Day in the Life: Women in Tech
Women’s History Month has been full of historic innovations and recognition of tech’s most influential female practitioners. But that doesn’t define every woman in today’s tech space.
In this unique feature, we’re getting a look at the educational prospects in the IT world with Amanda Martin. Amanda walks us through her take on what it means to be a woman in tech and explains how her journey to becoming an instructional designer at INE has shaped her understanding of the industry.
Typical Day as an Instructional Designer in Tech
A typical day in the world of tech looks very different depending on where you are in the technical space. For practitioners, a day likely includes monitoring servers and or programming new test cases. Amanda’s day looks a little different.
“My days are usually a bit packed, but I always make sure to dedicate a portion of them to professional and personal growth,” Amanda said. “The first hour of my day is spent on professional growth, immersing myself in technology through reading research articles or listening to podcasts to help fill my knowledge gaps. Then my day is usually spent in several meetings. Right now those meetings are primarily for certifications and content process-development.”
“I spend a great deal of time talking to our [educational] content directors and instructors, as well as my direct supervisor, to determine what we need to make the best, most thoughtful, certifications on the market, as well as the most sound internal processes possible. I also spend a great deal of time tracking and updating projects in our project management system and creating new resources for our Instructors.”
Researching in the morning does more than just fill in knowledge gaps, though. “As an Instructional Designer, the language I use differs from the vocabulary of technical practitioners,” Amanda said. “My morning research helps me to better understand, and speak, their language. When I can understand their jargon, I can create a product that's more representative of their vision.”
But what about personal development? Amanda explained her past work experiences included working through lunches or pushing through to get projects done early, which resulted in inflexible schedules and burnout. “Now, I always reserve one hour for lunch. I use this time to eat, take a walk, or call a family member. This helps me to reset and re-center myself for the second half of my day. It leaves me feeling more productive and energized. The technology community requires flexibility and my dedicated time to myself helps me to be more flexible and productive,” she said.
“I wrap up my days with an hour of strategizing.” she continued, “I note action items and learning points from my meetings, fulfill any time sensitive requests that may have come in while I was in those meetings, and plan for the day ahead.”
Challenges in the Industry
The technology industry is always evolving, which allows for innovation and development, but it also means there’s plenty of room for challenges and obstacles. Amanda, as a non-practitioner, has been able to witness these swift changes from a different angle than we usually hear about. “The subject matter expert, or SME, perspective has been the primary voice we have used to guide decision making for e-learning material in the past,” she said. “I think the increased incorporation of education and the recognition of its value within those conversations has created a huge shift in a number of ways, which is challenging in and of itself.”
“I mentioned earlier that I research to fill knowledge gaps and better understand the technical language,” Amanda continued. “Not speaking the same language is always challenging, and makes communication-based flexibility essential. I know learning takes time and sometimes I might not understand every concept discussed in a conversation, but that’s when I deploy other strategies of communication to help me bridge that gap and gain greater understanding until I can research it more in-depth on my own later.”
“Staying ‘in the know’ and being able to pivot when due dates are right around the corner are also challenges associated with the tech industry. Anyone working in the tech space will tell you that technology is ever changing,” Amanda continued. “Since there is so much information always changing and being updated within the field, you have to make a large effort to stay informed and be able to pivot successfully at a moment's notice.”
“As a recovering perfectionist, pivoting when you have a short timeline can be challenging and feel overwhelming because you want your product to be completely perfect. My time in the tech industry has taught me that versioning is normal, staying agile is key, and welcoming change is sometimes the best path to success!”
What about challenges faced as a woman in the tech industry? Amanda said her recent experiences have been positive in that regard and she’s “been valued as a human, not just as a woman'' during her time at INE. She has recently joined INE’s “DEI Committee'' to keep expanding and elevating that inclusive culture.
She did go on to acknowledge the issues women in the industry face at large though, “There are times when it’s hard to get a seat at the table, or times where it’s hard to provide an idea and receive recognition. Sometimes it’s a challenge [as a woman] to get your opinion voiced.”
“I have seen this [discrimination against other women] challenge in different communities in the tech industry. It’s hard because tech has been a male dominated field for such a long time that a lot of the institutional infrastructure in place within tech companies actually serves as a barrier for other groups’ entry or advancement- women being one of them.”
“While I know that women are specifically facing these types of challenges in the tech industry, I would be remiss to not also point out that racial, religious, and other gender minorities also face a similar struggle in this space, and it’s up to us to change it,” she said. “Right now, I am lucky to have people around me who are both aware of these discriminations and are actively trying to fix it.”
Everyone faces their professional challenges in their own way. So how does someone who works between factions of an industry approach those different challenges?
“This is something I’m still working on,” she said. “I think that challenges should be approached with empathy and open-mindedness in every situation. Oftentimes when we experience challenges it can feel jarring and temporarily leave us panicked. I am learning that reframing how I think about the word ‘challenge’ has helped me to see them more as an opportunity to flex my creative thinking muscles, rather than something to stress about. It’s also allowing me to be more creative with my solutions rather than prescriptive.”
The Positives of Transitioning to Tech
With every challenge comes several opportunities for positives. Amanda, working in education, technology, and program management, has seen projects and products develop from several business perspectives. But it’s about more than just the business to her.
“I would say one of my biggest joys was the launch of INE branded certifications. It’s been my baby project, what I started on day one. Seeing those certifications succeed has been a great joy to me,” she said. “And working with the INE team and connecting with other women in the tech space has been fulfilling. It’s an unanticipated joy.”
Between being able to create innovations and meeting other women from similar and different backgrounds has provided Amanda with new insights and inspiration. Putting those ideas and insights together and having them succeed is rewarding no matter what industry you’re a part of.
Defining a “Woman in Tech”
So we’ve mentioned women in the tech industry several times now, but what does it really mean to be a “woman in tech?”
“A woman in tech, to me, is anyone who identifies as a woman that contributes to tech in some way. I want to leave that broad on purpose,” Amanda said. “It used to be practitioners, but it’s become so much more than that.”
Amanda never thought she would consider herself to be a woman in tech, but today, she does. “Which is so odd for me to say. It’s not something I ever thought I would say. I use tech every day and the products I’m supporting, the products I’m helping to develop, are tech-based. I’m not a hacker, a networker, or a cloud guru, but I’m contributing to those innovations and conversations.”
Advice for Women Looking to get into IT
“I would say you are worthy,” Amanda started. “A lot of time, as women, we feel like the male dominated field is male dominated for a reason. But there’s no one stopping you.”
One of the things she really enjoyed during her own transition to tech was the prospect of starting a lifelong journey of learning. To which she advised other women, “Be involved in lifelong learning. Don’t be afraid to make the jump and learn something new,” Amanda said. “People want you in this space and you're worthy of being there. Also, don’t be afraid to use your voice! You have valuable things to say, and experiences to share, so let them be known! It creates better products, environments, and workplace culture for everyone.”
Amanda is an Instructional Designer at INE. Her experience in teaching, adult education, and instructional design provides her a unique perspective that she uses to help shape the creation of INE’s products. Amanda is an alumni of Auburn University (Ph.D., M.Ed.), Southeastern Louisiana University (M.S.), and Kennesaw State University (B.S.). She worked in the field of education for more than ten years before transitioning to the tech community. Amanda loves spending her free time perusing the shelves of local bookstores, hiking with her husband, kickboxing, and visiting her family across various states.
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