International Women’s Day is celebrated each year on March 8, so our team is stealing today’s blog post to highlight our Women IT Pros. The 2020 theme is “Each for equal” and every member on our team makes a significant contribution to their technical communities and to our internal team projects, regardless of their individual gender identification, race or age. Women make up a smaller percentage of the overall tech workforce and are even harder to find in infrastructure and IT Operations roles. While many external groups focus on encouraging women to code, our team of Cloud Advocates is passionate about highlighting other career paths in tech for women too.
Today, the women on our ITOpsTalk team share a little about their own career paths.
Sarah Lean Microsoft Cloud Advocate Sarah Lean “I’ve been in IT for about 14 years, but it wasn’t a career I grew up wanting to do. I grew up on a dairy farm in Scotland and always dreamed of doing something in farming. However, ironically, I was deflected away from that as it wasn’t a career “designed for a woman”. I did consider teaching and law, but after realising I had an aptitude for all things computers and passing that knowledge on to others, I went and studied computing at college. There I covered off infrastructure and developer subjects and found myself gravitating more to the infrastructure side of things. My first job troubleshooting end users’ issues as a 1st level engineer was in a team of six people and five of us were women! I learnt so much from that job – not only how to solve IT problems but also valuable customer service skills. As my career progressed, the number of women I worked with started to dwindle.
I’ve always tried to help encourage women in tech where possible and regularly help at STEM events in my local area. I’d love to see more women enter technology and work on the IT pro/infrastructure side like myself and my colleagues. There is a lot of challenges and opportunities to this side of the IT industry and it’s a vital for organisations.”
Phoummala Schmitt Microsoft Cloud Advocate Phoummala Schmitt “I’m a girly geek who loves learning about new technologies. I am just trying to survive in IT as a woman. I first started out in IT as a consultant doing various sysadmin work for the SMB market with a local IT consulting firm. After a few years I moved into larger enterprises focusing on messaging related systems , virtualization and storage. My experiences have allowed me to be knowledgeable not only at the server and application level, but also down to the storage and hypervisor. It’s been a long journey, with lots of sweat & tears, but overall it’s been an exciting journey these last 15 years. What started out as a job managing small environments to Exchange servers globally became so much bigger as now I work for Microsoft.
I work for the company that makes the software that I have used for many years. I now have the opportunity to make a difference in this world. From the trenches of swapping patch cables in the datacenter to being told to dress like a man , I have made it. I survived. I want others to know that. I want other women to know that they too can survive. It doesn’t take overnight and the journey is long but it is so worth it.”
Sonia Cuff Microsoft Cloud Advocate
Sonia Cuff “I was going to be a flight attendant, but the lure of paid employment was stronger than the thought of doing travel industry training. On the phone to our 2nd level support with PC issues (DOS sales program on a 286!) they noticed I picked things up fast with the commands they asked me to type. I could understand the logic, having done computers for two years in high school, but I wouldn’t have known where to start. They took a chance on me and relocated me to join the IT department for a project, where all my training was on the job. I progressed through the ranks then went to work for a small systems integrator (a Lotus Domino Partner), and then a large national systems integrator as a Service Delivery Manager (responsible for staff, service contracts and projects in multiple locations). Wanting to start a family, my husband and I moved countries and started out own business, providing IT support and then CIO-level consulting in the Small and Medium Business sector.
My last role really gave me the time and flexibility to give back to technical communities, which drew the attention of the Microsoft MVP team and ultimately lead to my current role at Microsoft. Here, entering my 24th year in tech, both my Enterprise and SMB experiences are still valuable. I’m forever grateful that I found this area of tech that gives me such a great sense of progress, enables me to connect with other people around the world who share the same technical challenges and gives me scope to always be learning new things – because in high school, I really hated programming!”
Want to encourage and support more women in IT Pro roles? Looking for your tribe and wanting to stay connected?
Check out and support initiatives that promote Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics education, like https://www.stem.org.uk/.