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Focus and fearlessness key in ICT careers
Girls from secondary schools across T&T got the opportunity to meet and interact with some of this country’s leading Information and Communications Technology (ICT) female professionals and scientists, at the Women and Girls in ICT Forum on May 21. The forum, held at NAPA and hosted by the Ministry of Science and Technology for the second year, was held to commemorate the international celebration of Girls in ICT Day, which gives governments around the globe the opportunity to raise consciousness on the global development of ICT, the careers and opportunities within the sphere and to empower young girls and women with the necessary information on how a career in ICT can work for them.
A panel discussion titled A Day in the Life of Cyber-Revolutionary (which focused on how ICT affects social change) featured Dr Kim Mallalieu, senior lecturer in the department of electrical and computer engineering at UWI St Augustine; Shelley-Ann Clarke-Hinds, executive manager, external ICT relations at the Ministry of Science and Technology; and Maxine Williams, a Trinidadian lawyer who is the global head of diversity at Facebook. They spoke about the importance of becoming involved as women in ICT, especially with the constant evolution of technology; and having the right attitude to survive in a field that has been traditionally dominated by men. The students were urged to constantly challenge themselves, understand the benefits of staying focused and the importance of being a critical thinker. Williams, who has a degree from Oxford University, was not physically present at the forum but shared her story via video conference and spoke briefly about her role at Facebook.
Williams said she loved her job and the many opportunities it has afforded her and explained that she develops strategies to harness the unlimited potential of the social media network’s talent. She ensures Facebook is appealing to and engaging with people from all walks of life and across different economic, social and cultural backgrounds. At the same time, Williams also manages a high-performing team of diversity programme managers from the company’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California. Addressing the question of social media being used as a platform to broadcast negative messages, Williams said while Facebook cannot predict what a user will post on the network, there are provisions made available to report such instances and these reports are followed up and sorted out by the team.
She added that Facebook was not just a “liming hub,” as many think, but a place where people can get relevant and real time information. “The thing about Facebook, people look at it too narrowly. It is not just about ‘maccoing’ your friends’ business, but it is about sharing information. Facebook provides you with relevant information. There are so many groups on Facebook that provide valuable information to people across the globe who have similar interests. So if you are into agriculture, botany, skydiving—you can find a group for almost anything on Facebook—connect with them and get useful information. The fact is you can find as many things on Facebook as you can find on Google,” Williams said.
UWI lecturer Mallalieu pointed out the importance of ICT in social development. She said ICTs, including community networking infrastructures and social media, have an important role in fostering democracy and empowering local communities. She added the theory behind this is that more and accurate information communication advances the development of a society. The panel discussion ended with some advice from Clarke-Hinds, who said she believed no matter what career path one chooses, they should acquaint themselves with ICT, as it is a highly technological era that we live in and for most, if not all jobs, technology is required.