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Flying the flag for women in IT

  • Amnah

Amnah Sahi, Systems Administrator at Traverse Technologies in Melbourne, is a firm advocate for encouraging more females to get into the IT industry

In 2008, Amnah and her sister made the move from Pakistan to New Zealand to study at Unitec. She says that while she always knew she wanted to get into computing, she wasn’t entirely sure what path her career would take.

“The great thing about Unitec’s Bachelor of Computing Systems is that it offers a flavour of all the basics you can build upon - programming, networking and business. For me, the ultimate dilemma came in my 2nd year when I had to decide whether to go towards programming, which I was good at but didn’t enjoy, or networking, which I loved but wasn’t doing as well at! In the end, I went with my heart and chose networking, which I think was the right decision. I believe you’ve got to do what you love.”

One thing Amnah particularly enjoyed was Unitec’s practical approach to teaching, which she found suited her learning style.

“I don’t like focusing solely on theory; being told to believe something without seeing it in practice. That’s what Unitec does so well that a lot of other institutes don’t: they give practical applications of what you’re learning, which helps in the real world.”

Amnah graduated in 2011 and secured her first role as a technical support specialist for an ISP in 2012.

“While studying, I attended a seminar hosted by Unitec and I remember the speaker saying that if you want to get into IT you can’t just go straight in at the top. He said the first step is usually in a helpdesk role, so when I graduated those were the sorts of jobs I applied for.”

Since then, Amnah has had no trouble progressing her career, securing IT roles at leading companies such as Spark and Mako Networks. However, one thing that’s stood out for her over the years is the lack of females in the industry.

“Apart from my first role, I’ve always been the only girl in my team. If there’s anything I could push in IT it would be to encourage more girls to get into the industry. Men and women have a different brain dynamic, so women can add a lot to the field. I think when girls imagine IT they assume it’s all about nightshifts, long hours, playing with tools and fixing cables in the back office - but it’s far from that. One thing that’s really benefited me in my career is the flexibility. I’m a mother and have been able to work from home around each of my children. I’ve also continued working remotely during the recent COVID-19 restrictions, which has been amazing.”

Playing to her strengths

Amnah is now a Systems Engineer for major hardware production company, Traverse Technologies, based in Melbourne.

“I dealt with Traverse Technologies when I was working at Spark in New Zealand, as they built hardware for us. So, when I relocated to Melbourne two years ago I also made the move to Traverse, to support their managed security service. As Systems Administrator I make sure the service is running as it should and help resolve any issues. I’m at tier three of the helpdesk, which is the final layer of support. So I’m not only supporting the company’s infrastructure, I’m also supporting their clients and helping my team to deliver the best possible service.”

Amnah says the best thing about her role is that it allows her to play to her strengths.

“IT is a bit like maths, you’re either good at it or you’re not. For me, it’s something I really enjoy and that comes quite easily to me - it seems to be how my brain works! At school I wasn’t a particularly good student, but when I came to New Zealand and started my degree, things began to really make sense - I felt like I’d found ‘my thing’. I think that’s what it’s all about: if you find what you love, or what truly makes sense, it’ll come much more easily to you and you’re bound to succeed.”

Amnah’s key piece of advice to students wanting to get into IT, is not to expect your first role to be your dream job. She says it’s also important to continue to push yourself.

“It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey! You must be patient and always keep learning. Treat every work day like a training day and don’t allow yourself to get comfortable. And don’t let a small hiccup derail you, whether in your studies or your job. I remember feeling like I couldn’t finish my degree at one point, but I’m so grateful that I kept pushing and got there. These days, having a degree is almost a pre-requisite for many IT roles, so I know I wouldn’t be where I am today without it.

“In Pakistan, your career options are much more limited. I’m so proud of myself for getting where I am today, and so grateful to my parents for what they sacrificed to give my sister and I the opportunities and the life that we have.”

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