As I sat sipping my sparkling water (it was too early for alcohol) in a trendy pub in a quiet part of fashionable Notting Hill, I glanced through my notes one more time ahead of my meeting with IT specialist and Web Master (or should that be Mistress?) Kinvara Corbett to make sure I was completely prepared for the interview.
Age, 29. Background, wealthy, white middle class. Education, computer science graduate. Status, married with a four-week-old baby. Employment, the director and founder of web construction company Wizz-It.com.
Didn’t sound like your average IT “geek”. As the attractive, blonde woman approached me, baby strapped to her chest in a harness and extended her hand in welcome, the stereotypes were all pretty much shot to pieces!
A student at Bristol university Kinvara attended a computer science class in which she was one of only 3 girls out of 100 class mates (her twin sister was one of the other two) and was immediately under no illusions about the difficulties she faced when considering a career in IT.
“Both my sister and I were very good at maths and physics and we thought computers was a good industry to get into. There were 97 boys and 3 girls on the course and even though I had originally only opted for Bristol because all my friends were going there, once we got into studying I found the subject really interesting.
Leaving university with a degree and high ambitions wasn’t enough to start with and the early years saw Kinvara turn her hand at technical support roles to earn a living.
“There’s nothing wrong with support but you never really think you have achieved anything in the long run. You get a lot of immediate return but it’s just like an endless conveyor belt of problems and not really rewarding from a career perspective for me.”
However, Kinvara understood that the web was the way forward and so she looked towards the development of a system that would help her take advantage of the growing platform that was the Internet.
“The thing about the web is that it is such a fantastic way of communicating with people across so many levels and so many platforms. In this age of high-tech business, even the smallest company needs a web presence otherwise they are lost.
“What often deters people from creating or developing an existing web site is the expense. It’s no exaggeration to say that creating web sites isn’t a cheap solution. And that was where I wanted to plug the market with my completely self-developed product, Wizz-It.
“I know there are many bespoke applications that you can sign up to that promise to give you the tools to create an inexpensive site but they often provide little or no assistance and in the main part, rely upon their users to have an extensive knowledge of IT.
“My product is completely different. If you can send an email then you can use Wizz-It.”
Of course the lack of women in IT is a wide reaching problem and something that thus far has not provided us with a suitable solution.
“To get more women involved in the industry you need to grab their attention at an early age and then keep it through the years when they are more likely to make their study and employment decisions.
“There’s no question that computers seem to connect more with boys and men but I believe part of this is probably down to gaming. Companies plough millions of pounds into the development of games software and they feed a market of males who cannot seem to get enough.”
Certainly, there is a strong argument to support Kinvara’s claims. The games industry generates more money than the music or film industry and yet more software is still geared towards teenager boys. Even female icons such as the hugely successful Tomb Raider series that features Lara Croft are clearly aimed more towards the appetites of pubescent boys.
“What I hope to achieve with Wizz-It is to give those people – male or female – who have a limited knowledge of the Internet and technology in general an opportunity to use it. The biggest hurdle is fear of the unknown. If you can overcome this then you have won half the battle.
“For a £100 you can have a basic site up and running in a few hours. Of course if you need some specialist assistance or development then we have people on hand to help at a small extra cost but the idea behind what I have created is for little more than the price of a dinner out for two, you can have your very own presence on the World Wide Web.”
Of course creating a website is no guarantee of business and outside of the technical requirements there is still a lot of thought that needs to go into the design and content. As far as tips on how best to approach the set up of your site, Kinvara had these handy hints to offer.
“First and foremost you need good images to promote your site. The web is a very visual medium and the better the pictures you have the more chance you are going to have of making a good impression. Secondly, try to inject some personality into your site and ensure you have a good logo. Something that represents a little about who you are and what message you want to convey.
“Finally, as any web developer will tell you, content is king. Keep your site up to date to keep people coming back.”
In an industry so heavily dominated by men, Kinvara Corbett certainly stands out. As a businesswoman, she appears to have hit upon a powerful product that can be delivered for a minimal sum.
For more information check out the Wizz-It website at www.wizz-it.com
George R Vaughan