Women in Tech: There’s nothing standing in our way!

06 March 2018

Netpremacy women in tech

Featured above, some of the female team at Netpremacy

 

Celebrating women and minorities in technology.

As we celebrate International Women’s Day, on the 100th anniversary of voting rights for women being passed, it is important that we still acknowledge areas where women and other minorities are still fighting for equality and acceptance.

Let’s get straight into this! My name is Francesca Clarke, I am a Training and Change Co-ordinator for Netpremacy Ltd, a Premier Partner of Google Cloud. 2 years ago, I made the move from working in finance to technology. It was the best decision I ever made however, sadly I am part of a minority. Of those working in tech industries, only 17% of the UK technology workforce are women.

It is clear that there is an obvious divide between sexes within the technology sector, however, it appears that the gap is closing! Over the 2 years that I have been working for Netpremacy, we have doubled the female workforce, and have found talented women who are eager to learn and grow within the business.

For all genders, I believe that there is a common misconception that you need to be a technical genius in order to gain employment within the technology industries. Nevertheless, there are many career options that keep businesses such as ours flourishing worldwide.

Aren’t the only jobs on offer for programmers and developers?

Tech companies are like any other, they need all the relevant cogs to keep the machine working. These roles include personnel in the obvious roles of Technical, Support Engineers, and Developers. But also include divisions such as Marketing, Accounting, Change Management, Training, Business Analyst, Project Management, Sales and more.

You could already have experience in one of these roles or be looking into changing career path into one of these fields. Moving into a different industry can provide the motivation you are craving, and as the saying goes ‘a change is as good as a rest’.

It is your employer’s duty to provide you with the information and skills you need to flourish. Although don’t forget it’s down to the individual to take an active role in their own independent learning in order to be successful.

Learning new skills is an area where women can often outshine men.

A study by the University of Georgia suggests that women of all ages have a better approach to learning. It is believed this happens because of the way that women learn goes far beyond the realm of cognitive learning. Instead, a woman’s attitude and enthusiasm towards learning can far exceed expectations.*

In the past women have been pigeonholed by their ‘maternal instincts’ and an ability to ‘nurture’, meaning they have often been restricted by society and most importantly themselves when seeking employment. Instead, we should look at these characteristics and what they can bring to a role. As equal opportunities in the workplace have become standard practice we now have to focus on the main barrier preventing women from covering new career ground, the mental barrier of ‘it’s no place for me’.

I am a woman in a male-dominated industry and I personally find it brilliant! Every workplace has it’s pros and cons but as more women are coming into the technology industry there have been major improvements from what some might call ‘a woman’s touch’. We are still outnumbered but women are rising up to the highly ranked positions and the only thing holding us back is our own perception of what is possible.

Don’t just take it from me, I asked one of my colleagues about what it is like as a woman working in the tech industry…

“All my positions in tech companies have been people facing.  I have found that women usually tend to work in people facing roles. I guess we have a tendency to be people oriented rather than working with ‘things’.

In theory, more women in tech could change the direction of the industry by creating more choice & demand for solutions by approaching projects from a different perspective.

To be honest, if I’ve been treated differently for being female I haven’t noticed.”
– Bernice MacAndrew, Technical Account Manager, Netpremacy Ltd

Bernice touches on a common theme that can deter women from entering unfamiliar industries… the fear of being singled out or treated differently. When moving into a new company, there will always be nerves and hesitation as there is with any change, but I am in complete agreement with this statement, I have never been professionally singled out due to my gender. I am instead a firm believer that if I maintain to break ground at work and keep my standards high I will stand out for this reason alone.

I asked the CEO of Netpremacy what his views on this subject were.

‘As a tech startup in 2000, Netpremacy’s core values were to change a predominantly male tech industry. As we have grown as a company so has our female workforce and as a result, we have seen increased communication (both internally and with customers), fresh perspectives on business problems and a large increase in company harmonisation. In today’s industry, our employees are evaluated on their value to the company and not their gender.’
– Michael Carter, CEO, Netpremacy Ltd

Understanding how a person, regardless of their gender or upbringing, can bring vital attributes to a role, is about understanding that individuals should be seen for their personal and professional qualities.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

This is a question that every child has been asked at some point. I can easily say that I never responded with “a Training and Change Co-ordinator for a UK Premier Partner of Google  Cloud”. In fact, if I had been told as a teenager that I would end up working in IT I would have laughed.

At that point in my life, I didn’t have much of an interest in IT, and most importantly even though I was confident using computers I would never have labeled myself as overly skilled on them either.

I made my career move to technology with my self-taught computer skills and built on my existing strengths and experience from previous employment. Almost instantly I had my eyes opened to new tools and through some basic training, a spark was lit that turned into a fire! I went out of my way to learn everything I could about this new area of work and whats more I was enjoying going to work every day for the first time in my working life.

Now, some may say this is a little dramatic, however, my role has helped me travel the world and have experiences I’d never even dreamt of.

I think like a lot of my peers, growing up I was never actively encouraged to learn more about technology. My parents were from a generation that associated ‘playing’ with mud, footballs, climbing trees and generally being outside. Nowadays playing on a games console, computer or mobile phone has redefined the definition of ‘playing’ for present and future generations.

Children are now being taught coding in the first few years of their education. Making IT an accessible future career for all no matter their gender or background.

Tablets are now becoming a common fixture in a child’s school bag and tech of all kinds is replacing paper and pen. Our dependency on technology is something that has to impact the ratio of men to women in tech, but like any advancement, it may just take a little time.

Is the industry that speaks binary soon to become non-binary? We certainly think so!

If you are interested in a career at Netpremacy head to our careers page to find out more.

 

* “New UGA research helps explain why girls do better in school – UGA ….” 2 Jan. 2013, https://news.uga.edu/why-girls-do-better-in-school-010212/. Accessed 6 Mar. 2018.

05 February 2018

The key to delivering effective and engaging training

 

Welcome!

 

A brief introduction to myself: my name is Fraja Hodges and I am one of the Netpremacy Training and Change Coordinators. After nearly two years of being a trainer, I thought it about time I put our training practices down on ‘paper’ to give you an insight as to how we at Netpremacy engage our audiences in training so as to provide them with the best possible support during any form of change initiative.

 

Training is a critical part of the change management process so it is important that it be delivered to a high standard. If learners leave the session feeling frustrated or confused, this can encourage a negative look on the product and the project as a whole. Inadequate training can lead to “bad-mouthing” of the product from trained users to other employees causing resistance and complaints. For big projects like a G Suite deployment, we are often completely uprooting daily procedures and making a huge difference to their whole working life that relies on these IT systems and technologies. A trainer’s role, particularly for, in this case, is to be not only motivating to build up enthusiasm and project energy into the session, but also inspiring in order to boost credibility and encourage innovation. With all the above in mind, I aim to explain the methodologies and approaches we apply to training here at Netpremacy and reveal our best practices from basic etiquette to the structured rules we embed into any form of training session.

 

Our Training Methodologies and Approaches

 

At Netpremacy, we make use of a range of training methodologies and approaches to ensure our audiences are fully engaged throughout the whole training session. Firstly, we apply the “Intro” model to kickstart our training, which is an acronym for Introduction, Need, Test, Range and Objective. Each of these components help to set the scene for training and can be delivered in any ordered. An Introduction to yourself as the trainer as well as the company you work for and their role in the project is a given, providing transparency from the offset. It is also vital that you allow your audience to introduce themselves, not only so that you can gauge who you have in the room (for both levels of seniority and departments) and what their concerns may be, but also so that you give them chance to talk, making the communication two-way. The Need for change is the most essential component of the “Intro” structure as it emphasises why they are there and why the change is happening, providing them with both a clear purpose for the change and burning platform for the product. Test their knowledge of the products to help you further understand your audience and tailor the training to best suit them. It might be that you have someone in the room who has previous experience or is already an advocate, which you can use to your advantage during the session to facilitate learning. The Range serves to inform your audience of how long the session will take and roughly how it is split up. In this section, it is good to set expectations of what the session is (ie. in-depth/focused training on a specific topic, a certain level (advanced, intermediate or beginner), a practical or demonstration-based session) and what the training covers (ordered agenda). Lastly, telling your audience the Objective of the training gives them something to work towards in the session and ensure they are fully confident when they leave that they achieved this.

 

Secondly, we like to follow the “Pose, Pause, Pounce” approach when delivering training. This relates to testing your audience: pose the question, pause for while, and if no-one voluntarily answers, pounce (it’s a good idea to remember at least three names from introductions). The attention span of a typical audience lasts about 7 minutes before you run the risk of losing them, therefore, it is important to make your session as interactive as possible. By asking questions, you are giving them a reason to listen and absorb the knowledge you are providing them, so that they can apply this when responding. Instead of making statements such as “This is what it does”, we try to convert these into questions: “Does anyone know what it does or can anyone guess?”. Don’t be afraid to pause long enough for someone to pluck up the courage to answer; people have a tendency to relate silence to awkwardness and will usually try to fill it, but if that fails, you can always follow by pouncing.

 

A trainer’s best practices

 

There are two stages to our best practices: the first is trainer etiquette and the second is a set of high-level rules to remember. Starting with etiquette, although not part of the training, this can directly impact your audience’s mindset and mood from the offset. If you give off a bad impression before you’ve even started your session, they will have that at the forefront of their minds throughout the training. This stems from looking unprepared or unprofessional, contributing to your credibility (or lack of). To get the audience on your side, from when they step in the room to when they leave, we have adopted this simple routine: (1) arrive early. This gives you time to properly meet your hosts, get ready for training (ie. log onto the WiFi and distribute handouts) and greet people as they walk in. (2) bring all the necessary equipment. You will most likely need to charge your laptop at some point during the day and you may even need to bring adaptors to connect to their resources. Making sure you are prepared for the day, gives your audience a sense of relief knowing that they are in safe and capable hands. (3) dress smartly. The key is familiarity, so understanding the organisation’s culture helps with finding that happy medium between professional and approachable – we have found that ‘smart, but not overly imposing or formal’ tends to tick all boxes. (4) leave the room the way you found it. The audience will be pleased to see you respecting their working environment, so if you’ve moved any furniture for training purposes, be sure to reposition these and take any rubbish away with you. These points may seem obvious, but I think they are greatly underestimated considering just how much of an impact they can have on your audience. They are an important aspect of a trainer’s best practices and are the epitome of the saying “minimum effort, maximum effect”.

 

In terms of the actual training, there are few rules of thumb that we deem essential to delivering a successful and engaging session. One of the most important to remember is that there are no “stupid” questions. A lot of people won’t speak up and ask for help through fear of looking a fool in front of their colleagues. It is, therefore, our job as a trainer to create a comfortable environment (or safe zone) where the audience feels confident enough to participate and ask questions. With this in mind, trainers should liberally praise those brave enough to speak up. So, you want to ensure your audience feels at ease, but you don’t want them to relax too much; otherwise, you may end up losing them to the classic early-morning tiredness or post-lunch coma. To combat this, you should utilise your space; if you’re stood up and moving around, you keep their eyes and therefore, their attention on you at all times. Rather than use your mouse, get up and point to the screen, or better yet, get them to.

 

To round up a training session, referring back to the objectives you outlined in the introduction helps provide your audience with a sense of satisfaction. They can clearly see that they have achieved what you wanted them to know by the end of the session, and if they haven’t, this gives them the chance to say so. Using a competency scale is a great way of ensuring that your audience feels confident enough to start applying their new-found knowledge as soon as they get back to their desks. On the flip side, it also allows you to identify anyone who is still struggling and may need one-to-one assistance. The closing of the session should then always be a recap of the next steps and the direction of immediate and long-term support.

 

Summary

 

There are lots of elements that can contribute to effective and engaging training from proven methodologies and preferred approaches to our best practices (built up and carried out by the Netpremacy Change Management team). In summary, a trainer needs to remove barriers to create a comfortable and informal environment for training, as well as leave space for interactivity to make the session as exciting and digestible as possible. These two main training streams, supported by the “Intro” model, the “Pose, pause, pounce” strategy, and various rules of thumb and etiquette as discussed in this blog post, are the key to an engaged audience and a successful training session.

 

If you would like to find out more about the training we offer here at Netpremacy, please check out our training page.