Olive Grant-Williams advocating for more women in technology

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March 29, 2022

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Having carved a career path in what was predominantly considered a male-dominated area of work, Olive Grant-Williams firmly believes that women have much to contribute to the field of technology.

The current senior manager for mobile value-added systems and support platforms in Panama, Bahamas and Puerto Rico, and the 13 markets in which Flow operates, made her entry into the world of technology as a technician with Cable and Wireless some 39 years ago.

It was at a time when women working in technical fields was frowned upon by many. Grant-Williams was, however, undaunted.

After graduating from the all-girls Convent of Mercy Academy, her first job was at a credit union, where she worked for a year before moving on to what was then Cable and Wireless in 1983.

Sharing more about her career change, Grant-Williams reflected: “I wasn’t getting that joy, that satisfaction of what I needed in doing what I do, because in those times money was not really what you go after, for me at least. I wanted to enjoy what I was doing. I wanted to be able to get this sense of peace, this sense of accomplishment in what I do. I wanted to be able to help people.”

With that, she sort of ‘piggy-backed’ on her natural talent, an interest piqued by tinkering with electronic equipment in need of repair at home, such as pulling the iron and transistor radios apart in an attempt to repair them.

“It’s really a combination of understanding how things work, fixing it if it doesn’t work, and ensuring that whoever’s using it enjoys the use of it, and that’s why I really got into ICT,” she explained.

Grant-Williams started as a technician at Cable and Wireless without formal training, but was a quick study through on-the-job training and other courses. She also credits her husband, Harold, and other male members of the team for the guidance and support received throughout the years.

“That’s also the beauty of Cable and Wireless; they trained me. And now I’m where I’m at because I pursued my dream, and I still enjoy doing what I do. I still enjoy tinkering with technical stuff; I still get that satisfaction to do the things that I do and enjoy it,” she said.

As she climbed the corporate ladder, her other roles have included supervisor, manager, head of department and now senior manager in charge of mobile VAS and support platforms.

The high point of her career came in 1992 as one of the pioneers of the switch from analogue to digital. Grant-Williams related how she had to apply for the job through a United Nations offering. She was selected to go to Suriname for the cut-over for the DMS 100 (digital multiplexing switch), where she operated and managed No.5.

“That, for me, was a major highlight. I was also moving across Jamaica to help cut-over from the analogue switch to digital, and because of what I was able to achieve, the cut-overs were successful … the first digital switch!” she remarked.

A true stalwart, with 39 years of experience in the technology industry, she offers high marks for efforts being made by her company and others in the tech industry to equalise opportunities for women.

Grant-Williams shared that there are equal opportunities for learning in the technology field, with just as many women involved in her course while studying computer studies at the former College of Arts, Science and Technology (CAST), now the University of Technology, and “more women in the class” for her telecommunications policy and technology management master’s programme at The University of the West Indies.

“Getting into the workplace is where the gate wasn’t open wide,” she said. “At school, they’ve been doing it for a while.

“My one hope is that more organisations will be open-minded enough to assess the individual for their value and worth and not gender. Give everyone an equal opportunity to get where they want to go, based on their ability, their quality.”

For this year’s IWD celebration, Liberty Latin America, the parent company of Flow, included a focus on girls and women in technology in a bid to encourage more girls and women towards careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

“I think it’s a good move for my company to encourage and recognise these women. I really want to channel the interest of young women in this direction. It is a field that you must not feel intimidated in,” said Grant-Williams. “What the company is driving for is a good move and one I hope will be adopted by all. I want to encourage everyone out there, especially females, to go for it. If you believe it, you can do it. Sometimes we doubt ourselves, and we don’t realise the strength that we have within.”

In the meantime, she continues to impart her knowledge and feel joyful.

“I have been able to help a number of my technicians to grow. I’ve guided them, and now a couple of them are in senior management positions. I don’t hold back in my knowledge or experience. So, when I have persons who report to me, I like to share it,” she beamed.

“When I look around and see where many of them have reached, I feel good because they’ve achieved and because I’ve helped them to succeed,” she added.

lifestyle@gleanerjm.com

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