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“I absolutely love my job.”
Nina is 19 years old and is currently in the middle of an ICT apprenticeship to become a system engineer at Swiss Post. That makes her a rarity in the industry. And it’s not just Nina who would be pleased to have more female colleagues.
Nina originally wanted to become a vet. “So, a really typical ‘girl job’,” she says with a laugh. In Year 8, however, she became interested in IT. To find out whether an IT apprenticeship really would be a good fit for her, she did some research and took part in taster courses. Not all her classmates understood her passion. And her parents also initially had doubts about her decision, with Nina’s father thinking that she was trying to emulate his own IT career. Nina’s mother envisaged her daughter working in the arts.
Nina is following her own path
Nina stuck with her decision – she left school with a good higher secondary school qualification and began her four-year ICT apprenticeship at Swiss Post in 2015. She spent her first year of the apprenticeship with all the other apprentices on a foundation course, where she was taught the basics of ICT. She was also able to prove her abilities in smaller projects.
From their second year, the apprentices specialize in one of three areas: system engineering, application development or business information technology. Nina opted for system engineering. In the second year of her apprenticeship, she completed two placements – one at the User Help Desk (an internal Swiss Post IT service) and one in the team for Windows-based services. She’ll now remain in her third placement in the Linux Service Team until the end of her apprenticeship. In this role, Nina is responsible for ensuring that applications such as Track & Trace and e-voting run smoothly. Theoretically, she could have accepted even more placements before completing her apprenticeship. However, Nina is quite happy to stay in the Linux team.
ICT is more than just programming
Nina’s remit is wide-ranging: she installs software, extends device configurations and trains users. She plans, deploys and administers networks. She runs and monitors Internet servers. And she’s also responsible for backing up and protecting data. What she most enjoys is the variety in her typical working day: “Every day is completely different, because every day I’m confronted by different problems which I then get to solve. In my team, we offer 3rd level support for services which are used by end customers. That’s where every mistake can have a really big impact.”
If you want to apply for an apprenticeship in ICT, you need to be good at maths. But there are other skills that Nina regards as essential: “English! You won’t get far in ICT without English.” Logical reasoning, the ability to work in a meticulous manner and the will to constantly develop your skills further are indispensable for her. “My line of work is constantly evolving. You can’t stand still.”
In favour of more women in IT
Nina is the only woman in her team. But that’s never been a problem at any time during the apprenticeship. “I haven’t heard any silly comments about me being a girl. In fact, quite the opposite. My boss would love to have more women in the team. But unfortunately there aren’t many well-trained women in IT yet.”
Finding a way to tackle this problem is the exact goal of the “Swiss TecLadies” initiative. The Swiss Academy of Engineering Sciences, the Werner Siemens Foundation and various Swiss companies and politicians want to make it easier for girls aged between 13 and 16 years to get into technical careers. Girls who are interested can test their technical skills in a fun way in the Online Challenge and apply to enter a mentoring programme if they score particularly good results in the Challenge. In the mentoring programme, the girls are supported for a year by a female scientist or businesswoman. The aim is to offer girls an insight into the employment market and to support them in their personal development.
Nina already knows what she wants to do after her apprenticeship. “First, I’d like to do the Berufsmatur, a vocational diploma. And then maybe a degree to become a commercial IT specialist or industrial engineer. Whatever I do, I definitely want to stay in IT. Because I absolutely love my job.”