Brenda Cooper is a futurist and author whose day job is a city Chief Information Officer. We interviewed her last week, and she agreed to write about what choosing a tech career means for a woman. She is currently Kickstarting a YA novel.
I’m 56 years old, and I’ve been in technology for 28 years – I started while I was still in college, working nights and doing computer system backups onto tapes that were both heavy and fragile, and sorting library cards (in those days, each library book had a hard paper card with holes in it that had to be sorted into order before the computer program would read them and process the information about whether or not a library book had been returned on time). So my career in technology has taken me through some really fascinating changes.
Today, I’m a Chief Information Officer for a city. That means I’m responsible for the computer systems and computers in use by the city staff, and for some of the computer systems we use to reach out to citizens. I use technology primarily to do good in the world (local government does many good things) and to help other people do good in the world. As technology jobs go, my job is important but not overly high-profile. I’m not inventing new things; I’m choosing from among technologies other people have invented and making them work.
Here are some of the advantages I’ve enjoyed because I chose technology as the way I make my living, and which I think you will enjoy if you make the same choice.
- I have almost never been bored in my jobs. Technology is an ever-changing field and there are always things to learn. Talk about having a continuous education!
- There are many places I can work, many choices. Technology if pretty portable.
- I’ve been able to work with a lot of smart, interesting people. This matters – you spend at least one-third of many days at work, and who you work with matters.
- It helps me remain competent in the world. It’s important to understand technology and if you work with it, you do keep some skills.
- I make enough money to do many of the things that matter to me – to travel to talk about my books, to pay for my kid’s college, to go to Italy and Mexico. Right now, I’m paying for a master’s degree in creative writing. One should never choose a career just because it pays well, but it should be one consideration.
I hear a lot of stories about women being discriminated against in tech. I’ve run into a little of that in my day job, mostly years ago when I worked in aerospace, and I really almost never feel any gender discrimination in my local government job. Many leaders in the city are female, including our elected officials. Frankly I’ve run into more discrimination in my science fiction writing career. Besides, the best way to beat discrimination is to succeed. Stay in the conversation, rather than standing outside and whining about being left out. Be good at what you do, and have fun. You can do that in any field.
If you like technology, it’s a great choice. There are jobs where you can work with many people all day, and jobs where you can soar solo. There are travelling jobs, and jobs you can do from home. There’s a chance to be an entrepreneur, or to be part of a team. When looking into future job markets, technology is one of the safer bets for a job that can last a lifetime.