11 March, 2020

Elizabeth Ammon, a leader at C&W

She's one of the few women senior executives in telecommunications in Trinidad and Tobago.

 

What's it like being a woman in tech in the Caribbean? You always hear about the disproportion between men and women internationally, but what has been your experience in the Caribbean?
The ICT field is very diverse with systems engineering, business analysis, coding, product sales, solution implementation and hardware technical support.

I’ve found only in the latter there appears to be a larger male field, however, there is more equal representation in the other areas. For me personally, I have been very fortunate that the two organizations in which I’ve been employed in my career have respected and encouraged ability, skill and performance - regardless of gender.

I have been in the industry for quite some time and some of my most accomplished peers have been female. With more females enrolling in tertiary Science & Technology education than men, and an equal participation in IT at the CSEC level, I believe that Trinidad & Tobago will be ahead of the curve with Women in Tech in the Caribbean.

 

Tell me what it is exactly you do?
I lead the B2B sales and operations team in Trinidad.

This includes people management, strategic planning, meeting sales, revenue and other budget targets, growing the business and our people, managing and adding efficiency to the operation, and integrating with the regional teams.

 

Was this the career path you had when you started out? What was your plan when you started your career and how has that differed from your actual journey?
After graduating from UWI, I was fortunate to begin my career as a Systems Engineer with a large global organization. Apart from being qualified, the probation process included months of training and almost daily testing, and I proved to the company and to myself that I was very capable.

I was then exposed to new growth opportunities and challenges which I willingly signed up for, as they represented new responsibilities, skill and learnings. This eventually brought me to the management and business of ICT.

My plan was to do interesting work in the field of science or technology and to excel whenever I could. I guess you can say that my journey did turn out that way!

 

Did you ever feel like you were disadvantaged or a minority during your career? What was your journey in terms of opportunities and support?
No. Again, I was lucky. From humble beginnings and a large family, from primary school to university life, I received the same opportunities and support as my male siblings and.

It did not hurt attending an all-female St Joseph’s Convent, where your academic experience is about merit and performance. That was an important grounding for me and others.

 

Did you feel you had to work harder or had to prove yourself differently in order to be successful?
The ICT field is very diverse and some roles are more challenging than others for both women and men. My employers did not make me feel that I had to prove myself more than others and my success came from my performance.

I will say, however, that early in my career, with a mixed team going to a client meeting, there were a few male customers on the odd occasion that assumed on introduction that my male counterpart was the lead. That was dispelled as the meeting progressed.

 

Do you see any trends with women and girls joining STEM academic programmes/professions? What was it like for you choosing Math’s and Physics and then subsequently, ICT?
While at UWI, we had our fair share of females doing Math and Physics, but it was still not equally proportionate.  When I see now in Trinidad & Tobago that more females are enrolling in sciences than males at UWI, it seems we have really changed the dynamic, and this makes me proud.

While I was well rounded in all subjects, it was never in doubt that I would pursue sciences. I chose these subjects because I liked them and was capable. My choice would have been teaching or working in Research & Engineering but I can say that ICT found me.

 

Do you feel a sense of responsibility to inspire more women and girls to join STEM?
I feel a sense of responsibility to inspire women and girls that an education is one of the most valuable things you will ever own. It brings confidence and independence.

With my experience in STEM and ICT, I have a frame of reference for a career and livelihood that’s exciting, challenging and rewarding and hopefully I can inspire girls and women to this field.

 

Tell me about balance -- a lot of young women (and some men) often put their career on hold to support their spouses’ decisions. What was your experience and how did you manage your personal and professional lives?
Thankfully my spouse is very supportive of me and my profession. Arguably, balance is different for everyone, and not having children, I have a great deal of respect for women who have to juggle raising kids and maintaining a commitment to the job or profession.

That is a paradigm in T&T that has fostered women with great strength and emotional intelligence. It is an example that, if well taught, sets the next generation of women and girls to be even greater leaders.

 

How has your experience as a working woman shaped your outlook on management? Have you enacted any type of new policy to make it easier on your staff to manage the dynamics of modern life?
The dynamics and tools in modern life can make us more productive but technology and social media can also turn us into “anti-social” beings. Teamwork and Communication are still key to successful businesses and successful people in life.
I try to make sure that team building, and fun team-building at that, keeps us engaged and inspired as a team. I also hope that I can lead by example with confidence, creativity and compassion.

 

What's your favourite part of your job? 
Without question it’s working with the people. I learn something every day – technical and non-technical, particularly from young professionals.

 

What advice would you give to young women struggling to find that balance or break into the world of tech?
Work hard. Do it if you love it or if you have a calling for it; and take advantage of the technology and the internet for learning. Education is not only from formal training - it’s online, it’s reading from any source, and it’s from finding mentors as well. Keep raising your own bar and never give up!

 

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