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An interview with Sheila Kelly: her career journey and women in IT

Diversity is one of the key drivers of innovation. Diversity of experience, skill set, background and perspective are all essential within a team. Despite technology being one of the most innovative industries, gender diversity is low. Just 19% of the technology workforce are female, suggesting that the industry is missing out on tapping into the unique contributions that women bring to a company.

Sheila Kelly is Director of IT Strategic Programs at ICON’s Dublin office, where she is responsible for the IT integration of newly acquired companies. Sheila explains that IT teams work best when they are diverse, and believes that women foster a culture of collaboration that can sometimes be hard to find in a male-dominated team. Sheila told us about her time working at ICON and how we can encourage more women to work in IT:

1. What has been your career journey at ICON? 

I joined ICON in 1999 as an administrator in the Data Management department. Within a few months, I told my boss that I wanted something more challenging, and I was asked to write a proposal. At the time, I didn’t know much about proposal writing, but having a BA in English and History helped. The proposal was a success, and we won the contract. Within a few years, I was managing global proposals for the data management group.


At ICON, we’re encouraged to carve out our own career, and this culture has allowed me to move between different areas of the business. Soon after joining the IT team, I was still on the lookout for more responsibility and started taking on innovation projects. During one health outcomes project, we pitched to Professor Michael Porter from Harvard University, making a case for why ICON should manage their data and run their programme. I think my success in that project came from bringing my knowledge of the business and commercial skills and marrying them with my technical skills.


In my current role, I oversee IT integrations. As with previous jobs, I knew little about post-acquisition integrations at the beginning. But I have an enquiring mind, and I like to question current practices, which has helped me to develop new skills.


2. How has ICON supported your career progression?

If you have something to say, ICON will listen. My success has afforded me the trust of my colleagues, giving me autonomy in my job. My current boss will give me a problem to solve and then ask me to come back with the solution.

As a company, we always offer opportunities to the people who ask for more responsibility. Every role I've had at ICON, I’ve found from networking within the business and keeping an ear out for new challenges. The knowledge that there are so many other avenues within the business is one of the reasons I’ve stayed working at ICON for over 20 years.


3. How can we encourage more women to pursue a career in IT?

From my experience, women bring many unique skills to an IT team and are the key to creating a collaborative environment. While IT continues to be male-dominated, I have seen more women move into senior roles in recent years. 


Women need to be reminded that technical skills aren’t a prerequisite to be successful in IT. You don’t need to be able to write code or build a data centre. In fact, skills like project management are just as important. More needs to be done to highlight the diversity of roles within technology – it’s not just software development.


4. What advice would you give to someone thinking of joining ICON?

Apply for a job even if you think you don’t have 100% of the sills. This advice is especially important for women. Even if you have just 30% of the skills listed in the job description, apply. Also, the company - and its culture - matter far more than the role. Don’t focus on the job title, and make a habit of applying for jobs even if they sound junior. Instead, concentrate on how it will be a stepping stone in your career.  


5. What advice would you give to your younger self?

To have more confidence. If people question you, it doesn’t mean you need to rethink your skills and approach. Remember to have confidence in yourself and your abilities.

Join a company that is on a mission to provide best-in-class technology solutions.

As Sheila explains, applying for a job is a case of finding a company that will listen to you when you ask for more responsibility. In the IT team at ICON, there are no boundaries to where you can take your career. With so many disciplines, we have job opportunities for everyone, regardless of your area of interest or previous experience.

Find out more about working in the IT team at ICON or browse our IT operations jobs and begin your application.

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