In many membership based organizations, especially in the non-profit and non-profit charity organization, the members who remit an annual fee for the benefit and value of the membership as well as to support the mission of the organization may feel left out in the decision-making process. Of course that is why there is an elected board of directors in place, to, on behalf of the membership, guide the organization according to the mission, vision and values.
As a corporate consultant for an IT managed services provider, I am a woman working in a male dominated industry. Quite often, I don’t even notice this. I don’t expect to be treated any differently from my co-workers, my employers, or my clients. I work just as hard as my male counterparts, and expect to be mentored, coached, rewarded and disciplined in the exact same ways that they are. It is usually other people, including friends and family, that point out to me, or ask me what it is like being a women in a “boys club.” They ask me if I find it difficult, or they ask me if I have to do anything differently to be taken as seriously, or have my voice heard as loud as the man sitting beside me or in front of me. The answer is no. I am a woman working in the technology industry and I choose to see it as an advantage, rather than a disadvantage. There are many ways in which I focus my energy in order to make the most of my career so far, and I strive to make being a “woman in tech,” my competitive advantage:
1. I choose to take advantage of, rather than get defensive towards traditional gender biases. Women are historically known for being better listeners and more empathetic than our male counterparts. Technology is an area of most businesses that is extremely complex and often not very well understood. In some cases it is even feared. When we pair these two facts together, the truth is that women working in technology have a better chance of being able to create a partnership where the end goal is solving a problem, and, therefore, satisfying a need. By striving to understand client issues and working with them through the entire process, it becomes a partnership rather than an annoying aspect of their business that they don’t understand, or don’t want to deal with.
2. I choose to take advantage of industry events and networking opportunities specifically dedicated towards women. There are tons of opportunities out there if you look for them. More so than ever, there is a push to attract women into the field of technology, and many vendors and organizations and focusing time and effort in putting on events for women in tech. These events are often not as well attended as traditional conferences and events, but provide a more intimate opportunity to create closer relationships with vendors and distributors alike.
3. I choose to take advantage of mentorship opportunities within the industry. Mentorship from both males and females is extremely important to me. Being female in technology, it is often easy to relate to and connect with other women in technology. They have faced (and often overcome) similar obstacles specific to being a female in a male dominated industry. Some of the most fascinating women I have met in my career so far are women who have been working in the tech world for many years. They are always extremely successful and happy to share their stories and offer advice.
There many aspects to not only my job, but my entire industry that I can choose to have work to my disadvantage, or my advantage. It is my personal choice to choose to see all of the opportunity available to women working in technology, and I will continue to strive to uncover all of the personal and professional development opportunities that are and will become available to me in the future!
Laura Wittig is a corporate consultant at Clear Concepts of Winnipeg, Man. Wittig became CDN’s first ever Rising Star award winner at the annual CDN Women of the IT Channel Recognition event. Clear Concepts won the Solution Provider of the Year award at the 2014 CDN Channel Elite Awards.
Lenard Monkman believes the skilled trades gave him a second chance in life after the challenges he faced through much of his childhood. “I was raised in the North End and grew up on welfare,” he says. “Growing up, I felt the odds were stacked against me.”
With a lot of hard work and determination, Monkman graduated from high school and began studying political sciences at the University of Winnipeg. The first few years of university proved to be difficult and Monkman recalls losing his focus along the way.
“Unfortunately, I started going down a path I tried to avoid my whole life,” he says. “My bad decisions finally caught up with me and so did the law.”
With his hopes for a successful career waning, Monkman felt defeated. During this time, he also found out he had a child on the way. “I didn’t want to be like my own father; I knew my child would need a positive influence in his or her life.”
It was at this point Monkman made a decision to turn his life around and started working for a family friend in the flooring business. “The company I worked for gave me a chance, but I still had to prove myself.”
Monkman attributes learning some important life lessons to his work as a skilled labourer. “I learned the meaning of discipline very fast when I first started the job,” he explains, adding that having to get up every day and show up on time for his job taught him the value of being dependable. “I didn’t know the importance of reliability until I started working full-time.”
While he concedes that his job isn’t always easy, Monkman believes hard work is therapeutic. “Knowing all the work that went into a project from beginning to end, and seeing the completed project, is a huge accomplishment. The sense of pride from completing these projects has kept me interested in working in the skilled trades.”
Historical teaching form
Monkman believes that apprenticeship training is a great fit for many people. He compares the method of learning to Indigenous teachings. “An apprenticeship is based on mentorship-based learning from an ‘elder.’ This form of teaching is historical and needs to be promoted.”
He credits the person who trained him for helping him to turn his life around. “Everyone has to start from the bottom and needs someone to give them a chance.”
He explains that his supervisor wasn’t just his boss but also a mentor who believed in him. “Growing up, I didn’t have these positives influences,” he says.
Monkman didn’t believe he would become a career tradesperson. However, after working for five years in his trade, he believes he can use his story to bring about positive change in his community. He is currently working toward obtaining his Red Seal Certificate of Qualification through the trades qualification process and wants to pass on his knowledge to the next generation of floorcovering installers.
Trades qualification is a process for experienced tradespersons to apply to challenge the certification examination in their trade. Being certified can open up many opportunities and avenues for your career. If you are interested in more information about the apprenticeship and certification system, including the trades qualification process, please visit http://www.manitoba.ca/tradecareers.
Photo by Beibei Lu
Throughout my education, I often heard the word “mentor” being tossed around. Having a mentor was the thing to do. I understood the term: to my knowledge, a mentor was a super cool human being who you could look up to and draw inspiration from. They were someone that has “been there, done that” – and did a darn good job of doing “that” too, whatever “that” may be to you.
They were someone whose brain you could pick, to whom you could run your top-secret ideas by and divulge your greatest passions – as well as your deepest darkest secrets, successes, and failures. Essentially, a mentor sounded like a fun, successful new bestie (perhaps sans manicures and wine). All that was left for me was to go out and find this amazing superhuman who wanted to embark on this mentor/mentee relationship with me. Sounds pretty simple, right?
Could I not just start handing out the applications? There should be tons of people eager to start help shaping this young mind. This, folks, is where reality kicked in. Although the concept of having a mentor seemed simple, fun – perhaps even trendy – it’s not quite so easily achievable. Here are a few things I learned upon entering the mentor matchmaking scene.
1. You must have a mutual interest and passion. Finding a mentor isn’t quite as easy as business school made it sound. It requires a great deal more work that typing out an email with the subject line, “Mentor Me?”
In order to have someone want to invest time and passion in you, you have to first show your own passion. Keep in mind that this person will be investing a lot of their resources in you, out of simply the goodness of their heart and their desire to see you succeed. Maybe they see themselves in you, or maybe they share the same values and ambitions.
Whatever it is, they have decided that you are worth their own very precious time, so don’t let them down. When you schedule time with them, don’t be late, and never waste their time. Come full of questions, but also let them talk and tell their story. It is amazing how much you can learn from not only somebody’s professional experience, but even more so from their life experience.
2. It will happen naturally. Finding a mentor should be organic. Don’t ask someone to be your mentor for the sake of having a mentor. It is said that often your mentor will find you, which makes perfect sense. Your mentor could be someone from your same company or in the same industry. You will run into them at events that will emphasize your shared interests.
If you are passionate about a particular cause, maybe you will find them heading a board that you have just started to volunteer on. If you find yourself instantly impressed by somebody, do your due diligence and learn more about their story. Didn’t instantly hit it off and book a lunch date? Don’t be afraid to contact them – but be professional and know your stuff, explaining that you are new to your industry, career, or whatever it may be, and that you would love to have the opportunity to take them for coffee or lunch to pick their brain.
After your “first date,” it will usually be clear to both parties if it is a relationship that is worth pursuing, so make sure to put your best foot forward.
3. It comes full circle. What? Me? A mentor? When I was approached by a younger student with some questions about my path, I was shocked. What could someone possibly learn from me?! Then I realized that she was me… six or seven years ago. While I was silently smiling and nodding at the then buzzword “mentor” in first-year university, this young student was way ahead of where I was then.
She was reaching out to people and asking them how they got to where they are today; strategically trying to figure out her next life steps. Although you may not have all the experience in the world, you have been there and done that when it comes to certain things. Sharing your story on how you made it through school (one venti latte at a time), graduated with honours, and now have started this incredible career might be somebody’s own dream. Don’t sell yourself short, and if you see someone who you think shows a lot of promise, invest in her future as well. You never know what you may have to offer one another.
4. Luck goes both ways. While the concept of finding a mentor may seem intimidating, there is no better way to learn than from somebody’s own personal real-life successes and failures. They are giving you an incredible gift by allowing you to learn from their wealth of experience and knowledge, so make sure you take advantage of this opportunity. Connecting with a mentor can also open up a large portion of their own network to you… and you know what they say: two networks are better than one!
Athena Leadership is a Manitoba-based, non-profit organization dedicated to advancing young women in leadership. Laura Wittig currently serves on the Board of Directors as the Director of Communications. She is a proponent of helping other women advance in their careers, and seeks to share her perspective on how we can always keep learning personally and professionally.
On November 26, 141 days from the time of writing this article, I will be competing for the world title for effective speaking in Leipzig, Germany. This is a journey I started over a year ago right here in Winnipeg.
This incredible opportunity is due to my involvement with JCI (Junior Chamber International).
JCI is a membership-based, non-profit organization of young active citizens who are dedicated to making a positive impact in their communities. As part of the professional and personal development JCI provides, its members also receive training to develop different skills such as effective speaking.
While taking a course or training is valuable, when it comes to things like public speaking, you need to “just to do it” if you want to build skills and truly develop.
Sitting here today, I can tell you it was by participating that I have learned the most and really developed my effective speaking skills, especially as I progressed through the different levels of the JCI Effective Speaking Competition. Continue reading From the local junior chamber to the world congress for effective speaking