If you were asked to describe what someone working in the IT industry looked like, how would you describe them? What kind of background and expertise would they have? Are there specific qualities you would look for? Someone that’s tech savvy? Should it be someone who understands the evolution of the industry? Should it be someone who has graduated with some type of engineering degree? Would it be a man? Would it be a woman? Who might be the best fit for a career in IT?
The Right Skills for the Job
My journey into the IT industry began 20 years ago. It was evident to me that it was a male-dominated arena. The stereotype of the male technical engineer was very prevalent when I began my career in IT. My initial encounter with this notion was my attempting to remain relevant working side by side with a male engineer. I was a woman, middle-aged, possessing far less technical experience than my male colleague. I knew I didn’t have the technical expertise, but I attended all trainings available, virtual or onsite. My ability to build relationships is what made the difference in the beginning and has served me well throughout my career.
Many technical skills are indeed necessary, but they can also be learned — by anyone. It was clear to me that any woman could learn the same technical skills that a man could. Does it seem unlikely that a woman could possibly succeed in the IT world? I say, women can thrive in this industry — and I can speak from my own story and successes, as well as the similar stories of so many other women.
An Unconventional Career Arc
I began my journey at the age of 49, having no background in IT. I came to the industry from being a stay-at-home mom and part-time salesperson in a very small company. I knew enough to turn on a computer but not much more, including no familiarity with even email. So why would CDW hire me at all? To my defense, the real reason was not my IT skills but my ability to communicate and build relationships. At the end of the day, those qualities are the most important for this industry, while many of the technical skills, in many cases, can be learned.
I moved from an initial sales role to being a software licensing specialist, then to a software asset management specialist, and eventually I was able to grow my role into the field solution architect I am today. I have watched CDW grow enormously through the years in every area I have been a part of. In licensing alone, it began with maybe three people that specialized in software licensing and has grown to more than 300. Today, I can’t begin to count the number of women in each of the areas of the business I touched.
Though this was not a planned career, I have been blessed to grow with an IT company that has recognized the value that women can bring to the table and gives them opportunities to grow. I am not at all what anyone would think of as the stereotypical IT person. At this juncture of my life, not only am I not ready to retire (though I could), but I am also looking toward my next opportunity to grow and further drive what I have started.
Women in IT: Part of an Increasingly Diverse Workforce
I was around when this company was lead by its founder — who began the company in his garage, a little like the Apple founders — and when leaders were brought in from several Fortune 500 companies to take us to the next level. Today, CDW’s top positions, CEO and COO, are occupied by women. The number of female VPs and upper management roles filled by women across the company is amazing. There are simply too many to mention. What do we all look like? We are wives, mothers, grandmothers, and career women, and we represent some of the finest and most talented IT professionals in the marketplace.