The tech industry can use more skilled workers. CompTIA reports there were 3.7 million job postings for technology job openings in 2018, with almost 400,000 of them in emerging tech areas and 261,000 new jobs. But those positions, most often, aren’t filled by women. Virtual event solutions company Evia reports that although women make up more than half of the U.S. workforce, they hold less than 20 percent of tech jobs — a lower percentage than women in IT positions in the 1980s.
Software testing company LogiGear is ahead of the curve with at least seven women in managerial roles. Sui Lai, a project manager for LogiGear who leads a number of high-profile client development projects, says, “I’m fortunate a lot of my counterparts are women. This might be a coincidence, but this might also be a role women excel in more.”
Inspiration and Influence
The Evia report points out that factors such as hands-on experience with STEM subjects in school and female mentors can have a positive influence on the number of women in IT — and these factors are evident in Lai’s education and career.
She says math always came naturally to her. “Solving math problems was fun, just like solving puzzles,” Lai says. When she was growing up, however, there wasn’t information readily available like it is today on the internet, so she couldn’t easily find out the types of careers she could pursue with a math degree. Some suggested computer science, so she took a computer/programming class in high school. The course included designing a solution and writing code line by line to achieve the objective, which also came naturally to her.
Lai received a bachelor’s degree in computer science and took a summer job at Academic Systems. “My manager saw my potential, so she kept me on long-term. When she took a position at LogiGear, I followed her. We had a great relationship, and I liked the rapport, Lai says.
A Successful Career
Today, Lai focuses on continuous testing (CT), one aspect of continuous delivery, and she is well-versed in Selenium, a software testing framework. “A lot of organizations are still slow to adopt DevOps, but I’ve had the opportunity to lead several projects with clients that are (or have now) implemented CI/CD,” she says. “I have learned a lot about CT on my own through some great online resources.”
Lai says she’s also honed her communication skills, which has contributed to her success as a project manager. “It’s commonly acknowledged that most engineering jobs don’t require great communication skills,” she comments. “But I find it hugely beneficial when it comes to dealing with clients as well as communicating daily with my team.”
“I enjoy working with my team, leading them, and helping them to be successful, not only as individuals, but also when it comes to delivering results,” she says.
Although she enjoys her role and the variety of projects she works on, she says, like many professionals, she is challenged by work-life balance and time management. “I treat these problems the same way I run a project,” Lai says. “Regardless of work or life. I identify what tasks I need to complete, and then I prioritize them. I also make an effort to learn from my past mistakes, and reduce risk.”
Advice to Women in IT, Present and Future
Lai advises women pursuing careers in IT never to stop learning. “DevOps is the current trend in software development, today, but as with everything, there will be something that replaces it,” she explains. “Be a lifelong learner. This will ensure that your skill set grows with you, and it will keep you employable.”