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I am an IT Networking professional. I got into this field about 8 years ago, when I was trying to upgrade my skill-set to improve my chances of getting a job after the IT crash of 2000. I enrolled in a Cisco Networking certification course and was one of the three women in the entire class of 30. By the time the course ended, I was the only woman left in the group.
That did not bother me. I’m used to that. In college, in the early 90’s, I was one of the 10 girls in our Electronics/Computer Sc. batch of 70+. Then I was one of three in a batch of 24 during Grad school.
It has remained that way even after I started working. On my current job, I am the only woman in my team. I meet a lot of women who are in Software Development but am yet to meet a woman who is in IT/Networking support and administration. I am used to things being this way and never gave it a second thought.
There have been stray comments from people, from time to time, that have made me wonder if anyone SHOULD be surprised by that. The first time was when I had been hired for a temporary weekend project that involved moving all equipment from one floor of a bank to another in the same building. The recruiter had hired about 70 support technicians for the project and I was one of them. I was supposed to report for work at 5 pm on a Friday. When I did, the project leader stopped speaking and the whole room fell silent for a couple of seconds – I was the only woman on that entire team!
It must say something for my self-esteem because that did not faze me at all and it was business as usual for me during the rest of the project. But later that evening one of the technicians asked me if it bothered me at all to be the only woman in the whole team. I told him that it didn’t and, after all these years (7.5 to be exact) still haven’t been able to figure out why it should have.
The second incident that comes to my mind was when I was working as the network administrator at my previous job. It was a small company so I also performed the tasks of user and desktop support and once, while helping a user resolve an issue, I had to call the tech support of another company. After I had identified myself and gave him the reason I was calling, the first words out of the agent’s mouth were “Are you really a network administrator? Are there really women in your field?” I was surprised by the question, to say the least.
I mean, yes there aren’t many of us out there but you CAN find us in most professions on this earth – even in network administration! I am surprised there aren’t MORE of us but that is a rant for another day. It strikes me as odd if, in today’s day and age, someone expresses wonder at seeing a woman working in a field that has traditionally been considered a “man’s arena”. It is also sad because this attitude trickles down to affect impressionable girls like my daughters who think it is odd for a woman to be in a field that is generally populated by men only. I have to work really hard to make my daughters realize that it is okay to be “the only one” in any situation when you are confident of yourself.
In my current team I have sometimes had to struggle to prove that I can also do what the men can – specially when it involves carrying boxes of equipment. I almost had to fight childishly to be “allowed” to carry servers on a location that we temporarily moved to, last year. Thankfully, my coworkers grew used to it after an initial period of uneasiness watching me carry heavy boxes and equipment right beside them. I like it when, even now, one of them rushes to open the door for me as I head out with four laptop boxes balanced in my hands – I’d do the same for them.
Being the only woman on the team has, so far, been a bland experience for me. I mean, there are no men falling over themselves to impress me. I don’t get brownie points just for being a woman who’s trying to do a “man’s job”. (For the record, I am not. I am doing MY job – a job that I am fully qualified for and was hired to do) I enjoy working with the men I work with now. We get along well, we can give the rowdiest crowd a run for its money when we are in the mood for it, we fight, we make up, we help each other and we make a great team.
Have you ever worked in a team/profession where you were the only woman, or one of the very few? How did you handle it? Did you enjoy it or did it make you self-conscious?
Cee Kay is a mother of two girls, a networking professional, a cooking enthusiast and
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