PCR Woman of the Year blog: Joanne Plummer discusses what it’s like working in an all male office, and how sexism is still evident in some sections of the tech industry

The only woman in a tech firm

Joanne Plummer is marketing manager for the Uk, Ireland and Scandinavia and finalist in the PCR Woman of the Year event, which takes place in London on October 17th. You can find out more about the event here and book your tickets here.

I always said that I never wanted to work for an IT company. It seemed boring to me, I liked creative things like marketing and events. After four and a half years in recruitment though, I was open-minded to any industry.

I applied for a Marketing Assistant role at Synology. It wasn’t asking for specific qualifications, just the right attitude and bit of experience. I had never heard of Synology or Network Attached Storage before but the more I researched the more I loved the idea of it and thought “this is exactly what we need at home.” 

Two interviews later I was offered the job! I couldn’t believe it. I was now a marketing assistant for an international company, covering Scandinavia. When I first started (August 2011), there was only 6 of us; myself, the MD, another marketing assistant for UK and Ireland, Sales Manager, accountant and an RMA Assistant. (Three years later and two office moves, there are now 13 staff members in the UK).

In June 2012, I was promoted to Marketing Manager for UK, Ireland and Scandinavia. I am the only girl at Synology UK, and the only person in marketing. Being the only girl can be uncomfortable at times. For an industry that is so forward–thinking and forever evolving product wise, it can be very old fashioned and sexist. However some people do give me more respect when they realise I am the only girl here.

When I first started it was rare to meet other girls in IT but it is definitely changing. Some of the top IT and tech journalists are female and some of Synology’s top Product Managers in Taiwan are female.

I believe as long as you work hard and challenge yourself to learn more, you will succeed regardless of gender. Back when I was a recruitment consultant did I ever think I would be a pan-European Marketing Manager in IT? No! There is still that stigma though that says women don’t know anything about computers or technology.

I have personally met a few men in the industry who believe this which is sad. I remember at one exhibition, there were two gentlemen waiting at our booth. I kept trying to help them and I was just being ignored until one of them said “will you just speak to her, she can help you and I’m sick of waiting.” He wanted pre-sales advice which I was able to provide him with. I believe he has since bought a DS1512+.

I think a lot of the problem stems from past generation stereotyping, even from playing video games. A lot of computer games from when I was younger were aimed at males. The characters within them were mainly male and girls desperately needed that computer game heroine to admire. 

Gaming characters like Lara Croft are changing the genre though and there are now well over 50 recognised video game heroines making it more appealing for girls to enjoy gaming and the technology around it. I am fully aware though that video games are not solely responsible for the outdated and stereotypical aura around women in tech.

There are many possible job roles in this industry. You don’t have to be a Senior Networking Engineer to work in it. Think of how a typical company works and roles within that. You might have an office manager, marketing, sales, HR, engineering… and then all those departments will more than likely have hierarchy within them; assistants, executives, managers, directors and so forth.

Technology is changing; becoming more digital, interactive and ‘fashionable’. The expansion of the internet, Smartphone’s, tablets and apps will see an increased interest in working in tech. I didn’t get my first mobile until I was 16 and that was a very basic one when they first became publically affordable.

Now I know five year olds with Smartphone’s and tablets, downloading apps and surfing the net. It is becoming the norm to have technology in day-to-day life. Schools now have personal tablets for students, when I was at school we had 1 caulk board for the whole class and we were lucky if it was a rotating one. I would like to point out as well, that I am only 31. So I think that shows how new IT technology really is.

I never wanted to work in IT, but doing marketing for an IT firm has educated me. I have much more technical knowledge, not just of NAS but computers in general, website management, Smartphone’s, tablets, apps, networking, consoles, port-forwarding, streaming and more. Working for Synology is the best career move I have made. I love working in this industry and hope that in time, it will appeal to more females.

There are many powerful women in tech firms now, look at Sheryl Sandberg, Marissa Mayer and Meg Whitman as examples. I am still waiting for the day we hire another girl here at Synology UK too. 

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