This is a guest post written by Linda Ghusayni. Linda is a Skills Program Manager at Microsoft UK; her focus is on enhancing the skilling and training experience for small to medium size businesses. She is also working on the Global Skills Training Initiative at Microsoft, which aims to reach 25 million people globally with free training, and career support to help economies bounce back, businesses thrive and people to build future-facing careers. She lives with her husband and three kids in London and is passionate about moving people forward and simplifying the complex. You can connect with Linda on LinkedIn here > http://www.linkedin.com/in/linda-ghusayni-41080b95
When we think of tech, we generally associate digital transformation with abstract, large-scale processes and movements. What is often missing however, are the personal stories of people whose lives have been transformed by tech1.
Inspired by Abbey2, a security data analyst at Microsoft, I decide to write about the power of technical certification particularly for women. In summer 2021, Abbey came across Cloud Ready Summer Skills on LinkedIn, a certification campaign to help students and educators learn cloud computing. She took full advantage and sat all five exams on offer including security compliance and identity fundamentals. Two months later she was headhunted by a recruiter at Microsoft to join the identity security team with an offer worth double her salary. Abbey said that these certifications completely changed her life, and she feels that there is no reason these would not change anyone else’s life too.
I see a lot of women around me, so eager to progress in their careers, hungry to achieve. Yet there is something missing in their journey. Daunted by complexities of the tech industry and by the fact that men dominate this industry, they decide to stop before starting.
How can women progress in tech and how can we have more successful stories like that of Abbey’s? With only 19 %3 of women in the tech industry, what are the steps that women can take to break that glass ceiling?
Understand the power of certification
According to Solving the talent equation report4 69% of UK business leaders say that their organisation is currently facing a digital skills shortage. Businesses rely on technologies and services to keep critical applications and processes running. That means there is a high demand for professionals skilled in technologies, and a certification validates the ability to perform these critical tech tasks. Having a certification provides a solid foundation and validates the understanding of tech concepts. Earning certifications shows your current organization that you are willing to put in the extra effort to build and validate your skills. For those thinking of changing employers, Pearson Vue, confirms that 60%5 of IT hiring managers stated that applications with IT certifications are significantly more likely to be reviewed.
Self-analysis before anything else
Self-analysis, a systematic attempt by an individual to understand his or her own personality, is the primary starting point for the road to certification. Self-analysis can help a person to identify the areas of strengths and development areas in their career and assist them in coming up with a plan to tackle these gaps. By conducting self-analysis, you can choose the course that might suit your interests and career prospects. Through this exercise, a person usually narrows down one or two learning paths.
Understand the learning paths available
There are vast public and private initiatives underway to assist individuals with the skills they need. Where do you start with an overwhelming number of certifications and learning providers? Many technologists recommend choosing a certification program from “a significant provider of IT infrastructure,” or a certification program that is an “industry standard6.” A great place to start is this site Learning Pathways. Using this website is quite simple, once you have identified your potential role, you can search, view and download the pathways. All paths start with foundational certifications called fundamentals that lay the building blocks for deeper, role-based learning paths and certifications offered by Microsoft.
Growth mindset in the journey
A growth mindset creates the capacity and resilience essential for great accomplishments. The 19% figure represented at the beginning of this article is not a true reflection of women’s ability in Tech. “OK, maybe girls haven’t done well historically, maybe we weren’t encouraged, maybe we didn’t believe in ourselves, but these are acquirable skills,” says Carol Dwek in her book Mindset. In the face of difficulty, women with a growth mindset are more likely to maintain their confidence and not surrender to stereotypes than women with a fixed mindset. Some professionals believe that one of the most crucial factors in successful digital transformation is not a new technology or a new consultant; it is a willingness to put in the effort, time, and training to become knowledgeable and skilful with modern technologies. Individuals who believe they can develop their capability through effort, time, and training have been more likely to achieve more than individuals who believe their talents are innate gifts. IT professionals with a growth mindset are less concerned with being the “smartest person in the room7” and put energy into learning and using new skills.
Align yourself with communities that genuinely help other women
The Microsoft TechHer Digital Academy provides free resources for women who want to advance their skills and gain a Microsoft certification in Azure Cloud and Artificial Intelligence. Whether you are looking to learn more about cloud or discover the possibilities of AI technology, TechHer training days provides women with free opportunities to learn new cloud skills and gain valuable certifications. You will qualify to free practice tests as well as certification exams by being part of this community.
Final note, breaking through the tech certification pathway for women is possible. In fact, we are truly lucky to be living at an age where tech learning is accessible, flexible, and fun. Learning and upskilling require a strong individual commitment and a company culture that encourages learning. The learning opportunity is everywhere, and as Abbey said, there is no reason why you can’t do it too.
- Hit Refresh: A Memoir by Microsoft’s CEO – Satya Nadella – Aug 2018
- Abbey Macfarlane: Certification Success with Microsoft
- Diversity and inclusion in UK tech companies 2021
- Solving the talent equation
- 2021 Value of IT Certification Employer Report
- Ten reasons to earn a Microsoft Certification – Microsoft 2021
- Business Value of Digital Transformation and the Contribution of a Growth Mindset in IT -May 2020