Skip to main content

ACS-Women - Industry Insiders: Michelle Burns

Wednesday, 19 Nov 2014

Inspiring ICT all-rounder                                                

Tell us a little bit about your career to date, how did you get into IT, how did you get to where you are now?

I am a 24-yr-old young woman working towards a career in the IT industry. I currently juggle studying Business IT and IS (technology and systems) at Curtin University, help run an academic student club on campus, sit on two state committees for the Australian Computer Society, and work as a Network Systems Administrator and Online Strategy Manager for a boutique real estate office in Applecross.

Whilst I've only been working in my chosen field for about 18 months, I have been working with computers since I was 12 years old. I've always had an interest and knack for solving problems on computers, never afraid to press 'the big red button', knowing that if I ever 'break' something I can fix it.

And if not, give me an hour with Google and I'll be able to! I started at my current job in January 2012 as a temp in admin. After a bit of luck and hard work I secured myself an ongoing admin position.

I worked in that role, helping with small IT tasks where I could, for about 6 months when the opportunity arose for me to do some Active Directory work on the server, saving my boss a few hundred dollars not having to use their go-to consultancy.

From there I took over as much of the Network Management as my skills would allow and was given the opportunity to apply a lot of the theory I have learned in my under-grad.

 In the last few months, after further demonstrating my skills and resourcefulness (if my skills are lacking in an area!), a new role in the company was created for me; Network Systems Administrator, and Online Strategy Manager.

This new role will have my responsibilities expand into web development and management, as well as a few lighter things like social media and content management.

I am extremely grateful for the opportunities I have been given, and the lessons I have learned working for this company - specifically the value of persistence and the importance of practical experience in conjunction with your studies.

I am also proud to say that even with a year left of my degree (and potential post-graduate study in the pipeline), the Principal of the company has asked me to stay on in a permanent position once my studies are complete, as an important part of the future direction for the company.

Tell us a bit about where you work.

I work in a boutique real estate office in Applecross, in a team of about 22, mixed sales, property management, management, and administration staff. I am responsible for Network Systems Administration and Online Brand Reputation Strategy.

My job has evolved over the past 2 years from administration to IT-based work - that's what I love most - the recognition of my skills driving me towards a role in the area; being utilised for what I'm good at.

What do you love most about your job?

The versatility of the role and the need for problem solving! Working in IT means you can work anywhere, in almost any industry, company size, team or individually, and there's always room for growth. 

What do you think are the best things about working in IT?

The problem solving side of things is really rewarding - when you can resolve a problem that for someone outside of the industry would seem impossible, that feels great.

What top tips or advice would you tell young people about choosing a career in IT?

Try to get as much practical experience as you can, early. I'm still studying my degree in IS & IT, but I know for certain that if I hadn't had the freedom to learn in my workplace, in a practical environment, and learnt how to apply the knowledge and skills I've gained at university, I wouldn't be graduating as 'complete' or 'employable' as I will be. And don't worry if people call you a nerd - it's you they will be coming to later for help!

If you're still deciding whether to choose IT or something else, think about why you would want to work in IT and if the answer is because you find it interesting or you're good at it, or you want financial security - then do it! It's the one industry you will be guaranteed to have a job in your whole life, and it pays well! You can go anywhere in the world you want with IT.

Are things getting better for Women in ICT?

I think the perception is slowly changing - for a long time I think those not in the industry have perceived those in it as "work in a dark corner, anti-social gremlins", however it's pretty obvious now that it's integral to the success of business, and I think the attitude has shifted to simply a rejection of the unknown.

At the end of the day people are always going to reject what they don't understand, but at least they're coming to realise the importance of those people who do understand, to help bridge the gap.

Do you think IT should have a bigger profile?

Absolutely - development in the IT industry is what has made the world how it is today - essentially flat - we're now one, big community. It connects people across the globe as if they were next to each other, and no other industry can do that!

In terms of on a local basis it absolutely does - whether it's small business being able to be competitive in a hard market through utilisation of technology-based services, or extending the reach of charitable causes and news & information, and there are always jobs in IT, and it's not hard to gain the skills or break into the industry, meaning people whose skills in a different may be obsolete now could be in a whole new, secure job in as little as a year.

Are girls turned off because of misconceptions about IT work itself?

If you have an ego that needs massaging it's great - people still don't expect women to be technically smart or capable, so the reactions you get when you prove your abilities are a reward in themselves! 

But honestly, don't be fooled by the technical aspect into thinking it's boring or repetitive - IT can literally take you anywhere in the world, is needed in every industry, and so whether you want to be involved in Space Exploration, or Community-Development in Third World Countries, or Marine Conservation, or Environmental Sustainability, or Anti-Terrorism even, there are so many really rewarding, versatile, community-focussed industries that will need you, you can make a massive difference in the world no matter what you do with your IT skills. 

MichelleBurns

Tell us a little bit about your career to date, how did you get into IT, how did you get to where you are now?

I am a 24-yr-old young woman working towards a career in the IT industry. I currently juggle studying Business IT and IS (technology and systems) at Curtin University, help run an academic student club on campus, sit on two state committees for the Australian Computer Society, and work as a Network Systems Administrator and Online Strategy Manager for a boutique real estate office in Applecross.

Whilst I've only been working in my chosen field for about 18 months, I have been working with computers since I was 12 years old. I've always had an interest and knack for solving problems on computers, never afraid to press 'the big red button', knowing that if I ever 'break' something I can fix it.

And if not, give me an hour with Google and I'll be able to! I started at my current job in January 2012 as a temp in admin. After a bit of luck and hard work I secured myself an ongoing admin position.

I worked in that role, helping with small IT tasks where I could, for about 6 months when the opportunity arose for me to do some Active Directory work on the server, saving my boss a few hundred dollars not having to use their go-to consultancy.

From there I took over as much of the Network Management as my skills would allow and was given the opportunity to apply a lot of the theory I have learned in my under-grad.

 In the last few months, after further demonstrating my skills and resourcefulness (if my skills are lacking in an area!), a new role in the company was created for me; Network Systems Administrator, and Online Strategy Manager.

This new role will have my responsibilities expand into web development and management, as well as a few lighter things like social media and content management.

I am extremely grateful for the opportunities I have been given, and the lessons I have learned working for this company - specifically the value of persistence and the importance of practical experience in conjunction with your studies.

I am also proud to say that even with a year left of my degree (and potential post-graduate study in the pipeline), the Principal of the company has asked me to stay on in a permanent position once my studies are complete, as an important part of the future direction for the company.

Tell us a bit about where you work.

I work in a boutique real estate office in Applecross, in a team of about 22, mixed sales, property management, management, and administration staff. I am responsible for Network Systems Administration and Online Brand Reputation Strategy.

My job has evolved over the past 2 years from administration to IT-based work - that's what I love most - the recognition of my skills driving me towards a role in the area; being utilised for what I'm good at.

What do you love most about your job?

The versatility of the role and the need for problem solving! Working in IT means you can work anywhere, in almost any industry, company size, team or individually, and there's always room for growth. 

What do you think are the best things about working in IT?

The problem solving side of things is really rewarding - when you can resolve a problem that for someone outside of the industry would seem impossible, that feels great.

What top tips or advice would you tell young people about choosing a career in IT?

Try to get as much practical experience as you can, early. I'm still studying my degree in IS & IT, but I know for certain that if I hadn't had the freedom to learn in my workplace, in a practical environment, and learnt how to apply the knowledge and skills I've gained at university, I wouldn't be graduating as 'complete' or 'employable' as I will be. And don't worry if people call you a nerd - it's you they will be coming to later for help!

If you're still deciding whether to choose IT or something else, think about why you would want to work in IT and if the answer is because you find it interesting or you're good at it, or you want financial security - then do it! It's the one industry you will be guaranteed to have a job in your whole life, and it pays well! You can go anywhere in the world you want with IT.

Are things getting better for Women in ICT?

I think the perception is slowly changing - for a long time I think those not in the industry have perceived those in it as "work in a dark corner, anti-social gremlins", however it's pretty obvious now that it's integral to the success of business, and I think the attitude has shifted to simply a rejection of the unknown.

At the end of the day people are always going to reject what they don't understand, but at least they're coming to realise the importance of those people who do understand, to help bridge the gap.

Do you think IT should have a bigger profile?

Absolutely - development in the IT industry is what has made the world how it is today - essentially flat - we're now one, big community. It connects people across the globe as if they were next to each other, and no other industry can do that!

In terms of on a local basis it absolutely does - whether it's small business being able to be competitive in a hard market through utilisation of technology-based services, or extending the reach of charitable causes and news & information, and there are always jobs in IT, and it's not hard to gain the skills or break into the industry, meaning people whose skills in a different may be obsolete now could be in a whole new, secure job in as little as a year.

Are girls turned off because of misconceptions about IT work itself?

If you have an ego that needs massaging it's great - people still don't expect women to be technically smart or capable, so the reactions you get when you prove your abilities are a reward in themselves! 

But honestly, don't be fooled by the technical aspect into thinking it's boring or repetitive - IT can literally take you anywhere in the world, is needed in every industry, and so whether you want to be involved in Space Exploration, or Community-Development in Third World Countries, or Marine Conservation, or Environmental Sustainability, or Anti-Terrorism even, there are so many really rewarding, versatile, community-focussed industries that will need you, you can make a massive difference in the world no matter what you do with your IT skills.