Bilge Mert, CTO at Brit Insurance, has 19 years of technology experience and a strong track record of driving commercial value and business transformation through the integration of automation and technology. She joined Brit from InsurTech iptiQ, Swiss Re’s start-up, where she most recently served as Senior Director and member of the Executive Committee. Bilge also brings valuable experience from outside the insurance industry, with a career spanning Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG), pharmacy and consulting.
Here she reflects on the importance of women’s participation in technology as it will fundamentally change the nature of opportunities available, as well as the variety and type of free education available to young women who may be seeking a first chance or career change.
Why do you support Computing’s Women in Tech Excellence Campaign?
Advances in technology such as automation and machine learning will result in millions of job roles changing and millions of new ones being created. Supporting women in technology is critical if we are to enable women to take advantage of these new career opportunities and future-proof our careers.
I also believe that it is crucial that we start seeing technology and digitization as an opportunity and not as a threat. An opportunity to make careers future-proof in the long term, to climb up the career ladder and to close the gender pay gap.
How did you get into the IT industry?
I’m originally from Istanbul but have mostly lived in the UK for the past 20 years. I studied computer science and have worked in technology my entire career after starting as a trainee at Mondelez.
What do you think is the main reason why the IT industry is predominantly male, particularly in technical and managerial roles?
There are many reasons for this, but more important is what we do about it. I firmly believe in the increasing diversity and inclusion in technology in all fields. It’s something I’ve always been very supportive of and developing the careers of graduates from diverse backgrounds has been an extremely rewarding part of my career. Working to create a more balanced workforce is so important as it will become the most effective and innovative workforce. There are great organizations like Codefirstgirls that are all about developing diverse talent and putting them into tech and data roles.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned in your career?
It’s important to have the right conversations with high-level stakeholders to ensure they truly understand how technology can enable business decisions and truly guide them through the journey of how technology can support a strategic vision. It’s also important to ensure you’re prioritizing initiatives that actually add business value to an organization.
Integrated teams are also key to success as they bring together multiple skills from across the organization. This is always far more successful than the traditional and more disjointed model where IT only 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 who want to take on management positions?
As a starting point, maybe we can make it less “scary.” Switching to technology doesn’t have to mean an immediate professional rethink. Simple upskilling can be of great benefit to everyone and also offers significant benefits for employers, ranging from increased efficiency to smarter application of data and insights.
Knowing how to get started here is often the hardest part. Some of the things I would recommend is exploring the many free training courses offered by Codefirstgirls, exploring what training your own company has, and utilizing mentors. There are also many “bite-sized” forms of exercise and a huge range of apps that can help people learn and develop. For example. Kahn Academy can teach you computer programming, while DataCamp can teach you the principles of data science on your phone.