My introduction to IT was not my first option as a career. I was absolutely interested in cutting edge technology, but it was quite foreign to me as to where I would fit in. It was my father who encouraged me to take a class to gain some insight into setting up local area networks. That initial introduction was overwhelming, as I was one of a few women in a predominantly male class. It sparked a competitive spirit in me to show that I was just as entitled to be there as were my counterparts. I quickly became interested in computer languages such as UNIX and Linux. At the time of my training, Novell Groupwise and Zen Works were the preferred networks that I was able to easily comprehend and interpret to those who did not have a firm grasp on the concepts. This was my entry into the world of IT.
Professional Interests & Drive
As applications and systems rapidly change, there has to be someone who can stay ahead of the curve to assist those who are thrusted into new technologies. I find that people have a fear of the unknown and only want to know enough to perform their job or personal tasks. That behavior is akin to leaving money on the table. This is what drives me to educate my client when they have engaged my services for assistance. I tend to under promise and over deliver. My stance is to show the client that I am attentive to their needs and will give them the more than expected. By understanding the problem, researching the root cause and sharing that with not only the client, but also my colleagues, I foster a better experience in eradicating the offending behavior. At the end of the day, it’s about keeping the stability of the environment in place for better productivity.
Mentors & Influencers
My most influential mentor is a phenomenal woman by the name of Margaret Ross. It was the first time I saw an African American woman at the head of a project management team who was extremely poised, polished and very particular. Previously, in my first encounter with Ms. Ross, I worked under the guidance of men. She brought a different type of energy to the role, as she was skilled at building steadfast, inspired groups, establishing a workspace that supported innovativeness and advancement, and who can stop to defuse conflict and keep it from derailing a project. Of course she had her share of naysayers, but it was difficult to distinguish who they were because of the personal interest she took in her team. She made it extremely difficult for someone to blatantly ostracize her or her directives by way of team venting. I learned from her how to navigate around many of the pitfalls along the way in this career. She has taught me to have confidence and competence in this and any field that I would venture into.
Mentorship is extremely important for the advancing of women in these roles because they need the knowledge of other women who blazed the trail ahead of them. Those pioneers serve as a compass to keep you on the course of a charted trajectory. Many times, we may need honest feedback that is in our best interest, but is not always the advice we want to hear. A true mentor will not skirt the edges to spare your feelings if brutal honesty is required. Those moments of difficult conversations should be embraced as these are our trusted allies. They are in place to make us accountable for our actions, encourage our forward march in the face of challenge, and present connections that we may not encounter on our own. Mentorship is a resource that is a necessity and not to be confused as a mere colleague or acquaintance.
Admired Leaders & Trailblazers
A leader in the field of technology that I think of first is Valerie Thomas, who is the Former associate chief of NASA space science data operations. Her creation of Landsat, which is the primary satellite to send pictures from space, is still in use today. During the era in which she worked at NASA, women of African American descent were not looked upon favorably. She still continued to excel under adverse conditions and rose to a rank far beyond the expectations of her peers.
Advancing Gender Parity
The advice that I offer girls who may want to pursue a career in a STEM field is to continue to be open to the vastness of what you can create or discover. This field is open to those who have dreams of the day they cure a common ailment or create a technology that transports the human body from one location to another via beams of light. The point is we need the dreamers with the big outrageous ideas, because those are the ones that breakthroughs are born from.
Leading the Next Generation
Although the number of women entering various divisions within IT has steadily grown in recent years, this field is still largely underrepresented. The steps that are currently being taken for equal pay are steps in the right direction. We now need the respect of our counterparts that we can excel in technology as they can and have.