Andrea Corey credits a good program at Queen’s University, the small engineering company where she first worked, and some supportive peers for her success to date in the tech industry.
“The engineering department at Queen’s was a good supportive environment for me,” says Corey, who was among a minority of women in engineering class.
When it came time to leave school, Corey says there were a lot of big engineering companies recruiting, but she chose to join a small one, Toronto-based Ehvert Engineering. “When you’re in a small company, everyone does everything, projects get passed around and you get to try things that might be outside your job description … and that is a fertile learning space for someone just starting out.”
A couple years later, after a stint at MobileQ, she joined a new company called Eloqua, which was started by some of her former colleagues at Ehvert. Corey quickly moved up the ranks at Eloqua, always keeping one finger in the production side of the company because that was what kept her motivated: that ever-evolving world of technology.
“I like to be challenged, and I never want to stop learning,” Corey says.
Today, she is the vice president of product development at Toronto-based Nudge Software, a social selling cloud platform. Based on her years in the STEM industries, and climbing the ranks in tech firms, Corey has advice for others looking to advance their careers in the sector:
1. Think small. Strongly consider joining a small company or a start-up. While this is not suitable for everyone, if it is a fit for you, you’ll be exposed to a lot more learning opportunities than you would be at a larger company where roles are more discrete and defined.
2. Don’t be intimidated. Being the only woman in the room, or on a team, can be daunting. There will be small slights, whether intended or not. Try to understand a person’s true intent before assuming the worst. Try to build resilience by letting go of the small stuff, or finding humor in it. Of course, do act on any potentially serious offences by seeking out a person in a position of authority who can help.
3. Keep learning. Whether it’s a new piece of tech, a new language, or a new system, never stop learning. Even if the opportunity to take training is not formally available through your company, there are many great online courses you can take on your own time through platforms such as Coursera and Lynda, to name just two. Of course, you’ll get out of it what you put into it.
4. Strategic networking. When you meet someone you find impressive or inspirational, ask them how they learn, what blogs or books they read, what meet-ups they attend and who to follow on Twitter. Learn what they know to become better at what you do.
5. Go the extra mile. Stretch yourself by trying new things, even if you’re sure you can’t figure them out on your own. Volunteer to take on new projects or responsibilities that are important for your company. Work hard, and give it your best shot.