When I grow up, I want to be ... 

Article written by Catarina Torres, Customer Success Account Manager @ Microsoft

... and certainly, my first thought was not related to Information Technologies. Although today's generations are growing within the digital world, it was not a reality in the 1980s. From singer to actress, from writer to firewoman and lifeguard, I went through all my childhood dreams.

Careers in the entertainment business were left out early. Although I was always encouraged to have a place for music and arts in my life, I grew up surrounded by people from Science and Mathematics, in the world where it tended to be thought that “we have to have a college degree, with professional outcome”. So it was. Perhaps conditioned by this kind of thinking, a great singer was lost (or a great nightmare for others' ears).

Within the family, the female universe has always played a relevant and inspiring role. How many of us have had a grandmother who has studied, because she has not resigned herself to the life that would be destined for her? 

That she insisted that she wanted to be a pharmacist and a teacher? Few maybe, I was one of them. Or another grandmother, who did not have this possibility, made a point of making the two daughters educated and independent, masters of her destiny?

We are always talking about situations over 50 years old. Growing up in this context, in which being a woman would never be a handicap to anything, and with cases of success and effective progression, and being the only girl in my generation (1 brother and 2 cousins), the pressure to “be someone” has been felt since early. With this in mind, there was no other hypothesis other than higher education.

Tests done at the guidance counselling office at school, indicated that the best area for me would be “management”, whatever that was at the time, for a 14-year-old teenager. At that age, the things we needed to know, was where our best friend was going, trying to postpone the inevitable separation that life would oblige us to. From that time, I still have two contacts, two friends, interestingly also in Information Technologies. Is it a coincidence?

It was in this segment that, to combine Management with the Naval component, since I am a Sea Passionate, I tried to integrate the Naval Management course as a Navy Officer. It was the perfect combination! So, I had my future in mind, outlined and perfectly within my reach. After all, it just depended on me, my effort, and my dedication ... but, and there is always a “but”!

At the time of the application, although among the first in the general classification, passing with distinction in the physical tests, unfortunately I was stuck in my 1.56 m, since they only admitted female candidates over 1.6 m. Stunned? So was I.

By this time, I was lost. The future was thought, designed, built. Growing up with the thought that our effort brings success in our achievements, and there I was, with good grades, the future traced, but without course. Not a person to stay stuck in my own disgrace, I fell, got up, brushed off the dust and went on. And now?

The decision to go to the college where I got my degree, also comes a bit by chance, since it was a novelty in what concerns higher education, and combined management with information technologies. 

So, I graduated in “Management of Systems and Information Technologies”! Cool name, isn't it?

It can now be said that my presence in the world of Information Technologies arises a little by chance, it was not the option of childhood, nor as a teenager, I can even say that it was not a choice until adulthood.

But it was in this mind-blowing world that I grew up, both as a person and as a professional. It was here that I was given huge opportunities for growth and diversity. 

The contacts I gained in this role are countless and irreplaceable. The times when I came across the same people, playing different roles, brought to the fore the true meaning of “It’s a small world after all!”.

It was in this world, in constant change and evolution, that I found my place, where I met excellent professionals from where I draw strong friendships. Where I met women in all possible roles, from Finance to Management, from IT to marketing, from Cybersecurity to Human Resources and some great CEO’s. They all wanted the be the best, side by side with their peers, screaming in silence “I am a Women, so what?”.

I am not at all the same person who started working in 1998, as my grandparents used to say, “on computers”. Several times, life has putted me in my place, with situations that made me sway, think, and grow, reminding me that humility always must come first. We don't know everything, much less in this world of IT. Teamwork is essential, as is the search for knowledge.

From computer technician to programmer, from consultant to project manager, I had a little contact with everything. I know the pains and victories of each niche, and having gone through them complements my role today, helping the organizations I work with in their digital transformation, achieving real business value, providing support in change management and with the necessary alerts for the inherent risks.

If women had more challenges in the world of IT? 

Perhaps, but also possibly because of that, by overcoming them, they gained respect from their peers. Maybe overcoming these obstacles has also contributed to a generation of women who are more independent, more secure, and more present in this world, including places of leadership. 

We could talk about how the solution would be to try integration, but personally I see this as a trap. Overcoming obstacles to reach the top, to be the best, without being aimed at integrating, but rather to be stronger, smarter, and more agile, to bypass a system that, unfortunately, still thinks that being a woman can be a sign of weakness. A system where empathy can be considered as a risk, where the emotional being has no place. But this is what makes us unique and allows us to complement it, without having to choose between being strong or emotional.

Women brought to the world of “IT” a different tonality, some sensitivity, delicacy, new ideas, perspectives that only they have and that, sometimes, bring more lightness, more agility to the day-to-day life. It is in this hybrid world that we can find the right balance.

How do I see the role of women in Information Technologies

As a profile that complements what already existed, neither better nor worse. With this privilege comes great responsibility towards our peers and to the eyes of young girls, looking up to us and confirming that anything is possible, just like I once did. If on one hand we can serve as inspiration, on the other hand we are constantly under the watchful eye of the judgment of others.

However, and as a final thought, women are also users of the resulting products. It therefore makes perfect sense that they are involved in their design, management, and execution, to complement and add value them. 

Win / Win situation!

And returning to the nautical issue, these are sometimes also rough seas or “seas never sailed before”, that need someone firm at the helm. Why not?