Women in IT – stories of female programmers, consultants and project managers at Hicron // part 1
If you assume IT work is not for you because you are a girl, perhaps it is time to revise your thinking. We present the success stories of 5 women who have made a splash in the IT industry! Below are interviews with Alicja Słoma (Project Manager, almost 6 years at Hicron), Marta Zaleśkiewicz (Senior Technology Consultant, almost 5 years at Hicron), Ania Rutkowska (SAP Business Consultant, 5 years at Hicron), Ania Filipowicz (SAP CO Senior Consultant, 6 years) and Beata Janik (SAP Senior Consultant, 5.5 years at Hicron).
Hicron: Girls, you have been working for Hicron for some time now, and your careers – which you owe to your qualifications and skills – have been defined. But how did you start in IT? Was it on purpose or accidental?
AS: It was no accident. 9 years ago, working as a process specialist, I was reassigned by my employer at the time to a large IT project. The project involved the implementation of an IT system in one of the newly acquired banks in Germany. Since then, I have consistently pursued my career in this industry.
MZ: My passion for science manifested already in elementary school. In high school, I had a brief affair with the humanities only to get back on track by studying at a technical university. Having considered how the labour market was developing, the type of specialists that were sought and the perspectives for the next few years, I chose computer science. It was a marriage of convenience, not love at first sight.
AR: I had indeed dreamed about SAP implementation since my studies. I envisaged SAP as not only an interesting job that involved working away from home, enabling me to use my languages skills and travel – it was and is, in a certain sense, a “lifestyle”. Already during the internship, my first boss predicted that I would eventually end up in SAP implementation anyway. I got him to work at Hicron too.
AF: I found myself in the IT industry by sheer accident. I earned a degree at the Poznań University of Economics and Business, with a major in Finance and Monetary Policy. I was sure that I would start my career at a bank. However, my first job was in marketing. After a couple of months, I found that this did not suit me. My CV was picked up by a Hicron consultant and forwarded to the Financial Director, who needed a junior CO consultant at that time.
BJ: I chose IT as my degree. At that time, I did not even have a computer, which seems completely incredible today. I knew that the industry was rapidly developing and that this was a job with a future. It was a conscious decision – I would find work, and the wages would be better than in other industries.
Hicron: It is said that the IT industry, particularly SAP, ERPs and business analytics, is a place for men. Is this true?
AR: The IT industry is as good as any other. Today, it is not only a place for men, particularly for women whose logical thinking and communication skills go in hand in hand.
MZ: It is true that the IT industry is dominated by men, but I think that the women that choose this job are not in any way less competent than men. On the contrary! Women are exceptionally hardworking, reliable and precise. They also try three times harder to show that they are at least as good as their colleagues.
AF: When I started working at Hicron 6 years ago, I believed it to be a place strictly for men. At the Poznań office, apart from myself, there was one more female consultant (other than the girls in the sales and marketing department). At that time, I believed that this was not my piece of cake. Looking back, I find that this is not quite true. On the one hand, because the number of women in the IT industry is growing. On the other hand, men are simply good working partners. They are demanding, specific but also very helpful and, when the situation requires, they can provide assistance and motivation.
BJ: Indeed, there are many more men in the IT industry than women, particularly in the logistics area, where I work. I have always got on well with men, professionally and personally. I have IT education and work experience, I am qualified, and I am talented at my job. I have never felt inferior as a woman because it is also my world, and I feel like I am in my element there.
AS: The IT industry consists of a number of competence areas: from typically technical jobs, such as programmers or IT administrators through QA (testers) to positions related to business analysis or project management. I think that everyone can find something for themselves here.
Hicron: As a girl, have you felt that your job is different from the duties of your colleagues with the same position? Are there any perks to being a woman in the industry?
MZ: When a woman starts working as a programmer, she has to face the conviction that a woman IT specialist is like a guinea pig – neither Guinea nor pig. This happened to me. I worked hard to prove that I could handle my job very well. After all these years of work, I believe that I have earned the respect of my colleagues. I can say that I have also learned to make use of the fact that there are so few women in this industry. Being a woman is certainly an asset!
AS: At Hicron, we are treated equally, and we face the same challenges.
AF: I have never encountered gender inequality at Hicron. Perhaps this is due to the specific nature of working as a consultant – frequent trips, flexible working hours and many challenges. The fact that I am a woman is an advantage rather than a hindrance. When I started working as a consultant, I was very badly treated by women, not men. The controlling module, which is my area of expertise, requires meetings with accountants, controllers and financial directors. Most of these positions are held by women. Being 26, it was difficult for me to earn their trust and have them regard me as an equal discussion partner.
AR: From the very beginning of my work in consulting, I was thrown in at the deep end, and me being a woman made no difference. This has not changed. It was only sometimes that during job interviews a recruiter was surprised that I would be capable of travelling 80%. The fact that I am a woman does not mean I cannot do what I enjoy. With good self-organisation, it is possible to reconcile many things.
BJ: The duties may have differed at times, but this was not because of gender but because of skills or the willingness to develop in a given area. This, however, has nothing to do with gender. Still, the fact that you are a women is frequently a problem. It makes it difficult to earn the client’s trust, particularly at the beginning of your career. There were times when I was not treated seriously and was asked many test questions. The younger and more attractive you look, the more frequently you have to prove that you are also competent.
Hicron: At Hicron, there are many projects related to the automotive sector. How do you manage in this area – you have to work in a male industry and, on top of that, deal with automotive issues . . .
AF: The automotive sector is probably the most terrific industry in which I have implemented a project. Many of the processes we implement are processes we have encountered at least once in our lives. It is fun to know all the ins and outs of how it is done and what happens in the client’s system when John Smith orders his dream car.
BJ: I am not interested in cars, but there are many car magazines in the office, and I sometimes read some of them if they draw my attention. I have worked on so many projects that I do not regard any industry as a challenge. Everything is a matter of commitment and the time spent on learning.
AS: Project implementation requires us to know the business processes of the given organisation. In the case of the automotive industry, these are activities in various areas. Naturally, we implement advanced vehicle configurators, but we also deliver systems used, for instance, for car service quality assurance or for the planning of vehicle distribution in the given country.
AR: I like beautiful and expensive cars myself. It makes me all the more happy when I see models of luxury cars in the system rather than food products.
MZ: The industry in which the projects are implemented is not a significant issue to me. Although cars are not one of my interests, this does not prevent me from doing my job well. What is more, owing to the experience I have acquired, it is in the automotive sector that I feel best