Mentorship can be beneficial in any field.
But it’s particularly useful in IT, an area long dominated and still largely populated by men. Recently, Capella University and School of Business and Technology leadership, interviewed female IT professionals about the subject of mentorship. Perhaps not surprisingly, they found that successful women in IT had often benefited from mentorship and/or had served as mentors. Connecting with other women in the field often strengthened their resolve to grow their careers in IT, even if they encountered setbacks. Effective mentors often served as role models, coaches, and sponsors.
What else did the interviews uncover? Read on to find out what advice participants had to offer women who are seeking or building a career in IT:
Find a mentor who has followed a similar path.
Everyone has a unique career journey. But if you ask around, you can likely find other women who have trod similar paths or faced relevant challenges. Don’t limit yourself to your own department or company. Post a short statement on social media. Tell people you’re looking for a good connection—and let the hive mind do the rest of the work. You’ll be surprised at the generosity of others in sharing their social and professional ties—and you’ll probably end up with several great options for mentors. Spread the word and be open to unexpected connections.
Build your own brand.
Think about the qualities you admire in other people. Are these qualities you already possess? What do you want others to see in you—integrity, discipline, agility, kindness? Chances are the same things that make you admire a mentor or someone else in your life are the same qualities you could someday be known for. Develop those talents and traits. Make them your brand. But remember to stay authentic, you can be the best possible representation of your strengths.
Take the lead and learn.
Don’t wait for someone to tell you what you need to know. Keep track of trends, research new ideas, and develop baseline (or advanced!) skills in areas you sense may be important down the road. Practice taking initiative—a habit that can lead to getting noticed by leaders.
Trust your instincts and abilities.
Empower yourself to make decisions and act on them. “You must ask for what you want,” advises one participant. “Of course, you need to have a business case and conduct yourself in a highly professional manner, but if you don’t ask for what you want, the likelihood of it happening will naturally decrease considerably.”
Know the business.
To be competent, you need to know how your company or organization makes money. In today’s business climate, advancement depends on being able to communicate the value of your ideas and role within the context of the larger enterprise. “A career in IT is as much about understanding and contributing to the business strategy as it is about the technology,” says one participant. “Going in with the mindset of being a business leader first and a technology leader second will help position you for long-term success.”
Pay it forward. If you’ve benefited from the advice and assistance of other women, find a way to pass that knowledge along to others. Helping others can take time and sometimes extra effort, but it allows you to be part of strengthening the whole field. Plus, says one interviewee, there’s an additional upside: “Helping others gets you noticed!”
Learn more about IT degrees and certificates offered by Capella University.