Women don’t need computer science degrees to work in IT, says Microsoft manager

Women should not be afraid to apply for jobs in the IT industry just because they do not have a technical background, according to Microsoft’s Trustworthy Computing general manager Adrienne Hall.

Hall, who has degrees in education and business, works in a division of Microsoft that focuses on making online activities, software and services more secure. She has worked for the IT giant for 23 years, getting herself hired by convincing the company that she could learn anything.

“There are many roles for women in IT and security that don’t require a technical background. I’m in a technical field but I don’t have a technical degree,” Hall told ComputerworldUK.

Those with business or arts degrees could still apply for jobs such as IT operations, network analysis and threat modelling, she suggested. Once they have the job, they can then pursue the relevant qualifications for the job by taking an evening course or learning on the job, said Hall.

“Look at the breadth of the jobs that exist. Be open to learning skills in a job,” she suggested.

“There’s a lot of things you can learn over time. You can get a certification. You don’t have to start with a computer science degree. Don’t self-limit based on whether or not you have a science or technical background.”

Be assertive, be proactive

Hall believes that there are two main ways that women can make their mark in a male-dominated industry such as IT. However, she recognised that the advice could be equally relevant to men with introverted personalities and any other ‘minority demographics’.

“In business, I encourage women to raise their hands, to ask for a project,” Hall said.

She added: “Be OK citing your experiences, focus on explaining what your credentials are.”

Hall also strongly believes in mentorships as a way to support women in the workplace, and said that people should not be afraid to approach a mentor to ask to shadow them.

“When you are a smaller demographic of a workforce, having mentors is very helpful. I have had a number of mentors, both male and female, at different points in my career,” she said.

“I have found people to be very open to [being shadowed]. Identify what you need to do to grow yourself and seek out the people who can help you in that way.”

According to Hall, people respond positively to mentorship requests “95 percent of the time”. When she has been turned down, it is because the person did not believe that they were the best at a particular skill and they would recommend someone else.

“The best mentors are the ones who self select, rather than being assigned. That’s much more empowering,” Hall said. “The connection the manager has with an employee is a good place to start.”

And if the potential mentor is someone who is too busy?

“Reduce the time you ask with someone. If that doesn’t work, just move on. Persistence is key,” said Hall.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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