Women hailed for their success in information technology gathered at Reed Arena in February to encourage IT students to grow and change with their field after graduation. Detailing the high-wire balancing act of managing work, promotions and family life, a panel of Dell and ConocoPhillips managers expounded on the increasingly global role of IT.

“You will be in school for the rest of your life,” said Aga Webb, director of global IT for Dell, telling the women they should add one new skill, such as learning a language, each year. “And that school unfortunately won’t have so much guidance. You’re going to have to figure out where to go — journals, people, resources — and see learning as a holistic approach.”

It’s a message inherent in the Center for the Management of Information Systems’ sixth annual Women in Information Technology Conference, which shared the theme “Exploring Your Life Ambition” with Mays IT students and their counterparts at Prairie View A&M University.

Exploring topics from landing the best job to leadership and management in an endlessly changing industry, the women also addressed time management issues as mothers and professionals (telling students not to miss the plays and performances that make their children’s eyes light up) and off shoring and other trends challenging IT workers.

Most major U.S. companies are also global companies, which means fitting the needs of a work team across the world into your schedule. That can sometimes land managers leading phone conferences from their couch in pajamas at 2 a.m. to ensure their European counterparts aren’t inconvenienced, said panelist Pam Crawford, a ConocoPhillips manager of information services.

Off shoring brings its own cultural vocabulary, one that means today and tomorrow’s IT professionals will have to have an open mind. Webb explained, “I’m not ever going to approach it as, “We are a U.S. company and that’s how we do things.'”