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Being a woman in IT, Alice Peltier's story

Pauline Jxxx
by Pauline Jxxx Read time : 3min
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My name is Alice Peltier, I am an engineer in Mathematical and Computer Engineering, I have 20 years of experience and I have been independent for 2 years. I started my career as a computer scientist in a communication agency for 3 years doing web development, then in IT services companies for 15 years, with different roles from development to project management, always in web software design. At the age of 40, after returning from a round-the-world trip, I felt the need to return to technology and mathematics, so I retrained as a Data Scientist.

What made you want to go into IT?

In high school I was passionate about mathematics, I admit I found it easy: it was the only subject I didn't need to study for! After my BAC (equivalent A-Levels), I naturally decided to study mathematics at university. It was very theoretical, and not very practical. Computer science was on the curriculum and I liked it a lot. I immediately saw the range of possibilities that this offered: being able to work in all areas, from industry to retail, as well as public services and insurance.

 Did you have any preconceptions about the industry?

 Not at all, I didn't really know much about the field, it was 20 years ago, we were only just starting to talk about the internet. It was really exciting!

 Did you notice an under-representation of women during your studies? Was it a strength or a weakness?

 That's an understatement: there were 3 women in a class of 33 students! It was not a strength or a weakness, I was very well integrated, my friends would often arrive in the morning and say "Hi guys!" and I would have fun answering with a man's voice. It was later when I joined IT departments that I realised the difference and it wasn't always easy.

Why did you decide to become a freelancer?

 It was when I specialised in data science, which was a gamble because it was a profession that hardly existed at that time. I wasn't completely sure I wanted to stay in this field because I had mastered the theory but not yet the practice, so being a freelancer allowed me to return to project management assignments.Having been a service company for more than 15 years, I wanted to stand on my own two feet and find the assignments I wanted. Today being independent is something I enjoy very much but it's also a matter of chance opportunities and meetings so nothing is set in stone!

Do you feel that it is easier or more difficult to find work as a woman in IT?

 I am fortunate that I have never had any difficulty in finding work. I like to think that it is because of my skills, experiences and personality, not the fact that I am a woman. I compete in a market where there is not a lot of competition, whether it is men or women.

What advice would you give to women who want to go down this road?

Above all don't hesitate! We need you! Don't be afraid of your differences, whether you be a man or a woman. My vision, from my experiences and the clients I have worked for, is that the days of trying to run an IT service like a drone army are over! I think we need more and more differences, and these differences enhance the community. This is very important, especially in the field of data science. The richness of the range of skills will allow us to go further in improving the efficiency of algorithms!

For women in particular I would advise them to have confidence in their skills, they are as capable as men, there is room for everyone! Then there are 2 women in particular, who have helped me a lot in their writings on this subject:
- Sheryl Sandberg's "Lean In", a book in which she explains how a woman faced with an offer of promotion or a job will start to think about all the skills she doesn't have and the change in family organisation that this will involve. A man, on the other hand, will by default accept the job and handle everything else later. This highlights the different ways in which people function.
- Isabelle Collet's podcasts and publications on gender motivations in IT, and the importance of gender in the IT sector. These are things that everyone can relate to!

Finally, I am the mother of two daughters, I follow them in their schooling and several times they have lost confidence in their ability to understand mathematics. By supporting them and explaining to them in different ways, I managed to give them a renewed interest in mathematics and, above all, confidence in their ability to be "good at maths". Unless I am mistaken, it has not been proven that a girl is less capable of being good at mathematics than a boy. Life is not always a long and calm river, it is sometimes complicated, but it is possible! And so I think that giving confidence, providing guidance, and encouraging this may be one of the solutions to make women want to go into this field again.

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