I started my career as a school drop out at the age of 18 as a result of personal circumstances. Because I had no diploma whatsoever my options for a job were limited to low paying menial jobs. So I started out as sunglasses polisher at a company that stocked the sunglasses displays at drugstores and convenient stores and such. 😎😎
The temp agency that supplied me with these jobs soon found I could do a little bit more than that so they started to get me some administrative jobs. The next few years every couple of months somebody gave me a shot doing a job a bit more difficult. Not every time a success, bit overall I did well.
In my early twenties I found out there was an opportunity in The Netherlands for people age 21 and over without a diploma to take an entrance exam at a higher education institution. I took that opportunity and passed with ease. So the next academic year I started studying for my Bachelor degree in Social Work. It would be nice to be able to say that this was a resounding success.
Well… not really.
I could manage the academic level with ease. There simply was a mismatch between my talents and my chosen education subject. So I dropped out in the third year of my studies.
I could not afford another go at a different subject so went back to working at several administrative jobs. Over the years I found out I was good at figuring out and working with the computer systems I needed to use in my job. From the ERP or CRM systems, to simply doing stuff with Excel. So at some point my job contained more and more functional application management type of tasks and responsibilities.
When I was around the age of 30 the IT Director at my company asked me if I wanted to come work for him. The IT department was implementing a new business application. He was looking for someone to set up the functional application management for this application and thought I could do the job. I had never done something like this but thought “Why not. I think I can do that.”, so made the switch to IT.
I can tell you: best decision ever. Most of my life I felt like an odd duck. Not really fitting in anywhere. Not in this case though. Working in IT felt like coming home. I not only felt at home with the work but also the type of people working in the department.
For over 5 years I worked in this IT department, learning all kinds of stuff, taking some courses when necessary and generally having a blast. After some time due to some changes in the company I decided it was time for me to move on. In my time working in this department I had dealt with my share of IT partners and wanted to find out what it was like to be at the other side of the table.
So I went looking for a job as a consultant, found it and started working as an Office 365 consultant. In my IT job and as a Consultant I started to attend more and more community events trying to learn as much as I could. Because I started my career in IT a little later in life I really felt the need to make up for lost time so to say.
During all this I developed a wish to not only consume knowledge from others, but also to share it myself. So about one and a half years ago I presented my first at a community event. First at User Groups and after some time also at bigger events like SharePoint Saturdays and such.
The idea behind this blog post was to share a story about diversity in tech. And Yes, I am a woman.
But for some reason I have never really felt this has played a huge role in my journey in tech. I probably have had some opportunities where me being a woman was an advantage. And maybe also the other way around, where me being a woman was a disadvantage.
For me it was never that obvious that I noticed. Personally I don’t mind being the only woman or just one of a few. But I definitely prefer – and also believe it is better to have – a more diverse workplace. Not only regarding gender, but also regarding age, background, nationality, religion and so on. Maybe not always easier, but certainly more interesting and enriching. And let’s face it: the stuff this sector produces is meant to be used by all kinds of people and will only benefit from being created by these different kinds of people in the first place.
So, to finish this story a shout out to all you odd ducks out there:
Be yourself and be happy with yourself. You give color to the world. And if I would have something to say about it I would welcome you working in Tech, so you could make it an even more interesting industry to work in.
Rebekka Aalbers-de Jong