a job came up at London School of Economics - Desktop Support Team Leader. I put in an application thinking I'd never even get an interview but I did get an interview and I managed to persuade them that they needed someone with good customer service skills rather than good IT skills. They bought it and the rest is history. I learned everything I know about IT support on the job. When I moved back to Sheffield I worked as a Network Manager in 2 schools then took a break to have kids and came back to CiCS in 2012.

So I never really had a burning desire to work in IT but once I did, I realised that I was quite good at it. I've always really seen myself more as a Customer Service Manager with good IT skills and backup from teams of skilled people.

My advice to women wanting to pursue a career in IT is don't be put off by all the men and be confident in your ability.

Helen Parkes 
Senior Oracle Analyst / programmer 

I first encountered computing in 1970 in lower sixth form maths when the teacher arranged for us to do some simple programming on Birmingham University's mainframe.

I started working in IT soon after university around 1980 as a systems analyst when the jobs of systems analyst and programmer were usually separate.  Punch cards were still used and PCs, relational databases and the internet were some years away.  The first PC I used was standalone and had a single floppy disc drive.

I've been in IT ever since (though it was called data processing before IT).  My job has evolved as technology has changed and I've been an analyst/programmer for about 25 years.

I didn't exactly choose to work in IT, it just happened.  The logic and problem solving suits the way my brain works!  I enjoy the contact with users too, and seeing how the various systems and information work together.

As for advice for women considering a career in IT,  I'd say that there is a whole range of IT work, it is not all geeks coding (even if that describes me).

Eleanor Shakeshaft 
Digital Content Officer 

I graduated from the University of Nottingham in 2014 and accepted the first job I was offered doing marketing and events for a high school near my hometown in Cheshire. Prior to this I didn't really know exactly what I wanted to do, but I knew I enjoyed creating digital content and had an interest in marketing as well as technology and IT. Working in the high school (and perhaps also missing student life a little bit) helped me to realise that I'd like to work in higher education, so at the end of 2014 I started applying for jobs related to marketing and digital content at universities all over the UK. The second interview I got was for the position of Digital Content Officer in CiCS at The University of Sheffield and I thought the position sounded perfect, so I was delighted when I got the phone call offering me the position! Although I felt a little bit apprehensive about packing up and moving to a city that I'd never been to before, I was excited for the adventure and knew that I'd enjoy the job. So I'm glad I took the risk.

I enjoy working in IT not just because of my interest in technology, but also because I know how much excellent IT services matter to higher education, teaching and learning, and it's only going to become more important in the future.

My advice to women thinking of a career in IT or wanting to progress their career in IT is to not be afraid of taking risks and to encourage themselves to break out of their comfort zone. If you see a job you like but aren't sure if you'll get it, just apply for it anyway! I think a lot of women have trouble recognising their own worth and talent. But an employer might just see your value and potential more than you can yourself.

There are more stories to follow, so check back soon.