Mediaplanet As an executive in charge of professional services for Cisco Canada, what inspired you to pursue a career in Information Technology?

Trina Alexson My father encouraged me into engineering and then later into a career in IT. He told me that engineering was a great foundation for a future career because people who study engineering take many different career paths; it was a very flexible option. When I was close to graduating I had a chance to work in Telecommunications and IT and he really supported it – his logic “people need to talk to each other”!

MP How would you describe a career within IT? What are the opportunities within this field?

"For me personally, the main obstacle I had to overcome was getting used to working in an environment that is predominantly male. I attended an all-girl high school so when I went to university and then later to the work force it was a big shock."

Trina Alexson Not what you expect! I think most people have the preconceived notion that working in IT is about working with “things”. One time, we had kids in for a field trip and one said “I thought you would sit in a lab all day with wires hanging over your head…” Working in IT is about using technology to solve problems for people – like reducing work travel by enabling video conferencing.

MP Were there any obstacles that you had to overcome heading into this growing field?

Trina Alexson For me personally, the main obstacle I had to overcome was getting used to working in an environment that is predominantly male. I attended an all-girl high school so when I went to university and then later to the work force it was a big shock. When I talk to young women considering going into IT the way I explain it is “it’s like traveling”. The culture in a less gender diverse workforce is different, not bad. If you were going to travel to Italy you would learn a little about the country before you went. Now that I know how things work I really enjoy it – but I would still like to see more women in IT!

MP What direction do you see the technology industry heading towards?

Trina Alexson What is really exciting right now is that technology is changing pretty much every industry. We are moving from the era where technology was about connecting people and businesses to the Internet of Everything. One of the Canadian winners of the Cisco IoT challenge came up with the idea of using sensors in humans to improve arthritis prevention. It makes me think, anything is possible…

MP What is the most fulfilling thing about your career?

Trina Alexson Learning – the fact that the technology industry is constantly changing fulfills my natural curiosity. People – being able to work with people and help people is really fulfilling.

MP What is your advice for those who are thinking about pursuing a career in IT?

Trina Alexson Don’t hesitate – there are a lot of fun and meaningful jobs in the IT industry. Don’t underestimate the human aspects – IT is not about things but what you can do for people with technology.

MP Are you currently involved in any initiatives that are focused on encouraging people (whether it be youths, women, etc) to enter a career in IT?

Trina Alexson I co-wrote a book “Bit by Bit”, a career guide to encourage young women 15-25 to consider careers in IT.  Inside Cisco I am part of teams that support outreach to schools and universities and once or twice a year we host students in our offices. It’s really important to me because my own kids – my son is already sold and is studying computer science in university. But my daughter is in high school and waiting to be convinced.