Understanding the Plight of Women in Business

Disclaimer: This post is based solely on my experiences in the industry over the past decade and a half.  As true with everything else, your mileage may vary.

Over the years, I’ve struggled with understanding why there’s a need for the women in tech movement.  I’ve been working in a male-dominated industry and have done everything I could to not play the gender card.  Yes, I’m a woman, but that doesn’t make me any less of a geek.  If anything, my not liking Star Trek and not reading a lot of sci-fi may make me surrender my geek card.  But my degree, my quick ability to pick up tech, and my ability to explain tech in simple terms have helped me to show that I truly belong in tech.  And gender – to me – seemed like a non-issue.

But as I’ve gotten older (and not so naive), I’ve started understanding the need for the women in tech movement a bit more.  Some of my past musings include:

I don’t agree with the approach of excluding guys, as the real world just isn’t one gender or another.  However, I do agree to the approach of including guys and helping them understand what we’ve dealt with and how they can help us (and help the industry) to reduce some of the roadblocks we’ve met in the past.

Recently, as a business owner and chamber of commerce member, I’ve had the experience of running into businesses who still can’t fathom that there are women in tech, let alone independent female tech consultants.  I got a call from a fellow chamber member, wanting to speak to the owner of Cleveland Tech Consulting.  Yes, that’s my company name – I went with a Cleveland Tech name to go hand in hand with Cleveland Tech Events.  Anyhow, the guy on the phone seemed shocked that the owner of this tech consulting company was female.  Sorry, buddy, but as soon as I hear that shock and disappointment, I’m not giving you my business.  And that initial thought started to light the lightbulb of why there’s a women in tech movement.  We need to educate people that the stereotypes are outdated, even if we are still a minority.

I also had my first run-in with a young developer who didn’t believe in female developers.  It’s sad to see brogrammers like him out there, but at the same time, it was great to see the look of shock when I rattled off my credentials – including Microsoft MVP (so legitimately 1 in a small number throughout the world), technical book author, technical book editor, and past experience.  That initial cockiness and arrogance eventually changed when I stepped up and pulled out my list in my “Oh no, you didn’t just go there. Let me whip out my ego.” fashion.

With these recent experiences, I really had to wonder – what are other local women in business experiencing?  Are they finding this to be bad as well?  These are questions I will continue to explore.

Today, I attended my first Working Women Connection meeting, and I was the only IT training/developer lady out there.  The rest of the women had all sorts of backgrounds – from accounting to products to insurance to finance.  They have backgrounds across the board.  Talking with them, it’s interesting to learn about their stories.  It was also great to feel that they were empowering each other to be successful just by learning about each other and promoting each other’s businesses.  I’m going to attend future meetings for sure, as the networking alone was great.  However, I also look forward to hearing others’ journeys in business to see if the gender card really comes up this much elsewhere.

Over the next few months, you’ll see more posts from me about women in business, especially women in tech, as I explore the women in tech movement and how I can get through understanding why they exclude men and how we can get them on board on educating and including men rather than excluding them.

 

Response to the Crotchety Olde Geek’s Career Advice for IT Newbies

After watching the Crotchety Olde Geek in his debut of “Career Advice for IT Newbies”, I had to compose my thoughts on this.  Bob and I have had some interesting conversations that have helped me find my way where I am today, and I truly appreciate this arrogant, condescending SoB’s perspective and analogies along the way.  But there are some points that he’s made that I do have differing opinions on.

Nobody Cares About Your Career

Your parents, the potential employers, recruiters… nobody truly cares about your career more than you.  In order to stay ahead in your career, you have to do a lot of the work.  Network, network, network.  Go to user groups and events in your industry and meet others in your career, as you never know who you’ll meet or where your career path will take you.  Attend conferences. Read books.  Participate in webinars. Be aware of the community in your industry and get involved.  If you think this is a lot to do, just know that the work you put in leads to what rewards you may one day be able to reap.  But again… the keyword is you.  If you want it to happen, you have to understand that your career is in your own hands and ultimately, you control your own fate.

You’re Obsolete

As Bob puts it, the profession changes every 5 years.  I disagree with him on this – it changes much quicker than that!  The schools truly are playing catch up and rarely teach what’s relevant today.  As he puts it, though, this is cool and fun stuff.  If you enjoy it, you’ll always find something new to learn.  But the skills you’ve learned in school and in certs are getting obsoleted rapidly, so you have to stay up on it to stay in the industry.

Job vs. Career

IT is a career and doesn’t work well as a job.  Having been in the field as long as I have, this is very true.  You can’t work in IT for 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week.  IT never stops; it’s constantly changing.   The people who don’t float to the top will sink at the bottom, and this is true.  So if you’re maintaining your SQL Server  2005 skills and writing classic ASP and not learning ASP.NET or SQL Server 2012 skills, you will become obsoleted and sink to the bottom.  This may sound cruel, but it’s a harsh reality.  There are people in the field who are constantly furthering their career, and businesses are attracted more to those than to those who aren’t staying ahead and doing what they can do be more efficient and give the companies a better return on investment.

Certifications

In some careers, they do mean the difference between employment and not employment.  To me, personally, it’s alphabet soup that shows that people can learn technology for a test.  It’s one thing to read the book and get the cert, but if you can’t perform and do the job, that cert is meaningless.  I’ve unfortunately encountered enough people with alphabet soup and incompetence when it came to performing that I don’t look at certs heavily.  But as Bob puts it, if you’re going to learn the technology, then go for the cert while you’re learning.  I’ll be going down this course over the next few months, as one of my employers wants me to be teaching Microsoft courses, as they’re content with me teaching and know that I’d be a great instructor for these topics.

Experience

Ah… the catch-22 of not being able to get experience without a job and not getting a job without experience.  Bob mentions the concept of the home lab and working with non-profits.  These are excellent ways of showing that you’re learning things to get you experience, and it’s showing that you’ve got the initiative and the drive to get more experience.  And even once you do land a job, don’t stop these!  Continue to play with the technology that you want to work with even once employed, as you never know where it’ll lead.  (And yes, we have a home lab, much more complicated than some.  But I’m married to an IT guy who’s constantly trying things out and seeing how things work.)  As for non-profit work, if you want to help but don’t know where to start, check out http://clevelandgivecamp.org – an event happening in mid-July to help benefit the non-profits here in Cleveland.

Know Business

Technology is getting outsourced.  Technology knowledge alone is not enough to get by.  If you know what the company you’re working for does, you can use your knowledge to help benefit the company.  If you’re interviewing some place, be sure to check out the website of the company you’re interviewing with.  Check out the company’s profile on LinkedIn.  Know the business and technology, and know how to apply the technology.

Conclusion

This is the first of hopefully many rants from Bob on the industry and other things that crotchety olde geeks rant about.  This younger crotchety geek looks forward to seeing what else he publishes.  If you’re looking for honest, sage advice – with the reality of it all, not always sunshine and unicorns – stay tuned to the Simplex-IT blog to see more Ye Crotchety Olde Geek rants.