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Republic of Trinidad and Tobago

IWD2023 – Janelle Kowlessar

IWD2023-Janelle-Kowlessar

Janelle Kowlessar is a certified project management professional, with 9 + years of experience as a practitioner. She has been privileged to work in a variety of different roles, on a broad range of projects across multiple sectors including, Oil & Gas, Construction, Government /Education and most recently ICT.

She currently holds the position of Project Manager at the Ministry of Digital Transformation and is part of a talented team of Project Professionals that are responsible for delivering strategic projects aimed at advancing the Government’s Digital Transformation Agenda.

She is an avid volunteer, who enjoys giving back to her Alma Mater, Holy Name Convent as well as the Project Management Profession. For more than 6 years , she has volunteered with the Project Management Institute Southern Caribbean Chapter. She has held the positions of VP, Technical Sessions,  Disciplined Agile Champion and is now the current President of the Chapter.

Janelle is a proud advocate of the project management profession and enjoys delivering ICT projects that delight customers and create value for society. In both her day job and volunteering activities, she enjoys helping other project professionals and change makers like herself evolve and develop the skills needed to drive success, and turn ideas into a reality in today’s VUCA world.

1. What first sparked your passion for the tech industry?

I’ve always admired how technology has the ability to make lives easier, make processes more efficient, remove borders/ boundaries and provide access to opportunities, people and knowledge that otherwise would be not be available due to geographic constraints.

As a student I would look for opportunities to leverage new software solutions to help me produce my best work and cut down on some of the effort as well.

I would never hesitate to learn a new tool that would make my job easier and allow me to produce high quality outputs.

Now, I’m proud to say that I’m not just an avid adopter of tech but in my role as project manager for tech projects; I get to be part of a team that delivers innovative solutions that delight customers while making their lives and jobs easier.

2. Did you face any challenges being a woman in tech? If so, how did you manage to solve them?

Thankfully, I did not. I started my career as a civil engineer doing project management and moved to the tech industry in 2019.

It was not in a technical role but in an operations and project management role.

When I made the change, I spent a great deal of time and effort learning about the industry, people and upskilling. Upskilling was necessary so that I could be knowledgeable and speak confidently to my areas of responsibility.

Thankfully in all my encounters since then, I’ve never been made to feel like my contributions were not valuable because I was a woman.

Maybe I was lucky, maybe it’s the role, or maybe I haven’t been in the industry long enough.

I say this because while, I haven’t faced challenges, I have seen and heard of instances where women were considered a less favourable option for a specific tech role because of her gender.

So if I can offer any advice, it would be this:

  • Be sure to invest in yourself and in your professional development. Aim to stay ahead of the curve. Make it difficult for someone to discriminate against you under the guise of lack of knowledge & expertise.
  • As women, when we see or experience these challenges, we need to bring it to the forefront, tell our stories, inspire others to tell theirs and work together to effect change.

3. What do you think is the best part of being a woman in the tech industry?

I think the best part is that we are living proof that women can in fact be successful in the industry and this can be used as inspiration / encouragement for more women to get involved.

4. Why do you think it’s important for more women to join the tech industry?

I think when creating tech solutions, products or services for customers, you need that diversity on your team to ensure the needs of women in the customer base are represented and solutions are created with us in mind.

It would also be nice to see more tech solutions specifically targeted to us as women, that address our own unique needs.

 

5. List 3 top skills young women need to excel in tech.

  • Emotional Intelligence – To get things done successfully and achieve goals, you need to have a sound understanding of the players you’re dealing with and how to navigate them and their emotions. Make sure you have this power skill so you can effectively navigate and clear obstacles along your path to success
  • Leadership – We need more women in leadership positions to help drive culture and transform mind-sets and behaviours.
  • Resilience – As women we will undoubtedly face setbacks, along the way, but don’t let it stop you. Persist, persevere, learn, and adapt for success.

6. Do you think enough is done to help women get into the tech industry in Trinidad and Tobago? If not, what would you recommend?

Currently, the numbers show that a gender gap still exists in the Industry. I applaud all of the entities and individuals that are taking great strides to encourage women in Tech and that’s exactly what’s needed but so long as the numbers still show that gap, our job isn’t done! We have to continue building on these existing efforts to create that ecosystem that encourages women to join the industry and achieve that shift in numbers.

7. What advice would you give to young female professionals starting in tech?

I would say, invest in yourself. Build your experience, build your expertise, seek guidance and mentorship from the right people, be brave and be willing to operate outside your comfort zone.

We are most often our biggest critics, fearful of failure, judgement but it is in those exact moments that we give in to the fear or discomfort, we can lose out on great opportunities that can tear down barriers for ourselves and for the next generation.

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