An interview with Sonna Barry, Business Development Director Services
Today, we are seeing an increasing number of women heading some of the most important tech companies in the world. Women are leading technological innovation the world over and working to encourage more women to pursue a career in tech.
At this years’ European Women in Tech, Sonna Barry will share inspiring and stimulating perspectives on technology, diversity and workplace culture. We caught up with her to hear about what it’s like to be a woman working in tech today.
What is your involvement in European Women in Technology?
I’ve worked in the industry for over 15 years and have received a lot of support along the way, so I wanted to share my knowledge and experiences as a way of giving something back. IT is very welcoming for women, but it doesn’t always appear that way. So I think it’s important to create more transparency and support young women so they can find the right opportunities and reach their potential.
At last year’s event I shared the career advice that I wish I’d had when I started out; this year I’ll be talking about whether you can you be truly ‘authentic’ in the workplace.
What does being ‘authentic’ mean to you?
Many people have a ‘work version’ of themselves that’s perhaps not their true and whole self. If you’re leaving part of you behind when you walk through the office door, you’re perhaps not benefiting from being ‘authentic’ at work.
Being your authentic self at work allows you to enjoy what you’re doing every day and find genuine satisfaction in your career. Being your true self in your career means your work will align with your interests, skills and values. Your career will excite you and challenges will engage you.
What it doesn’t mean is just ‘being yourself’ – you need to acknowledge your needs and state of mind and be considerate and respectful of your colleagues and workplace.
What challenges do women in technology face?
Historically, women in business thought it was more important to fit in and not make waves. To not speak up or take the limelight. In many industries and workplaces there are still biases and perceptions that can make it hard for women to be brave, ask for recognition or put themselves forward. This can prevent women from having the career they deserve.
Tech is no different. And when people see few women in the industry, women may feel it’s not an industry for them, which reinforces the status quo. So it’s up to everyone in the industry to be more open minded and be more welcoming and inclusive. I know a lot of girls who are kick-ass gamers and coders who are reluctant to step into IT and we need to do our best to attract them.
What is it like to be a woman working at Westcon-Comstor?
Westcon is a great place to use to illustrate examples of working in tech, because we are given the space to be our authentic selves. It is part of what makes us successful, and what makes us even more diverse and inclusive than we claim to be. Everyone can express themselves.
Speaking at industry conferences like these and talking about what we do, about the great people we have and the inspiring things we do, makes a real difference. I encourage everyone to get involved and consider it part of our wider social or community work.
What does success look like to you?
When I was younger, success meant earning a good wage. Of course it’s still important, but success also means being able to do something that I love, with people I genuinely enjoy spending time with, and doing something that moves the industry forward. Feeling supported by the team, and inspiring others.
What’s your message for women thinking of working in IT?
Think about what you love doing. Be honest about your strengths and weaknesses. Be brave and take the plunge. And if you need a helping hand, reach out and find a mentor. In companies like Westcon-Comstor and places like LinkedIn, it’s not hard to find people who have had the career trajectory you might imagine having yourself.
When you do find them, don’t be afraid to reach out. You might be surprised at how many women are willing to help. I always find time for a call, indeed I mentor a number of people I have met at Women in Tech and through other networks. So just take the plunge – it’s a great industry to work in. It’s inspiring, interesting and you’ll never stop learning. And tech would love to have you.
European Women in Tech is from 26-27 November at RAI Amsterdam. Visit https://www.europeanwomenintech.com/ for more details.