Monday, July 28, 2008

Lady Tech, Be Thyself: Authenticity As An ‘IT Girl’

Cheryl Croce

Cheryl Croce
Sr. Consultant
Veris Associates, Inc.

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I read two interesting articles over the weekend. They could not have been from more different sources, nor could they have been more interconnected. One was from the May-June 2008 edition of Psychology Today called Dare To Be Yourself. The other was the August 2008 Wired Magazine cover story, Internet Famous: Julia Allison and the Secrets of Self-Promotion. In Dare To Be Yourself, it is noted the basic psychological needs are competence, a sense of relatedness, and acting in accordance with one’s core self or, being authentic. In the Wired Magazine article, the Machiavellian subject pictures herself as the main character of a magazine profile, establishes her story through random blog/Twitter postings and in-person appearances at various ‘important people’ functions, then builds her internet street cred with every response from fans and haters.

There’s a part of me that appreciates Ms. Allison’s moxie. She understands the game of being famous and plays it like an expert. She certainly tapped into at least two of her psychological needs – relating and competence – to be successful in accomplishing her goal of being a cult figure. I leave the authentic part up for debate; while I think she’s mastered the art of promotion, I’m not quite sure if she’s promoting herself or the persona she wants her public to know.

The two articles made me think about my career in IT. I work as an IT infrastructure consultant. The majority of my counterparts and customer sponsors are men. Don’t get me wrong: I dig working with the men folk. I’ve not only learned a great deal about the process, politics, bits and bytes of information technology, but I am now relatively up-to-speed on all things sports. (Although, Ultimate Fighting still eludes me.)

I’m happy to say I’ve had good female IT role models, too. I’ve learned a lot from them and it’s wonderful to have colleagues who understand the ups and downs of the IT sisterhood.

Geekdom Stigma

However, while overall employment rates in IT rose in 2006 from 2000, the number of women employed in IT has dropped almost eight percent. It’s a little disheartening to think the sisterhood is declining. Anecdotally speaking, there are a few reasons women are leaving or choosing other paths. Some say it’s a cultural issue. Historically, IT has not been generally known for its flexibility, which is important for working mothers. Some say it’s the image IT promotes. I know this is shocking, but there are many women who do not want to emulate the persona of guys with pocket protectors who can quote episodes of Monty Python and Dr. Who verbatim. (Although, I am a staunch Lost fan and feed the frenzy among my co-workers and customers who also watch.)

In other words, these items in the IT world conflict with women’s needs to be true to themselves.

How Do You Relate To IT As A Woman?

So, what if you are a woman who enjoys the challenge of what IT has to offer? How do you relate to the “it’s cool to be a nerd” environment? How do you remain true to yourself in a culture that doesn’t necessarily scream female-friendly?

It’s not a question of competence – because you know you can do the job. It’s a matter of having that sense of community and of being happy as a woman in a male environment without giving up what it is to be you.

Wondering how to do that? Here are a few guidelines:

• Learn the game. Know the rules of engagement before you act – or react. IT shops can be frustrating if you don’t understand the players, the work practices or the politics. Reduce that frustration with observation, understanding the way you learn and work, asking questions and your role as it relates to the company’s objectives and the department’s needs.

• Embrace the IT Sisterhood – and Brotherhood. If you are feeling like you are stuck or in a rut, remember there are other women – and men - who have been there, done that and still wear the battle scars. Consequently, become part of the experiential and knowledge collective and share what you know with other colleagues. It makes for a great support system.

• Find your bliss. Don’t try to be something you are not. When you know IT is for you, don’t be discouraged if the IT shop you are in originally doesn’t match up to whom you are and who you want to be. IT is a beautiful thing in that you can go everywhere and anywhere with the profession.

I wasn’t sure IT was the right gig for me when it first found me. After a few years in the industry, I discovered the joy and beauty of process in IT services. Process development feeds my need to have daily work challenges and to be creative. For other women who I know, there’s nothing sexier than database development and administration, or building applications, or creating new web spaces, or developing web portals, or providing ITIL best practices training. It’s all about finding what’s right for you. It doesn’t necessarily have to be what people in non-IT fields define as an IT career.

• Feed the passion. Once you’ve found your bliss, don’t stop there. Read industry white papers, magazine articles and books. Register for classes. Find an IT networking group, whether it’s a formal organization or one you’ve established with your work colleagues.


It’s not about gender but about who you are that matters. Find your passion and pursue it. Whether you build applications, develop process, or work directly in the data center, do what you love. It’s true in any field but even truer in IT – if you stop growing, it becomes mundane and the little things begin to bug you. Embrace the bliss, reach out to others in your field, and make IT work for you.

What Do You Think

Let me know how you feel or what you think. Let me see your opinion. If you’re a woman or a man and this resonates with you – or if you disagree - voice an opinion. Hit the comment button below.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Classroom Training vs. e-Learning Training

Ron Przywara

Ron Przywara
ITIL Certified Consultant
IT Service Management
Veris Associates, Inc.

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Classroom training vs. e-learning training: In the never-ending drive to get ahead of the curve, which road gets you to where you want to be?

If the decision is made using numbers on a balance sheet the obvious choice would seem to be “e-learning”. The direct cost of distance learning is generally lower than a classroom instructor-led course (average 40%-60% less) and there’s no travel expenses (mileage, hotel, etc.). The choice though is not as simple as the expense. Like any business decision, the cost is an influence, but there are other components in the equation that require consideration. In this article we’ll take a look at some of the components, both positives and challenges, of e-learning and classroom instructor-led training and present you with the information to help you make an informed business decision.

Why training in the first place? Define your goal. What do you want to accomplish with your newly acquired education? Is success measured by a certification, the physical proof of your knowledge? Or is achievement demonstrated by your application of a newly acquired perspective or capability? Perhaps it is a blend of both. The answer to the first question will in part drive the training method you choose.

Objections to Classroom:

Aren’t there books I can read?

There is a great deal of published information available on almost every topic. What is appropriate for your current stage of understanding? What is appropriate for your end-goal? Individuals retain material at different rates, but in general adults follow these retention guidelines:

o Adults retain approximately 20% of what they read
o They retain approximately 50% of what they read and hear
o The retention moves to almost 90% when adults read, hear and actively participate in the material

I’ve had prior experiences with a lousy instructor.

A past experience can have an influence in your decision, but don’t let a single poor instructor be your last memory of the classroom training experience. There are a great deal more instructors who show true passion for their students, the classroom experience and the material.

I can’t be away three (four, five) days away from work.

This is a challenge. The best way to overcome this barrier harkens back to the first question again “What do you expect to get out of training?” If your answer involves any of the following:

o Career advancement
o Improved job performance
o Development of new opportunities

The time away from work is required and involves commitment on your part and probably your company’s commitment. Instructor- led classroom education is a business decision and not a vacation planning event. You and your company have made a commitment to improvement, increased efficiency, greater effectiveness, insert training goal here________.

Objections to e-learning:

I can’t find the time to complete the course.

Sitting in front of a PC regardless of location and reading material can be mentally taxing. The time away from the day-to-day focus of work is real when attempting distance learning. Distance learning requires a level of dedication to complete the material. The course window available to satisfy the time course can usually be stretched over multiple weeks.

It’s boring sitting in front of a PC for hours.

Again, we’re back at the commitment factor. Usually a distance learning course is designed to be completed in a number of shorter, palatable pieces just for this reason. There is generally an approach to the course materials that provides greater activity, visual stimulation or action designed to keep the attention of the student.

Aren’t there books I can read?

There is a great deal of published information available on almost every topic. What is appropriate for your current stage of understanding? What is appropriate for your end-goal? Individuals retain material at different rates, but in general adults follow these retention guidelines:

o Adults retain approximately 20% of what they read
o They retain approximately 50% of what they read and hear
o The retention moves to almost 90% when adults read, hear and actively participate in the material

Every person responds differently to the various communication vehicles used to deliver information. Additionally the use of graphics enhances the written word by stimulating multiple parts of the brain.

A few examples are:
o PowerPoint slide decks (visual)
o Books (visual & tactile)
o Workbooks (visual, tactile feedback)
o Instructor dialog (auditory)
o Electronic quizzes (visual, tactile feedback).

Both classroom instruction and e-learning training utilize a blend of communication delivery mechanisms to capture and maintain the attention of the adult student, ultimately improving long-term content retention.

Classroom instruction offers the ability in real-time to modify the blend of interaction, instruction and stimulation. The scenarios being vocalized by the instructor and the students often enhance the experience and aid in the retention of the material. These dialogues can stimulate practical discussions of the various ways the new knowledge can be applied by the students in daily practice.

There are challenges to the discussion forum. Oblique tangents of discussion or the distraction of non-aligned topics can derail the time management of the course. Experienced instructors manage both the time and direction of the class discussion to the benefit of the attendees in a professional manner.

E-learning courses on the other hand are designed to maintain a focus on the material in a very structured manner. This format requires a controlled educational environment managed by the student. By establishing a dedicated, usually scheduled, time and location, the student provides the appropriate level of isolation to minimize distraction and satisfies their educational needs.

Numerous academic studies show both options can be effective learning experiences with long-term retention of the materials. Now that we’ve reviewed the basic concepts, consider the following questions when making your decision:

o What is your desired goal? What is your plan once you acquire this new skill/knowledge?
o What is the material? Technical? Theoretical? Does it require discussion or is it primarily facts you need to know?
o What past experiences do you have with each delivery method? What about the delivery organization (training company)?
o Where do you feel more comfortable?
o Where do you feel more focused?

Take the time to answer these questions before you make your choice. Whatever way you decide, classroom or e-learning, the most important decision is already made: you want to learn.