Women in ICT

Meet Michon Williams.

Michon Willians

Occupation: Senior Manager
Employer: RBC
Memorable Quote: “I got my start as an intern in high school at RBC.”

What is your current job title and what day-to-day activities does this job entail?
Senior Manager,Enterprise Architecture, IT Accessibility and IT Usability. I work at RBC in Technology and Operations. I manage three main areas and have a very exciting and varied mandate! My first team is called the Enterprise Architecture Office – we coordinate reviews for technology projects to ensure they fit in with enterprise technology standards and future directions. These projects include systems projects for banking, investments, insurance, capital markets, marketing, finance, human resources, and more. By working closely with technology teams, we also make sure every software application RBC builds or buys fits in with our technology goals.

The second team is IT Accessibility – this team consults the systems development teams in order to ensure our applications and websites are accessible and usable by people with disabilities including those with visual impairments.

Finally, the IT Usability team consults with project teams to ensure they are factoring in the user experience – including interface design – with any technology product. I spend most of my day in meetings, working with my team to help different project teams build usable, accessible, and well-designed information systems for our financial services clients as well as for RBC employees.

What is your educational background (if any)?

I have a combined degree in Arts and Sciences with a Combined Honours in Computer Science. I completed an MBA part time during night school while working in IT at RBC. I also, have a Project Management Professional (PMP) designation, earned the Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) designation, and am certified in Enterprise Architecture (TOGAF 9).

What experiences led you to your current position?

I got my start as an intern in high school at RBC. I was hired to do filing, and instead of filing the paperwork, I built a simple spreadsheet and then a database to store the information. The database helped to win a few important business contracts for the bank. That’s when I realized the power of technology and decided to major in Computer Science. I have always had a passion for design and have gravitated towards roles where human factors and systems diagrams are a big part of the work we do. I love to think about how things fit together, and how we can design elegant solutions.

What do you find most rewarding about your job?

There is so much! Seeing new technologies developed such as, mobile banking solutions, or a new staff website, and knowing we helped make the design work for people is very rewarding. Also, building a team and helping them sort through different problems is a great deal of fun! Finally, knowing that the work we do helps provide access to banking and employment opportunities for people with disabilities is incredibly satisfying.

What skills are most important for your role?

Some people may think that technical skills are the most important skills to have in a technology team but I believe that being intellectually curious is the absolutely most important skill for a role in IT. Asking questions, constantly reading and learning, listening hard for what clients and partners are telling you, and applying those insights to the way you work are very important skills. Communication is also critically important.

There is a common misconception that ICT is boring; can you give us an example why your job is NOT boring.

In IT you are given a problem to solve and you have the opportunity to design a solution, using both products that exist and some that you may build with a team. It’s amazingly creative and collaborative. There are always new technologies and trends that keep things interesting – like tablets or social media solutions. What could be more fun than always having something new to work on, and the chance to design the technologies that people will use to do their banking, job searches, and day-to-day jobs? You get to build things that didn’t exist before.

Why do you think women are poorly represented in ICT jobs?

This is a complicated issue. I don’t think girls are encouraged enough to explore interests in technology. But I also think that there is an incorrect notion that you need to be very “technical” or to have a strong background as a “coder” to have a good career in technology. Although there are some amazingly talented deeply technical women, I believe that many women tend to be more interested in the application of technology than in the nuts-and-bolts of technology solutions. What women may not realize is that there are many, many roles where different skills are required. And as technology evolves, we need to pay more attention to how technology is applied to solve business problems. We need more people of all types of skills and backgrounds in the ICT industry, including strong communicators, designers, business managers, accountants, and more to help us manage all aspects of the industry.

Why do you think girls should learn ICT skills?

The growth prospects for employment in ICT are incredibly good. Are you interested in health care? Hospitals, government, research facilities; everyone relies on systems to manage health records and insights into patient progress. Are you interested in entertainment or the media? How are magazines, television shows, and websites run? By information technology and increasingly through social media. If you pair a topic or subject matter you are passionate about with skills in ICT, you will be an incredibly valuable resource.

Can you list ‘5’ ICT jobs that you think our readers would love.

  • Data Analyst – you help analyze information that is captured in databases to help businesses or organizations understand their clients, employees, and answer a whole host of interesting questions
  • Social Media Expert– you work with companies to use social media to help their staff collaborate, or to engage with customers online
  • Information Architect – you design user interfaces and make sure information is organized in logical ways in software or websites
  • Solutions / Systems Architect – you review new and old technology solutions and make recommendations for new solutions based on what makes the most sense for a given business problem
  • Project Manager – you plan the resources, timeline and success factors for a given project and you make sure it gets done on time, on budget and to specification

If our readers wanted to pursue a career like yours, what advice/resources would you recommend to them?

I’ve always believed in the importance of learning and applying this knowledge at work. I began working at a relatively young age and have always held part-time jobs. Programs that offer co-op options are a great way to get your foot in the door and obtain some work experience. This helps you early on for deciding what you like working on the most.

If our readers wanted to pursue a career like yours, what advice/resources would you recommend to them?

“I’ve had a lot of people tell me directly, or imply indirectly, that I should pursue roles in communications, human resources, teaching or other roles that may be more traditionally “female”. Don’t ever let anyone tell you what you should be doing. Follow your interests and believe in yourself. And guess what? Once you learn how to ignore the naysayers and stick to your vision and goals, you’ll have the one key skill you need to prove them wrong – persistence. The only way to overcome people’s beliefs about who you are and what you are capable of, is to believe in yourself and to keep going.” – Michon Williams