Monday, 26 June 2006

If I had this a month ago!

As I was going through some papers that I got from the ProfIT conference I came across a leaflet promoting the Intellect Women in IT Forum.

If only I had looked at it before I gave the presentation at the 'Women into ICT' day! It summarises very nicely some of the key issues affecting the recruitment and retention of women in working IT today and also mentions the deliverables from their research programme, in particular:

Women in the IT industry: Phase 2 Research How to Retain Women in the IT Industry
(July 2005)
Women in the IT industry: Phase 1 Research Towards a Business Case for Diversity (January 2005)

That wasn't what got me all excited though. The Intellect link led me to the hitherto unplummed depths of the E-skills UK website (and I used to think I'd had a really good browse of it too!). In a tiny corner of the careers section there is a link to a video entitled 'You can do IT too!' which, lo and behold, seeks to destroy those stereotypical perceptions of IT workers in an effort to encourage young women into the field!

Wednesday, 21 June 2006

Who wants an IT Diploma?

If you're not quite sure what I am talking about let me fill you in quickly.

The UK government has recognised that the current education system is somewhat lacking in a number of industry sectors of which IT is but one (no doubt thanks to certain major employers and organisations such as the BCS saying that IT educuation is not fit for purpose and that there are too many university courses for IT churning out students who still need training to become effective in a real world job).

The hope is that developing an IT diploma (aimed at 14-19 year olds) with significant input from businesses (how much consultation is being done with current teachers of IT & computing I have no idea!) will lead to more interesting courses, and students are actually ready to take on an apprenticeship or progress to universities.

So, back to what I was saying... I've read the development specifications and so far I like what I see. Focusing on the level 3 diploma there are skills that students would be required to achive a basic standard in that many people in today's workplace today either don't have or don't care about. I mean, how many of you learnt how to write a business case for IT investment at school? Or best practice and the basics of project management frameworks?

If this qualification leads to more interesting education which attracts more women (not that I'm biased or anything!) and students who know more than standard network topologies then it has to be a step in the right direction.

Of course, there are all the issues regarding re-educating IT teachers to teach the syllabus as well as businesses stepping up to offer work placements but I think the future is brighter than it has been.

If you're interested in learning more about the IT Diploma take a look at:

" and the "14-19 Diploma Development (IT), EMPLOYER NEEDS DEFINITION:
input from the UK EMPLOYER SURVEY

Further information is available from the E-Skills UK Website.

Sunday, 18 June 2006

ITIL Refresh v3 - Update

There are a lot of rumours flying around at the moment centred around the OGC's Commercial Activities Recompetition (CAR) project which many fear will have a negative impact on the ITIL Refresh and indeed, the future of ITIL, training and its' qualification scheme currently adminsitered by the ISEB and EXIN. The OGC released an official statement on 15th June 2006 to try and mitigate these concerns, although I have to say that I am still concerned and will continue to watch this space.

The other major news in ITIL at the moment is the publication of the ITIL v3 Refresh Scope and Development Plan and the revised Glossary of Terms, Definitions and Acronyms.

I haven't quite read through both documents yet, but I'll post some of my observations once I have. At the moment I'm cringing at the idea of having to purchase an entire library in order to follow a process through the entire lifecycle. Mind you, if they were to publish each process as an entire lifecycle in addition to the lifecycle books themselves then that might help. At this stage I'm really not sure!

Sunday, 11 June 2006

Women and ICT - where are they all?

Hi again, sorry for the lack of entries - it has been a particularly busy time for me. I have attended a number of events that I want to talk about on this blog so I'll try and catch up over the coming month!

First of all I want to tell you about a new personal development challenge that I gave myself this past week. An opportunity arose through the BCS Women Group to present to a group of year 10 girls (aged 14) from local schools at a 'Women into ICT' day at a local college. I've done a fair bit of presenting but this was the first time to a young audience. With 45 minutes to fill, I didn't want to just talk about my role as a support officer as I figured that would put them to sleep. I needed another angle so started digging around a little.

I was surprised to find that in 2001 just 22% of the IT workforce was made up of women which apparently was a 10% reduction over the previous 7 years! The more I read the more I wanted to convince these young women that they are needed in the future UK IT industry. Women were leaving IT in droves...why was that? Could it be the way it is taught in schools? Or is it still all about perception?

My research turned up the belief (which I happen to agree with) that IT in schools needs to be split between the basic IT skills that everyone needs (much in the same way then require English and Maths) and the IT / computing required for a career in IT. There is a new IT diploma being developed for 2008 so that when kids leave school they actually have skills relevant to the workplace.

There's even a Computer Club for Girls (CC4G) scheme which schools can be involved with to show girls other aspects of technology and its applications.

So, people are already trying to do something about IT education. That left me wondering what I could do to combat the perception. Another little stat for you from a survey in 2005.
  • 35% of respondents aged 13-17 associate a career in IT as some form of administrative or secretarial office work.
  • 27% of respondents would consider a career in ICT or Computing.
For me this was a shocking revelation and it helped me form the theme for my presentation. I knew I wanted to break the presentation up into parts to make it more interactive and after talking my ideas through with a few people came up with what I hoped would be a winning formula.
  1. Introduce myself and outline the agenda for them (90 seconds)
  2. Split them into groups for a group exercise: "Who am I?" This was designed to get them thinking about difference aspects of an IT support worker through personality, environment, skills, and education (20 minutes). I also hoped it would reinforce the stereotype to go neatly into:
  3. Showing a TV clips of Nick Burns The Computer Guy with Jennifer Aniston to sum up the stereotype and demonstrate how IT support shouldn't be done (5 minutes).
  4. 'A day in the life...' A quick talk about the different aspects of my work as well as those I work with to show that we aren't the stereotype (well, not all of us anyway!).
  5. A quick explanation of how I got from school to where I am now.
  6. An explanation of why I was there on a 'women into ICT' day including some stats to reinforce a few points.
  7. Finishing with a quick fire quiz with sweets for correct answers.
I'm pleased to say that the girls got stuck into the exercise and in some cases surprised me with their appreciation for IT requiring a more varied skillset than I expected them to recognise. In particular they stressed communication. Yet another great example for me of why we need more women in IT service delivery roles - they get it and they haven't been taught (no offence to any men reading this)!

The clip made them laugh, and they managed to stay awake for what I considered the boring part of the presentation, then sprung back into life for the quiz.

I stayed to listen to another presentation, curious as to the approach they took, which was quite different to mine but in some senses perhaps more useful as it gave them a lot to think about in terms of different job roles available in IT where as I focused primarily on support and destroying stereotypes.

I also assisted with the practical HTML workshop which was fun. They seemed to really enjoy seeing the results of their coding and playing around with colours etc.

All in all I found the experience very worth while and would certainly do it again if the opportunity arose. It was a challenge for me to find ways to maintain the interest of a room of 25 young girls as well as deliver it. I can only hope that if they only took one thing away from the presentation its that 'A career in IT is for women too'!