North Carolina, US
Tell us about yourself.
My name is Nicolette and I have a passion for technology and inspiring others to learn more about it as well. Outside of technology I love singing, playing the piano and flexing my creative muscles!
How did you decide to get into technology?
I thought I was going to be an occupational therapist, but I took a class in Information Science the first day of college and I was sold. Technology was exactly where I needed to be. So, I studied up, got my first job as a Technical Analyst in the Finance Industry, and moved through different IT Departments and companies as I build up my skill sets and grow my career.
How would you describe your experience in the industry so far?
Fun and challenging! Fun because IT people in general are WAY more fun. They can be really laid back or just more "real" than the standard 9-5 corporate culture we’re used to. Also, fun because technology usually directly impacts us: everything you do has a direct effect on other people, so you have to be really creative in how you come up with solutions and roll out adoption plans.
The challenging side is that you’ll rarely ever feel "smart enough" because there is SO much to learn out there.
It requires a lot of courage to say "I don’t know" and ask for help. It’s also challenging because a lot of time - even though you’re working with technology - you’re always still working with PEOPLE. So, you have to strengthen not just your tech skills but also your people skills when you’re navigating different projects.
What does a typical day in your job look like?
As a Technical Account Manager, I usually have a customer meeting that I have to attend to inform my customers about product releases or security vulnerabilities, upcoming events, and then dive deep into some of the projects they’re working on. When I’m not working with customers, I’m working on internal projects - contributing to different work streams to generate new ideas and events for our customers - or I’m studying!
There’s always something new to learn!
Has your expectation of what the tech world is like matched the reality? How?
I honestly thought I was going to be a programmer developing applications when I first started. I thought that everyone in the tech world was required to code and I so badly wanted to be part of the #girlswhocode movement. But after a year of being in technology, I realised that programming just didn’t excite me as much as talking about Hybrid Clouds and Virtualization. So, I always had an eye out for different parts of technology that I could learn about and started building my career by exploring different areas that I could thrive in.
How do you navigate working with men daily (if you do) and how do you make sure to get your voice heard?
At first I was SO quiet. I wanted to just absorb all the information and speak when I had something important to say. But I realised the longer you stay quiet, the more invisible you become.
If you want to make sure your voice is heard, TALK! Ask questions.
Present on topics you’re not familiar with. Network with people. But also, be really cognizant of different types of personalities and know how you have to show up to each conversation - a lot of people in IT are going to be REALLY busy. Learn what they’re doing and respect their time by doing as much work as you can before you go and ask for help. Ask specific questions and show that you put in some effort.
If you could change one thing about your journey in tech so far, what would it be?
Gosh this is hard, because every single thing that I did has led me to where I am now, and I’m SO happy with where I am!
Maybe I wish I could have been a bit more courageous when I first started...but I think that just comes with experience and maturity.
What was the best professional advice you ever received?
"Don’t just find a mentor, find an advocate".
A mentor is someone who you feel comfortable asking for advice. An advocate is someone who is not just a mentor but also someone who is going to let the world know that you exist (advocate for you) and help you advance your career.
What advice do you have for younger ladies aiming to pursue a career in technology?
Find an IT buddy. Studying technology on your own is boring, so, setting up a home lab with a friend and testing out different software and talking about different IT theory is way more fun. It’ll help you build confidence in asking questions and exploring topics that you’re not comfortable with.
Any other comments?
I have found that the longer you work in technology, the less important gender becomes. When you build up your community of people who support you, they’re going to have different strengths and weaknesses and come from many different backgrounds. There are co-workers that I consider to be family - all different genders, colours, identities and beliefs - and the thing that brings us all together is a passion for technology and lifting each other up. Don’t get too fixated on the whole being "the only girl" thing. Everyone that walks into your life has something to teach you, so learn from them.
I would like to send a massive thanks to Nicolette for taking the time out to answer the questions above. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about your story and there were so many hidden gems. I highlighted the ones that stood out to me the most and I especially resonate with the statement "there's always something to learn". We need to constantly develop our existing skills as well as learn new skills. You never know when they will come in handy.
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