Women in technology: trained to make an impact

17th May 2022
By: Jalwinder Shankarwalia

We’re back with the next installation of our women in tech blog series. This time, we’re joined by Jalwinder Shankarwalia, Network Operations Centre Engineer, who shares her experience in creating opportunities and the importance of learning by doing. 

Getting hands-on with technology is really exciting. I love fixing things and solving customer problems, and I’m still learning every day.

Women in technology shouldn’t accept being patronized. I was the only girl in my degree course (Computer Science, Computer Systems Networking and Telecommunications), and even the lecturers and tutors were all male. It was a bit bizarre, but it didn’t matter because everyone was so supportive.

Then I was the only female in my graduate placement, and then the only woman in the IT office at my first job. I remember being on call and driving to a store with a load of massive equipment and they’d ask, “Are you the engineer?”. I’d just go in, do my work and finish my job. It felt so good – there’s an excitement and an adrenaline rush that you get when you can fix something that no one else can. One customer asked if they could keep me! (my manager said no…).

I’m a big believer in hands-on learning, and I’d encourage other women considering a career in technology to just have a go.

I’ve always found practical learning the most useful. It wasn’t until the third year of my degree – the work experience year – that I really fell in love with technology. It was just before Y2K and I was doing backups, data checks and equipment updates for a pharmaceutical company. I spent a year in a cubby hole surrounded by laptops, and it was amazing!

Since then, I’ve changed my technical speciality a couple of times as I’ve changed roles. Each time I’ve started off knowing nothing about the new technology, but through courses, brilliant support from peers and managers, and shadowing engineers I picked it up – the real knowledge comes with hands-on experience.

The beauty of being in technology is that there’s so much knowledge to gain and a real range of different areas you can go into.

I’m now a Senior Mitel Engineer working in Managed Services at Maintel. When I started out, Mitel was seen as a male-dominated specialism, but it shouldn’t be. Anybody can do the job with the right training and opportunity. Thanks to Maintel’s professional support, I attended a Mitel training course to certify me in MiVoice Business and Mitel Contact Centre, and we’re encouraged to take training days to keep up to date with any Mitel updates. With that knowledge, I was confident to start picking up faults – that’s when I really figured the product out and see what I can do with it. I’ve been here for 15 years, and still, every time I log off for the night, I’ve learned something.

Now there are more women going into technology and I think that’s a great thing. There are companies like Maintel out there that make it easy to support your family as well as your customers! As a mum, the business is very flexible about childcare, school runs and when my daughter has been ill. And as a daughter, they were very understanding when my dad was ill. It’s a really supportive atmosphere.

It’s great to see more women coming through Maintel’s apprenticeship scheme and leadership scheme. And we’ve had schools come in so children can see women in tech at work – hopefully by getting hands-on experience and realising how exciting and satisfying it can be, more girls will give it a go!

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