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Career Hacker: What it takes to be a successful woman in IT

June 24, 2014

Being a woman in information technology puts you in a true minority. While recent news had me believing more and more women are pursuing careers in IT, reality dictates that women are still grossly underrepresented. This got me thinking that it’s more important than ever to make sure that the few women in IT who are interested in pursuing leadership careers in IT are a success. This will allow for the advancement of women into leadership roles where they can serve as mentors, role models and teachers. 

The infographic below shows the relevant skills to becoming a successful woman in the IT industry. Thanks so much to Trish Gilbert, one of my favorite women IT leaders, for providing her perspective! Also, thanks to my partner, Bernadette Brennan, for creating the graphic!

Courage to “Sit at the Table” – Shying away from including yourself at the table during a meeting will do nothing but reinforce the perception that you don’t belong there. Sit at the table, participate when relevant, listen to your colleagues and take advantage of opportunities to learn.

Willingness to Raise Your Hand – One of the first steps to growing your career is letting other people know that you are interested in doing more. Most of the time, the people who get promoted are the ones who say, “I want that job.” or “How do I go about being considered for that opportunity?” To learn more about how to do this, visit my two favorite resources: Break Your Own Rules or Lean In.

Ability to Build Relationships – Your ability to build relationships with people at all levels of an organization is in your best interest. People are the decision makers who can propel or destroy your career; therefore, taking the time to get to know their goals and interests will motivate them to get to know more about you. People want to support and help the people who have close relationships to them.

Positive Professional Image – Maintaining a professional image is a 24X7 task. How do you want people to see you? Your actions and appearance should support the job and the image you want.

Expertise – You don’t have to be the smartest person in the room, but you do need to be an expert in an area of IT or something relevant to your organization. Also, find a niche that will allow you to offer something that others can’t.

Industry Knowledge – Knowing how your office, system or job operates is not enough. It’s imperative that you understand how organizations in your industry make money, serve customers, anticipate obstacles and manage risk.

Curiosity – As a technology professional, my guess is that you love to solve problems. In addition, that’s what the business expects of you, and it’s how you provide value to your clients. Channel curiosity to appropriate situations; be willing to question everything and challenge the status quo, as this is where continuous improvement evolves.

Adaptability – Technology is always changing. Not only do you need to be an expert, but you also need to keep up to date with the latest trends and solutions. If you can actually anticipate change, you will provide additional value past that of your colleagues. In addition, you need to find a way to understand a wide range of possible solutions and adapt your recommendations to appropriately meet the needs of your customers. 

Want to know more about IT's gender diversity struggles? Check out our recent infographic, Completing the Circuit: Rewiring IT for Greater Gender Diversity.

Melissa McFall has spent over nine years in the IT staffing and services industry, including six years as an IT recruiter. She is an expert in recruiter/client relations and service delivery.

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