Women In IT: Follow Your Passion To A Successful Career (And These 5 Steps)

regina-kunkle[1]by Regina Kunkle, NetApp (courtesy FORBES)

Occasionally, I’m asked: What’s the secret to success? For me, it’s pursuing my passion and focusing on making myself proud.

The number one question I’m asked by young women coming out of college is: What now?

Here are my five keys to success.

Looking back, it was my 7th-grade algebra teacher who inspired me to pursue my passion.

She helped me realize what I loved. At the time, I didn’t see any limitations to pursuing a career path involving math or computer science. But upon graduating with a computer science degree, I realized I had no idea what I’d do with it.

[Editor’s note: This is the first of a brief series of articles about women executives in technology, to coincide with the FORBES Women’s Summit. Check back tomorrow and Friday for more.]

My Experience

I started my career in sales support for a mostly-male technology company.

I quickly learned that careers in technology have traditionally been dominated by men, but I realized I had uncommon, complementary strengths: attention to detail, problem solving, and a high level of empathy. I don’t mean to imply that men don’t possess those strengths, but in my experience, women always enrich IT teams.

This is why I love to help women consider IT as a career path after college—even if they have non-technical degrees.

One of the first things I encourage women to do is pursue their passion, finding creative ways to use this passion within IT. Look for ways to contribute, I suggest, through writing, design, legal, sales, or building client relationships, for example.

Here are five keys that are essential for a successful career in tech:

1. Create A Plan

Plan how you can use your passion to gain exposure and experience.

I often recommend anyone starting out in IT begin on the Help Desk. It gives you a quick education on the latest technology being deployed—something you may not have been exposed to if you don’t have a tech education. Even if you do, you’ll develop empathy for end-users’ experience.

Seek out responsibilities that move you into areas where you wish to have influence. Write down goals and milestones for the coming years to mark your progress.

Remember that the technology you encounter in your career will constantly change. Incorporate learning and flexibility into your plan so you don’t become irrelevant.

2. Seek Out A Mentor

Mentoring young women in IT is hugely important to me.

It can be daunting to be faced with life decisions you may not be prepared for. It’s critical to your success to find a good mentor—one who’ll give you sound guidance, and with the experience to help you avoid pitfalls and career dead-ends.

It should be a risk-free relationship: A mentor allows you to ask practically any question. More importantly, she can help you face many of the unique challenges women face in the traditionally male-dominated field of IT.

3. Make Yourself Proud

Find your internal compass and be true to it.

When I was young, I wanted to make my father proud; it influenced much of my decision-making. But after I lost my parents, I realized that I needed to focus on making myself proud.

External motivators are always important. Setting goals, identifying ways to improve, and seeking advice can help you become a better person and move your career forward. However, if you aren’t motivated from within, you can find yourself lost and buffeted by conflicting advice or desires.

You need an internal compass that keeps you focused on who you want to be, personally and professionally. Be true to that compass: Work at making yourself proud.

4. Build Your Network

When you create your plan, start building your own professional network.

Surround yourself with those who’ll lift you up, support you, and be honest with you. You’ll be able to face obstacles and challenges that feel too large and daunting to overcome on your own.

In addition, no matter how hard you work, unless you’re aware of an opportunity, you’re not going to get a shot at it. Your network will open up opportunities for you and your career, both now and in the years to come.

Investing in people is never a waste of a time or effort. It always comes back to you. Which leads me to…

5. And Then, Give Back

At this stage of my career, I spend a large portion of my time and energy coaching, mentoring, teaching, and helping others find their passion within IT.

Young people need the help of a network as they grow in their careers. So now it’s our turn.

Few of us would be where we are without the support of those who believed in us and have helped us.

Passion Is Contagious!
Don’t hesitate to follow your passion. With careful planning, plus support from mentors and contacts, you’ll find yourself on your way to an extraordinarily successful IT career.

I’ve found it completely satisfying in my life and it can be for you as well.

Thank you. TiA. xoxo


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This entry was posted on May 8, 2013 by in WOMEN IN TECH and tagged , , , , , , , .

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