Seeking out opportunities for professional learning is crucial to developing a career in technology, writes Deepa Kuppuswamy, the Information Security Architect at Zoho Corporation and ManageEngine.

It can help future proof your career, and aid progression up the career ladder.

When women looking to enter the tech industry ask my advice, I always recommend that they take any opportunity available to upskill, develop and learn within their company. Don’t sit back and wait to be asked, be proactive and look for opportunities to expand your knowledge and skill set.

When I first graduated from college, I didn’t expect to stay at the same company for twenty years.

I first joined the ManageEngine development stream as a software developer for various products. In 2013, an opportunity arose to grow the cybersecurity team within ManageEngine. I switched to this new field, despite not having any prior experience or qualifications in cybersecurity – and was able to learn on the job.

This is what has led me to stay at ManageEngine for so long: the flexibility and how we are given responsibility and more challenges at each part of our career.

The importance of looking for new opportunities

During my career, I have learnt that you must be the champion of your own growth and actively seek out opportunities. It can help to be clear with your managers about your goals – where you see yourself and what you want to accomplish. This can help you find new experiences and challenges, and if you do face issues, you have contacts to ask for help. Networking also helps with this: it’s a great way to expand your knowledge and get familiar with your industry, which will help with future career choices and development.

Finding the confidence to ask for help and accept advice from mentors is important, whether they be male or female is also important. This is a vital part of the development process and future goal setting. Accepting as many different perspectives as possible, and keeping an open mind is important, whether entry-level or senior. And get out of your comfort zone more often! Accept new challenges that come with upskilling, you can always talk to your network and ask for help. You’ll be able to figure out the hard part as you progress. Don’t be afraid to be ambitious, maintain a tenacious attitude and stay committed to your goals, your work will show.

The ‘mid-level’ challenge – and how upskilling can help 

At entry-level, an increased number of women are taking up STEM and choosing to enter the IT industry.

The difficulty is when they get into mid-level management. Women face a “broken rung”: a gap in the career ladder where men progress to senior management positions while women are left behind.

This can often coincide with large changes in their personal lives and is what ultimately can limit women’s access to more senior positions. Providing mentorship about the opportunities that are available for women to advance their careers is a crucial way of tackling this. If you do take time out, then on your return seek out any training that can reskill and build back confidence. The internet has huge sources of material that can help this process if your company can’t.

How can the tech industry better support women?

Open discussions surrounding career goals and organisations demonstrating trust in female employees is important for morale and progression.

Organisations that show they trust their employees and their capabilities will increase the confidence and positive outlook of their female employees. This has a multitude of benefits for organisations including better output and improved productivity, a better sense of wellbeing amongst staff and improved retention.