It’s no secret that the tech industry is male-dominated, and by the looks of the progress over the past few years, it’s going to be a hard and long slog to equalise gender representation in the industry.
Women aren’t strangers to tech.
You may not be familiar with their names, but there has been a multitude of women who have made a humungous impact on the world, not just the world of tech. Ada Lovelace, Grace Hopper, Annie Easley, Mary Wilkes, just to name a few whose work literally changed the world we live in today.
As a Milton Keynes based business, we are very proud of being a mere 13 minutes away from Bletchley Park, where the legendary Bletchley Park Code Crackers were based.
If you don’t know them, The Bletchley Park Code Crackers were a code-cracking team that deciphered enemy code during World War 2. This history-altering team was made up of a staggering 75% women. So, what’s changed?
We spoke to Nafeesah to find out more about her role and experience in the tech industry and how we at AZTech and the tech industry can do better to promote progress and equality.
Nafeesah Shafique: Service Desk Team Leader
Nafeesah started her time at AZTech as a 2nd line engineer and quickly progressed to Service Desk Team Leader shortly after passing her probation. She now manages a team of 13 that focus on providing top tier technical solutions and customer service to AZTech’s clients.
How did you get into IT?
Before the end of my 2nd and final year at 6th form, I was confused about what I wanted to do. I studied Physics, Maths with Mechanics, and Business at college, but IT was never an option I considered. I was unsure about going to university, as I knew how crucial practical experience is, so I decided to look into apprenticeships as I knew that I would gain knowledge and practical experience at the same time.
I stumbled across an intensive IT apprenticeship that lasts around 5-8 months, promising a job after completing this. I weighed out the pros and cons and only saw the pros! IT was/is a revolutionary industry, and almost every business relies on this heavily to run its day-to-day tasks. Progression in IT seemed inevitable, and I knew there would be no shortage of jobs or work in IT.
How has your career progressed?
After my apprenticeship, I started as a 1st Line Analyst at Santander. I felt this was the perfect place to start as working in a big organisation provides the discipline you need and sets high standards for what a service desk should look like.
I had a couple of other roles in the meantime, including 1st line engineer, and after my first year in the IT industry, I progressed into a 2nd line/desktop engineer.
About 3/4 years into my career, I decided to work for an MSP – the best thing I ever did.
Here I progressed within months to first a team leader of the ROQ team where I managed the field engineers, often getting involved in projects and onboarding new clients. Six months later, I got further promoted into a team leader of the service desk, where I managed the monitoring board and service desk.
I also went into a 6-month role where I acted as a junior project manager migrating small/medium-sized businesses into the cloud. I scoped the projects and completed most of the work myself. Exposing myself to this industry element was exciting, and I was pleased to achieve this and successfully migrate on-prem clients to the cloud.
Although I enjoyed my role as a junior PM, it wasn’t something I agreed to do long term, but I was happy to do this when the requirement came. I have always had yearly pay rises and earned more than most peers.
After a few more years, I finally made a move to AZTech, where I have been for just over a year.
Do you feel like being a female has affected your career within the IT industry?
Being a woman in this industry has served me a great deal as there has always been a lack of female presence in IT, which made me highly employable. My certifications from my apprenticeship and the experience I gained always allowed me to be a top choice for employers, regardless of gender. I have always felt the employers were impressed by my credentials over anything else. It is probably just a bonus that I am a technical woman in IT for most.
I wouldn’t say I’ve received direct discrimination due to my gender. However, I have had instances where male colleagues were unwilling to take advice from me or follow my instructions as they automatically felt it was flawed. Still, I always managed to prove these individuals wrong. I took great pleasure in doing so.
In your opinion, has the IT industry changed since you first started?
Yes. I feel like there are many more younger people getting into IT, which is helping to improve the diversity of the industry.
I believe that the industry recognises the lack of female representation and is progressing to rectify the issue. However, I think it will be a long time before the industry is truly equal.
What do you think the industry needs to encourage more females to work in IT?
We need more females in higher roles and more opportunities to progress. Joining the industry, I had no female role models to look up to, so I am hoping to change the for younger girls hoping to get into the industry.
IT should be made a clear option for young girls, especially at the school level. I never considered an IT career, as my school never suggested it. It may feel a bit daunting at first for young girls to enter a male-dominated field, but hopefully, with the increase of women joining the industry, it will become less intimidating.
What advice would you give to any female looking to break into the industry?
Always look for opportunities and know your worth. Don’t be afraid to take challenging roles or put yourself forward for extra work or projects. An IT job can be tough but working for the right company helps as they will always provide you with the material/resources needed to succeed.