Tell us a little about your journey
Like many people working in tech, my journey had a lot of twists and turns. I began my career in my native country South Africa and studied a Bachelor of Science (Hons), majoring in Mathematics. After finishing university, I moved into my first role in Risk Management in investment banking and from there I found my interest in software and started to get more involved in tech. With a bit of experience behind me, I moved into the consulting space in the UK, contracting in the UK is almost more common than permanent work and I was happy to discover that it allowed me the freedom and flexibility that I had not experienced in my previous roles as an employee. As a contractor I worked in a variety of Business Analyst roles across many different teams and projects, but after eight years living overseas, I moved back to South Africa to get more settled and start a family.
Having a career and a family in South Africa was very different to what you might imagine, with no maternity leave, I only had a month off before heading back into full time work. Although working in SA, I was able to continue my role remotely for the same UK company I had been working for before moving back. The ability to work remotely, from home, was honestly a lifesaver and I was able to be close to my children and work more flexibly without my work suffering; if anything i have found my outcomes have always been better when working this way. The next chapter of our journey brought us to Australia in 2016, and I continued working in IT contracting at a Melbourne based company. After the contract was up, we decided to live a little on the wild side and took two years off to travel on a boat. Coming back into working life after two years away would have been difficult on its own but coming back as COVID hit was a different challenge. I found myself looking for work in a very different environment to the one that I left behind just a couple of years ago. Now, I’ve made the move from contracting to a permanent position with Avec as a Senior Business Systems Analyst and haven’t looked back since!
What is your advice to someone starting their journey in IT contracting?
From working in banking in South Africa 20 years ago to contracting in different companies around the world I have found that when you are a contractor you need to remember that you are hired as the expert. There is often no one for you to go to with questions or to brainstorm with. You are often isolated and responsible for delivering an outcome. In my career there was never much of an opportunity to feel like I was a part of something bigger, and that is the downfall of contracting there is no real sense of community. There are so many positives, including flexible work, interesting projects and of course better pay but I do think people coming into contracting need to ensure they have the type of personality and working style that can cope with this. To anyone looking to get into the contracting game now, I would say your network is really important to help you combat the isolating nature of this work. It’s kind of up to you to create your own support environment, reach out to other contractors, ask questions, and work as a team. Your project outcomes will thank you for it, and likely your sanity will too.
How important is diversity of thought in your work?
Different people need different things, and it’s really the same with projects. Having a diverse team really helps to create better outcomes and that can translate to more impactful work.
Soft skills are critical in project management, poor communication and organisational skills can change the course of a project within a few days. It’s critical to have diversity of skills in a team especially when working to tight deadlines and deliverables.
What systematic changes do you think would help support women in tech?
In short, you don’t know what you don’t know.
In school we’re pushed towards university, but what does that university degree really get you? After school, I really didn’t know what I wanted to do. I knew I was good at Maths so that’s the direction I went in. But after finishing my degree I still didn’t really know what was next, or even what I could do with my degree.
I think educating young people around different possibilities is necessary. Not just the different job titles but what you actually do in a day-to-day capacity and what skills you might need. I think we need to start with giving our young women more pathways into tech and go from there. I hope to see more companies working with universities in the future, I think if they can become more involved in the programs offered then all parties will be better off. I also feel that there needs to be more education and a greater focus within the wider community encouraging women to enter tech and project management, I think this is happening, but it would be fantastic to see more.
Talent released a report last year around women in tech, including challenges and ways forward. If you are interested in learning more about Talent’s ‘Women in Tech: Are we there yet?’ report, click here.