Making it in the male-dominated technology industry has its challenges. But it can be done.
To help get you on the right path, DiversityInc spoke with Lindsay-Rae McIntyre, IBM’s vice president of diversity, and Dr. Laura Hass, Director of IBM Research’s Accelerated Discovery Lab, who shared valuable tips that can lead to a rewarding tech career. (IBM is No. 22 on the DiversityInc Top 50 list)
- 1. Make your aspirations known.
If you aspire to achieve something great in your career, it’s important to dream big, and share your dream.
Keeping dreams a secret “doesn’t help anybody,” said McIntyre. “If you can articulate your dream, folks will know what you want and what you’re up to. They can help you spot opportunities for conferences, papers, [and even] patents for special projects.”
As the support starts to roll in, you’ll find yourself surrounded by people who want to support you. But in order for this to happen you’ve got to be able to tell people about it.
- 2. Ask for help.
“I think that when we talk to our most successful tech women, they all had challenges,” said McIntyre. “It’s amazing when you start to talk to people about your dream and how you can make your dream a reality, how much help and advice you get, [it] doesn’t make going after your dream feel so daunting.”
- 3. Seek out advisers.
Mentors, sponsors and peer coaches are incredibly valuable and helpful to the progression to any career and that it’s important to ask them for help when you need it. “Ask them what they did when they were in a difficult situation,” McIntyre said. “It’s important to make sure that we are collaborating, and leveraging our networks and our support ecosystem along the way.”
- 4. Consider becoming a leader, even if you never did.
“When I was newly into my PhD I had no interest in leading or managing people. Just give me a good hard technology problem and let me go,” Hass recalled.
“As I matured, I wanted to do more ambitious things. I realized that I could do them better leading a team of people, she explained. “That became a lure for me to hedge the technical and management path.”
- 5. Have fun.
For women who want to stay in the tech industry for the long haul, Hass said the key is to “have fun.”
Hass, who started her tech career nearly 35 years ago and is now an IBM Fellow and Director of IBM Research’s Accelerated Discovery Lab, said it’s important for you to understand different things will appeal to you at different points in your life.
Throughout her career at IBM, Hass did not become complacent in one role. She stepped out of management positions to get into the roles that were more exciting for her.
“I think a lot of time people think there is only one route to their goals,” she said, noting that she has seen people divert from their career paths to start a family or take a few years off to train for the Olympics. “Then they think that they can’t come back,” she said, but they can.
- 6. Find your own path.
It’s imperative to be honest with yourself, Hass advised. Try not to pay attention to somebody else’s vision of a career path. Doing so may make you feel inadequate and then you find yourself on a career track that wasn’t meant for you.
“What I tell my mentees is — you have to be very honest with yourself and what is going to excite you, she added. “Then you have to move toward opportunities to do that.”