On a mission to get more girls and women into computing

Jackie Galbraith is Vice Principal for Strategy, Planning and Performance at Ayrshire College. She started her career in computing in 1988 as a programmer in the manufacturing industry. Here, she reflects on this week’s activity around International Girls in ICT Day.


Spotlight on women in computing

Ayrshire College is on a mission to challenge gender stereotypes in career and learning choices!

We take every opportunity to encourage females into male-dominated subjects and they don’t come much more male-dominated than computing! For example, each year we run a week-long campaign around Girls in ICT Day to promote and encourage women in and into computing. This year, throughout the week we heard from women who have forged a career in computing – in industry from Maggie Morrison, Caroline Stuart and Jean McInnes; and in education from Loraine Johnston and Lynsey O’Connor. Maggie, Caroline and Jean highlighted the variety of jobs they have had throughout their careers in computing and the many benefits they have experienced like travel, high salaries and flexibility. We also showcased women at the start of their careers in ICT – 19 year old apprentice Lisa Watson, as well as Ayrshire College mature students Jean Anderson and Carol Maguire, who talked about the life-changing possibilities offered by a career in ICT.

Throughout my technical career, I was completely unaware that women had played pioneering roles in the history of computing. When I was doing my degree in the 1980s, I was introduced to programming languages like Ada and Cobol but had no idea of their association with female computing pioneers! Our first blog post this week introduced readers to Ada Lovelace and Grace Hopper, a couple of the forgotten women in computing. In her blog post, Dr Hannah Dee reminded us that until the 1970s computing attracted equal numbers of men and women.

It was good to see media coverage during the week about a forthcoming comic book about Ada Lovelace by graphic artist and illustrator Sydney Padua. Padua uses her humour and art to demonstrate the extraordinary contribution of a young woman born 200 years ago, long before the first computer was invented! Find out more at  http://www.biography.com/news/ada-lovelace-facts-book-sydney-padua. It was also good to learn about another connection between art and computing with 22 year old fashion model Karlie Kloss who aspires to be a computer programmer. Listen to Karlie here http://youtu.be/Bwiln7v0fdc.

Coding for girls

Hannah Dee, Maggie Morrison and Caroline Stuart all talked in their blog posts about the declining numbers of women who choose to study or work in computing. Hannah described some of the activity taking place across the UK with schools to stimulate and maintain interest in computing amongst young people, particularly girls. CoderDojo is part of a global network of free computer coding clubs for young people. With no coding experience necessary, the club aims to promote computer science and technology in a fun, thought-provoking and inspiring way, encouraging young people to consider studying computing and recognise the rewarding opportunities available in the rapidly expanding ICT industry. Building on a strong partnership with CoderDojo Scotland, Ayrshire College hosted two all-girls computer coding clubs this week. One was an after-school club for first year pupils (12 year olds) at Irvine Royal Academy; the other took place at the college with primary school girls. Here’s what some of the girls had to say:

13 year old Irvine Royal Academy pupil, Carmen Wilson said “I was never really into computing before, but the CoderDojo club made it fun and interesting.”

8 year old Mia Hay from Dunlop said “I loved it, it was really cool. I want to come back!”

There is no doubt that there is real enthusiasm and interest amongst girls at an early age – we need to tap into that enthusiasm and find ways of translating that interest into more girls choosing computing subjects at school, college and university. However, there are some obstacles to overcome.

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Look out for unconscious bias

In his blog post, Colin Crook talked about unconscious bias and the risks of unintentionally reinforcing negative stereotypes about men and women in computing. In the week that Microsoft pledged its support to the CoderDojo Foundation as part of its YouthSpark initiative, it was disappointing that a well-intentioned video used to promote coding clubs reinforced the male stereotype associated with computing (http://youtu.be/2n7dYz9E7Io). Of the 25 people interviewed in this video – young people, teachers, technologists and politicians – only 3 were female! This unconscious bias perpetuates the myth that ‘computing’s not for me’.

Converting initiatives into systemic change

I started in computing nearly 30 years ago at a time when women had started to abandon computing. In the three decades since then there have been waves of initiatives to attract girls and women into IT – thousands of well-meaning initiatives, yet the proportion of women in computing is at its lowest level since the 1970s. If we really want to tackle the lack of girls and women in STEM, we need to focus on systemic, cultural change that builds on the many good initiatives. This is the approach Ayrshire College plans to take.

Watch this space!


RAISING ASPIRATIONS | INSPIRING ACHIEVEMENT | INCREASING OPPORTUNITIES

Spotlight on women in computing – Carol Maguire

  After 21 years in the same job, Carol Maguire decided to shake up her career. Having always had an interest in ICT, she came to Ayrshire College to complete an HND Web Development and Interactive Media. Read about how she made her career in IT happen.


What did you do before going to College?

I worked full time with the council as a Clerical Assistant for 21 years.

How did you get into ICT?

I really wanted to learn more about ICT, so I took the leap and handed my notice in! I’ve learnt so much since coming to college. Everything from how websites are created, learning java scripts, project management and how to build an e-business.

What challenges have you faced, and how did you overcome them?

During the course, I volunteered to write a blog at Working Digital 2014, Ayrshire’s biggest technology and social media conference which attracts industry leaders from all over Scotland.

Having worked in administration before coming to college, my note-taking and typing skills were invaluable in my role as blogger! Networking with the speakers gave me lots of ideas and I’m more enthusiastic than ever about my future career in the digital sector! This blog is available at http://www.workingdigital.co.uk/blog/

Describe your job on a day to day basis.

I now work part time as Website Content and Social Media Co-ordinator at the Scottish Maritime Museum. I create, edit and update content within the company’s website. I also use Facebook and Twitter to promote and market their presence on social media.

What advice would you give to others interested in a career in ICT?

Going to college has given me confidence and reignited my love of learning. I’d thoroughly recommend it, no matter what age you are! I’ve been accepted to the University of the West of Scotland to complete my IT degree in one year, and to continue my work with the Scottish Maritime Museum is fantastic!


RAISING ASPIRATIONS | INSPIRING ACHIEVEMENT | INCREASING OPPORTUNITIES

Guest post – Colin Crook on making STEM smarter

Colin Crook is working with a range of organisations to run the inaugural SMART STEMs event in Glasgow on 3 June 2015. On International Girls in ICT Day, he shares his thoughts on why it is so important for more girls and women to influence STEM areas like computing.


Why bother?

colinThis is written by a man who works in IT, a man who has always worked in IT, for IBM. I work mainly with men – in my own company and in my customers’ companies. You might be wondering why I care about the number of women working in IT?

The answer is that more women makes the industry better, the economy better and ultimately it makes people’s lives better. We need to do more to harness one of the Scotland’s most valuable assets. While there are many good initiatives to encourage more girls and women into computing, we need to do more to address the deficit – not just for IT but for all STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) areas. If we do this, we stand on the verge of something truly magnificent. Although my focus here is on IT, what I am saying holds equal validity for all STEM subjects.

More women makes good business sense

Reading my sweeping statements above, you may be thinking “yeah, how?” You might even be thinking “but, why?” I believe that women working in the IT industry can only be a good thing. It has been proven consistently that mixed gender teams work better than male dominated ones as reported in this New York Times article http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/18/opinion/sunday/why-some-teams-are-smarter-than-others.html. This translates not only into more work getting done, but more importantly better quality work.

Naturally, this has a positive impact on a company’s financial performance. According to research carried out by Catalyst, companies with more women on their board can deliver up to 42% better return on sales than companies with fewer female board members (http://www.catalyst.org/media/companies-more-women-board-directors-experience-higher-financial-performance-according-latest). If companies want to be the best, improving the gender balance in their workforce appears to be a no brainer.

Women represent the single largest demographic when it comes to buying power (see http://www.digitalsherpa.com/blog/men-or-women-who-has-the-most-buying-power-and-why-2/). I am not saying that every woman is going to be some sort of marketing genius but having equal representation at all levels is only going to have positive payback. If we manage to address the gap we could boost the UK economy by £2.6 billion a year. These are some of the reasons why more women is beneficial to the IT industry and economy, but the question is how do we do it?

Addressing unconscious bias

Despite a large number and variety of initiatives over many years, there are fewer women working in the IT industry than ever before. Reasons given for this are that computing isn’t interesting to women or that women don’t want to work in computing environments. For me, these are both indicative of a larger problem of attitudes which are reinforced by unconscious bias, highlighted in this Guardian article http://www.theguardian.com/women-in-leadership/2014/may/01/unconscious-bias-women-holding-back-work.

This bias is that, through societal, cultural and familial interaction, we form beliefs of what is right, for instance “computing is a boys thing …” or “boys are just better with computers …” One of the effects of unconscious bias is that men will tend to hire men with a similar background, which leads to a lack of diversity in the workplace and a lack of female role models, which in itself is a self-defeating loop. We all need to work at a fundamental level to challenge our own opinions and biases, conscious or otherwise, to make a real impact.

SMART STEMs – helping young women into STEM

I am working with a group of people from Seric Systems and third sector organisations, Beyonder and Women in Enterprise Scotland, to organise and run an event called SMART STEMs. Fundamentally, SMART STEMs 2015 aims to inspire 12 to 18 year old girls to become the great thinkers and creators of tomorrow. You can lfind out more by watching some of the partners on this STV video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IA6JeVSSupk.

In the weeks leading up to the event, we are holding a competition to design wearable technology for athletes. If you or your school would like to take part, have a look at http://www.smartstems.co.uk/ or email us at hello@smartstems.co.uk. The event is on Wednesday 3 June at Glasgow Caledonian University and we hope to create opportunities that are both fulfilling and have a lasting impact.

Spotlight on women in computing – Jean McInnes

Jean McInnes, Director at OSCS Ltd, an Oracle database services company based in Glasgow, talks to us about how she got into computing and the exciting opportunities that are available in the industry.

 

What got you into computing?

As a child I liked numbers and pressing buttons. I also liked solving problemsAt school I was really good at science and maths, although it didn’t come easily – I had to work hard. My career plan was to study pharmacology at university. However, when I discussed this with my family, their advice was “You want to get yourself into computing – this is the future!” This was because they were working in industries that were experiencing a computer revolution and could see how the world was changing.

 

Motivated by the idea of a good job – meaning making loads of money, working in a swanky office and owning a Nova SRI hot hatch – I thought that a career in computing could help me achieve my goals. I chose the University of Strathclyde because it offered the best resources for computing

 

I had not done any computing before university. I picked it up easily and really enjoyed myself. Although the course was dominated by maths, I loved the operational research courses which were practical classes. There was a great level of camaraderie because everyone was working together on problem and of course there is never just one way to solve it. We bounced ideas off each other and spent long happy hours in the labs. It was fun and didn’t feel like studying.

 

What types of job have you had since you left university?

At the end of my course I had a huge choice of jobs as a computer programmer. London beckoned with a tempting starting salary, my own flat and car. I worked for STC IDEC and, out of 20 graduates taken on, only two were female. However, being in a minority was not an issue for me – I never felt a lack of respect or that I had to work harder to prove myself. Some interesting research has been done with team dynamics in the software industries showing that a team with women functions better, as women try to build the team to be better together whereas men are more competitive and work against each other. After this job, I moved back to Scotland and worked at the University of Stirling and then in a supervisory role at the University of Strathclyde.

 

I was invited to attend a Train the Trainer course in Oracle and Unix (now Linux) and this enabled me to work in London on short contracts as a trainer where I could earn a month’s salary in one week. By this time I had a baby and I had the opportunities to work flexibly, keeping my career going while balancing family life.

 

Next, I joined my husband’s training business. Interestingly, we employed more women than men. We found that male employees were always looking towards their next job, whereas women focused on their current job and got on with it to do the best job. However, we had good team dynamics and it worked well. During this time I was responsible for NHS data migration.

 

What are you doing now?

Now I am a co-director of my own business, OSCS, an Oracle database services company with clients such as NHS, Supergroup (Superdry) and World Wide Library Systems. I have achieved the lifestyle I want, including the swanky office and my current favourite car (an Audi not a Nova SRI). There have always been fantastic opportunities in computing, and I could have made different choices, relocated across the world and made more money. 

 

Well paid jobs, plenty of opportunities and it’s fun!

All the girls I was at university with have done well – some have become maths teachers showing that computing is a gateway into different jobs. 90% of jobs now require digital skills, so it’s a great skill set to achieve. For some university courses you don’t always get the job you have studied for – this is not the case for computing. This industry has a good reputation for secure jobs and if you are flexible, the world’s your oyster! It’s an industry where anyone with a good idea can make a business out of it because you don’t need to have a lot of infrastructure which keeps start up costs low.

 

It is disappointing that currently only 14% of women are employed in the technology sector. It is frustrating that after all this time women are still so underrepresented. Digital Pioneer Martha Lane Fox delivered the 2015 Richard Dimbleby Lecture on understanding the internet more deeply. She said this about women into ICT:

 

Let’s make the UK the best place to be a female technologist in the world. Coders, designers, programmers, for any digital role we will need 1 million people by 2020. Let’s educate every unemployed woman in technology – I am sure there are some more Ada Lovelace’s in this land. There are lots of exciting projects such as #stemettes, #techmums,#codebars but we need to make more impact, bigger, faster and they need to foster the maximum breadth and depth of digital talent. We need to put women at the heart of the technical sector. That alone can make us the most digitally successful country on the planet and give us a real edge.”

 

You can watch the full lecture at http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b05p9tvt/the-richard-dimbleby-lecture-30032015.

  

 

 

 

 

Spotlight on women in computing – Caroline Stuart

Caroline Stuart has been Scotland Director for Oracle Corporation Ltd since 2009. She is the current Chair of the Tech Partnership Scotland and sits on various boards and committees including Skills Development Scotland, Jobs and Business Glasgow, Scotland IS, the Scottish Government’s Strategic Group on Work and Women, the Scottish Government’s Digital Scotland Business Excellence Board, the Scottish Government Digital Workforce Advisory Board and the Funding Councils Skills Committee. 


A little bit about me – I graduated in Technology and Business Studies from Strathclyde University in1986 and left Scotland to work in the City of London. I trained as an Investment Analyst and worked for Crown Agents and Charterhouse Bank and then returned to Scotland. I ran three small companies before moving into business consultancy and was volunteer business advisor to the Princes Scottish Youth Business Trust for 10 years. 

I joined Oracle in 2000 in a role that was established to bridge the gap between IT and the Boardroom at the height of the dot com boom. I’ve worked in various business units across the UK and EMEA and am now the Director for Scotland helping customers to understand how technology is changing, often disrupting their world in an increasingly competitive global market.

I have been incredibly lucky through my career to move from one interesting job to another in a variety of sectors from Financial Services, Manufacturing, Marketing and Sales and Recruitment and working in IT I have worked with nearly every industry sector you can imagine.

In my current role the subject of skills has been close to my heart. Digital and computing science skills are fundamental to all businesses in the UK and our economic recovery. They are every bit as important (if not more so) as other economic levers – such as physical infrastructure investment – in improving the balance sheet of our country. According to a report released by the Prince’s Trust, two-thirds of companies fear a lack of skilled workers could jeopardise Britain’s economic recovery.

These skills are also hugely important to entrepreneurs establishing new companies. SMEs (small and medium sized businesses) form the backbone of our economy and digital technologies is the hottest growth sector in the SME space at the moment, with tech hubs popping up across the UK (and all over the world) to incubate and promote companies which are developing new products and services across every business sector imaginable and some yet to be imagined!

However, the IT skills gap is severely limiting the impact we could make to our economy to make it strong, healthy and competitive in a global economy. If we do not produce enough apprentices or graduates with the right STEM and ICT training, we risk cutting off the oxygen supply to these growing organisations.

To solve this problem and encourage future generations to engage in a more digitally literate future we must get students – especially women – interested in STEM subjects. We have fewer women in our industry than in 1980 which is a terrible situation and not one of which we should be proud. We are hiring across every industry in the UK and the best estimates are around one million new jobs (E-Skills) by 2020. With current youth unemployment around one million across the UK, there has never been a more attractive time to be considering computing as a career.

Retailers, investment banks, fashion designers, healthcare, food and drink, manufacturing, film and TV – every business you can think of needs a variety of skills from programmers, data scientists, big data experts, developers, computer games programmers and animation coders who can contribute to, and increasingly be at the centre of, their success. Computing underpins every business today and is critical to their future success.

I can think of no better subject choice that will open doors in any industry you choose and allow you to be at the heart of creativity, innovation and change.

I can think of no other subject that allows the flexibility of working that computer science does – enabling you to adjust working life to fit around other life events if you so choose. It can allow you to become your own boss or to build a global company.

I can think of no other career that literally will allow you to change the world.

We all have a role in being ambassadors for computer science careers which are undoubtedly offer some of the most exciting and well-paid career choices right now 

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RAISING ASPIRATIONS | INSPIRING ACHIEVEMENT | INCREASING OPPORTUNITIES

Spotlight on women in computing – Lynsey O’Connor

IMG_1091Lynsey O’Connor recently started as a computer lecturer at Ayrshire College. Before this she worked as a project manager. In this article, Lynsey talks about the highlights of her role as a project manager and the opportunities available to change and develop in the ICT industry.


I’ve been working in ICT in the finance industry since leaving education in 2002.  After studying maths and computing at university, I was lucky enough to secure a place on a graduate training programme in London with a company called Reuters. The programme allowed me to try out various departments in the business and to decide where I would like to apply for a permanent role.

I spent my second placement in the ICT department of the editorial section of the company (they are responsible for reporting news from all over the world).  I loved it and stayed put for four years working as a project manager, before moving to Barclays Bank in Glasgow.

As a project manager, no two days were ever the same. My role was to make sure a project ran smoothly – this could mean anything from being out recruiting new team members, capturing requirements from clients about what they are after, liaising with development and testing teams, keeping track of and deciding how to spend multi-million pound budgets, preparing presentations and updates for senior management and any number of other things!

Project work is really varied and makes for an exciting role – I’ve managed projects such as moving 300 jobs from London, Singapore and New York to Glasgow, developing software to help prevent terrorist financing, shaving milliseconds off the time it takes to generate news headlines that appear on Sky News and many more things.

In today’s world ICT project management also means working in a truly global team and therefore doing some travel. On the last project I worked on, my team was spread across India, South Africa, New York, London, Glasgow and Singapore.

  Working in ICT projects gives you a really wide range of career opportunities – leading projects, specialising in areas such as development or testing or risk management, or getting into another field altogether.

In my time at Barclays I was offered ICT roles in HR, working for third party software development companies and also spent time as a Business Manager. I always emphasise to my students that, with a job in ICT, there is constant opportunity to change and develop. The world really is your oyster!


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Spotlight on women in ICT – Jean Anderson

Jean Anderson studied HND Administration and Information Technology as a mature student and took on the challenge of a complete career change.  We asked her about her journey into ICT.


Jean AndersonWhat did you do before going to college? 
I worked for the bakery in Tesco. It was my sister who encouraged me to go to Ayrshire College. She had already attended and secured a job a medical secretary, so I thought – why not give it a go!

How did you get into ICT? 
I got into ICT so that I could keep up to date with my teenage son. Technology was moving so fast and I did not really have much of an idea of what was going on and felt like I was being left behind.

What challenges have you faced and how did you overcome them?
My confidence in my abilities has really grown. As a mature student, I was terrified at the thought of going to college, but I knew I had to do it as I wanted to be in a job that I liked and was financially better for me.

I learned that I was still capable of learning and that I had a lot more to give in the workplace than I had previously thought. Going to college has given me a new lease of life and I now have a new outlook in life.  It’s been the best three years!

Describe your job on a day to day basis. 
I am now a Housing Assistant at North Ayrshire Council where I do many different tasks in my job. I work on the computer quite a lot completing forms, working on spreadsheets and using databases.  I also use e-diaries, email and scanners on a daily basis. As well as the ICT side of things, I deal with the public over the counter and on the phone.

What advice would you give to others interested in a career in ICT?
I would tell them to go for it.  It’s interesting and the way forward for the future, as most careers have some sort of ICT involved in it.

I am going to be the oldest person there. I was, but at no point was this a barrier. I was made to feel at ease from the first day. My lecturers as they were excellent and encouraged and supported me 100%.

I now feel like the person I was when I was 20 – confident, outgoing and a valued member of society again!


RAISING ASPIRATIONS | INSPIRING ACHIEVEMENT | INCREASING OPPORTUNITIES

Spotlight on women in computing – Loraine Johnston

Did you know more than 73,000 people work in ICT and digital technologies in Scotland? And Skills Development Scotland’s skills investment plan for Scotland’s ICT and digital technologies sector predicts significant growth in the number of opportunities in the industry itself and in other sectors which need digital and technical skills. From new start-ups to some of the world’s largest technology companies, there’s a mixture of exciting career opportunities to choose from.

Ayrshire College is encouraging more girls and women into ICT. With state of the art equipment and industry relevant courses, the College is well on its way to becoming a centre for excellence in ICT and digital technologies. Our computing and digital technologies department is promoting International Girls in ICT Day on 23 April to inspire girls and young women to consider careers in the growing ICT sector. We spoke to Loraine Johnston, Curriculum Manager for Business and Computing, to find out about what led to her career in ICT.


What did you do before going to college?

I worked for six years after completing high school. Jobs ranged from working as an advertising agency junior to a supervisor in a café bar at Glasgow Airport! Going into further and higher education has been invaluable to me. Without it, I wouldn’t have the career I have today.

How did you get into computing?

The first time I used a computer was when I was on a short media studies course and it was the newly released Macintosh Classic.  I went on to work in a PR company as a Junior Secretary using an IBM PC in the days before Windows!

My real early experience was the HND Multimedia Computing, which was a brand new course in the evolving area of computing. We developed software for CDROMs as the web hadn’t evolved at that time. I progressed to BSc Multimedia Technology and became a multimedia developer after I graduated.  A few years later I returned to higher education to complete a Postgraduate Diploma in Multimedia Communications.

What challenges have you faced and how did you overcome them?

I had to adapt to learning again after a six year gap.  Computers were new, as were the courses I was studying, so we really were the guinea pigs.  I had my own flat and had no option but to work part-time to be able to support my studies and myself. Computing is always changing and the biggest challenge is to keep up with these changes.

Describe your job on a day to day basis.  What are the highlights?

My job is really varied and every day is different.  I manage the Business and Computing curriculum department which includes looking after students and staff at Ayrshire College. The highlights are seeing people succeed and students being happy with their course.

What advice would you give to others interested in a career in computing?

As one of the fastest growing industries, there aren’t enough people in the UK to fill current jobs in ICT, let alone the predicated increase in jobs in the next 5 years. It’s also a brilliant sector for women to work in and progress, yet we are very much in the minority. At Ayrshire College, we want to encourage more women into this exciting area, to develop their skills and maximise the contribution to Scotland’s economy.

This is the perfect time to start a career in ICT.  The best thing to do is make the most of any course you study, learn the fundamentals (the technology may change but these don’t), teach yourself new skills and … practice, practice, practice!

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Ayrshire College offers a wide range of computing courses. Find out more at http://www1.ayrshire.ac.uk/courses/all-courses/business-and-computing/?duration=Full_Time.


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Spotlight on women in computing – Lisa Watson, CGI

 Nineteen year old Lisa Watson is a Modern Apprentice at CGI Scotland. In this post, she talks about what motivated her to pursue a career in the IT sector.


The senior years of high school are the most stressful, because your decision on the subjects you choose pretty much determines what you are going to do after you leave school. This is even more terrifying if you have no idea what you actually want to do.

I was always pushed to do childcare, which I would consider the most female generic career path, so that’s what I did. I gained as much experience as I could with working with children and applied to university and college to become a primary school teacher or an early years officer. However, during the summer, after I had completed my exams and trembling with the anticipation of my results, the more I thought about my future career in childcare the more uncomfortable I became with my decision.

That’s when I would say my new adventure began. I frantically searched the web in deep hope that a new career choice would magically appear on my screen. At secondary school I did choose IT subjects – Standard Grade Computing Studies and Higher Information Systems – but I can’t say I thought of going into a career in IT. I always enjoyed business management at school and I also enjoyed the IT subjects I had chosen in my senior school years which were two of the subjects I succeeded most in. I came across a website advertising apprenticeships being offered by an organisation called QA. After a meeting with QA employees at their training building, they put me forward for an interview with CGI. This was nerve-wracking but exciting news that gave me an opportunity to start my career with two things that I really enjoyed – business and IT.

IT careers seem to have an old-fashioned stigma attached to them – along the lines of a small cramped office with loads of people sitting with their eyes glued to their computer screens programming all day long – but that’s not the case. This is why I guess IT careers have a male stigma as more boys and men are into computers than women generally. You can go down many avenues with IT which I have discovered for myself over the last 10 months working at CGI. You don’t have to be a “computer whiz” to join the IT world and IT is very much linked with the business world. Of course you need an understanding of how IT works but within IT you can explore a multitude of areas like HR, Marketing, Sales and Finance. These require you to have a range of good communication and people skills, as well as IT skills.

IT companies like CGI have networking events for running projects to allow people to gain contacts and meet people who are working on the same project but in a different area and even on the other side of the country! Networking events have played a big part in the last ten months for me. I even had the chance organise one, which was a great experience. Not many people would think events management would be incorporated within an IT company.

At CGI I also do charity work which is a very rewarding responsibility. After raising money for our local foodbank in Edinburgh at one of our networking events we have kept an ongoing link with them. Every month I find out what the foodbank is in most need off and organise an office donation.

Overall, my experience in the IT industry at CGI has taken me away from the old-fashioned outlook and has shown me that IT companies are becoming more open to new technology and becoming more socially aware. Starting a career in IT was definitely the right decision for me and I would encourage anyone to take the decision I did, as it has opened many doors for my future career.

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Spotlight on women in computing – Maggie Morrison, CGI

Maggie Morrison is Director of Business Development, Public Sector at CGI Scotland. Prior to joining CGI, she was Account General Manager for Hewlett Packard in Scotland and previously held senior leadership positions at home and abroad for Cisco, 3Com and Cabletron. At Cisco Maggie founded four Cisco Networking Academies with not for profit organisations in Glasgow. Maggie is passionate about the digital divide, skills, and gender in the workplace. In this article, she reflects on her career.


Reflecting back on 32 years in the IT industry, I have had an amazing journey! When I graduated in the eighties there was a severe recession and jobs were tough to find, even for graduates. My priority after university was to find a job, any job, just to get on the career ladder. My first job was in telephone sales, a role which didn’t require a degree level qualification. Telephone sales is tough, you learn rejection early, but it is an excellent way to learn about any company and the sales process.

I left Glasgow, believing that I would find more opportunities in the South East of England, to work for a company called Macro Marketing, a distributor of electronic components based in Slough. My annual salary was £5,000 – not much money even back then! I may have ended up in the IT industry by accident but I could see that this was an industry with a future – an industry which would literally change the way we live, communicate, work, play and learn. That is equally true now – there are literally thousands of highly paid, unfilled vacancies across the industry and in Europe we are not producing people with the skill sets to fill them. Nor are we seeing enough girls entering the industry. Governments, education and employers need to work together to address this.

Computing is never boring because the industry moves so fast. Failing to keep up means disaster for an IT company. Thirty percent of UK tech start ups come from Scotland so that is a great starting point. But why does it not appeal to more young people and especially girls? IT roles often offer flexibility around location, working from home, working hours which can be fitted around other commitments important for a generation that seeks work life balance and that is likely to have multiple jobs throughout a career.

My career in IT has enabled me to fulfil multiple roles in sales, leadership and corporate staff roles. I have lived and worked in France, Germany, Switzerland, The Netherlands and, most recently, California and North Carolina in the US. I have visited forty seven countries in total and the majority of those have been related to various job roles – although I do also love to travel for holidays! I have been back in Scotland since 2008, bringing home all the skills I learned whilst living abroad and experiencing different cultures.

A well paid job enables you to do the things you love, to achieve your personal ambitions and to feel fulfilled. If you are looking for a career that provides variety, is well paid and one in which you will never be bored, you really should consider the IT industry.

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