‘Shadowing’ encourages female students to consider IT careers

Shadow IT Day begins with a gathering at the Manukau Institute of Technology campus.

Job ‘shadowing’ is a common way to mentor a colleague in the workplace. The practice allows a mentee to get a feel for the field or a particular role.

This concept was adopted yesterday at the ‘Shadow IT’ program, run by NZTech and Manukau Institute of Technology(MIT). The inaugural one-day program aims to encourage more young women to choose a career in technology.

Under the program, 20 technology companies volunteered to host 46 female students aged 15 to 16 years. Among these were Air New Zealand, ACE Computer Training, Dale Jennings Associates, Datacom, Fronde, Fujitsu, Microsoft, Vodafone and SimplHealth.

The response has been beyond expectations, said NZTech CEO Candace Kinser, who hosted two students for the day.

The program kicked off with a meeting of the host organisations and students at the MIT campus in Auckland.

Edwina Mistry (right) of the Manukau Institute of Technology is one of the organisers of the Shadow IT program.

“The biggest barrier for women to take up careers in IT is they think it is only for technical people, programmers or geeks,” said Edwina Ministry, industry and community management manager at MIT. “That’s a part of the industry but there are many other career options too.”

We want to build the conveyor belt of interest in the sector. Candace Kinser, NZTech

Rob Gosling, managing director of Oracle New Zealand, said Oracle is behind projects like Shadow IT that open up the sector to a wider range of opportunities for women.

He said Oracle has a ‘Women in Technology’ program as well as an Oracle Women’s Leadership (OWL) program, a professional development program to support the growth of current and emerging women leaders within the company.

Hazel Jennings (centre) with two students during Shadow IT Day.

Saya Wahrlich, vice president of marketing at Wynyard group, said the program shows the range of opportunities IT and that “it is not [just] about coding".

Kinser and Mistry said there is a significant skills shortage in the technology sector and not enough companies willing to take on the risk of hiring recent tech graduates.

They are calling on the New Zealand government to help fund small to medium sized businesses to take on graduates so that they can build experience in the sector.

“We will need to work on creating an early adoption graduate program next,” said Kinser. “It’s all about building the conveyor belt of interest in the sector by young people, educating them and then making it easy for companies to get them on board.”

Jennie Vickers, an IT lawyer and principal of Zeopard Law, was among those who signed up for the project.

“I am well known for saying, 'no more lawyers' to young people to encourage our brightest brains into technology opportunities instead of legal backwaters,” said Vickers, who was ‘shadowed’ for the day by Shaan Kaloti of Pakuranga College.

Kaloti said has been interested in information technology way back in intermediate school. Her interest in IT was initially sparked by video games. She took computing subjects this year “to see what it was about”.

“I thought technology is ultimately our future, I should learn about how it works,” said Kaloti, who visited CIO New Zealand as well as Zeopard Law, Oracle and MindLab.

Jennie Vickers of Zeopard Law and Shaan Kaloti of Pakuranga College visit the office of CIO New Zealand as part of 'Shadow IT Day'.

The best testimonial came from Paul Muckleston, managing director of Microsoft New Zealand.

“While we have a brand that young people will recognise, we are looking forward to giving a glimpse into the background behind the Microsoft experience,” said Muckleston, in his welcome speech yesterday morning.

He recalled how at aged 16, he had ‘shadowed” an engineer at IBM for a day. He showed me the variety of jobs and opportunities IT brings, “and that has got me here today.”

Ubergeek girl image designed by Zoe Roberts

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