Curious Minds STEM Coach Carla Donnelly is a Project Manager and has been working in the largely male-dominated field IT for over two decades.
My exposure to STEM was limited in my younger years through formal channels, but I was obsessed with the internet and computing from a very early age. My step-Grandfather was a plastics scientist and was online in 1988. I was always so excited to go to his house and have him show me his latest discovery or newest piece of technology. We got a dial up modem in 1993 and I was off – teaching myself how to make websites and Usenet type forums.
I come from an underprivileged background [so I] am keen to give back to young women in the same circumstance. STEM careers have the ability to give women greater independence, power, and life experience, whether it be through travel, good salary potential or global career experience. I personally feel I have a great debt to repay the mentors who did the same for me, so I am thrilled to have found this program. Finally, I think a career in IT is wonderful; it is intellectually stimulating, exciting, always moving and filled with brilliant people.
“Don't think you need to be technical. There are many job roles that are creative, managerial or specialist that would suit many different types of people. If you're interested in a field and find it exciting, find a way to work in it.”
I didn’t formally study my discipline until I’d been working in the field for 10 years. I had a wonderful mentor/manager at the time who was very focussed on formal education and made me do a Diploma of Information Technology as part of my training commitment for my job. I didn’t do well in school and did not believe I could do it. It was through her encouragement and determination I took that tentative first step and it ignited a lifelong passion for learning and now I have a BA in Psychology and Criminology.
I won’t sugar coat it; I have experienced a lot of sexism in the mostly male dominated industry that is IT. I also worked in IT in Manufacturing which was a double whammy. Being young and inexperienced this led to a lot of doubt in myself and my abilities, especially as I wasn’t formally educated but I found people who believed in me and held on to them for dear life and they lifted me up and helped me see what I was capable of.
“Don't be afraid to ask for support or advice and find your champions.”
I have had a couple of wonderful mentors that have made my career. In 2021, I signed up to be mentored through the VICICT4Women program, as I felt stuck and unhappy with my career trajectory. It completely changed my life; I have such a new, fresh lease on life in my career.
The best moment of my career is every day where I get to serve incredibly talented people, to help clear a path forward so they can bring brilliant things into the world. I have been on the receiving end of a couple of transformative leaders in the past and I feel I am now doing their teachings justice. Experiencing a team working together, solving difficult problems, and putting ego aside for the good of ideas and execution is magic to me.
This interview was developed in partnership with 3M.