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Mrs Joanna (Jo) Tyrer has over 25 years of experience in the IT sector. She was recently nominated for the 2020 Women in IT award and primarily specialises in business transformation. Over the years, she has worked in Europe and Asia Pacific with many different IT companies and currently runs a French HQ software company based in Singapore. In terms of her education, she read Major Spanish and Minor French at Newcastle University and holds an executive MBA from INSEAD Paris. Through this interview, we wish to learn about her journey and how students can use her lessons to prepare for the 21st century workplace.
A quick summary
30 years ago, if someone would have told Jo that she would be running an IT company, she would never imagined what that meant, as IT was not the industry juggernaut it is today.. However, through this story we learn that students need to embrace the unpredictability of life as opposed to avoiding it; uncertainty breeds opportunity.
Jo began her journey studying modern languages at Newcastle University. After graduating, with no real idea of what career to pursue, she found herself in jobs that ranged from presenting in Spanish Television to dressing up as a green M&M for a promotional agency to pay off her student debt.
She eventually interviewed for a junior role in an IT company. While not possessing any technical knowledge in the field, it was the potential to learn and display her unique attributes that allowed her to thrive in the firms she worked with. However, Jo’s early career to get started did not come without the absence of challenges. Some of these were out of her control in cases where companies needed to lay off workers for economic reasons after the ‘Dot-Com’ bubble burst.. Jo regarded these challenges in great importance, reminding us that we will inevitably face setbacks, the key is how we are able to learn and move forward from these challenges.
Like numerous industries, the IT space is incredibly diverse and has many non-technical roles such as Marketing, HR, Legal and Commercial roles that are more business acumen in their gearing. When asked about how one can navigate in such an environment and pinpoint a field of speciality, Jo talked about the challenges of trying to aim for a target which we cannot see as the business world can be a fluid and constantly changing place. As students, there is always a danger in targeting a specific niche, given the uncertainty of the way the world works, we don’t even know if that specific niche will be existent in the future, especially in the IT industry that is constantly evolving to new trends. Roles in IT both on the vendor side and the ‘customer’ side are constantly being defined. While there is value in finding an area of interest you wish to pursue, we should always stay open-minded and ready to adapt. “If you start in one job, don’t let that job define you”
Given the dynamic and unpredictable nature of the 21st century, students often find themselves asking what skills will be demanded of them in the future and whether what they learn today will be relevant due to significant technological advances such as Artificial Intelligence or Machine Learning. As put by Jo, “if there’s a job that can be learnt, it can be automated”. To avoid redundancy, we should learn what technology cannot, this revolves around possessing a sense of creativity and curiosity. Taking the initiative to make improvements to a company and identifying ways to move it forward are great ways to start. Furthermore, we should always stay updated and aware of imminent change through research and other forms of information. The more aware we are of upcoming change, the higher the chance we will be able to adapt and make the most out of it. Jo also highlighted the importance of networking; this not only helps with identifying opportunities that may come up but also staying current with the latest trends in the market.
To conclude the interview, Jo left us with a message that revolved around the way we present ourselves as youth. Stating that we shouldn’t underestimate the importance of social media and other such platforms and should otherwise embrace them to portray what it is that makes us the people we are and potentially why an employer would be interested in us. This could come in the form of presenting our CVs in the form of videos as opposed to documents, things such as these allow us to stand out and ensure that we are remembered. The ability to stand out amongst a crowd is something Jo and her company values profoundly as employers are always looking for people who can bring in fresh ideas, so their approach to getting a job and then looking at what other initiatives they can get involved in, is how company cultures thrive.
From the interview, I gained an insight into the life of a professional with enormous amounts of IT experience. Ms Tyrer taught me that you shouldn’t go into the field with a certain path as the world is ever-changing. Along with this, she explained how new opportunities will appear, and so it is good to be open to different experiences. I would have never known all of this if it wasn’t for this interview, and that’s why I believe this podcast has been very helpful and is important to those like me who are curious about the profession/field they want to aim for.Aaron Zhu. – Current IB Diploma Student aspiring to pursue a future in IT