Championing diversity: why awards inspire women to succeed in the modern information age

Carol Johnson
Feb 4, 2019 · 7 min read

Reading stories of other peoples experiences has such a positive impact on our own potential. That’s one of our objectives here at Women In Tech Not Just Code.

It's always great to see people win awards. But have you ever sat at one of those events yourself and wondered what they did that to achieve it or maybe you thought “wouldn’t it be great to win one of those”. Understanding what its like to be involved in nominations and attending the finals is a great way to open more opportunities to get your own nomination or showcase all those great achievements. After all, they say success breeds success.

Having recently won CIO of the Year at Computing’s Women in IT Excellence Awards, I realised how important it is to share my experience of being a woman in IT at the Telegraph and the journey that created an award-winning team.

In November 2018, The Telegraph proudly had 7 nominees in eight of the 29 categories for The Women in IT Excellence Awards, at the first time of asking. This was a phenomenal result for a company that has worked hard in its Technology department to change perceptions and be a leading light for a woman working in IT. It’s been an amazing journey over the last 18 months as we built a small Women in Tech community (that involved both women and men). Those tentative first meetings as we got to know each other helped us forge a great sense of team spirit.

Encouraging each other has been an important factor in building the network and so when we decided to enter the Women in IT Awards, it was not surprising to see the usual imposter syndrome creep out. Isn’t that the default position? Slowly we encouraged our colleagues to enter. Many found it really hard to believe they were doing anything worthy of an entry. At this stage, the network and support was important, as we worked together to tell their stories in their nominations.

There was a collective sense of achievement when their stories came to life, as many of them realised that not only were they successful in their roles, some had battled many obstacles, several were also working mothers. Many had never mentioned that until now.

Then one day, a small ripple turned into a huge wave of excitement as each of the nominees received confirmation that they were on the shortlist. A first for all of them, and a first for the Telegraph.

The energy and positivity that created amongst the team was thrilling.

The highlight came on 27th November as all the nominees and 13 of our colleagues arrived at the Awards Ceremony. Just being there in that environment was amazing, an experience I personally found to be joyous, emotional and overwhelming. It is a magical feeling to not only see photos of colleagues on the screen but to hear the whoops and cheers around the table as you hear your colleague’s name read out. When you watch the face of your colleague who has become the winner — wow, it blows your mind. Everyone feels like a winner at that point!

I am so incredibly proud that the drive and determination amongst the women in our team saw us take home 2 Awards and a Highly Commended. Even if we hadn’t won, it’s hard to put into words the overall experience and impact it had on all of us and the wider team.

If you want to know what it’s like to be part of an award-winning Women in Technology team, just read some of the comments below.

Louise Curtis, Product Manager

I was so shocked to even be nominated for a Women in IT Excellence award, it was an absolute honour to be named the winner of Innovator of the Year. This win has meant a lot to me. I was a newcomer to the media in 2017, having spent 14 years building up my expertise in a different industry. To be in the position to even be nominated for an award within 18 months feels like a great achievement, which makes me feel welcomed and wanted in the industry.

My advice for anyone looking for a job in IT — just apply!

No-one has ever known everything about their job on day one — so why worry that you don’t have “the right experience”? In 2018, we are all technologists — even if we don’t know any programming languages. Diverse life experiences are key to creating beautiful products that work for everyone, so get involved and make some waves!

Rachana Mehta, Senior Software Engineer

It was a proud moment for me to be shortlisted and then receive a Highly Commended for Software Engineer of the Year. I feel very lucky to be working in a such a great company that recognises my hard work. It means a lot to me, it’s a great achievement and made me feel like a celebrity! As a working mother in the Technology department, I can successfully manage my work and personal life.

Tara Pathirana, IT Service Support Manager

I was surprised and deeply honoured to be shortlisted for Team Leader of the Year. It has been heartwarming and validating to be recognised for my hard work and dedication. The night itself was an amazing experience. To hear the stories of courageous women who have made great strides in their career and are inspiring those following in their footsteps. It has opened my eyes to the difficulties and stigmas that existed and unfortunately continue today, I hope to aide in pushing forward and helping to develop and inspire other women to embrace a career in IT.

I would encourage women to take more chances no matter how unlikely an opportunity may seem to achieve

I have been supported and given great insight about the journeys of women in tech and across the business. I am truly blessed to work for a company and a leadership who highlight, reward and encourage excellence In all of their staff.

Deepa Sreenivasan, Head of Technology

I felt honoured to be shortlisted for Digital Leader of the Year award and immensely proud to be representing The Telegraph. It was amazing to see so many wonderful women from a very diverse background at the awards ceremony. It also made me very aware (from some of the talks at the awards) of how difficult it has been for women to get to where we are today and how we all strangely have similar experiences as a woman although we are so diverse! There are women at all levels in our department, including senior management. I or any other colleague have never been denied any opportunity because we are a woman!

Technology is empowering and the more women in IT the better!

Women should stop worrying and just jump into a career in Technology. Technology is the best place to be. Everything is constantly changing, which means that everyone is learning at the same time! Also, not all roles are super technical and not all of us are engineers. There are a variety of roles from business analyst, data analyst, test analyst, delivery manager, project manager, quality coordinator etc. So go on — just try it to believe it!

Iman Attia, Service Support Shift Lead

I am proud to have been shortlisted for Rising Star of the Year at a national award alongside many other talented women in IT. I am honoured to be recognised for the work I do, and being surrounded by so many talented women inspires me and gives me a wider perception of the difference we can make.

Juliet Eysenck, Product Manager

Having recently joined the technology team after six years in the editorial team, it made me realise that this is a place where I belong. Although I don’t come from a technical background, the awards ceremony made me realise that technology brings together people from all different backgrounds, with a wide variety of expertise.

Tulsi Patel, Business Analyst

Having attended the awards ceremony, it has made me more motivated to develop myself, and to progress within the IT Industry. It is inspiring to think how women have become so empowering.

Technology brings together people from all different backgrounds, with a wide variety of expertise

Olivia Harrison, Delivery Manager

Being new to the tech industry, the awards has inspired and motivated me with my career. I left the event feeling excited for the future of the tech industry.

Rima Amin, Senior Business Analyst

I have been in the IT arena for most of my working life, in fact from my days at college where I was one of the very few females in my Computer Science class. To go from that to a room full of women mostly all in IT is a proud feeling.

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This article first appeared on LinkedIn. Carol Johnson is IT Director at The Telegraph and Founder of Women in Tech Not Just Code. Follow her @JohnsonCsdo

Women in Tech Not Just Code

Helping women find their identity and a home in Tech…

Women in Tech Not Just Code

Helping women find their identity and a home in Tech without having to be a developer. We celebrate the role all women have to play in the technology industry, whether or not they can code.

Carol Johnson

Written by

IT Director @Telegraph Keynote speaker Champion for TechWomen, service culture & behaviours. Ancestry enthusiast! Founder of Women in Tech Not Just Code #WITNJC

Women in Tech Not Just Code

Helping women find their identity and a home in Tech without having to be a developer. We celebrate the role all women have to play in the technology industry, whether or not they can code.

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