It’s no secret that IT is a white male dominated industry but as woman that should never be the factor of intimidation, bust out of the box and be a rose amongst the thorns if you have to. You will definitely feel proud of the impact you have on others and inspiration you make in the long run.
I am loving the growth of women in IT in the workplace, it inspires me on the daily to keep on doing what I do, seeing others just like myself making a difference. I came into the IT industry with no idea what was really out there. I honestly didn’t know the existing IT career paths one can follow in South Africa. All I ever heard about was developers and data administrators (only ‘cause they get paid a lot), while in university I feared not finding a job because my programming skills weren’t up to scratch and I thought to make it in IT you need to know how to program very well. The thing that drew me to IT is that it’s forever evolving and that technology has an impact in almost every industry, I wanted to be a part of that, the new age.
Fresh out of varsity I got an internship at a software development company and worked as a business analyst, which was great, it was exactly what I saw myself doing within IT, no programming, a bulk of the work that I had to do on the project I was assigned on was creating test cases, testing, retesting defects or testing changes requested and so forth. At the time I didn’t know there was a field specifically just for testing. I worked at that company for just under a year but I learnt and absorbed a whole lot, I really enjoyed what I did, meeting with the clients and performing User Acceptance Testing (UAT) that seemed to go on forever because the client was forever changing their mind but that never bothered me it was all new and a learning curve for me, it was quite exciting really.
My 2nd Job was a bit of a calling, and blessing, it was a focus on what I was already good at, testing. From a company I’d once applied for an internship they called offering a permanent position, how could I say no, I’d left my first job due to personal responsibilities but now I was broke and needed a miracle, fast, which by God’s grace it did come at the nick of time. I did my research and found out that there actually is a career solely focused on testing. Since I did a lot of testing in my previous job it was quite fitting to find myself as a test analyst. Some are usually surprised when they find out that I went from being a BA to TA when it’s usually the other way around but I particularly enjoy testing, some find it a bit of a bore you make more enemies than friends on a professional level, developers don’t like being told that their code is not working but that’s what makes it exciting. You need to have an eye for detail and question everything when testing, if it doesn’t seem right it probably isn’t and that’s how I felt that the testing space was for me. I was now working in telecommunication, in one of the biggest telecom companies in SA so the pressure was bound to be expected, because everything had to be perfect the first time around.
The work environment was bigger more cut throat, not as chilled as my first job, there we were like a family, the company was made up of less than twenty people, there really wasn’t any room for race battles or hard feelings, it was easier to gel with everyone and sort out any indifference right away, before I joined there was only one lady working there so at least you could say they were trying. In a bigger organization everything is different, in my time there I had two bosses, the first one was great, always had our backs, he was a leader took the time to know us.
They did a reshuffle and we got a new boss to head the team I was in, then from then on it felt like it was every man for himself that the different races had formed alliances even though the office was a combination of at least 4 different companies, he was out to please the client and we just had to jump at their call, work was no longer a place you felt excited to wake up and go to, and oh my gosh was it hell for us that had “woman problems” I recall a time when I was literally dying from the red robot and just didn’t want to be there, yes I had work to do but there was still the next day to finish it, he insisted I stay and asked around in the office for painkillers (I’m not quite sure if this was ethical) I worked through the aching until the meds kicked in and once they wore off I didn’t really have a voice to “complain” again, that’s when I knew that some men will just never understand. Going through my policy I realized that women in business still have a lot of hurdles to overcome, that there is still a lot of inequality, it stated they grant 4 months max of unpaid maternity leave (so that was a no for me on ever thinking of starting a family while working there), there was no paid overtime and the hours at times were crazy, we’d have to get to the office in the wee hours of the morning on a Sunday and most of us black people coming from the townships and worse being a woman it was a risk but what were we you going to do, it was “safer” to call an Uber than hike for a taxi (with past rape incidents in SA, these taxi drivers just cannot be trusted). The contract further stipulated that you could get immediate dismissal if caught discussing salaries, but we all know men get offered and paid more.
Enough with scaring you about this big big IT world it’s not all that bad, I loved what I did but I didn’t like where I was doing it so I went back into the market and landed a job in the banking sector, yes I still have male managers and team leads but I’m happy again. I’m still a test analyst and doing the same as I did but in a better environment and a bit more independence which helps you learn more in the industry.
A bit about being a Test Analyst, well, test analysis is just as the name suggests, in lament terms it’s basically the analysis of scenarios used in testing a functionality of a products purpose and quality assuring that the product is as requested. In testing you need to mimic or think like the user, so not only the functionality is important but the look and feel, to an extent you need to be a little OCD about the outcome, give a lot of attention to detail. There are two branches to testing, Technical Test Analyst which does all the automated testing and Test Analyst who does manual testing, industries are slowly moving towards Technical testing so it’s always best to have strong SQL skills and a little bit of programming skills to grow with the technology and it also helps being a certified test Analyst, you can do this through SASTQB. I am currently certified as a TA and only do manual testing but the interest to automate is there so I’m learning the ropes and one day I’ll get there, I don’t want to be left behind when the whole world is moving in that direction.
I intend on growing in this industry and where I am now I see potential for a lot of growth, the channels to grow are there for us to explore and aspire to, its transparent unlike where I was previously where it seemed your gender and skin colour was your only link to career growth. I am building up to working on my own projects and heading up my own teams one day.
The best advice in this industry for a woman is be overly ambitious, learn more, aspire for greater and no matter how long it takes believe that you will get there, someone has to be the first and for the first to try it’s never easy or easily accepted but eventually the men will adjust, right? We as women need to start making moves and making our needs heard and eventually company policies won’t be one sided, it won’t only be men in top positions and women high earners will be on the rise.
Written By: Aziwe Tobun