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ROLE MODEL: “It's important for girls to meet with women who are working in IT, to see first hand that women play vital roles within the sector, " says Company-X support analyst Leah Gilbert.

Hamilton Girls’ High School student Angel Li is considering a technology career after experiencing a day in the life of a software specialist at Company-X.

“I experienced virtual reality technology at Company-X and learned more about digital information,” Angel said after the visit facilitated through the ShadowTech 2019 scheme.

“It is an area I think I will follow once I have left school,” Angel said.

“I liked seeing an actual workplace and how what I am learning in digital technology in school can help me in the future.”

The ShadowTech 2019 programme connects secondary school girls in years 9 to 11 with women in the technology sector, who act as mentors. It educates girls about the wide range of careers and opportunities available to them in the technology industry.

The objective is to see an increase in the number of girls and young women who choose science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) related subjects at a secondary and tertiary level and ultimately choose a career in technology.

"I was approached by Company-X co-founder and director David Hallett to help with mentoring girls as part of ShadowTech 2019,” said Company-X support analyst Leah Gilbert.

“Along with intern Jes Elliott, office manager Karen Moore and the team from business incubator Soda Inc we introduced girls from Hamilton Girls’ High School, St Paul’s Collegiate School and Hillcrest High School to the different aspects of a working software development company,” Gilbert said,

“They got to meet key personnel and saw that there are a variety of roles within an organisation like Company-X. We talked with them about their own plans and interests, and showed them how there were opportunities within the IT sector for pretty much anyone.”

Gilbert enjoyed working with the students.

“It's important for girls to meet with women who are working in IT, to see first hand that women play vital roles within the sector. "

Gilbert said the girls who visited Company-X were interested to learn aspects of the information and technology industry from a female perspective.

“They were aware of how women can face certain attitudes, so I think that's where actually meeting women in a mentorship role helps,” Gilbert said.

“It was good being able to talk with them as a mum too - since I could tell them about my experience juggling family and work commitments. It was great being able to show them that there is flexibility in the industry.

“Things I love about Company-X include that I have work flexibility and that I'm working with an amazingly supportive team of people. The fact that women still play a much larger role in raising children does make it more difficult for them to enter the workforce.”

Company-X intern Jes Elliott is a third-year University of Waikato computer science student and president of Ladies Inc. The university club aims to strengthen the bonds between women in computer science, computer engineering, graphic design and mathematics.

Elliott was excited to chat with girls from her old high school, St Paul’s Collegiate, and help them take full advantage of their day at Company-X.

“Girls are missing out in the IT space due to the lack of confidence,” Jes said. “This is one obstacle that I, and many of my friends face.”

Elliott said her involvement in Ladies Inc over several years had helped her grow personally.

“I've gained more confidence, and it's allowed me to take full advantage of all the events that we create or have been apart of.

“Since starting my internship at Company-X, I have found it's great to have a work-community that works together and helps each other grow. This has allowed me to step outside of my comfort zone to continually learn. It has made such a positive change in my life have realised that the transition from university to industry is actually not as scary as people think.”

ShadowTech is run by TechWomen with support from NZTech.

Company-X was invited to get involved by CultivateIT operations manager Jannat Maqbool.

“It is always good to connect in with a nationwide initiative but important to ensure there was a regional flavour and that CultivateIT could support the concept (inspiring young women into STEM careers) in other ways outside of the one-day event,” Maqbool said. “We are working on this with NZ Tech now.”

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COMMUNITY-MINDED: Company-X intern Jes Elliottt.