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Gen X – Women Across Generations

In celebration of TechWeek24, we’re excited to share the final story in our Women Across Generations series with our Gen X Amanda Watson

Amanda Watson, Executive Council Member TechWomenNZ and Strategic Partner & Alliance Manager, TEAM Cloud

Amanda has been in the IT industry for over 25 years, focusing on relationship management, sales, delivery, and getting stuff done. A self-confessed team player, Amanda is very passionate about the female role in business and supporting the baby-making side of the equation. Amanda’s passions include mentoring people, creating connections, assisting people to believe in themselves and their talents, having a voice, and being seen and heard.

What is your generation and how do you identify with their top five traits? 

Gen X, the generation that grew up playing outside on concrete playgrounds, breaking arms on push bikes, watching Star Wars, E.T. The Breakfast Club, and answering phones attached to walls. We invented PlayStations, the internet, and led the way in creating Apple, Microsoft, and IBM processors. We have a foot in both worlds. I remember when we had to load a tape for 45 minutes in order to play the “tennis two sticks and one ball” game. Donkey Kong and Pac-Man were high-tech when they arrived!

  1. According to Google, which we also invented, we are tech-savvy but not tech-dependent, true that. I have a career in IT but will buy a book over a Kindle and I need my teenage daughter to set up (my) iPhone and the telly.
  2. We are fiercely independent – well, that’s because we brought ourselves up. Latchkey kids coming home to empty houses for a few hours, playing outside with no phones, no connection to the house except for passing by later.
  3. We value work-life balance – yes, and COVID helped with this even more. Let’s face it, we probably created work-life balance because there was none when we started work.
  4. Apparently, we possess top leadership skills, including strong communication skills. I like to think so. 
  5. Gen X’s adaptability is beyond comparison. Although we are approaching the twilight of our years, we can still handle modern technology. Yes, we can because it’s part of our day-to-day lives, but we didn’t grow up immersed in it – it’s something we incorporated into our lives, like the first answering machine. Although my teenager thinks I am a total techno-moron. At times I have to agree…I am not up with some of the apps, but I have friends who are my age and totally embrace them. I have Gen X apps like WhatsApp, Facebook and Messenger.

What technology job do you do today? Tell us a bit about your day-to-day life.

My role’s skill set is Relationship Management and Delivery. I work for a New Zealand company that provides Oracle Cloud NZ onshore services to the Channel and customers. Cloud technology is very new for me, which is great, as I love learning new skills. I have a rounded knowledge covering nearly all IT aspects now, except for licensing and security. My day-to-day is spent meeting with channel partners who are interested in provisioning our services and managing the various aspects required to create a pipeline of work.

What inspired you to pursue a career in technology?

Nothing, I totally fell into it. I was actually trained as an actress and singer. However, I started at a company called 3Com in England, and I found not only the boxes and gadgets fascinating, but also the people. IT people are some of the cleverest, funniest, most passionate, problem-solving, customer-focused people I have met.

What were some of the perceptions or stereotypes about women in technology during your early career years?

That we (women) are decorative but not really made of much content. We’re not technical, and only suitable for marketing, admin, or HR roles. That we were all there to bring in the water and take notes. Only time and generational awareness has shifted that perception. There seems to be an automatic assumption that the youngest person or female in the room is the water bearer and fetcher of notepads and pens.

How did your educational background or experiences shape your entry into the technology industry?

I am Gen X. Computer Studies was brand new when I was at school. So new in fact, that my whole year failed our mocks as our teacher taught us the wrong syllabus!

What are the views of your peer group on women in technology and leadership? What general conversations are you having about this?

I am part of the CHANGE wave, the new women in leadership roles. We follow the movement of Brené Brown rather than Margaret Thatcher. We are leading the way to make changes in leadership that celebrate female influence, now referred to as “business skills”. Many of my Gen X male counterparts are very open to women in leadership and embrace our inclusion, but the senior leadership teams of many IT companies are still predominantly composed of white males over 55, with perhaps a token female in the HR director role or a token Indian in the technology space. When I attend IT events, I am still considered the “diversity in the room”. Women are often present in marketing, PR, and facilitation roles, but not in business, technical, or leadership roles.

What changes have you observed or experienced regarding gender diversity and inclusion in technology since you began your career?

I am happy to say that in my career, I have witnessed a real increase in women in IT in both technical and leadership roles, representing diversity in age and ethnicity. I can see that in the younger decades, there is a movement for men (dads) to support their partners or grandads to support their families with childcare and balance in the workspace. The roles of parenthood mixed with the roles of the main earner are merging, and now it’s the responsibility of corporates and businesses to create a movement around policies and perceptions to support family growth. I have also seen a shift in leadership, becoming more vulnerable and accepting of mistakes and learning.

What do you think are the most significant opportunities for women in technology today, compared to when you first entered the industry?

Wow, there’s so much! I mean, technically, there is so much more than when I started. AI, data, cybersecurity, coding, web design, and more data. And the roles that open up around process design, service design, communications, collaboration, delivery, leadership, training, relationship management, mentoring, marketing, PR, admin, HR – I mean, it’s HUGE!

How do you think initiatives like ShadowTech could have helped you on your journey?

For me personally, that’s a tough question because it wasn’t a thing when I was young. How about considering how it would help my daughters? It offers the knowledge that IT is not just about coding, maths, and the Matrix. It’s fun, ever-changing, interesting, exciting, kind of geeky and nerdy in a cool “what’s gonna happen next” way?! Technology is the future. It’s going to get bigger, better, faster, slicker, smoother, and integral as part of our lives and probably our bodies in the next 50 years. Credit card chips in our wrists? Virtual Reality contact lenses? Earpieces instead of headphones? A processing unit in our bodies churning through data continuously. I mean, it’s exciting – and totally scary too. But that’s progress, right? It’s the future, and it’s exciting and scary just like all the other stuff that is exciting and scary – self-driving cars really wobble this Gen X and her control issues!

TechWomen TechWomen is a group of passionate New Zealand tech, digital and ICT focused individuals from leading organisations that work together, with the support of NZTech, to help address the shortage of women in tech roles.