We interviewed Sharan Ruprah, Senior Product Owner at IAG GBS on her experience and thoughts on women in tech.
I am currently a Senior Product Owner assigned to a large cyber security programme delivering an Identity Access and Management solution for IAG. My role involves representing and understanding the business needs for security, and being responsible for what gets built by defining the vision, roadmap and features for the programme. I work closely with teams to ensure they understand the business value and priority of work on the roadmap.
I did not consciously choose a career in technology, I happened to like the sound of the degree I chose – Information Systems and Design. As part of this course, I was given an amazing opportunity to undertake a one-year work placement at British Airways. This is when my passion for IT really ignited. I could see how IT had a direct impact in a real-life scenario, for example how a computer not working can potentially delay a flight. I love seeing how IT can influence, shape and improve the way the business works. Of course, that means it can also severely impact the business when something goes wrong! This experience has really motivated me to ensure we get it the IT right to better serve our customers.
Statistics show that just 17% of IT specialists are female. Looking around me in IAG I can see that there are more females in IT but there are still not enough, especially within senior positions. There is still this bias mentality that only males will be successful in senior positions. Something that has to change especially with more awareness in celebrating Women in STEM and International Women’s Day.
Historically IT has been perceived as a male dominated career with the ‘geek culture’ in relation to coding. However, today technology has gone way beyond coding. There is so much more to do in technology today such as UI/UX design, technical documentation, GDPR, business analysis, social media and blogging. There are no boundaries or escape from technology, it’s everywhere.
Technology is an integral part of our everyday lives. To help get more women involved we need to educate and expose IT to the younger generation at schools. We could do this by participating in special programmes, looking for learning opportunities within organisations, e.g. work experience. Women in leadership positions could serve as mentors to talk about their careers and the types of courses available.
I personally did not face any barriers when getting into tech. However, recently joining a panel of females for a Women in STEM talk I was surprised to hear that there is a lot of bias and discrimination for females to join IT. In view of this I would suggest if you feel this is the right career choice for you then don’t let anyone or anything get in your way. Research the area, talk to people who are already in the industry, find a mentor that is willing to support you, surround yourself with like-minded people and, last but not least, believe in yourself.
One way of achieving this is by providing awareness at a younger age, such as primary school. There could be school workshops (e.g. A Day in the life of… ), or more focus on getting IT professionals in to talk to students at key stages such as when choosing GCSE’s or A-Levels. Work experience opportunities are also a really great way to show people what it is really like to work in IT or Tech to make them aware of the types of roles available in technology.
Be focussed, fearless and determined in what you want to achieve. Map out where you want to be in five years. IT is not just about coding and processes, there is a lot of focus on leadership, consultancy and behaviours which are just as important. Surround yourself with like-minded people and find a mentor that will provide some guidance. Invest in yourself and do your research. Always be one step ahead and don’t forget every experience is a learning opportunity to establish the career path you want to pursue. Lastly, don’t let anything stand in your way of achieving your goals. With good intentions and believing in yourself will enable you to achieve your goals.