Everybody’s stereotypical IT person mostly looks the same: nerdy, bad hair (possibly still cut by mum) and Coke-bottle bifocals.
It’s not a cool mental image and traditionally it’s not a trendy industry, but becoming tech-savvy can broaden your skill base, increase your value to your employer and equip you with many of the skills you may need to run your own business.
In an era where children are practically born with a mobile in their hands, baby boomers and generation Xers can sometimes find themselves at a loss when people start ramming their RAM, ROM and USB acronyms down their throats.
With few prominent female figures in the industry, women just aren’t being compelled to familiarise themselves with an industry filled with intimidating and confusing jargon, geeky odd-bods and difficult technical issues.
With a significant skills shortage and an under-representation of women in the Australian industry – only 16 per cent of all information and communications technology employees are female, and of that group, only 6 per cent hold managerial positions – employers are being forced to look overseas as a stop-gap.
In an obviously male-dominated industry, it’s no wonder women are baulking at the idea of brushing up on their computing know-how and are adopting that pervasive noughties condition: technophobia.
Before you give up and relegate yourself to the luddite category, however, there are many opportunities available for you to gain a few computer-related skills to help you fight your way through the virtual battlefield.
If you haven’t heard the new buzzword ‘mumpreneur’, it’s a notion that you may want to take on board.
It’s an idiom that underlies a new concept where mums are coupling an entrepreneurial idea with a few technological skills to come up with a business that allows them the flexibility to work around their kids’ schedules.
Of course, mums aren’t the only ones that can implement these skills in their employment positions.
If you work within a small office environment and are the resident go-to person for IT problems (no matter how small), you’re worth your weight in gold.
Having a broad skill base that traverses a number of industries will not only be beneficial to your employer, but you’ll also be able to use it as leverage for pay rises and promotions.
When considering further training in the IT industry, the first step is to take a mental inventory of what you already do know – you may be surprised that your knowledge of computing extends beyond turning the computer on!
Once you’ve ascertained your skill level, work out where you’d like to get to (perhaps discuss this with your boss) and find a professional development course that will help you get there.
Befriending your IT person and having the odd chat with them about hints and tips to help you solve even the simplest problems will also be great for your skill set (and their social life!).
The key is that once you start learning, your taste for more will explode and your rate of learning will increase.
Once you’ve overcome your fear of technology and are able to navigate yourself around a computer, we guarantee you’ll wonder how you ever managed without it.
By Di Pierce, facilitator and program manager, Australian Women & Leadership Forum (www.womensforum.com.au)