Despite the wide range of careers and professional opportunities available in the IT sector, there are still surprisingly few women choosing this field. Researching the problem, cloud-contact software provider, VCC Live’s marketing team asked the company’s female staff to share their experiences in this area. We hoped to gain insight into their professional advancement and map the opportunities that the IT sector has to offer.
Ágnes Mészáros – Company Process & Project Manager
Currently the company’s project and process manager, Ágnes has been working at VCC Live for almost a year now. Having previously occupied a variety of positions in the business and technology departments of CitiBank, her main positions included business-related activities, such as external customer support and sales. After joining the SSC team, she went on to more IT-specific positions, such as compliance coordination and database analysis, finally becoming the team leader of the database team.
Ágnes’ current position at VCC Live involves overseeing the functioning of the entire organization, its internal processes, as well as managing projects within the company. Such a position involves both human skills and the ability to oversee complex projects in a technically detailed manner. However, Ágnes’ consistent resume of IT-related positions was not a self-explanatory one:
“Whenever people hear that I work in IT, they instantly think that I’m a programmer. However, this field offers a lot of other professional alternatives.”
Indeed, it was the promise of a wide variety of career options that made Ágnes orient herself towards this field and decide to stay:
“You don’t need to be a programmer or have a strong technical background in order to find a position in this field. This area offers a lot of positions that you can fulfill with a variety of skills, given that IT is a constantly evolving sector. This was one of my main motivations when I decided to start building my professional life. I knew that it would be a sustainable career path.”
When starting her first, strictly IT-related position at Citibank, there were only three women in her team. Within a few years, after joining the database team, the gender ratio started to equalize. However, during the initial period, it wasn’t always easy getting her point across to some of the senior developers.
“When I became a team leader, there were some very experienced and talented members in my team with a strong computer programming background. However, there was a specific developer, who had a challenging personality, and, to be honest, he gave me a hard time in the beginning. However, I tried to level with him, and start with a clean slate. Whenever I didn’t understand something, I simply sat down with him and asked him to explain the project, until I fully understood. By simply engaging with someone’s work, certain female stereotypes quickly fade out of the conversation. You are not looked at as a young woman anymore, but as an equal partner.”
When asked, what advice she would give to women wanting to try themselves out in technical fields, often dominated by men, Ágnes’ advice is to grow a thick skin. “You will experience a lot of direct communication in these environments, bordering on crude. Don’t expect this to suddenly change and don’t take it personally! Stand your ground and don’t let yourself be intimidated!”
Rita Poór – Head of HR
Having started her professional career fourteen years ago, Rita is now the head of HR at VCC Live. With a background in economics and organizational psychology, Rita realized relatively early in her career, that HR was the ideal fusion of these two fields. Having worked both in corporate environments and as a freelancer, Rita has faced a variety of clients from diverse fields, from media and communication all the way to car manufacturer companies. The reason for applying her professional skills in the IT sector was motivated by the opportunities she saw in this field:
”I realized that the IT sector is a culmination of all the things that are exciting to me in a professional context. IT is a constantly evolving, dynamic field, that raises a lot of exciting questions in the context of human resources: from our relation to artificial intelligence to the constantly evolving work culture of these companies.”
Additionally, the company values at VCC Live were also a pull factor for Rita: “The unique thing about VCC Live is that the company actually focuses on the type of people it wants to hire, it really pays attention to the personality and human qualities of its employees next to their professional skills. This means that the company values are not just posted on the wall, but you can really feel it represented by the employees themselves.”
When it comes to the specifics of managing the human resources of a tech company, a constant challenge that Rita faces is the lack of available specialists in this field: “The lack of available software engineers is an acute issue that forces IT companies to consider the specific needs of their employees, in order to make their positions more attractive. It has become extremely important for these organizations to map out the motivations of their staff and offer more than just a position. In this sector, for example, offering employee training and development based on individual needs is crucial.”
The question of gender equality is also relevant in Rita’s job. “When we look at the gender makeup of tech companies, we see that 85 percent of positions are still held by men. So yes, we still have a long way to go. However, you also see that there are a lot of initiatives trying to address this issue. A good Hungarian example is CodeCool- an organization that can help women up and re-skill themselves by learning to code.”
The reason behind the lack of women in this field? Years of socialization, according to Rita: “It hasn’t been that long since women got the right to vote. In Switzerland, for example, this was only established in 1971! Stereotypes about women’s roles are deeply embedded and so is the idea that IT is a male-dominated field. We need to debunk these ideas. There are a lot of highly qualified, analytically minded women fit for this field. We just need to motivate them better.”
Rita also believes that due to the historical gender inequality, a lot of professional women still find it hard to fully advocate for their own professional desires. “This is simply a skill that can be learned and practiced. It is also important to constantly remind ourselves that just because a woman is outspoken, does not mean that she is masculine.”
When asked what advice she would give to women wanting to try themselves out in business or tech, Rita emphasized that the key is understanding your own motivation.
“First, you need to define what you want to achieve, how you ideally see yourself in a professional context. The rest will come easy once you start working towards a clearly defined goal. If you have trouble defining that goal within yourself, look outside for inspiration. Find role models from who you can learn and get inspired from.”
Zsófia Frankenberg – Key Account Manager
Currently a Key Account Manager at VCC Live, Zsófi’s daily tasks include maintaining relationships with the company’s clients, holding on-sight training sessions, and helping them with their business aims and development needs. Additionally, Zsófi is responsible for onboarding and training VCC Live’s new colleges arriving in her department. This latter is a position that she takes particular pride in, as it was essentially created by her:
“You could call it my pet project. When I arrived at VCC Live, establishing an onboarding and mentoring process became one of my main missions. I have been running the project for almost two years now. Before that, we did not have an onboarding process for this position and while I had previous experience in customer-facing roles, I knew that this was not sustainable given the accelerating growth of the company.”
Having stayed with the company for 7 years running, the ability to transfer knowledge is one of the key motivators in Zsófi’s work: “I acquired a lot of knowledge during my time at VCC Live and I realized that I greatly enjoy being able to transfer my experience to others.” This means that she works with a lot of her colleagues at VCC Live and, as a Key Account Manager, regularly consults and trains clients.
The latter has been known to be difficult, as there have been instances, where she felt that she was not taken seriously: “Sometimes, I notice that when I communicate with older, male clients, they tend to not take me as seriously, due to the fact that I am a young woman. There have been instances, when certain clients bypassed me, just to get the same information later on from a male colleague.”
When asked, what advice she would give to women confronted with such situations, Zsófi said the following: “When confronted with this behavior, you need to remember some essential points. First, remind yourself that this is not personal. It’s not because you are not good at your profession or because of your lack of preparation. This kind of behavior is due to years of socialization, that someone might not even be actively conscious of. With this in mind, make sure to stand your ground and draw your own boundaries. Let them know that this is unacceptable behavior, and if it persists, make sure to communicate this to your organization.”
Of course, it is not new to see women in leadership or professional positions. However, this is often still challenging, be it in the context of socialization, motherhood, or day-to-day communication. As with everything, perhaps the keywords are patience and perseverance, or the discovery of a supportive community, like VCC Live.