As CMO of Origin IT, Stacey Riordan is the quintessential woman in technology - not actually in a technical role, but working in a technology company.
“I know nothing about WANs, LANs, SANs and servers and to be honest, I am not that interested in finding out what they actually are,” says Riordan, who heads up marketing for the Auckland-based IT firm.
In fact of the 15 females currently on the payroll at Origin - which specialises in IT outsourcing - only four are in a technical role.
"In other words, they know what WANs, SANs and LANs do,” Riordan adds. “But sadly that’s just under four percent of our total workforce.
“The four technical women we are lucky enough to have at Origin are all rockstars. They bring not only diversity of thought and collaboration skills to their teams, but they are also natural communicators who are able to quickly and easily connect with customers; a characteristic that sets any IT professional apart in this day and age.”
But as the role of women in technology debate continues to rumble on, the million-dollar question still remains unanswered - How do we get more women interested in technology as a career?
As Riordan explains, Google recently released research into women’s perceptions around technology, and for those who didn’t know much about the industry, they used terminology such as ‘boring’, ‘difficult’, ‘nerd’ and ‘maths’ to describe how they felt about the ICT space.
On the other hand, those who worked closely to the industry used words like ‘future’, ‘fun’, ‘challenging’, ‘interesting’ and ‘money’.
“So maybe the answer lies in telling the stories of those women who are rocking a career in the technical aspects of IT,” Riordan asks.
Citing the work of Origin team member Olivia Fogarty, Riordan documents a “prime example” of how quickly women can rise through the ranks armed with the ability to communicate with diverse sets of people, technical capability and ambition.
“Olivia joined Origin two years ago fresh out of AMES training,” Riordan explains.
“She was quickly moved into a field services role, meaning that instead of being based in our headquarters and helping customers over the phone, she was based in a client’s business full-time, where she worked around the company, helping solve IT problems and building meaningful relationships with the staff there.”
Riordan says Fogarty’s Manager Paul Manson describes her “proactive attitude and exceptional people skills” as the reason for her success in the role, recently promoting her to his 2IC - “in recognition of her intelligence, ability to connect to people and understand problems, and then solve them.”
“I think most girls get turned off because they think IT is all about technology and not about people,” Fogarty says.
“But IT is all about people. If you are a natural communicator you will be successful and you won’t be hidden away in a windowless room talking to computers.”
As someone who admitedly doesn’t possess the technical ability of Fogarty in the workplace, Riordan is quick to encourage “all ambitious women out there” who are thinking about their careers to consider a career in technology.
“Not only does technology constantly evolve and change the world we live in, but in a smaller, rapidly growing IT company like Origin, you’ll have the opportunity to have your excellence quickly recognised and rewarded,” Riordan adds.