Bilge Mert, CTO at Brit Insurance, has 19 years of experience in technology, with a strong track record in creating business value and transforming the business through the integration of automation and technology. She joined Brit from InsurTech iptiQ, the start-up of Swiss Re, where she most recently served as a senior director and member of the executive committee. Bilge also brings valuable experience outside of the insurance industry, with a career that has spanned 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 opportunities available, as well as the variety and types of free training available to young women perhaps looking for a job. a first opportunity or a career change.
Why are you supporting Computing’s Women in Tech Excellence campaign?
Technological advances such as automation and machine learning will change millions of jobs and create millions more. Supporting women in tech is crucial if we are to enable women to capitalize on these new job opportunities and sustain our careers.
I also think it is essential that we start to see technology and digitalization as an opportunity and not as a threat. An opportunity to secure long-term careers, move up the career ladder and close the gender pay gap.
How did you get into the computer industry?
I’m originally from Istanbul, but have lived mainly in the UK for 20 years. I studied computer science and worked in technology throughout my career, starting as a graduate intern at Mondelez.
What do you think is the main reason why the IT industry is predominantly male, especially in technical roles and leadership positions?
There are many reasons for this, but the most important is what we are doing about it. I am a firm believer in increasing diversity and inclusion in technology in all fields. It’s something I’ve always been a big believer in and it’s been a very rewarding part of my career helping to develop the careers of graduates from diverse backgrounds. Working to create a more balanced workforce is so critical because they become the most effective and innovative workforces. There are great organizations like Codefirstgirls, which are dedicated to nurturing diverse talent and integrating them into technology and data-related roles.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned in your career?
It’s important to have the right conversations with key stakeholders, making sure they really understand how technology can enable business decisions and really guiding them through the journey of how technology can support a strategic view. It’s also crucial to make sure you’re prioritizing initiatives that actually drive business value for an organization.
Integrated teams are also critical to success, bringing together multiple skills from across an enterprise. It’s still much more efficient than the traditional, more disjointed model where IT just provides a service to the business.
What are your top three tips for women looking to start a career in IT? / What advice would you give to young women aspiring to take on leadership roles?
As a starting point, maybe we can make it less “scary”. Switching to technology does not necessarily mean immediately rethinking your career. A simple skills upgrade is something that can be hugely beneficial for everyone, and also offers significant benefits to employers, ranging from greater efficiency to smarter application of data and information.
Knowing where to start is often the hardest part. Some of the things I would recommend are exploring the many free training courses offered by Codefirstgirls, exploring training your own business, and taking advantage of mentors. There are also many “small” forms of training and a huge range of apps that can help people learn and improve their skills. For instance. Kahn Academy can teach you computer programming, while DataCamp can teach you the principles of data science on your phone.
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