Women In Tech: Interview With Elite Group’s Stephanie McMonnies & Siobhan Cole

Headshots of Siobhan Cole and Stephanie McMonnies of Elite Group, next to the words 'Women in Tech'

In the latest interview for our Women in Tech series, I spoke with Elite Group’s Service Desk Analyst, Siobhan Cole, and Developer Team Leader, Stephanie McMonnies. We covered how they both had very different introductions to the world of IT, how their careers have evolved, and what they would tell young women looking to explore careers in tech.

What is your current role and core responsibilities?

Stephanie: My current role is Developer Team Lead at Elite Group. I answer to the Head of Software Development.

I look after any low-code development projects that arise and assist the development team wherever I am needed. My role has recently expanded to include project management; I am now accountable for several different projects and attend regular customer meetings.

I am also responsible for 3 junior members of staff within our department, so I ensure they are productive and happy in their roles.

Siobhan: I’ve been working for Elite Group for over a year now, and I am part of the service desk team. In my current role, I have various responsibilities, including making changes to customer accounts, creating new users, managing leavers, and assigning user licenses. I also tackle a small number of fault cases.

How did you get started in IT?

Stephanie: I always enjoyed IT as a child. From the age of 8, I would spend many weekends building computers with my dad. We would attend computer fairs once a month, where we’d often buy new parts to put towards building new computers. Doing this taught me about all the internal components of each machine. I remember working with my dad to troubleshoot new PC speakers that wouldn’t work!

As a child, my other love was languages. I studied A-Levels in French and German. However, when I got to university, I realised that languages weren’t the way I wanted to go and changed my degree to IT.

Siobhan: I actually started my journey in IT at Elite Group a year ago, when I received internal training and support for my Microsoft Fundamentals qualification. This training covered the basics of Microsoft, including licensing and app knowledge, serving as the initial step toward becoming a qualified Microsoft engineer.

I am currently pursuing Meraki FIT Accreditation for Meraki Support Engineering, and I’m hoping to complete that very soon, alongside further in-house training for Azure Active Directory and Azure Virtual Desktop.

I am planning to embark on 8×8 and Content Guru certifications as well, to further expand my technical expertise.

Can you share how your career has evolved into what it is today?

Stephanie: My first technical job was in 2006, when I spent a year doing work experience as a SharePoint Developer. It was part of my degree, and at the time I was offered the chance to go back once I had graduated. However, I graduated in 2009 and the recession had hit, so the company no longer had the position available to offer me.

Whilst studying I was also working for a fast food company, so I decided to go full time in my job there after I graduated and was quickly offered the opportunity to go into management. 5 years went by and I wanted a change. I struggled to get into IT due to a lack of experience and the fact things had changed and progressed since I graduated. So I took a job as a live-in pub manager. I loved it, but I never gave up on my IT dream.

In 2018 I applied for a job at MWL and finally got my lucky break! I started in a developer role, and then transferred to Elite when MWL was bought out. I was originally contracted exclusively to one client. When the client no longer wanted an exclusive dedicated developer, I had the opportunity to widen my scope and work on projects for other clients. It was at that point that I was promoted to team lead, to look after 1 staff member. This team has since grown, as has my role!

Siobhan: Before joining Elite, I pursued a 2-year course in Civil Engineering at college and then worked in hospitality for a while. I discovered the Service Desk job opportunity at Elite online. After looking at Elite’s social media channels, I felt confident that it was a company I could fit into.

When I started my role, I quickly found I had many transferable skills that complemented working on Elite’s service desk – strong communication, problem-solving abilities, and customer focus. They all play a crucial role in ensuring effective support for our clients and I’m excited to see where my role will take me.

Have you noticed a lack of women in the technology industry throughout your career? If yes, how has this changed as your career has progressed?

Stephanie: When I started at MWL (now Elite Group), out of around 40 staff members, I was only the 4th female employee. In my work experience role, there were more women, but it was also a predominantly male company. Currently, within our department of 9, there are 3 women. The wider company is increasing in the number of female employees, but I think the more technical roles do remain male-dominated.

Do you believe your gender has ever impacted the way you have been perceived or treated in your career?

Stephanie: In my work experience year, for the first 2-3 weeks, I was put into the internal IT department. Unfortunately, I had to make a complaint about the way I was treated. I had expected to be involved in IT work and networking, but I was put in a corner and asked to alphabetise CDs. Any time I spoke about doing actual IT work, I was given secretarial duties and paired with the manager’s female secretary who was the only other female in the whole department.

The wider company did take my complaint seriously though, and I was very swiftly moved to the development department where I was embraced, treated equally and where I thrived.

Siobhan: Fortunately, I haven’t experienced any gender-related issues in my IT career. It’s encouraging to be part of a company like Elite Group that values diversity and inclusion across all departments.

What do you think businesses should be doing to encourage more girls and young women to consider careers in technology?

Stephanie: I think the perfect place to start is in schools. For me, my love of IT started at such a young age, making happy memories involving technology. If the IT industry as a whole can make a concerted effort to show children how fun IT can be, that is something that can stick with them for life.

Building a computer as a child is no different from building with Lego or Meccano (apart from the obvious adult supervision required!), and it’s great fun! My eldest daughter recently completed a Roblox course, where she used some basic commands to build a Roblox game. She loved it and can’t wait to use software development more!

Siobhan: I second what Stephanie has said and would add that these early interests in technology need to be built upon and nurtured. Businesses should be proactively celebrating the achievements of women in the IT industry to promote careers in IT. Likewise, they should be making a larger effort to actively offer apprenticeship opportunities to make the industry more accessible.

I was excited to be asked to contribute to this interview because I wanted to highlight my background in tech and how I’m really enjoying my role. Any woman should feel able to pursue a career in tech if that’s what she wants!

What is it about technology that keeps you engaged and passionate about your role?

Stephanie: I love the ever-changing field that is IT. No two days are the same and not every solution works for every problem. Analysing and investigating different issues gives me a kick, and I really enjoy working with customers to help them get the best out of their technology stack. This job gives me the opportunity to utilise various skills I have developed throughout my career (including before IT), so I thoroughly enjoy getting to apply my experiences and knowledge every day.

Siobhan: For me, it’s the constant opportunities to learn from my colleagues. Elite Group is very committed to my professional development, and this training fuels my passion for technology. The more knowledge I have, the better I can help our customers and be successful in my role!

What is the one piece of advice you would give to a young woman looking to enter the industry or just at the beginning of her career in technology?

Stephanie: Stay positive, and embrace learning. Be confident in your abilities, seek mentorship, and don’t be afraid to voice your ideas. Your unique perspective is an asset.

Siobhan: While I’m still in the early stages of my career, I believe maintaining a positive attitude, being open to learning and taking on new challenges are really important attributes for young women to remember when they enter the world of IT!

 

Thank you for reading our latest Women in Tech interview with Elite Group’s Siobhan Cole  & Stephanie McMonnies. Access more interviews from the series, including Elite Group’s Kirsten Jacobs and Sian Rogers, here.

Please click here to get in touch if you are looking for talented individuals to join your tech team!

Similar articles you might like...

woman looking at lines of code wondering about the growth of women in tech

Are Return To The Office Demands Killing The Growth Of Women In Tech?

Within the tech sector, we’re seeing growth in the number of women in tech roles. However, could the return to work mandates slow down this progress?

Director of Technology Nikki Greenway's headshot next to the words 'Women in Tech - Nikki Greenway'

Women In Tech: Q&A With Director Of Technology, Nikki Greenway

The British Horse Society's Director of Technology, Nikki Greenway shares how her career journey led her to the charity sector and why she's forging her own path!

Latest jobs