With International Girls in ICT Day approaching, it’s a fantastic opportunity to share the career stories of two of our talented technical team in the hope of inspiring both girls and women to consider a future career in the IT industry.
Today I was fortunate enough to interview Madonna Ranjini and Katie Summerville, both inspiring women working within the technical team at Innovate Tax. Madonna and Katie kindly agreed to speak to me about their journeys and provided a great deal of insight, valuable to all aspiring to take that next step into the vast expanse that is IT.
How did you begin your career in IT?
Madonna: My dad was my inspiration for me to pursue a career in the IT industry. I have always followed his advice and guidance in my education and career. I completed my Bachelor’s in Computer Science Engineering and later got placed as a Software Trainee in a reputed IT consultancy company in India.
Katie: When I was 18 I joined Innovate Tax as an Apprentice in Business Administration. I had no idea about Oracle and to be frank, had no interest in any IT-related roles. When my career began, the company was still small and so I jumped at the opportunity of lending a hand with basic configuration, documentation, etc. Finding I had a real interest in the world of Tax Technology and Oracle, I quickly began to learn and progress to the role of a Junior Functional Consultant.
Innovate Tax has always supported and inspired me to achieve a successful career in Tax Technology, growing from an Apprentice in a completely different field to a Junior Functional Consultant to now a client-facing Functional Consultant that runs her own projects, travels to around the world, is involved in product development, pre-sales, recruitment and newly appointed chairperson of the CSR Committee in just 5 years.
Can you describe your role and experiences as a woman in technology?
Madonna: I started my career as a Software Trainee and with women being a small fraction among the trainees made me more competitive and give my best at work. From being a trainee, I progressed on to become an Oracle application Technical consultant. I ‘ve always liked to help people and by sharing my knowledge with my colleagues I have only gained more. There is nothing more powerful than a woman mentoring and building another woman.
Katie: Being a woman in technology I find it to be very rewarding, satisfying and competitive. Rewarding because a huge part of being a functional consultant, is about interacting with clients to help them achieve the best tax solution possible and one of our core values is ‘Always Deliver’ so when we reach that go-live and have a happy client, no matter the amount of work and late nights that have gone into it, the reward is like no other.
Satisfying because as a woman in technology not very often but occasionally, I have been dismissed or over talked by a client because I am a woman and young. People have assumed that I must not know what I am talking about and talk to my male colleague instead or answer my question whilst looking at them. This has only happened less than a handful of times but still it does happen. The reason I say satisfying is because I have never stood down on a point just because somebody doesn’t want to hear it and, in the end, I have always been thanked for my help and expertise in creating them a great solution. Sometimes the stigma just blurs people’s vision at first.
Competitive, I feel women that work in technology are competitive as they feel they have to show their worth in order to be taken seriously and hold their own against their male colleagues. I have been extremely fortunate that I have never had to face that at Innovate Tax as I have always been treated based on my ability rather than my gender. Never have I felt that I am being compared or treated unfairly, because I’m a woman. That’s why I sometimes find it hard to fully understand why and how there is such a stigmatism around ‘Women in IT’. I am competitive in my career as I have goals that I strive to meet, but being a woman is not something I consider as a blocker in achieving.
What was your biggest success and learning opportunity to date?
Madonna: I was pursuing to kick start my career again after getting married, resigning my job in India and moving to the UK to be with my husband. Having 4 years of experience as an Oracle technical consultant I didn’t want a career break. I am grateful to have a supportive husband who motivated me along the way to pursue my career after marriage. After 8 months of perseverance I finally got the job offer from Innovate Tax as a Senior Oracle Technical consultant & that’s my biggest success.
Here at Innovate there is so much to learn from talented and experienced colleagues I work with. Every single person that I’ve come across at Innovate has been helpful and encouraging. The most exciting factor is we build our Solutions /Products from scratch, which very few companies can do because it needs a lot of resources. As a developer the experience is very satisfying; it’s something you can’t get in just any company. Working here has been my best learning opportunity to date.
Katie: Success can be measured in a variety of ways; I would say my biggest success is how far I have come in the last 5 years. From having no idea about Oracle or this crazy world of tax to be a functional consultant and in my own bias opinion pretty good at it!
One moment that always sticks in my mind when thinking about my progression and success as a woman in IT is when I traveled abroad for a project in the Middle East, for one of the biggest companies in the region, by myself for the first time without a senior colleague’s presence.
Whilst I was on-site, I had to hold meetings with senior members of their company, gathering their requirements and providing a solution demo in front of a classroom full of mainly men. I felt my heart beating like never before, through the fear of making a mistake or not being listened to. However, despite my fears it was extremely successful, and I ended up being taken for an amazing lunch by the CIO to say thank you. Although this was a jump off of the deep end at the time, it was a huge learning opportunity and it gave me the strength and ability to grow even further. The confidence boost was surreal and that is definitely one of my biggest successes to date.
Another achievement is gaining the acknowledgment from my colleagues. At Innovate Tax we have five core values and we hold awards on these at the end of each year, these are voted for by the whole company. This year I won the ‘Above and Beyond’ award, this was a major personal success for me, to be recognized for the hard work that I put into everything I do by my colleagues. This to me is so important as knowing that other people especially the team I work with and see nearly every day appreciate everything I do and what it achieves.
I still have a lot to learn in this world of Tax Technology, but I try and take every opportunity that has been given to me to learn and grow in my career.
What advice would you give to someone looking to join the IT industry?
Madonna: Be passionate about growing your talent. There are no shortcuts to success! Work hard, persevere, be consistent and succeed. Knowledge and success aren’t gender-biased; anyone can attain it if we pursue without giving up.
“You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead, pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off you.”
– Maya Angelou
Katie: The IT industry really isn’t all doom and gloom as it is perceived by a lot of people, especially young people. I know this as that’s how I used to think of it. But now I am so grateful that I took the opportunity, there is a huge range of job roles and sectors in the IT industry that you could explore. It doesn’t have to be all technical and code-related, being a consultant can be exciting, with being able to travel the world and speak to different people from all different parts of the world, continuously learning and growing.
The main bit of advice I would give to someone looking to join the IT industry is to, always take the opportunities given to you, no matter how scary or out of your comfort zone you may feel it is. I can honestly say without the opportunities and support I have received from Innovate Tax I would never have grown and progressed at the high pace I have.
What does the future hold for women in IT?
Madonna: When I started my career in the IT sector 7 years back, only around 5-10% in my team were female and now at Innovate Tax we are proud to say that 50% of our tech team are female.
We need to move the conversation away from just talking about IT sector being gender-biased and how to include women in IT, instead just include them! This starts to bring the change, inspiring other women to join the industry. We at Innovate have already brought the change.
Here’s to a hopeful, promising future that the next decade in the IT industry sees a remarkable gain about how many women are employed & empowered by the sector that didn’t want to accept female presence ten years ago!
Katie: Women in IT will continue to flourish and grow alongside their peers whether they be male or female. The stigmatism around women and technology I believe will be non-existent in time to come as different generations come through the ranks.
I don’t consider myself a ‘Woman in IT’ I just believe in me as a person and not as a gender and hope others can take the same approach. Women also need to stop feeding into the stigmatism by bashing society and prove the world wrong through actions instead of words. It’s not fair that some women have to work harder to be taken seriously, but, I hope shortly this will no longer be the case and we can all work together to make the IT/Technology industry one that everyone WANTS to work in and is PROUD to work in.