WIT Webcast Summary and Answers to Your Questions


Yesterday we successfully conducted the Women in IT Panel Discussion webcast, which is a new addition to the Ignite Your Career webcast series this year. Thanks for everyone’s participation in the webcast! It was great conversation, and all the panelists and I had a lot of fun being part of it. We had about 70 people tuned in live and received many valuable questions from you. I’ve written a summary of the webcast below to share with you. For those of you who couldn’t make the webcast, you can listen to the webcast on-demand here.

Topics discussed in the webcast

  • Key career skills women in IT are lacking and how to improve them? e.g. networking and Negotiation skills
  • Tips on promoting your accomplishments without feeling "bragging"
  • Advice for women new to IT to prove themselves among their peers who are often men
  • Tips on balancing work and family
  • suggestions for initiating a mentoring relationship
  • ways to encourage girls getting into the field of IT


WIT Groups


Unanswered questions from the webcast

I’ve asked the panelists to address the following questions that we didn’t have time to answer during the webcast.

  • How can we still get the same respect as our male counterparts when sometimes we have to take more family responsibilities?

    Elisabeth: Over 24 years in this industry and as a business owner I have seen a big shift in dads taking on the traditional dentist appt. and sick child caregiver role (even if they can’t deliver babies just yet).  I don’t see this as a respect issue but more of a logistical one. As we discussed earlier in the webcast this industry is full of options for mobility in the workforce and this applies to both sexes. Employers are far more open to doing so and men as much as women are taking advantage of that. I do believe more women need to actually sit down and openly discuss dividing the responsibilities with their partner. This way both will have the opportunity to take on greater responsibilities and grow in their careers. 

    Betty: I think the fact that men take more of a role in parenting has blossomed as men are offered paternity leave the same as women are offered maternity leave. Finally the role of both parents is being recognized in a child’s development and this is a wonderful thing. As the parenting roles are more shared, then that leaves room for career goals to be expanded. As more men understand the tremendous amount of work that is involved in parenting, the respect should follow.

    Shann:   I would suggest starting with the assumption that you have the same level of respect and then you maintain it through consistently delivering quality and innovation in your work.  This is different than ‘earning it’ where the assumption is the starting point is 0.  I have also see this one changing quite a bit over the years and have had many experiences where men take their share of time for parental leaves and/or sick days to take care of family.

  • I’ve been recently promoted to a new role with lots of new technical knowledge to master. I’m excited but feeling overwhelmed. Do you have any tip on keeping up with the latest technology needs in this field?

    Elisabeth: I’m always on the lookout for new technology and tech trends.  Staying ahead successfully means devoting some time to reviewing upcoming products and if it’s something I believe has a potential to become mainstream I get as familiar with it as I can (mastering if necessary). One great opportunity to get a good grounding is by participating in Microsoft or other vendors beta programs.

    Betty: I am currently mentoring a former work associate. She used to work for us, she now works for an affiliated group. She is being asked to take on more of the role of IT. Unfortunately, she does not have a lot of formal training but she is a very quick learner. So far I have offered a couple of things. First if she has a problem that she cannot solve, she can call us and ask our opinion. Often we are able to assist. Second, she has been invited to become a member of the Edmonton Microsoft User Group, and she has attended a couple of meetings so far. Third, I have a computer lab set up in my basement, and she is welcome to come over and try out things. Often you need to break things before you learn to do it right. Also I am wanting to set up a Girl Geek Dinner in the Edmonton area. I think I might set up a Facebook group or something similar to gauge interest. Getting a Technet or MSDN membership and getting involved in Beta-testing software is the easiest way to keep up on the latest software technologies.

    Shann: Taking another  page from the reference to Malcolm Gladwell in his book “The Tipping Point”, find a “maven” – the person who is the guru at spotting the new trends/products/gadgets etc.  They love to share and it makes it easy for you to distill the info about the new technology quickly.

  • How important are certifications or diplomas in my career growth?

    Elisabeth: I am still certifying myself in new areas and updating others as we speak because people in the industry know that this process assures some degree of technical expertise having been meant. It also shows that you are taking the time, effort and expense to develop that  expertise because you believe your knowledgeable is worth something and clients will look to that as well as prospective employers. You don’t hire an accountant, dentist or lawyer without it and certainly when I get a CV it’s the first thing I scan for. 

    Betty: I currently hold MCP designation passing my most recent exam in June 2008. I keep learning and trying to keep current. Certification is one of those ways, but nothing beats practical experience.

    Also, listen to Mark Relph’s interview with Shane Schick on the Myths & Realities of the IT Skills & Talent landscape in Canada.  Part 4 is Myth 4 – Certifications Aren’t Worth It .

  • I work for a very small business and I am the only person without kids. I find myself working longer hours and taking less time off than my colleagues who may need to leave early because their kids are sick, etc. How can I can bring this up with my boss without sounding like I'm complaining?

    Elisabeth: Even colleagues with kids may not stay later (or leave earlier), but end up working from home to make up for it (often till the wee hours), so first be careful to make sure that they aren’t actually banking as many (or more) hours as you think.  That can bury you in a heartbeat.  If in fact they aren’t pulling the same load then talk to your boss about the additional time that you “happily invest in their business” and perhaps taking a day or afternoon once a month so that you can keep up on industry trends or just to reinvigorate.   A smart business owner who values their employees will see this as an opportunity to show their appreciation, so long as the employee is truly making that extra effort.

    Betty: In this organization this is not really an issue. We end up earning a lot of overtime hours which becomes banked time. Those who have to take time off for their kids can use their banked time. For myself, I can use my banked time for other pursuits, such as shopping. J It can even itself out.

    Shann: I know this one from personal experience.  I often ended up with the work to do on tight deadlines because I didn’t have kids to get home.  The important thing for me was to focus on what I was doing, how much of my time I was willing to offer up to the company and how that aligned to my personal and professional goals.  The easiest conversation to have with your boss will come from explaining the extra time and effort you make and the results you drive for the company and not a comparison with how much time your peers spend at the office.

  • Mentoring was a popular topic at yesterday’s webcast. Shann has kindly provided following suggested questions to prepare you for meeting with a mentor.

    • What is it about the mentor’s approach, experience, knowledge, etc that you want learn from?

    • What would you like to achieve through the mentoring meetings? How would you define success of the mentoring relationship?

    • What are the areas/goals that are most important to you at this time?

    • Are there any areas that currently concern you/do you have inhibitors identified?

    • What other areas of help do you want the mentor to assist with?

Let’s keep the conversation going. Feel free to comment on this post or reach out to me directly (qixing.zheng@microsoft.com) if you have further questions for the panelists or feedback to this webcast.

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