Coaching for women in IT with the Young Potential Boostcamp
The Young Potential Boostcamp is a free mentoring programme for young, promising women in IT. A mission we are happy to support. Herlinde Lietaer, experienced professional at Colruyt Group IT, took mentee Anouck under her wing.
Herlinde Lietaer is in charge of the Colruyt Group IT service centre, which is responsible for the company's internal communication and collaboration tools. Anouck Jonckheere works as an industry solution advisor at Salesforce, a software company offering a customer relationship management (CRM) platform and services. Both ladies met at the opening event of the Young Potential Boostcamp. And they felt a connection right from the start!
What is the Young Potential Boostcamp?
‘The Young Potential Boostcamp is a mentoring programme for ambitious women who want to further build a career in IT’, Herlinde explains. ‘The inspirer of the programme, Ingrid Gonnissen (ICT Woman of the Year 2018), wanted to create more opportunities for women in IT and clear paths where possible. This year's boostcamp was supported by Bélise Songa of Colruyt Group IT (Young ICT Lady of the Year 2022), Kristel Demotte of Cegeka (ICT Woman of the Year 2022) and Marijke Schroos of Microsoft. Those who signed up could expect personal coaching and one-to-one advice from a mentor. The programme included several contact and networking moments and inspiration days.’
Watch the video about the Young Potential Boostcamp launch event.
17 % women in IT
In this age of digitalisation, the IT sector is running at full speed. But women - at just 17 % - remain severely underrepresented in IT. ‘Unfortunately, even at Colruyt Group IT it is quite a struggle to attract women’, Herlinde admits. ‘IT often evokes images of 'a man's world' or 'a dull affair'. This is because many IT jobs are just not well known. You don't necessarily have to be able to program to have an exciting job in IT. And really, I am having a great time at work! As a mentor at the Young Potential Boostcamp, I want to help ensure that women no longer feel inhibited from entering and growing in the IT sector.’
Anouck is also passionate about diversity in IT and the empowerment of women in tech, which she proudly demonstrates through her involvement with the Women's Network Benelux. ‘My country lead at Salesforce, an inspiring woman I look up to tremendously, participated in the Young Potential Boostcamp as a mentor’, says Anouck. ‘She absolutely insisted: ‘In your life, you need some good mentors to take your career to the next level’. That's why I signed up as a mentee for the boostcamp. I think it is a significant added value that this programme focuses specifically on women and recognises the unique experiences women struggle with, both culturally and socially.’
Personal coaching in soft skills
The boostcamp was an enlightening experience for Anouck, where she was especially able to enhance her soft skills and work on her personal development. ‘Herlinde's coaching and moments of self-reflection gave me more self-confidence and resilience’, she says. ‘During the job-shadowing day, I also got the chance to see first-hand what a typical working day looks like for Herlinde. It was impressive to see her break down complex topics into manageable chunks during a presentation, not to mention how she deals with different types of people, in different situations. Very inspiring. By the way, Herlinde is also just incredibly funny and a real go-getter. Our conversations are never boring!’
‘How I act in meetings with colleagues is now very intuitive and obvious to me. I hadn’t expected Anouck to find it so interesting’, Herlinde says from her perspective. ‘Indeed, during the mentorship, we talked about soft skills more often than technical topics. For example, how to deliver a message in the strongest possible way, from your expertise, regardless of your gender or age. And how to stand your ground as a woman.’ (laughs)
Advice for young potentials
Herlinde has a message for those still unsure about a career in IT: ‘Whatever your background, there is a place for everyone in IT. I myself studied Germanic languages and look, I have been here for 14 years and am now head of department. Several of my colleagues at Colruyt Group IT have a background in psychology, history, criminology, etc. Whether you are interested in business, sales, processes, service design or something else, the IT sector certainly has a great job in store for you. And also: you do not necessarily have to plan out your entire career from the start. Be yourself, focus on your strengths and keep an open mind for new opportunities as they come your way.’