Women at Net Friends Blog Series
In celebration of Women's History Month, we are interviewing women at Net Friends about their experiences in technology and the career advice they have for women navigating this industry. Follow along at Women at Net Friends. Meet Carrie, our IT Project Coordinator.
My dad taught me how to build computers and how to repair them, as well as network design and installation. My sister was three years younger and not far behind me. We later opened a woman-run IT business in Charlotte together.
How did you get into the technology industry?
My dad had a software business and I started training clients on computer bookkeeping and accounting when I was 14 years old, and then began to learn to install and support the hardware and networks that kept all that software running. My dad taught me how to build computers and how to repair them, as well as network design and installation. My sister was three years younger and not far behind me.
We later opened a woman-run IT business in Charlotte together. Many of our clients were women owned businesses, or business where women were making IT decisions, and I think they appreciated the communication and perspective we could provide.
What advice would you offer young women interested in a career in technology?
It’s difficult to get classroom training on technology – the training is nearly outdated by the time the classes are created. I would recommend getting your hands dirty at the ground level to see what specific training you are interested in, then you’ll get more out of any training you take.
To be good at IT, a person has to understand how everything is put together – for me it's how a network is connected, how to take a computer apart and put it back together, how to break it and fix it. You learn more by doing and seeing than in a class. Success in IT is based around learning to problem solve, which is really the process because the tools change daily.
Women can really be leaders in the field, because the best IT people are good listeners and take care of the details that are really important to customers. It's not just about the computers, but rather, being able to do business.
What are you most proud of in your time at Net Friends?
The projects I have done at Net Friends were completely new to me – I converted a server to SharePoint that was especially complicated, and the conversion didn’t work the way it should have because the internet connection the client had was way too slow.
With the help of the team, we brainstormed about how to copy data, get it to our office, and transfer it over a weekend. When the whole thing came together as planned it was amazing!
Almost no project is as easy as you think it will be, so masterminding solutions to the roadblocks is what gets it done in the end.
What is one roadblock that you overcame to persevere and arrive where you are today?
When you work in the IT field, at first you go into situations all the time where you think, “I have no idea how to fix this or what I am doing.” Then you realize that every day technology changes. You have to install things and train people on how they work - things that you have never seen before in your life either. There is no training that is going to fully prepare you for day-to-day problems that arise.
What you learn in IT are not facts, but troubleshooting and problem-solving skills. You also become an expert in communication and expectation management – how to help people feel comfortable until you arrive at a solution. It’s a balancing act with people and technology. The best part of the job is that no day is ever the same as the last.
What do you believe will be the biggest challenge for the generation of women behind you?
The biggest challenge for women in technology is getting paid and promoted equally with men. Because this is an extremely male dominated industry, the boys club doesn’t really have that helpful “girls club” aspect as much as you would find even in other companies. Honestly, I have never had a female peer in the industry except my sister.
What qualities do you think make good leaders?
Good leaders lead by example – by showing others that they care about their work – the quality of it and that it gets done. Those around you respect you for meeting your commitments and meeting them well.
Good leaders also admit their shortcomings and utilize their teams’ ideas and strengths to bridge the gaps. I believe in giving credit when credit is due and helping everyone be successful by capitalizing on their particular passion and strengths.