I’ve not been in this consultancy business for long, but I have been a technical architect for some time. The difference with consultancy is that it seems even more cut throat in a highly competitive environment. Why? Because there are even more egos floating around that is desperate for attention. Before I begin, being a woman means nothing in a constantly male dominated arena. Suffice it to say, there is no need to male bash at all because your gender is irrelevant if you know your line of work. However, that is not to say there aren’t stigmas and obstacles along the way.
Not long ago, I previously worked for a top tier global consultancy firm. They were big, they were very big indeed. At first it seemed all roses; a supportive sphere of people with more fluffiness than a Persian cat. But as soon as I started on my first project, it became apparent that working as a team was proving to be a difficult prospect. The problem was that the stereotype of women in I.T was actually proving true.
The guys I worked with were very talented but because of how the career laddering system worked it proved to be a stumbling block to agree a way forward. This was where the male egos came in. Meanwhile, the other girl on the team acted as though she had no idea about I.T and instead spent most of her time getting into as many powerful cliques as humanly possible (possibly to avoid the male ego problem). I have worked with many women on I.T projects in the past that were nothing like this, but seeing this made me cringe every day. I could only hope this was not a common occurrence, but from discussions with others this happens very often… including men too but the majority were women. Perhaps her knowledge was lacking somewhat, but she had no impetus to learn or become involved.
The work was a datacenter transformation and virtualisation project, an area I am quite familiar with. For the first few days, the assumption was that my knowledge was limited and my male colleague who also started at the same time was the first port of call. It was more of an annoyance than a hindrance, but this colleague and I worked very well together; in hindsight we were the only ones that were collaborating the most effectively. Ultimately, it became apparent that my knowledge was more than the team envisaged and within a couple of weeks I was given more responsibility and was consulted on the best approach to problems.
As the project came to a close, the difference between me and the other girl became apparent. I garnered mutual respect in the team while she was secretively despised. I later discovered that she received a promotion during her review while another guy on the team did not. I can tell you now that this guy worked insane hours and he was pivotal in the overall success of the project. It was obvious during our conversations in the datacenter (because of course you can have secret discussions from so much server noise) that she “cliqued” her way to the top. The scary part was that she became a datacenter transformation consultant, and as far as I was aware she did nothing of the sort. I have no idea how she even got onto our project; adequate resourcing was also another problem, but I digress.
It occurred to me that the reason why there is this male/female divide in I.T was because there are the odd occasions where the actions of one create the perceptions of many. I still get the question ‘So how do you cope with being a female I.T consultant?”. Well the answer is simple; know your stuff, work with others and show what you can do. It really is that simple.