Increasing diversity in IT with ShadowTech Day

Posted by Optimation on 28 June 2017

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ShadowTech 2017 groupOptimation was privileged to host a group of smart, ambitious young women from Wellington secondary schools as part of ShadowTech Day 2017. ShadowTech encourages female students studying STEM subjects to consider a future career in IT, in a bid to maximise the full potential of New Zealand’s talent and redress the gender imbalance in the tech sector. Recent research from NZTech shows that women make up just 23 per cent of people employed in IT in New Zealand and they are under-represented in senior and management roles.

Optimates Suji Maden (Consulting Director), Sophia Hobman (Test Practice Lead), Katie Hannah (BA-recently-turned-Consultant) and Rebecca Parry (Client Director) served as the students’ mentors for ShadowTech Day. Their varied life experiences and career trajectories gave the group a good taste of the different types of roles and career paths they could consider.

The day kicked off with a round table discussion where the students talked about what they wanted to get out of ShadowTech. They are at a point where they have to make some course choices and they wanted to understand what IT had to offer. Sophia summarises: “I think the key takeaway from this session was that working in IT requires an interesting mix of soft skills as well as specific technical skills and competencies. Another important message was that you can develop a career in IT regardless of what background you come from. Suji had the group in hysterics with her less than orthodox career choices.”

Seeing IT in action

A walk around the Wellington office to see IT in action followed. Among the experiences the students enjoyed, Sarah St John, a Senior Consultant and our resident Agile expert, provided an overview of some cool government IT initiatives and followed up with a demo of the kanban board we use to deliver agile solutions to the Medical Council. Senior Test Analyst Michelle Bailey demonstrated STRAS, an enterprise solution Optimation developed for the Ministry of Education to support school transport. John Walraven, who recently joined Optimation as a Graduate Developer, then explained how he has made the move into IT from a building background.

Career guidance

Later, the students spent some time with senior recruitment specialists from our Presto Resourcing Options IT recruitment business. The Presto team shared invaluable advice on how they could identify their personal motivators and drivers (and how to differentiate between them), how to build their careers and gain the critical skills they might require, and how to present themselves to a future employer.

ShadowTech 2017 Presto team

Some key messages the students took away from spending ShadowTech Day with us at Optimation were:

  • Getting rejected doesn’t matter – ‘No’ just means not now!
  •  IT offers exciting, challenging and well-rewarded career paths, with many roles that involve soft skills as well as technical skills
  • Know and follow your passion!
  • You will have multiple careers in your working life, so make the most of opportunities as they present themselves and always keep learning
  • IT needs women. We bring different perspectives, skills and ways of interacting than men.

The group ended the day with a good understanding of the scope of opportunity in IT. As for us at Optimation, we’re delighted to see that there are confident, articulate and mature young women with lots of passion and energy considering joining us in IT!