My name is Sarah and I've been in IT for about 14 years, maybe a little bit more. IT wasn't a career I grew up wanting to join, I grew up on a dairy farm in Scotland and always dreamed of doing something in farming. Being outside, working with my hands and animals. However, ironically, I was deflected away from that as it wasn't a career "designed for a woman". Leading me to try and figure out a new path, I did consider teacher and lawyer, but after realising I had an aptitude for all things computers and realising I enjoyed passing that knowledge on to others I headed down the route of studying computing at college.
At college I had the chance to go cover off infrastructure and developer subjects and naturally found myself gravitating more to the infrastructure side of things and that's where I've set my stall for my career.
My first job was as a 1st level engineer triaging all the end users' issues, I was part of a team of six and five of us were women! I loved that job and I learnt so much from it, I didn't just learn how to solve IT problems, I learnt valuable customer service skills. The way I approached problems then is still the way I tackle problems today, by listening, gathering information and asking questions.
As I processed through my career and started to get promotions, the number of women I worked with started to dwindle. I was often the only female in my team, on customer sites, at events. I've had my fair share of derogatory comments, I've been told I won't progress in my career unless I "dress like a girl and show off my breasts", I've been told I couldn't get a promotion because women don't do that kind of role and I've had women try to derail my career because I am trying to break that glass ceiling.
However, for every, one detractor I've had, I've had two supporters, people who have championed my cause and encouraged me. The supporters have been from the usual places, friends and family but there's been support from areas I wasn't expecting. Fellow community members who happily retweet my posts on Twitter, who spend the time reviewing my blog's new design and give me constructive criticism, people who try and calm my nerves before speaking sessions and act as the positive audience member I can look to for a calm nod of the head to say "you've got this".
Never underestimate the support you can offer someone in pursuit of their goals. Every gesture, small or large, makes a difference.
I've always tried to help encourage women in tech where possible and regularly help at STEM events in my local area. I'd love to see more women enter technology and work on the IT pro/infrastructure side like myself and my colleagues. There is a lot of challenges and opportunities to this side of the IT industry and it's a vital for organisations.
To get involved in STEM activities in the UK you can find more information at https://www.stem.org.uk/, I really do encourage women and men who work in science, technology, engineering and mathematics to get involved in any way they can.