Avanade 21st Century Career Workshop – a 360° story

I was one of the 26 young ladies from all over Europe invited by Avanade to get involved in the first Women in IT Career Workshop to experience, learn, and share the insights of a successful path in IT. The event took place at the Accenture office in Kronberg, Germany, led by Avanade and joined by Microsoft and Accenture. Female executives representing the three companies defined a successful and inspirational event that had it all: from unique stories and life lessons to brainstorming sessions, designing Windows Phone 7 Apps, teambuilding and nonetheless, it had style.

Currently, women make up around 30 percent of the work force in science, engineering and technology. Ensuring greater participation of women in these career sectors should be a priority, a useful tool to help sign-post this progress is the Code of Best Practices of Women in ICT. This article gives an insight into the ‘Women in IT’ career workshop, looking at: learnings from senior female mentors, aspects of the importance of science and technology to the economy and projects that make a career path in IT more attractive to women.

Common point: passion for technology

The first striking characteristic of all the participants was the diversity of stories and the potential that was brought into one place. Students and professionals had a spectrum of education from hard core computer science to different business specializations but all had one thing in common: passion for technology. Actually, this is the first fact to take away: understanding that mixed teams, in terms of either gender or educational and cultural backgrounds, have the highest potential to innovate and create value. “Be open minded, force yourself into taking risks, believe in your ability.” says Pamela Maynard, General Manager at Avanade UK.

The stories reflected strong women, who regardless of the IT world being seen as a men’s world, have a clear vision and are successful.

21st century skills

This brings us to the second take away: skill sets. They complement education and can be structured in six categories as illustrated in Melissa Pailthorp’s presentation, Senior Manager, Microsoft, Community Affairs, CEE: problem solving, critical thinking, collaboration, team work, communication, and digital literacy. “Show people you master them, see what you can do, get focused and go for it. And trust your AHA moment I.e your intuition” is one message coming from her. The society has more than ever a demand for entrepreneurial, business and community leadership aptitudes that professionals excel in, next to in-depth (IT) domain knowledge.  Our challenge at the workshop was to design Windows Phone 7 apps–from the idea, design, technical functionalities and market research that reflected some of these competencies.

Technology empowers economies

Attracting and retaining the world’s most skilled and talented workers to create social and economic opportunities is Microsoft’s focus as well. Melissa Pailthorp talks about Unlimited Potential, Microsoft’s flagship global philanthropy program that brings together business, NGOs and inter-governmental organizations to make technology more relevant, accessible and affordable.

The strong motivation lies in technology infrastructure making a community attractive to business and investors. This boosts competitiveness, creates jobs and expands opportunities.

Added efforts to bridge the gap between education-industry

Melissa Pailthorp further talks of an important focus: to transform education. While Unlimited Potential provides innovative solutions for teachers and students altogether around the world, at DigiGirlz, a technology camp at Microsoft created in 2001, high-school girls get to attend hands-on learning workshops, talks by Microsoft executives and technology demonstrations designed to teach valuable computer skills and inspire confidence in the young girls attending the camp. Melora Zaner-Godsey, a user experience architect for MSN, said girls who come to the camp with little exposure to technology or interest in a technology career emerge with new excitement and perspective on opportunities in the technology field.

While efforts are being conducted to create balanced environments, we need to “take care of attracting women for the problems they can solve with technology, in addition to promoting technology careers as an opportunity for women”, Melissa said.

Closing note

One thing I learned during the two days spent with Avanade, Accenture and Microsoft is to constantly recalibrate to a dynamic society, in which proving professionalism, passion for technology and human values goes hand in hand with continuous personal development and exploring new challenges. By 2015, 90 percent of all jobs, across all sectors, will require the use of information and communication technologies. More young women like us must be engaged!

“We confirmed that there are great women out there and that we were right and must do more to attract them”, says Kerstin Wittler, Manager HR, Avanade.

‘’In a society where women make up to 60% of higher-education graduates, we need to work towards reducing inequalities and actively empower women. The WiL initiative is committed to encouraging more women to take on high-level responsibilities, to set up entrepreneurial initiatives and to constantly enhance their skills’’ Elena Bonfiglioli, EMEA Director of Corporate Citizenship and Co-Founder of the WiL Network (www.wileurope.org)

Further leadership in the field of Women in IT can be found here.

Resources for interested students like Oana who want to pursue a career in IT can be found here:

Thanks to Avanade, a business technology services company, for taking leadership of this effort!


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