Meet Iza - an IT Technician in a global charity

IT technicians make so much happen. From finding innovative solutions to new software, they keep the technology that has become such an integral part of our working and personal lives working.

We spoke to Iza Tomala, 40, Software and Device Officer at Sainsbury Family Charitable Trusts, to talk about how her technological skills allow her to support charitable teams around the world.  

Hi Iza, what do you do as a Software and Device Officer?

As a Software and Device Officer, I support staff across 17 different charitable trusts in the UK and on the African continent.

My responsibilities, therefore, are vast! On any day I could be doing anything from changing people’s passwords to developing software solutions for teams, such as designing apps with Microsoft tools to help teams operate more effectively.  For instance, yesterday I was developing an app for a team in our Kenyan office who work to improve the livelihoods of millions, so that requests for services support – Finance, Maintenance, IT – can be submitted, assigned and dealt with quickly. I like the fact that if we do our job well our colleagues have more time to focus on life-changing work.

At the moment, I divide my work from WFH and remotely helping colleagues, to commuting and working in our London office. It’s been quite busy! The demand for IT support has increased during the pandemic and continues to increase as staff start to return to the office.

You get to know every member of staff incredibly well, which in my organisation is a real privilege.

 

Why are technicians like you important to your industry?

We make sure our colleagues have all the technical equipment and support they need to do their important charity and philanthropic work. By researching and putting in place the latest products and solutions, we help staff with their productivity. We also train staff to use new software, communicate ways of working that might make their lives easier, so they can automate the mundane things, and focus more time on the creative life-saving projects. Without IT, the work isn’t possible – especially in an increasingly digital world.

Have you always been interested in gaining digital skills and experience?

Being good with technology was luckily something that came quite naturally to me - I have always been quite good at knowing how things work and what to look at if they didn’t. When I was a teenager and we had our first computer, I was the only one who could solve any of the many problems with it! 

What’s the best bit about your job?

The people. IT technicians tend to be called when people are facing challenges so, you get to know every member of staff incredibly well, which in my organisation is a real privilege. I don’t like to just fix a problem and walk away. I try to explain what I’m doing and how the problem came about so the user understands the computer systems better and they feel more empowered to work with technology and software.  

 All software has been designed in a logical way by people, like you and me.

 

How does coding feature in your role?

There are a lot of out ‘out of the box’ solutions available nowadays, which makes the knowledge of coding and script languages unnecessary for IT support. However, I find knowing how to programme and code really useful, as it allows us to be more creative when solving a problem and so more effective where standard programmes fail. When I’m designing websites for some of our charitable trusts, my knowledge of javascript helps me to create something that provides a better user experience.

What are the skills & attributes needed to do your job?

I think you need a vast number of skills to provide IT support. Critical thinking and being analytical is particularly key.  

Often the problem a colleague is encountering is similar to something you’ve already seen but has a different cause. So you need to ask the right questions and get a full picture of what they are experiencing to find the appropriate solution. You can’t make assumptions or rely on what you already know as an open mind is key!

What would you say to a young person thinking about a technical career?

When I was young, I was thinking about studying IT, but I was put off by the worry that it might be too difficult or there would be too many things to learn. But I’ve come to realise that’s not true!  All software has been designed in a logical way by people, like you and me.  So don’t feel like you must study for years and years to get started. You just need the ability to think logically. We’re all human at the end of the day.

“Women make up 50% of the UK workforce but less than 15% of STEM jobs.”

Girls Who Code UK

Have you faced any challenges as a woman in IT?

Sometimes, there are spaces where old-fashioned gender stereotypes still exist and I feel I have to work hard to prove myself. But, I am proof that not all IT professionals are men. Also, stereotypical female traits, such as being good with people, or paying a lot of attention to detail, are good in a digital occupation!  So, I’m patient, focus on my work and try not to take it personally.

Do you have any particular advice for a girl who wants to embark on a career in Computer Science?

I think, just to remember that difference is a good thing - you are not less because you do things in a different way. If you work in a male-dominated culture, you might get frustrated along the way, but stay true to yourself and you will do well. Don’t be discouraged.  

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