Celebrating Women in ICT
April 26th commemorates International Girls in ICT Day 2018; a day dedicated to encouraging female students to consider pursuing careers in Information and Communication Technology (ICT). International Girls in ICT Day was founded by the International Telecommunication Union’s (ITU), an agency of the United Nations and this year’s theme “Expand Horizons: Change Attitudes” was adopted and implemented across all 193 ITU member states, of which Trinidad and Tobago is one.
TSTT is proud of the many women it employs who are helping the organisation achieve its digital transformation into an agile broadband company. Tanya Muller and Nicole Maharaj are two senior managers who lead departments in TSTT’s Technology and Information Division. Their jobs entail responsibility for some of TSTT’s most significant infrastructure and services projects including the country’s only internationally certified data centre and what is soon to be one of the most advanced IP-based core networks in the country. The ICT journey for these women was not easy, but both say it is something they would encourage any aspiring young girl to pursue.
“Being a woman in this field will always appear to be a challenge, however you have to believe that we all can do this” says Maharaj, Senior Manager (Ag), Network Planning and Design at TSTT. She has worked in the field for nearly two decades and is testimony of the knowledge, skills and experience women can bring to the ICT sector. “We are all amazing, brilliant individuals who can be the CIOs, CTOs and CEOs of any company once we have the drive and determination.” Muller, Senior Manager IT Infrastructure at TSTT says contrary to popular belief, a career in ICT is very exciting. “There is always something new and interesting to learn and do as technology changes so rapidly.” She believes the days of thinking that IT was about a geek behind a computer are gone, “It’s an area that requires all types of skill sets: application design, programming, server and cloud management, security, networking and so much more” All of which women can master. Maharaj says it is important for women to remember that they have everything it takes to succeed in the ICT sector. “This is a life changing opportunity where you can use your knowledge and skills from ICT to create a better quality of life for citizens, empower yourself and others and constantly update your skills and knowledge.”
Both women had different paths to their career, but each was filled with trials. Maharaj remembers wanting desperately to get into ICT. She was 20 years old and already in her second year at university majoring in Electrical and Computer Engineering. The field was unchartered by anyone she knew personally which meant there was no one to turn to for guidance and mentorship. “My family has always been very supportive and encouraged me to continue pursing my goal.” For Muller, she was inspired by a female neighbour of hers who always had interesting stories about the kinds of problems IT programmers were trying to solve.
Muller knew IT was what she wanted to do, but with no knowledge of it prior to entering University she also knew it wouldn’t be easy. “When I started university in 1997, I was one of the very few students who never used a computer before. There were students in my class who already fixed PCs and wrote detailed programs. The first year was especially hard but I made up my mind that no matter what I will succeed.” And succeed she did! Muller now leads and motivates teams of people who deliver various technological services and products at TSTT. For her, the best part of the job is the excitement her teams and customers feel when they try something new. “When we make their jobs easier or give customers something they never thought possible. Those are moments that make it worthwhile.” For Maharaj, the thrill of improving the lives of people is what gives her the passion do her job. “ICT is very important to all sectors of society. It involves core information and communication technologies which directly impact multiple disciplines, for example, finance, manufacturing, medical, security, agriculture, environment, tourism etc. ICT is enabling a converged global community. People have information at their fingertips, social media platforms are booming and economies are being infused with agility, adaptability, creativity and innovation.”
Both women have their plates full. Maharaj leads Strategic Design, Engineering, Implementation, Configuration and Installation of systems for the underlying network that supports all of TSTT’s services. (Try saying: IP-Multiprotocol Layer Switching, Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing and Optical, Microwave, Switching core & access – fast). Muller is leading the IT Team who are now delivering and assisting in the sale of a new Cloud and Data Centre technology. They’ve started partnering with several big Cloud partners to build and deliver Infrastructure As A Service (IAAS), Back Up As A Service (BAAS) and other solutions to other businesses in Trinidad, with the intention to go regionally.
Tanya and Nicole both have strong views on promoting the adoption of a career in ICT for girls and they exemplify what can be achieved. The International Telecommunications Union notes that there is room for many more young women and girls to join the IT industry and Maharaj and Muller hope that their experience can help bring more girls into the fold.