As a woman, have you considered breaking into the male-dominated field of Information Technology? If so, you may enjoy this interview with an ID Planning Analyst. In her interview, she shares all the gritty details, such as how much money you can expect to make, what they don’t teach you in school, and the things that just make her want to quit.
Q: What is your job title and what industry do you work in? How many years of experience do you have in this field? How would you describe yourself using only three adjectives?
A: I am an IT Planning Analyst for an electric utility company. I have been in Information Technology for 4 years, and prior to that, was an Environmental Engineering consultant for both the US Navy and a large municipality. I am ambitious, outspoken, and dependable.
Q: What’s your ethnicity and gender? How has it hurt or helped you? If you ever experienced discrimination, how have you responded and what worked best?
A: I am a Caucasian female, which has helped me in many ways. I speak and write eloquently and remain professional in all situations, which are admired qualities in a female employee. Some older men with whom I have worked are often skeptical about my ability initially because I am a female, but I tend to prove myself quickly by allowing my performance and efficiency speak for itself. Performing to the highest of my ability has impressed many in my work place, and ensures that I am respected and always have a seat at the table.
Q: How would you describe what you do? What does your work entail? Are there any common misunderstandings you want to correct about what you do?
A: I work in an area of our Information Technology department that focuses on making the organization efficient. We focus on benchmarking our organization against others of similar size, and apply what we learn to make the business run as smoothly as possible, eliminating organizational waste. We design, develop, implement, and continuously improve processes that straddle the entire organization. Many people think of us as a wasteful overhead and a bureaucratic burden to employees, but we consistently show value in what we do for the ultimate customer, which is important at this company and in this industry.
Q: On a scale of 1 to 10 how would you rate your job satisfaction? What might need to change about your job to unleash your full enthusiasm?
A: I am currently around an 8 on the satisfaction scale. I enjoy what I do and I love the people with whom I work, but I am also not as challenged as I initially was in this role. I am always keeping my ear to the ground for what will grab my attention next and allow me to move to a new role. This keeps me current, and allows for doors to continue to open for me, with new opportunities behind them.
Q: If this job moves your heart – how so? Ever feel like you found your calling or sweet spot in life? If not, what might do it for you?
A: I do not think this is my calling in life, but it surely pays the bills more than my passion would, I believe. There are many things about which I am passionate, and my current career and salary offers me the opportunity to maintain the lifestyle that I enjoy, while still having time to do the things about which I am passionate on a volunteer basis. Volunteering is much more rewarding, in my opinion, than being employed by a non-profit organization and having it control your day to day life. I place a lot of value in the volunteering I do and it contributes to my delicate work/life balance.
Q: Is there anything unique about your situation that readers should know when considering your experiences or accomplishments?
A: There are many things that I feel make me a unique fit for my current career. I am not easily intimidated, and I have a lot of confidence in my ability. I have grown a thick skin over the years, and do not let a lot of the office politics bother me. I tend to stay out of the politics, and simply do my job, treat people respectfully, and go home at the end of the day being able to sleep at night.
Q: How did you get started in this line of work? If you could go back and do it differently, what would you change?
A: I got started in this line of work by happenstance. I was in another role, and quite happy there at the time. I was approached by a colleague that I had impressed, and he explained to me how he believed in me, and that I would be a great fit in this organization. He could not have been more right. In my role, I am a negotiator, project manager, coordinator, and am frequently called upon to ‘corral the troops’ to get something completed on time and within budget. I thrive in this environment.
Q: What did you learn the hard way in this job and what happened specifically that led up to this lesson?
A: I had to learn the hard way that the expectations that I set for myself are not fair for me to expect of others. I hold myself to a much higher standard than what I can expect from some of my teammates, and I have had to learn how to deal with the differences of those on my team. I have to understand different personality types in the workplace, find what motivates these individuals, and change my approach accordingly on the fly. This is a hard lesson to learn coming out of college, where everyone is performing pretty highly. Entering a workforce where the average age of the organization is late 40s, lowering your expectations of co-workers who could be your parents is a difficult lesson to learn.
Q: What is the single most important thing you have learned outside of school about the working world?
A: There are many things that are important in a career that no amount of school could have taught me. First, the transition from college to the working world is not an easy one. Nothing prepared me for many of the things that I had to learn the hard way during my first year. I had to learn about politics, perception, hierarchy, and many other lessons. My first boss played favorites, so I had to learn to play the game to get what I wanted out of my career. This ‘game’ is one of complex rules and a moving target of goals. Learning how to play the game is something that you can only gain with experience, and the sooner I learned the rules, the happier I was in my career.
Q: What’s the strangest thing that ever happened to you in this job?
A: I cannot think of anything extremely strange that has happened to me in my current job. In a previous role, though, I worked for a diva boss who treated me as if I was a lackey, there to be at her beck and call regardless of how complex the task was. One time, I was called onto a conference call at 9 pm to simply take notes. I was told to be seen and not heard, and to just take the notes of the call, about which I had little background knowledge. I did this without asking any questions, and immediately started to look for another opportunity, a role in which I could respect both myself and my manager.
Q: Why do you get up and go to work each day? Can you give an example of something that really made you feel good or proud?
A: I really enjoy the people with whom I work. Work is work, and I enjoy what I do, but it is the people and the personalities that gets me out of bed each day. I learned early on in my career that no matter what type of work I did, if I was not encouraged by those with whom I surrounded myself on a daily basis, I would eventually not be happy with my career. Therefore, the work family is increasingly important. After all, I spend 8+ hours per day with these folks, I might as well learn to love them.
Q: What kind of challenges do you handle and what makes you want to just quit?
A: I would go insane if I let too many things bother me in the workplace, but there are a few things that make me want to turn in my resignation. One is dishonesty. If I have a manager or co-worker who is dishonest and whom I do not feel I can trust, I often consider finding something else to do with my time. Also, if I am passed over unfairly for a promotion or feel that I am not valued, or undervalued as an employee, I get frustrated and consider a change of careers or jobs. I have learned the hard way that personalities are not going to change, so I try not to let personality differences get to me like they once did.
Q: How stressful is your job? Are you able to maintain a comfortable or healthy work-life balance? How?
A: My job stress goes in waves. Some months or weeks are very stressful and require a lot of energy from me, whereas other months or weeks are low stress and there is a lull of activity. On the stressful weeks, I tell myself that it is temporary and will pass eventually, and the lull weeks make up for that and allow me to relax and take a look around every once in a while.
Q: What’s a rough salary range for the position you hold? Are you paid enough and/or happy living within your means?
A: People that do what I do make anywhere from $50,000 per year to $90,000 per year. Though I would love to make more than I do, I feel that my salary is fair and that I get increases on a realistic, regular basis.
Q: How much vacation do you take? Is it enough?
A: I usually roll over at least part of my allotted vacation each year to the following year, meaning that I rarely take all of my vacation. About every other year, I take a vacation that is one week or longer, and just get away somewhere fun and relaxing. I use the rest of my days to make long weekends during which I travel with my family to see relatives or friends. I have plenty of vacation and feel that it is fairly distributed at my company, as it is dependent upon how many years of tenure you have.
Q: What education and skills do you need to get hired and succeed in this field?
A: The most important skill that I feel is necessary for this job is the ability to work well with people of all backgrounds. If I could not work well with people of all types, and could not nurture the relationships that I have worked so hard to build, I would not be successful in this role. I also need to be extremely organized, dependable, efficient, thorough, and fair. As far as technical skills, those can be taught and learned, but the soft skills needed to deal with lots of types of people is something that I work at daily.
Q: What would you tell a friend considering your line of work?
A: This line of work can be rewarding. I feel that you get out of it what you put in, and I have put a lot of energy into making this career the perfect one for me. Information Technology is an ever-evolving field that is full of bleeding edge innovation and new and exciting toys. If I were not so intrigued by technology, then I would not be as happy in the career path that I have chosen. So if you do love Technology, find an IT career that works for you!
Q: If you could write your own ticket, what would you like to be doing in five years?
A: In five years, I would like to be managing my own team of IT technologists who are working on cutting edge breakthroughs. Managing people has always been a career goal of mine, and I think that it would present me with a challenge that would not wane with time. Managing people is a challenge that I welcome.