Celebrating International Girls in ICT (Information and Communications Technology) Day has never been more important. Recent data reveals a startling economic disparity caused by the pandemic – women losing jobs at almost twice the rate of men, leaving 47 million more women and girls around the world below the poverty line. This makes exposing women and girls to the wide range of career opportunities available in IT – the world’s fastest-growing job sector – critical to helping improve the quality of their lives.

Maria Gaffney, Cisco Networking Academy alumna
Maria Gaffney, Cisco Networking Academy alumna and global IT support, Amazon Web Services

Today, and every day, Cisco aims to engage and inspire the next generation of female technologists. One powerful way Cisco does this is through the Cisco Networking Academy program. A global education program, Networking Academy provides IT skills to students of all backgrounds and experiences – many of them women. In fact, each year over 600,000 female students take Networking Academy courses, ranging from cybersecurity to programming. And to date, the program has reached more than 2.7 million female students in 180 countries.

I had an opportunity to connect with Maria Gaffney, Networking Academy alumna and global IT support at Amazon Web Services, to talk about her experience in the field. Her passion is contagious and her advice insightful and heartfelt.

When did you first discover your passion for technology? 

I discovered my passion for technology soon after graduating high school. I had started working as a project coordinator supporting various technology implementations for financial institutions. When those contracts expired, I looked for another way to further my career. Realizing I needed to expand my IT skills, I enrolled in a few networking and security courses. That is when I found my love for technology! Shortly after completing the courses, I enrolled in the Computer Science program at the University of the District of Columbia, where I found Cisco Networking Academy and discovered my favorite niche of technology – networking. With networking, I learn a lot about how data travels from the computer to local and wide area networks to arrive at its destination. Switches and routers direct traffic using various protocols, and learning the specifics of these data routing methods, such as OSPF and EIGRP, helped me understand the inner workings of the Internet – which I find fascinating!

What excites you about what you do?

There are so many exciting things I love about working in technology. First, it is a fast-paced environment that’s on-demand and ever-expanding. New technologies and career opportunities are introduced into the market every day – and it is a privilege to be an integral part of it! Another exciting aspect of working in tech is the challenge of solving complex problems for users around the world. I love finding the root cause of an issue and finding solutions.

One of the complex problems I was tasked with recently was to determine how Ubuntu operating system (OS) users can take ownership of their computer. This requires making the user an admin using commands from terminal. On my team, we manage three versions of Ubuntu OS and each version stores its primary user file in a different directory, so it was fun researching and testing to get the process down. One of the many benefits of working in IT is the freedom to learn and be curious!

What kind of skills – both hard and soft – do you need for a career in tech?

There are many hard and soft skills you need to have a successful career in technology. Some of the most important soft skills are active listening, leadership, time management, and adaptability. Technology is ever-changing, and it’s important to have these skills as they drive innovation and can help prevent recurring problems. Some hard skills you need to have are troubleshooting, programming languages, and industry certifications. Technology is all about being resourceful, making learning to troubleshoot essential to start sourcing information and solving problems. Programming helps with logic and reasoning skills, while industry certifications help solidify your understanding in a particular area and help you stand out against the competition.

Why is it so important to include more women in tech?

We need more women in tech! There is a clear underrepresentation of women in this field, and they bring such a diverse perspective to the table. Having different ways of thinking, along with important skills, like emotional intelligence and effective team building, make women a valuable asset to driving innovation in technology. I also think we need more role models. More women in tech would encourage girls to get more involved – and they’d know that they can do it too.

What does a career in tech have to offer women? 

There is so much opportunity for women tech. There are a plethora of jobs and career paths to choose from. Whether that’s engineering, software development, technical project management, graphic design, or another role. The opportunities are wide open. Women from every background can find good paying jobs with so much potential for personal and professional growth. Another great thing about working in tech is that there is always something new to learn and create!

What advice do you have for both women and girls pursuing a career in tech?

My advice to women and girls pursuing a career in technology is keep believing in yourself and your dreams! Technology is for everyone who is interested – so stay curious, focused, and determined.

Interested in learning more about IT? Get started at www.netacad.com.


Sarah Hurd

Marketing Communications Content Specialist

Corporate Affairs