Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Wonderful advice to young women at the "Go Girl, Go for IT" conference

Today, two colleagues of mine and I accompanied 46 year 9 and 10 girls to the Go Girl conference at Deakin University. After a warm welcome by program director, Fi Slaven, the presentations started with the day's conference patron, Karen Stocks, Managing Director of Twitter Australia (@KazStocks). Karen gave the students 3 pieces of advice:
  1. It is okay not to have a life plan. Follow passions, dreams. Do something that makes your heart beat faster. Trust that you'll end up somewhere good.
  2. Education, education, education. Don't just get a degree, do well. Good grades will show that you can apply yourself.
  3. You will earn credibility through sustained performance. Be humble, patient and respect your elders, even when you feel that you're the smartest person at the table.

Next up was Tammy Butow (@tammybutow) , senior digital strategist at NAB. It was inspiring to see someone achieve so much at such a young age. She encouraged the girls to build products, learn to code and form teams with complementary skills.

Dr Emilia Belluci from Deakin University spoke about the different kinds of jobs and tertiary qualifications that can help people start in those positions. She emphasised that jobs in IT changed over time and that a solid background helped people adapt to those changes. Asked what she liked about her job, Emilia replied: "Everyday is different. The ride is fantastic. That's what I love about my job."

Permenthri Pillay from IBM told us about her journey in IT and government services in South Africa and Australia. She encouraged the students to find mentors and to think "how can IT make a difference in my other interests?" When asked for a public-speaking tip, she replied: "Communicate with integrity and then you will definitely have an impact."

Charlotte Wylie (@Charliewylie11), whose job title had something about service development, delivery and digital defence at some bank (Which bank? Ah, yes, the Commonwealth Bank), spoke to us about her journey through several careers, adventures and countries. It all led to her current, senior role. She encouraged the girls to follow their interests and to say "yes" to opportunities as they presented themselves. Charlotte used the idea of "wandering along with interest" as a metaphor for developing their careers and living their lives.

A recurrent theme at the conference was to take jobs even when you're not sure how to accomplish aspects of them. Say yes and work it out later! This was particularly prominent in Anna Liebel's presentation. Anna "fell into" an IT career without a relevant degree. She concentrated on her strengths which centred around dealing with people and understanding their needs. Her career spanned 20 years and several companies, including seek.com.au and Telstra.

The day finished with an engaging speaker with an incredible human touch, Richenda Vermeulen (@RichendaG). Richenda is the founder of ntegr!ty, a company that helps businesses build a social media strategy. Her story was a personal one. Two take-aways from her presentations were: "When you take a risk, you enable someone else to do the same." And "Remember not to be afraid." This struck me as the opposite to the motto of the dad in the Dreamworks animation, The Croods: "Never not be afraid." He could have learnt his lesson more easily had he been in Richenda's presentation!

Finally, I leave you with this quote from Charlotte Wylie's last slide:
The world needs dreamers & the world needs doers, but above all, the world needs dreamers that do.  

I dare not add any words of my own!

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