My 5 Takeaways from the Why Tech Forum at NOVA

Northern Virginia Community College (a.k.a NOVA) held a wonderful event this week centered around the way in which women enrich the tech industry, and why we need more women to get involved. I was honored to be a student panelist at the event, with so many remarkable women in tech surrounding me. Below I’d like to share a few takeaways from this event and the impact it had on me, in the hopes it can resonate with other students or women considering a career in tech.

1.      There is NOTHING a Woman cannot do

From waking up to make breakfast for her family, to excelling at work, whether it be managing a company or a household or flying a plane, to keeping fit, a woman’s role is rarely one of 9-5. Despite setbacks and people telling them what they can’t do, the wonderful speakers and panelists at the Why Tech event demonstrated that they can do anything they put their mind to and that even the sky isn’t the limit.

2.      Computing and Technology isn’t all just about Maths and is highly collaborative

Recently at college, my maths performance hasn't been extraordinary and so I doubted whether I was competent enough to be in computer science or the field of technology. However, these women opened up about their own difficulties and struggles with maths, and how it is just part of the process as opposed to being the process itself. Computer Science and Programming thrives off the creativity a person brings to the machine and their team.

3.      Social Media is a legitimate branch of the tech field

This is a perfect example of tech not just being about Maths. Social Media and the sites we love to shop on was made with code, so learning how to program enables us to leverage the power of social and digital media. From making websites to analyzing Key Performance Indicators, I realized Social Media is anything but a trivial pastime for many. However, working in this field, I initially wondered whether Social and Digital Media could be placed under the technology umbrella which I wanted to sit under, or if it was more of Business specialization. We actually had a lovely Social Media Strategist on the Panel, who clarified all my doubts and reinforced my pride in being a valuable woman in tech. Check out opportunities in Martech!

4.      Life is full of opportunities, you just need to grab them

To reiterate what a highly skilled Computer Programmer mentioned at the event, “Tech is your passport to the global economy”. I believe that whatever you are passionate about, you can seek out multiple opportunities for yourself or they can come find you, but we just need to have the courage to not shy away and grab these opportunities by the horns! I am truly grateful to everyone who has given me the opportunity to grow and thrive, from my parents to my teachers, to my online colleagues who have allowed me to learn new skills whilst I helped them grow their businesses.

5.      Get a Mentor!

An inspirational hands-on speaker pushed me into considering getting myself a mentor. Sure, I have my support group of loved ones whom I can turn to, to ask for advice on any matter be it personal or professional. However, it would be nice to have a professional mentor or two, who are professionals I aspire to be like, to guide me on my career path from another perspective and drive me to do better. I also learned that you could have a “sponsor”, synchronous to your mentor, to champion you to other people of positions within the companies you want to work for.

To wrap up...

When asked why more women were needed in the tech industry, I simply answered, “Why not?”.

Including people of every race, gender, and background only enriches any situation. Despite being a male-dominated field, I have never felt threatened or side-lined. Yes, it can be intimidating being the only girl in a classroom full of boys or the only woman on a team of men, but once you realize that there is nothing that differentiates your performance besides your grit and your unique mind, no one can ostracize you. 

In fact, I would like to thank all the men I have had the pleasure to work with and learn from, who have always supported my ambitions and never made feel uncomfortable. Ladies, I ask you to join me, so I can introduce you to some of these great men! But more importantly, join me in tech so that you can discover just how amazing your mind is and how far you can go with a highly sought after tech skill set.

A huge to thank you to the organizers of the wonderful event, Professor Ghada Abdelmoumin, and Dr. Shahnaz Kamberi of Northern Virginia Community College. And to all the wonderful women who showered us with wisdom and inspiration, keep up the great work! Thank you so much!

This article first appeared on Alisha Saiyed's LinkedIn here:

Alisha Saiyed is a Computer Science student, educator, and advocate. You can find her elevating her K-12 students or the brands of her clients using digital growth marketing strategies to boost their online presence and help them achieve their business goals. Alisha believes in educating, excelling and elevating.