I created a plan to improve my soft skills and started looking at what kind of professional and personal development I could do.
Maria Markman, Chair ACS Victoria.
Maria Markman was a teenager living in Russia when her astute dad noticed the changing technology space and the opportunities it would present his daughter.
She was already very good at maths and physics so a computer science degree at a Moscow technical uni made sense.
Maria was surrounded by many girls in this course and was surprised to find this wasn’t the case when she arrived in Australia.
Today, Maria is the Chair of ACS Victoria, the Professional Association for Australia’s ICT Sector. They represent the workforce across business, government and education.
The ACS has received widespread praise for its role in pushing the case for more women and girls in tech.
Maria Markman has been driving this change…
Martine Harte: Maria we’re heading towards a labour supply crisis, what in your view are we doing wrong when it comes to attracting women and girls to the sector?
Maria Markman Chair ACS Victoria: I don’t think we are doing anything wrong, we are just not doing enough.
The ACS has been addressing the issue of diversity for the last few years, girls and women in IT groups are springing up and that’s great. There is traction but we need action.
What ideas do you have to address the fact that ACS research has shown that by the time most Australian girls are fifteen they’ve already dismissed a career in IT.
Maria Markman: We are already doing a lot but we also need to target the parents, my situation is the perfect example. If my father didn’t encourage me to try and consider IT then I wouldn’t be talking to you now.
Career advisors are also important at schools.
I studied a Bachelor of Applied Science (IT) here in Melbourne at RMIT, studied many programming languages like C++, Java, XHTML, PHP and others so during my last year I worked part time as a junior developer mostly with web development.
I began to understand what I liked and what I didn’t like; it was too technical for me and I needed more human interaction instead of just coding. That’s why I made the decision to do extra study and move away from the technicality so I did a Master of Business (IT).
That placed me in a great position.
When I graduated I was placed in between business and developer, I could understand what business was asking for but could also communicate that for developers.
We all have to pivot because the world changes at such a rapid pace.
Maria Markman: Yes and I really did that intuitively.
Technology is now penetrating every aspect of our lives, every industry.
Maria how has your experience been in terms of diversity and equality in the workplace?
Maria Markman: Well in every working environment there were always more men than women, I was ok with that. It was the same in Russia, so I didn’t feel pressured by that.
We are getting better, everyone knows we are a multicultural society but I do feel that sometimes because of my accent I was discriminated a little (not to the extent that I didn’t get a job) but maybe some clients preferred to work with an Aussie guy rather than me.
Have you always considered yourself a confident woman?
Maria Markman: The answer is no. When I was pregnant I discussed with my husband how long I would stay at home with my child and decided three years was important.
I knew if I stayed at home and just kept enjoying coffees with my girlfriends then once I was ready to go back I would have to start from the beginning.
I created a plan to improve my soft skills. Started looking at what kind of professional and personal development I could do. I’ve been a member of ACS for more than ten years, I knew I had to be active so I was attending a lot of events and did a lot of networking.
I also applied for an ACS online program and was successful. It’s interesting because my son Lucas suddenly became interested in other kids and we put him in full-time childcare when he was 2-and-a-half. By then, I had worked on myself so much I was ready to go back.
I also attended different workshops on emotional intelligence so besides the technical skills I also came up with ideas to grow as a person.
That’s tremendous advice. Was there a workshop which helped with developing your soft skills?
Maria Markman: I follow a child psychologist Kathy Walker who created a program for primary school children to develop their brains in a play based environment. I attended her parenting and emotional intelligence workshops for adults.
Starting from the basics, emotional intelligence is understanding yourself and understanding others. It’s really reading others and controlling your own emotions. Throughout the last four years I have realised this learning will never stop, it’s important for everyone to continue growing.
Where do you see yourself in five years time professionally?
Maria Markman: My big goal is to run a technology company in five years. I know within the next ten years the technology industry will continue to develop at a crazy pace so I would like to find something which interests me and build a family tech business.
But of course, I’m always open to opportunities and would love to use my voice to help attract more girls to ICT.
Pic from left: Jackie Savage Founder and CEO of MedCorp Technologies, Ajay Bhatia, Chief Product and Information Officer, carsales.com, Martine Harte, Director and Founder of Engaging Women and Maria Markman Chair ACS Victoria.
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Find more about the Australian Computer Society, ACS here:
Learn about its latest diversity event which Maria addressed in February 2017 by hitting this link.
Want to bring Maria Markman to your workplace to speak about Women & Girls in ICT, mail us: firstname.lastname@example.org