Friday, 25 June 2021

Firebrand Training’s 2021 Tech Pro Role Models: The Pioneer


Continuing our Tech Pro Role Models campaign with Maureen Gower, Firebrand's very own IT instructor. Check out the following to hear her story!

Combining her love of teaching with a burgeoning interest in IT, Maureen founded her IT business and hasn’t looked back since. She’s passionate about getting more women into IT and is keen to highlight that there’s a field of IT for everyone. 

Having encountered sexist attitudes when she first started out, Maureen has set out to create an inclusive learning environment across all of her Firebrand Training courses.

We spoke with her to find out more...

So Maureen, tell us a little bit about yourself?

I’m a grandmother to five and mother of two who loves to teach, read, play games with my family, and travel for fun (not so much now). 

I consider myself a pioneer of women in IT and especially IT training - I have lost count of the number of times that I’ve been the only woman in a training room! 

While attitudes are improving, when I first started doing IT training, I had to deal with a large number of men who wondered why is ‘she’ here, what could ‘she’ know, right up until I opened my mouth and they realised exactly what ‘she’ could know and do!

How did you get into tech?

I was a high school teacher, and while I loved what I was doing, I wasn’t making a lot of money and I needed to start paying for my son who was going to college. 

I started asking myself what I could do that I would enjoy, but also make more money from at the same time. I was proficient with computers and was comfortable using Word, Excel and Access to create a few personal databases.

I spotted that a company near me was offering Windows NT System Engineer training courses with the promise of hiring you after you successfully completed the training and thought, I can do this! This was around 2000 and I was one of the very few women who signed up to take the training and one of the fewer still who successfully completed it. 

I went into the training knowing that there weren't any limitations to me succeeding in IT because I was a woman. I could go as far as I wanted to if I believed that I could, and that is the same thing that I pass on to the women who come into my classes.

What do you do in your current role?

I have owned my own business since 2008 doing both IT training and outsourced IT. Because of my love of teaching, my business is mostly focused on IT training while the outsourced IT normally comes from students in my class needing more help with SQL problems they’re experiencing.

What advice would you give to your younger self when you were starting out in tech?

Luckily, when I started in tech I never doubted for a minute that I could do it. Any limitations that exist for women in IT are predominantly mental ones, not believing that one is smart enough to do it.

Initially, I was slightly overwhelmed about the hardware inside a computer because it was not something I had ever had an interest in before, and I thought to myself what have I gotten myself into. But I found someone who could break down what each thing did in terms that weren't as technical. 

Find someone who can explain things simply when you first start (which can be found in abundance at Firebrand).

Most of the women who signed up with me but didn't finish the training course did so because they felt overwhelmed with what they didn't know. They saw men who had torn apart computers when they were younger, who understood more things initially but once a base of knowledge exists then building on it becomes much easier as you hook one new concept to a concept you already understand. 

Don't allow yourself to quit because you feel overwhelmed. Find a mentor who can help simplify things initially so that you can start building your knowledge base and then explore IT with abandon. Look at networking, look at coding, look at servers and different applications until you find what excites you.

I’m just really passionate about seeing more women in IT. It bothers me that so many women just don't even consider it or if they consider it don't think they are smart enough to do it. You are smart enough, I promise!

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