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“We need to see tech and digitisation as an opportunity:” An interview with Women in Tech Awards Winner Bilge Mert

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Bilge Mert, CTO at Brit Insurance, has 19 years of technology experience, with a strong track record of driving commercial value and business transformation through the integration of automation and technology. She joined Brit from InsurTech iptiQ, the start-up of Swiss Re, where she most recently held the position of Senior Director and member of the Executive Committee. Bilge also brings valuable experience from outside the insurance industry, with a career spanning fast moving consumer goods (FMCG), pharmaceuticals and consulting.

Here she reflects on the importance of women’s involvement in technology as it will fundamentally change the nature of the opportunities available, as well as the variety and types of free training available to young women who may be seeking a first chance or a career change .

Why do you support Computing’s Women in Tech Excellence campaign?

Technological advancements, such as automation and machine learning, will change millions of functions and create millions more. Supporting Women in Tech is crucial if we are to empower women to take advantage of these new job prospects and future-proof our careers.

I also believe it is crucial that we see technology and digitization as an opportunity, not a threat. An opportunity to future-proof careers in the long term, move up the career ladder and close the gender pay gap.

How did you get into the IT industry?

I am originally from Istanbul but have mainly been in the UK for the last 20 years. I studied computer science and have worked in technology my entire career after starting as a graduate intern at Mondelez.

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What do you think is the main reason why the IT industry is predominantly male, especially in technical and senior roles?

There are many reasons for this, but more important is what we do to address it. I am a strong believer in increasing diversity and inclusion in technology in all areas. It’s something I’ve always been very supportive of and helping to develop the careers of graduates from diverse backgrounds has been a very rewarding part of my career. Working towards a more balanced workforce is so essential as it becomes the most effective and innovative workforce. There are large organizations such as Code first girlsall of which are about nurturing diverse talent and bringing them into technology and data roles.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned in your career?

It’s important to have the right conversations with senior stakeholders, to make sure they really understand how technology can enable business decisions and to really guide them through the journey of how technology can support a strategic vision. It is also crucial to ensure that you prioritize initiatives that actually increase business value for an organization.

Integrated teams are also critical to success, as they bring together multiple skills from across the company. This is always much more successful than the traditional and more disjointed model where IT just provides a service to the business.

What are your three best tips for women who want to start a career in IT? / What advice would you give to young women who want to take on leadership roles?

As a starting point, maybe we can make it a little less ‘scary’. Switching to technology doesn’t have to mean rethinking your career. Simple upskilling is something that can greatly benefit everyone, and it also offers significant benefits to employers, ranging from greater efficiency to more intelligent application of data and insights.

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Knowing to start here is often the hardest part. Some of the things I would recommend are exploring many of the free training courses offered by the likes of Codefirstgirls, researching what training your own company has, and taking advantage of mentors. There are also plenty of “bite-sized” forms of training and a huge range of apps that can help people learn and upskill. For example. Khan Academy can you learn computer programming, while DataCamp can teach you the basics of data science on your phone.

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