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A Young Woman’s Guide to a Career in IT

28 March 2018 02:57 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


Sri Lanka continues to rise as a preferred Information Technology (IT) / Business Process Management (BPM) destination.Leading names in IT and IT-enabled services either have a presence in our paradise isle already or are keen on setting up operations here.Strong government support, the market’s cost competitiveness and our highly skilled tech talent too has played a significant role in the sector growth story.However, the question arises if we have sufficient supply to meet the increasing demands of the IT/BPM industry.

In Sri Lanka the ICT workforce still constitutes of men, largely. It gets even more dismal when we look at the higher echelons of the sector, unfortunately.Holding the sector back,this has an adverse effect on our economy as a whole too.

In this light, the Asian Development Bank, together with the Export Development Bank of Sri Lanka as the nodal agency,is stressing on the need for concerted action to engage and empower women in Sri Lanka to pursue careers.

This led to the creation of Diversity Collective LK, a forum committed to making Sri Lanka a key global hub of human resources offering optimal gender diversity in the local IT and services industries.

The forum which operates under the auspices of the Sri Lanka Association of Software Solution Companies (SLASSCOM) seeks to achieve this by building community wide awareness regarding careers for women in the IT and BPO sectors.The forum also empowers women and girls in Sri Lanka to choose careers in the IT and BPO sectors and enables them to remain and advance in those careers. It focuses its efforts on 3 principal areaswhich areschools, universities / higher education institutions and the industry.

As a founding member and the current President of Diversity Collective LK, I have had the opportunity to interact with countless young women in universities around the island. Pursuing their higher education in ICT,they are set to change the gender imbalance in the IT sector.

Focusingdoggedly on their academics, these future leaders are sure to ace their exams and get called in for job interviews by the top IT firms in the country.

But, as we all know, it takes a bit more than sound technical knowledge to get the job and rise through the ranks in IT. Simple things that anyone could get right with a bit of guidance and effort.

I was part of a team of women leaders from the IT sector who shared these nuggets with a group of female undergraduate tech students at a workshop recently. Some of the tips we shared with them were:

Get the basics right
One cannot stress enough on the importance of getting the basics right. Your CV needs to be brief. And try to be creative with it. Offer a snapshot of your life beyond the campus too. Your referees, who cannot be friends and family, need to know the professional side of you and must be kept informed. Review all documents as a slight oversight in any of these aspects can result in your application being rejected even before an initial interview.

At the interview, exude confidence and maintain eye contact with the interviewer all throughout. Do ask a few questions about the company, the job, etc.

Go beyond the academics
The fact that you have been called in for a job interview shows that the employer has read your CV and is aware of your academic performance. So just mention a few key highlights and avoid going over it in detail. Instead, showcase how there is more to you than just academics. Touch on your interests and hobbies, extracurricular activities you took part in, other skills, etc. Show them how you have been adept at managing all this simultaneously during your student days.

Connect the dots
Sri Lanka’s IT / BPMlandscape is made up of a mix of companies who do different types of work using different sets of technologies. So, while job descriptions might sound similar, what you will be doing in that role is likely to be very different. Hence do some research about the company,the work it does, the job you are applying for and the interviewer too, if possible.See if you have any relevant experience from your university days and bring it up during the interview. Help the interviewer see how your skillset is aligned with the demands of the job and the type of the work the company does. 

Staying Current
The rate of transformational change taking place in the world of IT outpaces almost all other industries. Hence both new entrants and seasoned leaders need to continue to learn and stay abreast with these changes. While we might not be able to become experts in all emerging technologies, we need to have a fair understanding of the underlying concepts and principles and appreciate their implications to our work. As students, this knowledge will help shape your opinion about the direction the industry is heading in. And an informed opinion on industry trends is something any recruiter will be impressed by.

While we work with all stakeholders on empowering more women to enter the IT field, I believe that simple pointers such as thesewill play a small yet significant role in helping young female tech undergraduates crack their interviews and join us in taking Sri Lanka’s IT sector to greater heights.

(Chinthi Weerasinghe is a founding member and the current President of Diversity Collective LK. She also serves asVice President and Global Head of Sales - Independent Validation Services at Virtusa.)

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