Welcome home Erin
Erin is the latest boomerang to return to Macquarie Cloud Services, a fact we are very happy about. Adopting a new role in the team, we asked her to share her thoughts and views on life in IT and Technology. Read her journey and experiences as a professional in IT. Over to you Erin…
From the beginning.
I guess to understand where it all started, I have to go back a few steps…
When I think back about what drove me to the field, it was my curiosity of How, Why things work. It was not to the extent of most engineers, like my husband, but enough that it would make sense, logic, and not just be seen as some magic that happens in the background.
So how do you spur that curiosity in young women? When I was very young, someone in my family gave me a series of books called HOW, WHY, WHAT etc. I think that is where it started.
I have been keen on technology since high school in Canada, where I took Computer Science classes in Yr. 10 and 11. Bearing mind, it was the early 80’s so it was pretty progressive for a public high school to offer Computer Science and Computer Programming courses and have 2 computer labs.
I definitely had a preference towards the Science side as the most I programmed was a stick character walking up steps in Waterloo Basic.
One of the most amazing moments for me in those early days was connecting my Apple 2 compatible, via a phone based modem (I can still hear the noises.. cshhhh, beeep, cshhhh, weeeeee..) to a friend’s BBS (bulletin board service) and typing in a message and seeing his response appear up on my screen real-time. It would have been easier to just call him, but the novelty of what the tech could do amazed me.
My Early Career.
My first real job in IT was as a reception and admin person at an IT store. From there, I moved to office manager, pc assembly and floor sales. I moved to Australia permanently in 1993 and joined a reseller/distributor as an ISR at first but found I had a knack for product management and marketing. Luckily the company thought the same and created a role for me.
By 1996, I was hooked and joined Dell, only a few years after they entered the Australian market with a local presence, as part of the product marketing management team and have never looked back.
Sure, I was usually the only woman in a small room or collectively the women made up no more than 10% of an audience in a larger group but I was no shrinking violet and had plenty of support from my colleagues and managers to help me succeed and support me whenever I wanted to make role change.
Of course, not all of it has been smooth sailing. Some of my more challenging moments have been in my Product Management and Sales roles with customers who had a “more traditional” culture.
Presenting tech roadmaps and making recommendations to IT teams of the top banks or state gov departments of between 6 and 20 men, as a young woman may have been intimidating. A few would ask ridiculous questions to push and see if I knew what I was talking about, so I would take extra time learning every detail of my products so I could not be tripped up in those situations. I could have told you what the 57 new instruction sets of the MMX processor on our new desktop would do, and their benefits, if needed. And occasionally it was. Building trust was more challenging if you did not fit the “picture” of a technical product specialist.
By my mid-late 30’s I had done a few people management roles but my greatest management challenge was managing numerous small teams or individuals across APAC. Most of the team were supportive, excellent to work with, but there was one small team, of older gentlemen in a more patriarchal culture, that were obstinate and borderline rude, which made it hard to have a collaborative and energetic APAC team. I was not deterred but certainly learned a lot about cultural nuances, people management, patience and the importance of clarity in communication.
So why do I continue in IT?
I love a challenge, I enjoy sharing knowledge and learning, and get a thrill if I am able to help someone else be successful. Some of the greatest kicks have been helping a customer meet a near impossible deadline and seeing their name in light of their global organisation. It was having a male colleague who has progressed up the product management ranks tell me that I was the reason he got into that field or a female colleague who was inspired to go for a more senior role after attending a course I facilitated. None of these is IT-specific but I have had such great opportunities in the IT industry to experience these, why would I leave? Plus, the added bonus of working with some of the smartest and most inspiring people on the planet.
Is there a downside? Sure, there is. Whilst computing is all based on black and white/ simple on and off, most IT projects or rollouts have glitches, bumps etc. Some are unexplainable and unsolvable with current resources constraints. Inevitably, there will be a customer or two for whom things don’t go as planned and bitter disappointment ensues. But that will happen in any industry. Working for a company with a fanatical customer experience focus like Macquarie Cloud Services helps to minimise the “downs”.
Really, as long as you are curious, agile and collaborative, you can find a role in IT to make your own.