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WOMEN: GENDER DIVERSITY AND EQUALITY


My 5 career tips for women, including learn because you want to

By Sandie Behrens, Manager, Accenture Technology, Philadelphia


My career in IT can be attributed to being willing to try new things.

When I was in ninth grade, I signed up for Junior Achievement (JA), thinking it would be an opportunity to hang out with my friends. What I found instead was an appreciation and joy in creating a tangible product from a concept, working through problems, defining the risk, creating a marketing strategy, and taking our product to market.

My parents still have the cypress wood clock our JA team created, proudly displayed in their living room. When I visit them, I can look up and see the physical manifestation of the lessons I learned.

Life is rarely linear, and I found myself in my early 20s working at a data-entry job after a less than stellar college experience. I stumbled into one of the early IT workforce programs, which gave opportunities for women and people of color within state government. I was one of about 500 applicants who eventually were offered one of 25 positions within the state of New Jersey.

I was the grunt, doing the harder tasks that no one wanted, and I loved it. When I was asked to refresh the documentation library, I jumped at the chance because I knew I would have a greater understanding of the systems and the interdependences between them. In my job with the state of New Jersey, I learned good development skills, the importance of paying attention to details, and understanding the big picture.

My father, who is a retired chemist, told me, “Learn because you want to, and you will never be bored.” I can’t even begin to explain how beneficial this simple phrase is. Learning something new because you have to can be a chore, but learning because you want to can lead you to new and exciting places.

 

"Learning something new because you have to can be a chore, but learning because you want to can lead you to new and exciting places."

 

As I’ve progressed in my career, I have become giddy about how much I continue to learn. At Accenture, a global professional services company, I’ve had the opportunity to perform in a variety of roles.

In my very first role with Accenture, I worked as a technical lead on a blended team where our people worked alongside the client employees. Even though I had led teams before, this opportunity provided its own set of challenges. I learned how to better provide actionable feedback to client team members, engage and motivate the team, understand the correct solutions for the problem at hand, and communicate to client leadership succinctly and concisely. My first role provided me with the insights of what I could be as a leader and technician.

In every role, being open to what new things there are to learn and how I can apply my experiences and abilities really excites me. I am able to be creative and collaborative with others at work, allowing me to be confident when interacting with clients.

I’ve also learned that I can take my job seriously, but I don’t need to be serious all the time. To find connections with others, the humor in situations allows me to still be my authentic self.

 

"In order to enjoy life, I ask myself a very simple question: ‘Is it a today, tomorrow or next week problem?’"

 

In my personal life, I do my best to always find the time to expand my horizons and learn. This can mean spending all day in one of many fabulous museums Philadelphia offers, attending the opera, hitting the library for a biography, watching basketball and screaming for my team, or just sitting in the park enjoying the sunshine on my face. In order to enjoy life, I ask myself a very simple question: “Is it a today, tomorrow or next week problem?” This approach allows me to prioritize my work and home lives.

My mentee, Jada, and myself. I’m a board member for Tech Impact and act as a mentor through that organization.

My mentee, Jada, and myself. I’m a board member for Tech Impact and act as a mentor through that organization.

 

 

If I could pay it forward and give advice on being a woman and a technologist, I would say:

 

1

CHANCE FAVORS A PREPARED MIND.

 

I’m lucky, because I prepared by figuring out the harder tasks. When you have to dig in and really get to the root cause, the process and the outcomes never go away. You find yourself going back to that well again and again.

2

VOLUNTEER FOR THE MORE “CHALLENGING” TASKS.

 

Yes, they may not be sexy and have all the cachet of a dumpster fire, but you can learn so much. By being successful you differentiate yourself.

3

NEVER STOP LEARNING. FULL STOP.

 

Learn because you want to. Find the time to expand your horizons.

4

ASK FOR HELP.

 

There is no shame in the game if you think you need help; just be prescriptive in your ask.

5


PRIORITIZE WORK. PRIORITIZE HOME.

 

You can’t be everything to everyone.

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