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I Used to Want to Be a Doctor. Here’s How I Serve Others in the Tech Industry Instead

Katie Branch

Katie Branch

When I was younger, I pictured myself in a career where I could be of service to other people — and the medical field felt like a perfect fit.

But I didn’t end up becoming a nurse, doctor or physical therapist. Instead, I’m a senior manager in the technology industry, a career path my teenage self never would have imagined. Although I’m not saving lives in the ER or finding the cure for cancer, I have found ways to be of service to young people entering the tech space — which I didn’t realize was so important until I entered the field.

Workplace biases persist, even in 2022

IT came naturally to me in college, so pursuing a career in tech seemed like an easy decision. But my first tech role taught me how few minorities like myself there were in my chosen field. At the time, I was one of the only women or people of color at the organization. I also realized that certain ideas and opinions were considered more or less important depending on who they came from — largely based on the seniority, gender and race of the person speaking.

Unfortunately, biases in the workplace are a universal experience for women, especially women of color. For example, Ensono’s 2020 Speak Up Report revealed that 59% of women of color have experienced discrimination at a tech conference, compared to only 43% of white women. Both of those percentages are too high — they should be significantly lower. In a perfect world, women would experience no amount of discrimination in the workplace.

Throughout my career, I have faced countless instances of bias and those experiences made me doubt myself. Whether the people I encountered were intentional in their actions and words, I wondered whether I even belonged in the IT field.

I could have quit early in my career, but I don’t give up that easily. I stayed focused and driven, and I tried not to let instances of bias affect me. Eventually I found my place in the tech industry.

I discovered a way to serve others in the tech industry and you can, too

As a Senior Manager for Training and Development, I work with up-and-coming IT professionals partaking in Ensono’s Mainframe Academy. In addition to developing the program, I work closely with young participants — typically fresh out of or still in college — to help foster professional and personal growth.

My career allows me to mentor young professionals who are experiencing many of the challenges I faced and I’m able to use my experiences to help these young adults navigate their careers. Here a few pieces of advice for putting service at the core of your career:

  1. Be a leader, regardless of your title. A piece of advice I give individuals in the Mainframe Academy is to take on leadership responsibilities, even if leadership isn’t in your official job title or description. And this advice applies to anyone: Don’t be afraid to speak up or spearhead a project if it’s something you’re passionate about. Just because you’re young doesn’t mean you don’t have something valuable to offer.
  2. Encourage people to talk about difficult issues. It wasn’t until later in my career that I felt comfortable advocating for myself and others. So, I don’t expect entry-level employees to always know which actions to take in the event of a workplace issue, which is why it’s important to encourage them to speak up. Virtual communication makes difficult conversations even more challenging, but it’s important to talk about tough topics so everyone has an opportunity to act. Encourage younger employees to bring their concerns to their managers or to HR — both parties should have an open-door policy for these types of conversations.
  3. Promote diversity. You can’t solve challenges related to diversity and inclusion without a diverse task force supporting your efforts. In fact, diverse representation is important in every business initiative, whether it’s DEI-related or not. Before implementing any new initiatives or strategies, solicit feedback from people with diverse backgrounds and viewpoints. They may be able to flag potential opportunities or issues that you missed.

Although I didn’t set out to become a senior manager at a tech company, it’s a career path I appreciate more every day. Rather than being stuck in the past, this role has allowed me to turn my negative experiences into positive action by helping the young people around me advocate for themselves — which is critical in creating a more inclusive future for the tech industry.

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