At an annual I.T. conference you would expect to see break-out sessions, a CIO luncheon, an End-User group breakfast or perhaps an Executive Round Table, but PDS took it one step further this past year at PDS Connect and added a Women in I.T. luncheon as part of their star line-up of sessions on Wednesday, October 19th.
The luncheon alone produced attendance of nearly 100 people, both women and men. We started with lunch and small group discussion at the tables, and the focus then shifted to a high-powered panel of women who have been in the IT industry for 20+ years to share some of their stories on how they got to where they are today. Panelists included: Kathy Lang – CIO for Marquette University, Lisa Messner – HP Partner Business Manager, Erika Ferrell – Director of Information Technology at Sub-Zero and Dee Dee Crowley – Director of Enterprise Information Technology Infrastructure at SSM Health.
As the moderator, I took the women through questions such as: “What has been your greatest obstacle in the IT business world?”, “Did you have a mentor that helped your path specifically as a woman in IT?” and “How did you get started in IT? Was it always your passion, or did you find yourself presented with an opportunity that put you on an IT path?”. Unsurprisingly, the majority of the panel and audience did not plan to hit the IT circuit upon graduating. So, what were some of the common leading indicators of success I heard from the panelists? Customer service, flexibility, being honest and confident and believing in oneself.
According to the U.S. Department of labor, only 26% of people who are employed in computer and mathematical occupations are women1. To me, having a job in I.T. does not necessarily mean that you are coding a new application or architecting a data center. There are jobs in analytics, project management, process development, product management, sales and others that exist in the I.T. realm; these tap into both business and technical skillsets, are in high demand and equally important to the business. To help strengthen our workforce, one of the goals stated at the lunch was to “Teach/Mentor whenever possible.” The point being that every person in the room has something that another person could benefit from – whether it be a new connection made at the conference, a co-worker, friend, daughter, neighbor. We must make a commitment to teach/mentor others whenever possible.
Upon wrapping up the session, many notes were taken when Kathy Lang spoke to the audience about NCWIT Aspirations in Computing, an organization that fosters a community for female technologists from K-12, higher education and beyond. PDS is proud to be the Gold Sponsor for this incredible organization. As a secondary reference, a copy of Earning It, written by Joann S. Lublin was also provided to guests compliments of HPE/PDS. This career guide continues the theme of the luncheon by providing insights from executive women who have made it to the top.
Throughout the remainder of Wednesday and into the second day of the conference, there was a buzz about how good the Women in I.T. luncheon was. With survey responses that showed enthusiasm for the forum and feedback on how to make it even more relevant next year, we are encouraged that so many found value in the session and are looking forward to the next one!