Girls can code, program, hack, and project manage, win contracts, and lead. But, getting started in the traditionally male-oriented IT sector can be a challenge.
Women can succeed working in the IT sector, but you should consider your motivations and what the most effective pathway will be for you. Are you looking for a chance to bring analytical and problem-solving skills to work? Are you hoping to get into well-paid work, maybe in a major population center like Silicon Valley? Do you want flexibility and the option to work on a contractor or freelancing basis? Would you prefer to work independently, or on a team? How are your communication, time management, self-motivation, and ongoing learning skills?
There is more than one pathway to success as an IT professional. That holds true at every level. You might go to school for a computer sciences degree, buckle down for an intensive boot camp or hackathon-based learning experience, study remotely and at your own pace online, or come to the IT sector from a different role and educational background.
If you’re looking to get into your first IT-based job, it helps to identify what types of transferable experiences you have to draw on, what sort of personal attributes, skills, and competencies you think would make you right for the role, and how you could provide value.
A combination of training, portfolio, and networking help most women land their first IT jobs. A mentor or industry connection can help you focus your learning, identify valuable traits and areas to invest yourself in, and nudge you toward the right areas for further studies.
Many IT jobs will include some practical skills testing, such as algorithm challenges, whiteboard or live coding exercises, or other troubleshooting or creative testing scenarios. You will want to identify the most common types of testing related to the work you want to pursue, and then study on how to shine during the testing phase.
Portfolio projects also help establish your expertise and value to employers or clients. If you haven’t previously worked in a closely related role, you can create model projects online or offer your skills at a discount or on a volunteer basis to a worthy project to build up a stronger portfolio.
If you’re pursuing a career in IT as an independent contractor or startup-founder, the value of your transferable experience and portfolio projects is even stronger. Take a close look at your skills and preferences in more than just technical areas as well. When you’re working as your own boss, you have to take on a wider range of responsibilities or make arrangements for them.
You might find the most success in outsourcing areas of low natural skill or proclivity, rather than trying to train yourself across too many different dimensions. An umbrella company can be very helpful in reducing effort-intensive and important administrative responsibilities. Accounting and some types of marketing are other areas that many find it more successful to farm out to other professionals rather than try to handle them in-house.
IT jobs offer remarkable opportunities to do meaningful work, be recognized for your skills, and be well rewarded. Make a difference while owning your path.