Celebrating International Girls in ICT Day with KBSL
This International Girls in ICT Day, to counter the negative stereotypes and biases, KBSL would like to encourage and inspire more young women to pursue careers in ICT by highlighting successful women in the field. We’ve asked three of our female engineers a series of questions relating to their experience in the IT industry and their vision for the future, here’s what they had to say:
Sulochana Edirisuriya – Senior Systems Engineer in Information Security
Krishna Gunawardena – Sales Solutions Specialist
Dasni Athukorale – Systems Engineer
1. When did you first become interested in tech and was there a moment where you knew wanted to be an engineer? Did someone inspire you?
Sulochana: Ever since I was little, I have always enjoyed challenging myself. There was a sense of joy in seeing a surprised face when I completed a hard task. My cousin brother noticed this and always pressed my sister and I to get curious and learn about new things. In a world where people wouldn’t usually push us forward, he was a huge source of inspiration, he’d always say “You have a brain, please use it!”
In University – a few of us got transferred to a small lab due to a lack of space, even though we were disappointed at first, the instructor of that class was amazing. The level of skill he demonstrated with programming was incredibly inspiring and I promised myself I would match that level before graduating.
Krishna: Growing up, I was surrounded by a family of engineers and mathematicians who steered me on my path to becoming an engineer and an IT professional. Seeing members of my family work hard within the industry was really inspiring!
After the successful completion of my bachelor’s degree, it was evident to me that I should explore my options in a much more challenging manner and expand my skill set. This is why I chose the Sales & Marketing sector of the Information Technology Industry.
Dasni: Since we didn’t have any exposure to tech in school, after my A/L exams, I had begun to get curious about it and that made me take up an ICT course. It has been a journey ever since!
2. What challenges have you faced as a woman in the industry? Do you feel you have equal opportunities to men?
Sulochana: Although there are times where I’ve received genuine appreciation for my work, if I’m being honest, I haven’t felt that there was much equality within this industry. When meeting potential customers for the first time, our work and capabilities are undermined. There’s even a challenge and fear for your own safety when working on a downtime or maintenance window at 2:00am. These problems exist not only in the industry but within society, and it is definitely something we overcome every day in order to get the job done.
Krishna: There are many inequalities I’ve experienced within the industry from access to promotions and opportunities to remuneration and representation. However, although there is a huge gap to be filled, I’ve learned that when assessments are purely based on your knowledge and experience, women do get to climb up the ladder.
Dasni: Sri Lanka has a very traditional culture, where women in STEM fields are not encouraged to achieve their maximum potential. In the hardware and infrastructure sector, we tend to receive less responsibility or leadership positions, so I’d love to see more women in technical management positions. There are external factors that affect us too, such as working late nights and travelling back home after, there’s an element of risk that we have to overcome simply to do our jobs.
3. What is one of your favourite projects you’ve worked on?
Sulochana: The first project I was assigned to, SLA-VDI, is one of my favorite projects that I have worked on. I was assigned to do the documentation of the project but ended up taking on the entire project from documentation, implementation to the delivery of laptops & monitors too. It was a really fulfilling experience!
Krishna: During my four years at KBSL, I’m lucky to have been an integral part of the sales team for many projects, I can’t seem to choose one!
Dasni: I can’t choose! From the large to the small, each and every project I’ve worked on for the past 7 years has been unique and holds a special place in my career.
4. Did you feel at any time that as a woman you needed to prove yourself again and again? If yes, how did you overcome that?
Sulochana: I’ve found that when you are confident, you don’t have to prove yourself again and again. If you communicate things well and are clear about the deliverables, that’s what really matters, that’s what helps you create a good reputation.
Krishna: Absolutely, as a mother of two there has always been the feeling of having to prove my abilities time and time again. At different stages of my career, I’ve had to demonstrate that my personal milestones do not hinder my professional ones, creating a work life balance has been essential for me to progress in my career.
5. How do you think businesses should work to encourage more women to join the ICT industry?
Sulochana: By training them! Whether it’s on how to deliver a quality product, or building their soft skills, giving women the opportunity to learn, grow and boost their confidence really goes a long way. Allowing some level of flexibility at work and understanding the dynamics of being a woman in the industry could also help not only attract but retain more women in the ICT field.
Krishna: To encourage equality in the workplace takes more than just treating women with basic respect and decency. It also means not isolating or ignoring them and ensuring they have equal access to resources. The culture at work should be built to eliminate gender discrimination and employers should facilitate a culture of equality that ensures men and women are fairly selected, evaluated and compensated. I think knowing that they will be treated as equals within that business will encourage more women to join.
Dasni: Mentorship! By showing women that there is an opportunity to learn, grow, and be leaders. Encouraging their advancement through coaching and training will help refine and improve trust in their skills and thus build confidence.
6. What message/advice would you give to girls who are considering joining the field?
Sulochana: Believe in yourself, anything is possible if you believe.
Krishna: Though the ICT industry in Sri Lanka is an incredibly male dominated field, it’s evident that women’s participation is on the rise, despite gendered challenges. So I’d say, it’s time to turn the tide and have women bringing their expertise and merit to the industry!
Dasni: The ICT industry has a lot of different roles, so my advice would be to really analyze which area you’d like to pursue, and choose a sector that resonates with your passions. Getting some advice from professionals in the field and even a mentor can really help too!
7. What do you envision for the future of the industry and women in STEM?
Sulochana: I hope women in STEM get the appreciation they deserve for all the work they do and I hope more girls recognize all that they are capable of doing.
Krishna: With the essence of workplace culture evolving, I envision a future that is inclusive! One in which IT companies have undertaken efforts and employed strategies to engage more women who can contribute their expertise to building innovative, new work models.
Dasni: Seeing more female role models for young girls in STEM so that they never see their gender as a disadvantage. I’d love for schools to work towards encouraging girls to undertake STEM subjects and provide positive exposure to success in the field.
8. Have/Would you promote IT as a career for women? What would you do given the opportunity to promote it?
Sulochana: Of course! I would promote ICT as a career by sharing the stories of other successful women and what they have achieved, in hopes that it will inspire other girls to pursue this field.
Krishna: Rapidly evolving digital technologies and increasing global connectivity has upped the playing field! To meet these demands, capacity building and upskilling is vital in working towards a gender equal workforce.
Dasni: I would definitely promote a career in IT for women! I think it is important to implement and increase opportunities for women’s exposure to the industry and establish more direct pathways to employment. Internship programs and Career fairs would be a great way to do so.
9. How can tech companies help encourage women in IT?
Sulochana: By bringing in flexible ways of working, by making the working environment safe (transportation, working remotely) and by supporting continuous skill enhancement (training, certifications).
Krishna: In Sri Lanka, there is a large lack of female representation in senior positions in the IT field, and providing more role models and representation could attract so many more young women to join the industry, by showing them there is an opportunity to progress and succeed. It is crucial to provide women with equal benefits and improve their skills through training as well.
Dasni: Within the IT Industry, we see a higher presence of women in the software sector in comparison to the hardware/infrastructure sectors, mainly due to the lack of awareness of the opportunities available. I think companies should create more awareness of these roles, and the potential women have to succeed within these divisions.
10. How has KBSL helped you to grow and develop your career?
Sulochana: At KBSL, I have had the privilege of working with people who have helped me hone skills and recognize my potential. From the very first interview, they have provided me with the provisions to grow and succeed. I’m grateful to the Chief Engineering Officer who has always observed my performance and pushed me to greater heights irrespective of the challenges it may pose at the start. The team is like my family, and I consider myself lucky to be a part of it.
Krishna: The open work culture in KBSL has given me the opportunity to learn and connect with more people across departments. The company has not only provided me with a safe space to work and give my honest opinions, but has also helped me to achieve my professional goals by giving me the opportunity to share my own ideas.
Dasni: From day one, I was given the opportunity to take part in each and every project and that helped me get more exposure within the industry. KBSL has given me the ability to interact with highly experienced professionals who share the same values, while also expanding my communication, collaborative and decision making skills to be confident when working with internal teams, external clients, distributors and vendors.
Although there exists a large disparity in gender diversity within the field, KBSL hopes to open a dialogue and take steps towards creating a more inclusive and equal industry. To learn more contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org
Happy International Girls in ICT Day!