Gallagher – Serena Makinson, Junior Datacentre Infrastructure Engineer

We interviewed Serena Makinson, Junior Datacentre Infrastructure Engineer at Gallagher on her thoughts and experience on women in tech.

1. What does your job role involve?

Looking after our server infrastructure both Physical and Virtual across both our main datacentres and other site locations. Working with VMWare, building servers to help manage the load to support our user bases, decommissioning older kit to make way for upgrades, monitoring performance across our infrastructure, performing regular maintenance tasks such as patching etc. I also work with Active Directory, Exchange and other tasks such as producing quarterly audit reports.

2. What made you choose a career in technology?

Technology controls the world and as it moves on we need to move with it, it just made sense to me to go towards technology as a career choice. I like to know how things work, I’ve always preferred to figure things out and fix things myself and I think this strongly relates to why I chose this career path too.

3. Did you study an IT or technology related subject at A-Level or University?

Yes but at that age, I still didn’t really know what I wanted to do so picked a few subjects that I thought would be useful for whatever chosen career path I went to. At A level I studied Maths, IT and Business. At University I did a joint honours degree in Computing and Accounting. Personally, for the career path, I have taken I don’t think University was the best option or necessary. I went in feeling pressured to study a degree and came out not knowing what to do with it. I would strongly encourage any young people looking to get into this field of work to go for an apprenticeship rather than University.

4. Do you find there is a stereotype that a career in IT or technology is just for men?

No, there are just less women. I’m quite happy to be one of the men and want to stand out for the work that I do not for the fact that I am a woman.

5. Do you think there is a lack of females in the IT and tech sector?

No. I do think this is a male-dominated industry BUT I think seeking out females to work in IT is not the way forward. Yes, encourage those who are interested and want to learn but staff should be selected for their skills and experience and not to tick a box.

6. What would entice women to study technology-related courses?

Being genuinely interested in taking one… If you need to be “enticed” then perhaps it’s not for you.

7. Are there barriers when it comes to women getting into tech?

There are barriers if you let them be barriers. There have been times when I have been spoken to in a different manner to how I feel a male colleague or candidate would be spoken to. I make clear that I do not allow that and it does not happen again. Some people may look at you differently and make assumptions about you, your role or your abilities; knock these people down immediately and show them that you do have the knowledge and skills and you are going to be respected.

8. How could we encourage more women to start a career in tech?

I honestly find it hard not to answer these questions sarcastically: “Put computers in the kitchen”; “Pink Keyboard and Mouse”. You just have to want it, if you are interested then do it and don’t be afraid.

9. What advice would you give young women today at the start of their career?

Get an apprenticeship, study, break things, have fun. If you enjoy it you can make a career out of it. Do not let anyone talk down to you. No one is born knowing everything, everyone starts learning at some point. Do not be intimidated by people just because they have more experience, as long as you have the interest and put the work in you will get there.