Women in Tech: Jeanette Allerston
Hi Jeanette, tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m Jeanette Allerston, software development director at MIS Active Management Systems (MIS AMS), which has been providing solutions to Social Housing organisations for over 25 years. I’m 47 and live in Cheshire with my husband and two children.
What were you doing before you became the Development Director at MIS AMS?
After I completed Computer Studies at Liverpool John Moores (it was Liverpool Poly back then!), I got a job with CSC as a Junior Programmer on the Mersey Regional Health Authority contract. I worked there for four years working on the NHS Supplies warehouse systems. I then joined MIS in 1995 as an Analyst/Programmer to work on social housing systems, and have been here ever since.
Getting involved in Tech is still a new thing for women, what was the motivation for you?
I got into the Tech industry by default really, sounds awful I know - I failed my Sociology A level! But, it was one of the best turning points in my life. I was heading for a career in psychology, and had places at three universities.
When I did not get the results I needed, my careers adviser pointed out that all my best subjects were the sciences and Maths, so had I ever considered computer studies. I hadn’t. I don’t know why no one had ever pointed this out to me before, but it was fairly obvious once you looked at it. I went to an all-girls school and computing wasn’t high on the agenda back then. However, like many teenagers in the 80’s, I had my own ZX Spectrum, which I used to try typing in all the lines of code for, just to create a game of hang man!
How have you found your journey so far and what has been your greatest accomplishment?
When I was offered the job at CSC, the interviewer (Male – in his 50’s – smoking a cigar) said to me “don’t worry there are other women in the office – there are two girls in admin”. I was quite shocked, it never even occurred to me to reference the fact that I was female. I just thought, how strange. On my first day, when he showed me to the office, I just couldn’t believe it. I was 20, fresh out of University, and I was surrounded by about 30 men who were all (apart from a few) twice my age. They all wore suits and ties too, so I stuck out like a sore thumb! The two women who worked in admin worked in a different office!
Once I got over the initial surprise, it never bothered me. The blokes were great, really easy to get on with, I’m still friends with some of them now. I guess I was quite a novelty for them. I remember teaching my team leader how to use a mouse!
What has been the most challenging thing so far?
Dealing with the staff resourcing problems that come with a large department have always been the hardest part of this job. Dealing with the technology is much easier than dealing with finding good people!
Do you think more women should get involved in Tech and why?
Yes of course, I’m hoping more women will move into software, it’s a shame to have a reduced resource pool. I don’t know for sure what puts them off, so I don’t know how to really fix it. It could be an image thing, it’s probably seen as really geeky.
There is no getting away from the fact that it is extremely technical, and requires people with a sharp focus. So, looking at it from the outside, maybe it’s a bit scary. It could be that young women just can’t imagine themselves doing this kind of role as they have no idea of what it entails. Maybe there is also too great a focus on the coding rather than the design skills, or communication skills required to create great applications. I hardly ever get a female applicant for a software developer role here at MIS AMS and I wish and hope that is something that will change in the future!
What advice would you give to young female entrepreneurs who are stuck on an idea?
If you are stuck on any one idea, you need to bounce what you’ve got so far off someone else. I’ve always found that when you explain the problem to someone else, you quite often find yourself coming up with the answer. Also, get a good night’s sleep. Your mind will not work to its full capacity if you haven’t charged it properly!
What does it mean to be a female tech entrepreneur and what challenges do you think women face in the industry?
I’m very proud to be a woman in Tech and I thoroughly enjoy my job. I don’t really see any challenges in my role because I’m a woman, I would actually go as far to say I enjoy working with predominantly men. There can be a quite a bit of ‘banter’ and occasional bad language, but I must admit it isn’t always the men swearing anyway!
I do recognise there are issues in other companies and across the sector which is sad to see, especially the pay gap problem, something again that never comes into play here at MIS. I think if more women start to enter the industry, it will soon become the ‘norm’ and the treatment of women will adjust, and fast.
Overview of how MIS AMS works:
· MIS Active Management Systems have been providing solutions to Social Housing organisations for over 25 years and currently employs 49 people.
· To date there are almost 300,000 properties being managed by the MIS ActiveH product.
· With customers ranging in size from 300 to over 40,000 homes MIS Active Management Systems is acknowledged as the one stop source for innovative housing management software.
· MIS Active Management Systems Ltd are part of the MIS Group of companies and are based in Northwich, Cheshire.
How to find MIS AMS: