Last week, we explored the growing trend of women's roles in the field of technology. Although stereotypically, women are placed outside of the realm of fields related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), the barriers created by gender are coming down, and the tables of women in leadership related to these fields are turning. Click here to read part one of the Women in Technology: Turning the Tables series.
Abundant Opportunities in an Ever-Changing Field
Whether women are interested in technology in college, or fall into the career later in life, there is always opportunity for them to thrive in this ever-changing field. Catherine Lazarock is the owner of Symplicity Communications, a Grand Rapids based telecommunications company. She encountered a lot of criticism when generating her start-up, but she believed in what she was doing and seven years later she is running a successful business. She recalls how she stumbled upon the technology field and how it changed her career path. “My background was public relations and marketing, and a job change brought me to the door step of the technology industry. I like to think that I was pushed off the cliff,” said Lazarock. “This industry is so exciting, with fast, evolving products and a huge market. What’s not to love? I literally can go anywhere in the world and sell technology services.”
Women Can Make a Statement
Given the hurdles and challenges these women have faced, would they recommend this mostly male field to up and coming females? Sarah Van Elderen, marketing & event coordinator, US Signal Company, says young women should not be afraid of joining a field where they are the minority. She indicates the most important thing to remember when selecting a career is to find something you love. Van Elderen says she came from a techie family, so she had always been interested in the field. But it wasn’t until she landed at US Signal, which she describes as a “right place, right time” situation, that she embraced the technology field as a career. “I came in as a pricing analyst with no telecom experience, and learned everything about telecommunications, network services, and cloud hosting from the ground up,” said Van Elderen. “My biggest accomplishment is more of a general feeling of success. When I look back to four years ago when I started at US Signal, it’s amazing to me how much I have learned and how much I have grown.” But, VanElderen explained, there is a flip side. “My biggest struggle has also been the amount of information I have had to learn. Because technology is always changing, there is always new information to learn.”
While there will be struggles, when you enter an ever-changing industry, Lazarock says, “Embrace it! There are so many opportunities for women in technology. Because it is dominated by men, women can truly make a statement, and quickly, within this industry. Because we are the minority, naturally we are going to stand out if we create a solid niche and move forward with strong integrity.”
The advice and beliefs that each of these women shared was not simply related to the technology field. As successful business women, they all think on a global scale, which translates across many platforms when it comes to advising other young women.
A New Image for “Tech Geeks”
Technology is an industry that’s here to stay, and the image of the lone “tech geek” working in the basement is being overtaken by a new wave of intelligent, up-and-coming people who are paving the way for this flourishing industry. This field is changing the way we think, the way we live, and the way we work.
“The term 'girl geek' is actually somewhat of a compliment to me. In recent years, the term 'geek' doesn’t have so much of a negative connotation anymore. A geek is now someone who is incredibly intelligent and ahead of the game on technology,” said Van Elderen. “To be referred to as a girl geek would make me feel as though I’m part of the inner circle of technologically savvy people in this era. I don’t think I have reached girl geek status yet, but I hope I’m on my way!”
Written by: Andrea Snyder is co-owner of STUDIO3TWENTY, a West Michigan-based marketing firm specializing in consulting, graphic design, and website development. Find them online at www.STUDIO3TWENTY.COM. Contributors: Carrie Borchers, director of sales, IT Resource; Lori Brandt, help desk manager, IT Resource; Kim Helmers, sales & marketing assistant, IT Resource; Catherine Lazarock, president, Symplicity Communications, Inc.; Amanda Regnerus, vice president, marketing, US Signal Company; Molly Reid, senior account executive, IT Resource; Sarah Van Elderen, marketing & event Coordinator, US Signal Company. Photo: stock.xchng