Careers & Education

Room for more women in tech industry — Microsoft exec

BY DENISE DENNIS Career & Education staff reporter dennisd@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, July 08, 2012    

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MICROSOFT executive Jacky Wright has noted her encouragement for more women to enter the technology industry, insisting there is more than enough opportunities for them to exploit.

According to Wright — vice-president for Microsoft IT Strategic Enterprise — the past decade has seen the exponential expansion of the industry, which will continue.

"Therefore, we're finding not only a larger demand for technology workers, but also there is a much greater variety of the types of roles that one can pursue," she told Career & Education.

Wright — who flew into Jamaica from Microsoft's headquarters in Seattle, Washington to participate in the second annual Microsoft Jamaica DigiGirlz Day, held at the Sovereign Cineplex recently — added that as technology becomes a pervasive force in everyday life, the industry will suffer if there is not balanced representation and diverse perspectives for development of new products, services and features.

Her own career in technology has spanned more than 20 years, with her filling both technical and business roles that involve extensive global experience in strategy, consulting, large scale programme development, implementation, and management across a variety of industries.

Her current position at Microsoft sees her leading the development of enterprise-wide processes, systems and standards that serve Microsoft IT and Microsoft.

"I have had good fortune in that I have been able to secure positions at dynamic companies where I have encountered interesting work and opportunities for career development. That is not to say that I haven't encountered my share of challenges as a woman working in the technology field," she said.

"However, it helps to do your research and target progressive employers who are known not only for their strength in the industry, but also for their commitment to balanced representation among their workforce," Wright added.

She noted that she first became interested in technology while in college, after realising how it can be used to improve work in nearly any industry.

"My moment of truth occurred when I was working in a part-time job at a bank and used the computer to teach myself how to write simple programmes. I quickly learned that I was able to work more efficiently and help my co-workers do the same by creating programmes to automate work in a fraction of the time than was previously required. From that point, I was hooked and began to seek job opportunities where I could continue to use and learn about technology," she added.

Wright recommends that women seek out networking activities whenever possible and establish a relationship with a mentor as a way of engaging in the industry.

She said the Microsoft DigiGirlz programme is a good way of exposing young women to technology, role models and potential career paths, adding that it has helped them understand that career options are endless as technology is used everywhere.

"It is of paramount importance that we help them understand how interesting technology is since data shows that fewer girls are pursuing studies in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, which is key to helping them prepare for technology careers," Wright said.

"As women, we need to do a better job of telling this story so that girls understand that while currently under-represented, many women are responsible for great achievements within the field of technology," she said.

According to Wright, it is important to continuously reach out to young women to demonstrate the various opportunities in technology that are available to them.

Eighty-five girls and their teachers from Dunoon Technical, Holy Childhood High School, Tarrant High, Excelsior High, Camperdown High, and Merl Grove High participated in the day-long programme and discussions.

The DigiGirlz Programmes are part of the Microsoft's commitment to strengthen the pipeline of women in technology by exposing young girls in grades nine through 12 to the vast opportunities the technology industry has to offer.

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