Prompted by a shortage of female job applicants and the experiences of our MD Claire, we've been interviewing a series of women about their experiences working in IT. How do things look to somebody just embarking on their career in the industry? We asked Amy Evans, as she enters the third and final year of her Cisco apprenticeship.
What did you study at university?
I didn't take the university route: I left school after completing A Levels in Business, English Language and English Literature.
How did you get into a career in IT?
After only two years of full-time work I was made redundant, and had no idea what or where I wanted to go next. Redundancy made me realise that I wanted to go back into training, so I weighed up the options of apprenticeships or going to university, although I still had no idea what I wanted to study. I had a close friend who had just completed an apprenticeship at Cisco, and she said to me "why don't you apply?". After realising I had nothing to lose, I applied, was successful, and am now nearly into my third and final year of my apprenticeship.
Do you enjoy it?
Absolutely! Not only working in the IT industry, but also working for a company that is so flexible and fun to work for. Hard work is definitely rewarded, and I am very motivated to seek more challenges within my career.
Do you know any other women who work in IT?
Apart from the friend that inspired me to apply for the apprenticeship, I can only think of one other female that also works for an IT company. Apart from a couple of male relatives, none of my family works in IT.
Would you recommend IT to girls who are thinking about their future careers?
Most definitely! There's that clichéd saying of "do something you love, and you'll never work a day in your life", but I definitely feel that's the case with IT. Think about the different technology you use in a day, such as mobile devices. I always think "I wouldn't be able to do this if IT didn't exist!". It's also exciting to be at the forefront of new advances in technology and find out the next thing to be connected to the internet. Technology companies are very current, very innovative, and things will only continue to advance from here.
What's the best thing a girl or woman can do to get into IT?
Stay open-minded! I remember when leaving school, I had a list of careers that I potentially could see myself doing, and a list of things that I definitely didn't want to do. IT probably fell into the latter, but I think that was my lack of knowledge and experience. A lot of IT companies now offer work experience programmes which I have gradually seen more and more young females complete, and go on to consider working for a tech company.
The key is to stay open minded and get as much as experience as you can. Like most careers, there's little chance of you stepping in to your dream role straight away, but any foot in the door is a chance to progress into your desired role and gain knowledge and experience on the way. I'd also highly recommend IT apprenticeships: they are a great way to get hands on, gain training and qualifications, and all whilst being paid!
How can we encourage more girls and women to consider a technical career or a career in IT?
This is something I feel very passionate about. Firstly, I think education in schools needs to be advanced. Courses need to be updated and reflect what IT is truly about. I remember that my technology eduction included sending emails and making graphics for a website; IT has so much more to offer than this. I believe that technology should be more prominent in primary schools as this would also help break the gender stereotyping of only males wanting to take IT-related subjects.
Secondly, females who already work within IT can do a great job of spreading the word of how good a career it provides. Whether that's through inspirational talks, or simply by boosting the female presence at careers events. There is a stereotype that it's men in socks and sandals who work in technology, and in reality it is more or less the complete opposite to this. I have met so many glamorous women in the industry!
Lastly, a change to job advertisements - IT companies need to change the way they advertise and the words they use. Think less techy, and more appealing to not only females but also people early in their career.
We'd love to hear from more female job applicants at Ideal: if you want to join us, take a look at our current jobs, and get in touch with HR@ideal.co.uk to tell us why you're the Ideal candidate.