A one-on-one with a recent business technology management program student

The benefits of gender diversity have been well established. A Credit Suisse study that followed 3,000 organizations for ten years confirmed that by adding even one woman to the leadership team, an organization would quantifiably improve resiliency, innovation, decision-making, and collaboration. 

Increasing team diversity is a simple way to break free of stale group think, enabling you to benefit from greater collective intelligence. If you find it challenging to identify women with the skills you need, it’s time to take a closer look at your hiring practices. 

Work to remove unconscious bias, ask HR to strip out resumes’ names and dates, and rid job postings of any requirements not absolutely necessary.  Women often won’t apply for jobs unless they are 100 per cent qualified. Few women consider themselves a ‘guru’, no matter how incredibly talented they may be. Making room for diversity starts with you, whether you are an established leader or a new graduate.

Let’s meet one of the diverse new students (almost a graduate) seeking work in the tech space this year. I had the privilege of connecting with Sarah Laframboise to ask her what motivated her to join this fascinating field. Laframboise attends Calgary’s Haskayne School of Business.

What inspired you to pursue a career in technology? 

If someone were to have told me 10 years ago that I would end up working in IT, I would not have believed them. Growing up, I planned to get my Bachelor of Commerce and then go on to be a corporate lawyer, and I carried that fascination with me until my second year of business school and my first business technology class.  I realized that I had a much stronger passion for working in IT than in law. I was lucky enough to have grown up surrounded by powerful IT leaders who shared their passion for the industry with me.  Speaking with these mentors made me realize that a career in IT would mean having endless opportunities to learn and challenge myself. As I progressed further in my degree and began to gain work experience, I was able to understand better the effects that IT has on an organization. After I started to notice the reliance on technology, I realized that a career in IT meant I could work in almost any part of the business. When I worked my first internship, I saw firsthand how IT and business functions are tied together. The interactions I had in that position only solidified that I had made the right choice for my career. 

Why did you choose the business technology management degree program?

I never questioned myself about attending business school. I knew that my skills and passion for learning would provide me with a solid career.  What I wasn’t sure about was my major, and I had originally enrolled in an international business course, believing that it would help me in my law career later on.  I wasn’t satisfied with that career path though, and I couldn’t get the IT industry out of my head. Coding and programming had never interested me, and I had no interest in pursuing a computer science or software engineering degree.  Business technology management provided the best of both worlds. I could gain a solid business foundation while developing an understanding of the technologies required to keep a company running.  My degree allows me to build a unique viewpoint as I have a full business education with a specialization in aspects of technology such as databases, ERP systems, data analysis and visualization. By choosing this path, I am opening up new opportunities in one of the fastest-growing industries, hopefully providing myself with a stable and fulfilling career. 

What challenges have you faced starting in business technology?

Choosing a degree that sits in between two industries poses some unique challenges that I wasn’t expecting.  One of the biggest challenges I have found is in searching for jobs. Although the industry is growing and recruiting, finding a business technology role can prove challenging as many positions are looking for individuals with a computer science-related degree or experience.  Since my degree does not focus on computer science, I have felt that I do not fit into many of these roles.  The second challenge that I have had with starting in business technology is accessing scholarships and grants targeted at STEM individuals. Business technology often doesn’t fall into a STEM designation, as that focuses on engineering, statistics, computer sciences, and mathematics. Because of these degree constraints, I was unable to apply for many of the scholarships despite being in a technology degree.  The third challenge I faced was my own misconceptions about what it means to work in IT.  In my mind, IT was all about programming, coding, and installing and maintaining hardware, and I struggled to picture myself in that career.  Luckily my mentors and my schooling showed me that IT is a much larger industry with a wide variety of roles, many of which require little to no programming or coding.  

What’s one piece of advice you have for other people considering a career in business technology?

The biggest thing that held me back from deciding on a career in business technology was the fear of not understanding what that meant. The misconceptions that I had about the industry prevented me from exploring the opportunities sooner. I found that I was able to dive into the industry once I started asking questions and talking to the people around me.  Most individuals that I have reached out to have genuinely enjoyed supporting the next generation and were more than happy to meet for a coffee and answer any questions. Before connecting with someone, I like to make sure that I have a couple of questions prepared to start the conversation, ideally about their career path and any lessons they had found useful during their careers. Networking has provided me with a world of opportunities that I would not have known existed without my peers’ and mentors’ help. If you are considering a career in technology, I highly recommend reaching out to someone in the industry, whether through LinkedIn, a local event, or a mentorship program. 

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Helen Knight
Helen Knight
Helen Wetherley Knight’s passion for IT ignited when she learned to program at the age of 9. Now with over 20 year’s experience as visionary and strategist, Helen leads award-winning significant and meaningful technology transformations across Canada. Extensive work experience and unending thirst for knowledge (MBA, PMP, Prosci) are the backbone of her ability to influence, design, solve problems and implement effective strategic change. Helen works extensively in the nonprofit space, advising organizations large and small on how best to realize the promise of technology. In her spare time Helen runs TechforSocialGood.ca as a support hub for nonprofits wanting to learn better ways to work, and is the President of the Calgary Chapter of the CIO Association of Canada.

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