Robots, Not Barbie Dolls for Mai

If you play with robots as a little girl, as opposed to Barbie Dolls, there’s a good chance that all roads will lead to a career as an IT professional. Such was the case for Mai Nishitani who grew up on the Gold Coast in Queensland.

Despite originally fighting destiny by completing a Bachelor of Psychology degree at University of Queensland, Mai “came out of the Comm’s closet”, as she put it, when working in her first job as a post-graduate which just happened to be with tech giant IBM.

“I always suspected I was a techie but it was my first job where the passion was really ignited,” Nishitani said. “I got to work with some really smart technology professionals at IBM and it dawned on me that I was a techie at heart and there was nothing stopping me from pursuing that sort of career as well.

“I had always enjoyed troubleshooting my own tech issues and generally got things sorted on my own. Meanwhile, I saw my mother be our resident family tech manager at home so she inspired me and embedded the notion that tech is not necessarily just a male domain.”

Soon after her light-bulb moment at IBM, Nishitani started a study and career development trajectory that has seen her work in tech for a broad mixture of private and public-sector organisations including Morgan Stanley, IBM and Queensland Health.

She has also consulted for a few start-ups recently but the route to her current role as a Senior Infrastructure Analyst at Queensland Health was traditional. She started on a help desk and then progressed through Level 2 Tech Support, Desktop, System Administrator, Senior Infrastructure Specialist and onto Solution Architecture.

Along the way she has never stopped learning as she feels that this is a key component of not only staying on top of industry developments but also catching the eye of recruitment agencies and employers.

In addition to her initial degree, Nishitani’s resume boasts a Master of Information Technology at Queensland University of Technology (Majoring in Networks and Security) and certification as an AWS Solution Architect (Associate).

She is also certified in CCNA, CCENT, MCP Win XP, has completed a Diploma of Government (Project Management) and has completed industry training in VMware vSphere, VMware Horizon, Microsoft Server 2012 R2, Dell Compellent, ITIL, PRINCE2 and TOGAF.

Nishitani said that this continual education regime has been good for her soul and career. As some of this study has been completed in the last 12 months, it made her eligible to apply for the ITPA CPM status she has attained and which she is confident will also add value to her resume.

“My IT Masters degree makes a difference in proving my ability in a wide range of IT topics,” she said. “I’d also have to say that my AWS certification has definitely made a difference in attaining interest from prospective employers for Cloud related positions.

“I can’t encourage people enough to keep learning. One of the reasons I joined ITPA was because I found it to be more results oriented and non-traditional compared to the Australian Computer Society.

“I can showcase the skills that I learn via the ITPA courses. I then wanted to join the ITPA CPM program to prove my tech credentials through ongoing certifications and ITPA courses that I passed.”

Nishitani said that she really didn’t like to bring up the issue of gender, but said that the reality, in her experience, is that “women need to work twice, maybe even three times as hard to ‘prove’ that they are technically capable”.

“Traditionally, it has been difficult to prove that you have knowledge in a certain area without investing lots of time and resources,” she said. “However, by passing the ITPA short courses and/or other industry certifications, and attaining CPM status, I believe that potential employers will notice that I have been making a conscious effort to stand out from the crowd.”

Nishitani has some strong opinions about what the most important issues are in Australia’s IT industry now as well as on the challenges faced by IT professionals to forge meaningful, rewarding careers.

“I think there is a lack of skilled resources in Australia,” she said. “Often when there is very talented staff, they tend to leave Australia because there are more opportunities overseas. To be a smart nation, we need significantly more federal investment into the STEM education and R&D sector.

“I also think that the gender gap in the IT sector is an issue. There seems to be an inability to retain and attract women in tech. Women add value to IT in ways that men cannot as our thought processes are different.

“This is a particular hobby horse of mine and I have presented my case to the Women in Technology forum (Editor’s Note: Mai won a “Highly Commended” award in the “Infotech Professional Award” category at the 2016 Women in Technology awards).

“In terms of challenges facing IT professionals in Australia, despite the advances in technology, the well-paying IT jobs are still usually situated in metropolitan areas, e.g. Sydney and Melbourne.

“It would be great if people could work from home or from any allocated shared office location in the country and perform the same duties as per people onsite. We have the technology to do this and our inability to facilitate it is the great shame about the failure of the NBN.”

While Nishitani is very happy with her current work where she gets to play with her favourite technology - AWS - she said that her “dream job” is anywhere where she can work with innovative technology such as this and where she can utilise some of the skills she has attained over the years.

“It must be a place where they invest in technical training and encourage growth for staff,” she added. “I am a self-confessed tech nerd and connoisseur of cloud computing solutions.

“In my current work at the Gold Coast University Hospital, I am constantly finding solutions to complex technical problems, keeping life-critical health systems running smoothly. It’s challenging and no two days are ever the same.

“Troubleshooting infrastructure and applications has been a lifelong passion for me, so I am doing pretty well for job satisfaction where I am for the moment.”

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