My Path to ICT Success: Professional Development
Here is my personal story on how I became an ICT expert, with highlights on the key events that put me on the road to break the glass ceilings in the field. From that, I have recommendations for educators & technologists on how they could improve classroom instruction and/or the technology itself to excite more girls & women to join the ICT field.
Early Exposure to ICT and Business
I grew up in Silicon Valley… while Silicon Valley was growing up, too. HP’s Cupertino site was a few miles away, as was Apple. I have a family full of electrical engineers. So, even though I took a non-technical route in my education, working in the technology arena came naturally. I was comfortable with technology and saw it as an exciting set of evolving products and services. Proximity to ICT and ICT business played a huge role in my career choices.
The second important aspect of my career development relates more to function. In my early career, I did very well in some jobs, and not so well in others. This had little to do with the industry focus of my work or my skills. It had everything to do with what function I was playing in my job. I simply enjoyed some work activities much more than others. And my career really took off when I identified the types of roles that actually give me energy rather than sucking it out of me.
There is a great work style assessment tool that I use with all my employees called 5 Dynamics. It helps people understand the type of work (functions) they love and what type of work leaves them feeling depleted. And it provides strategies for dealing with the inevitable aspects of any job that we don’t like so much. It’s as great for kids and young adults as it is for professionals.
Holistic Education and the Power of Networking
But, two aspects of my career development have contributed most to my professional advancement in the ICT arena. And both were non-technical in nature. The first has to do with the interdisciplinary approach to my education. International relations, economics, international management are all code for degrees that examine policy, economy and business jointly.
In today’s increasingly global markets, ICT business management requires an understanding of all these areas. (Technical background would have helped a lot, too!) My pluralist approach to education didn’t play a big role initially, but once I got to a management level, I saw it accelerate my professional opportunities.
Finally, and most importantly, it’s about one’s network. It’s the network that helps every good professional find jobs, secure jobs, stay in-the-know, and rebound from professional misfortune. In good times and in bad (and the bad happens to EVERYONE), the support of colleagues and mentors will make all the difference in the world.
And, it’s not just one network… it’s many: college friends, the women one works with (ALL women, from the assistants to the CXOs), those who share passion for certain roles in the workplace. The time one spends staying in touch and helping others in the network will come back in spades when it’s needed most. Men have known this for a long time. Ironically, while women tend to be the more community focused of the two genders, it has taken them a long time to learn that networking goes a lot farther than competing or clawing one’s way up the latter alone.
Its About People, not Products
So, really, having a career in ICT started from a comfort level with the products, through exposure. But, my real success came about when I was able to apply my non-technical assets. And inherently, those assets stem from the areas of study and functional roles that I simply love doing most.
I flailed around a while until I found way to apply them professionally, but once I did everything fell into place. I think one of the most valuable gifts we can give young women today is the opportunity to identify those assets as soon as possible, and help them think as broadly as possible about what roles they enjoy playing.
As hard as I try to link ICT into this posting, I keep getting pulled back into the “softer” issues of professional development as the areas that allowed my growth in a career centered in ICT. The industries of ICT are inherently exciting, fast-growing, and full of opportunity. So, as long as girls and young women get exposure to ICT in their education and daily lives, it will be a natural place for them to land professionally.
But, the age-old issues of women’s advancement in the workplace (in ICT business or not) remain centered on their ability to know themselves in their professional capacity and gain the opportunity to pursue what they enjoy doing most.