Network Rail wins IT Ambassador Award for its 'Could IT Be You?' competition for girls in IT

Network Rail’s 'Could IT Be You?' competition for girls in IT wins The Corporate IT Forum's IT Ambassador Award

Network Rail has landed an IT Ambassador Award for its "Could IT Be You?" competition, which the rail operator launched to encourage more girls to consider a career in IT.

Network Rail was crowned IT Ambassador at the Real IT Awards, held by The Corporate IT Forum.

The "Could IT Be You?" competition was launched last year after Susan Cooklin (pictured), CIO of Network Rail, expressed concerns about the decreasing number of women entering the UK’s IT sector. The competition was designed by six women from Network Rail’s 500-strong IT team, aiming to show what a career in IT is like.

Fifty entrants were invited to a networking day at Network Rail’s national centre in Milton Keynes in February, to meet with businesswomen and learn CV techniques and interview skills. The entrants were asked to film a video about their experience with the top four winning two weeks' work experience at Network Rail. 

The top candidate won a bursary to pay for the fees for her first year at university. The winner this year was Zoe Moore, from Sponne School in Northamptonshire.

Real IT Awards judges commented on why they chose the organisation's competition: "Our winner recognised a worrying trend and decided to do something about it, not just internally but also by positive engagement externally producing a very positive outcome for both their organisation and the wider IT industry. 

"They can be very proud of their achievements and we recognise them on behalf of all IT professionals."

Rewriting popular perceptions

Susan Cooklin, CIO of Network Rail, said: “Popular culture has helped create a perception among young women that a career in IT is all about writing code in basement offices – the reality couldn't be further from the truth. 

"'Could IT Be You?' aims to break down those myths and help young women realise how the skills and behaviours they already have, such as good communications, problem solving and working creatively, are exactly what business leaders are after.

“I had an idea and my team worked incredibly hard to make it into a reality. I’m exceptionally proud that, together, we’ve started to make a difference, and this award can only serve to help us get more young people – and women in particular – inspired by technology. Congratulations to my team, we’ve now got to do it all again for 2014.”

Sarah Jane Crawford, Network Rail IT project manager, said: “The IT industry is one of the most far reaching and fast moving industries out there. 

"Every major company relies on technology to keep running, whether it’s high street chains managing their supply chains, websites and finances through IT, or Network Rail, which manages trains, infrastructure and corporate services.

“Working in IT means that the type of company you can work for is not limited and the experience you can gain is massive. It’s exciting, creative and fast paced and it’s an industry that has thrived despite the economic challenges of recent years.

"When I was 17, I didn’t imagine I would be working in the IT industry, but I kept my options open. I completed my studies in subjects I enjoyed and did my degree in Psychology and Philosophy at Leeds University. Once these were complete I looked at every option and I couldn’t be happier with what I’ve ended up doing.”

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