When Clare Parry-Jones’ father encouraged her to take a Computer Studies O-Level, he unwittingly kick-started a 20-year career in the IT industry.

“I hadn’t twigged the importance of technology then, but I took my dad’s advice and it’s shaped my career ever since,” says 46-year-old Clare, who is now the Business Enablement Director at Computacenter, Europe's leading independent provider of IT infrastructure services.

After school, Clare went on to study Business Information Technology at university, where she first came across the industry’s gender divide.

“I was at an all girls’ school, so we didn’t have that traditional boy/girl split in the curriculum. Computer Studies was just another subject,” she explains. That all changed at university, where only 20 percent of the students on the course were female.

Clare has continued to experience the industry’s gender divide throughout her career, which has included roles with some of the world’s biggest IT vendors and a three-year stint as a UK Managing Director with one firm.

“Although the industry is changing with female CEOs at both HP and IBM, they are really remote role models for your average teenager,” comments Clare. “We need to do more to educate girls – and boys – that you don’t have to be a programmer to work in IT. The career opportunities are incredibly diverse – from project co-ordinators to account managers.”

 

Mixing IT up

Clare believes that such a diverse industry warrants an equally diverse workforce – and not just from a gender perspective. “It’s been proven that mixed teams perform better,” she says. “However, I don’t like the idea of quotas, so we need to find ways to promote diversity organically.”

“IT is not seen as sexy– it’s not media, it’s not fashion. But it’s moving faster than any of these industries and delivering innovations every single day to every one of us. It’s a dynamic and rewarding industry that I am proud to be part of.“

Computacenter’s Associate Programmes aim to do just that. The 18-month programmes put graduates on an accelerated career path for roles within sales, IT service management and Computacenter’s four core technology practices: networking, datacentre, workplace and managed services.

Although Clare coded her fair share of Pascal as a student, her technical days are a thing of the past. “I have to call my husband in as tech support at home,” she confesses. “You can have a very successful career in IT without ever having to understand the bits and bytes.”

The mum of two puts a lot of her own success down to other people, who supported her as she rose through the IT ranks. “I’ve been presented with a lot of great opportunities and had some inspiring mentors, who helped encourage me in the right direction,” she says.

Clare is now following in the footsteps of her biggest mentor of all – her father - and will soon be giving career talks at local schools that might help encourage more girls towards a career in IT.

“IT is not seen as sexy– it’s not media, it’s not fashion. But it’s moving faster than any of these industries and delivering innovations every single day to every one of us. It’s a dynamic and rewarding industry that I am proud to be part of.“