As a society we tend to focus on titles and roles, and we forget that behind each title there is a person who has a story to tell. And truly every person’s story is unique.
In honor of International Women's day, we interview inspiring women from the community on the story of how they got into Tech, and where they are today.
In this post, I interview Rayta van Rijswijk who is based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
Yes, there’s one Rayta here and no, it’s not Raita (the famous Indian yogurt, cucumber side dish), thanks mom and dad, now people cannot stop giggling when they read my name.
Anyway, you can call me Ray or Rei :) and as a dark skinned woman in tech I’ve had some ‘interesting’ challenges. Women, LGBTQ+ and PoC are still treated differently or are a scarcity in tech and I’d like to change that. All the meet-ups and conferences I organise with my team have a Code of Conduct and are backed by a CoC team. To motivate more women to enter the tech industry, we make sure there’s a separate room at the venue for breastfeeding mothers and there’s a space for small kids to stay (overviewed by babysitters ofc).
When did you first become interested in technology and what sparked this interest?
My father was a mechanic. When I was a little girl, you could usually find me outside, next to a car my father was fixing. Barely able to look into the hood, I was handing him tools for the broken engine he was fixing. I was always very curious about how engines and machines worked, but was never motivated nor encouraged to engage more.
Describe your way towards your first job in tech; how did you land your current job?
I enrolled for a Web Development Bootcamp years ago because I wanted to learn how to code. I loved the bootcamp so much that I decided to learn more. I started to work for a SaaS company where I got a mentor who taught me how to write Ruby outside working hours. But I wanted to go faster and learn more, so I enrolled into a Coding Academy. After an immersive training I landed my first developer job via a community member of the Amsterdam Ruby meetup (which I co-organize).
Tell us more about your current job – e.g. what do you like most about your role?
I’m part of Team Platform at YoungCapital. I enjoy the DevOps-y part of the job a lot. So, it’s not just writing code and making the “car drive”, but actually building the engine. What happens under the hood when you deploy your app. I love this part. We use multiple platforms and each platform is structured differently. Also, I’m part of an amazing team that takes time to teach, mentor and guide me. So it’s not just the role that makes me love the job :)
My “second” job within the team is Scrum Master; making sure processes are guarded and the team is aligned.
What does your typical day look like?
Coffee first, obviously. Then we have standup with the team. Since our stakeholders are our own developers, we have to make sure that they can do their jobs without any deployment issues. So if we get ’tickets’ (“Hey Ops, I got a 500, please help”) we solve them asap. I also have my own tickets to work on, so if there are no meetings scheduled, I work on those as well.
What do you do in your free time?
I’m a sport fanatic, I’ve been kickboxing since I was 15 and I’m still going strong. I hit the gym hard because my eventual goal is: to be able to wear high heels even when I’m 80 years old (if I get there) and do my own grocery shopping and carry my own bags then. I also enjoy gardening, reading, dancing…if only my week consisted of 10 days… Guilty pleasure: Manga and Anime.
What advice would you give to women and girls who dream about a career in tech?
First, you can do this. You don’t have to be a whiz kid, you just need to be motivated. Be resilient. You got this.
Find a mentor! I had a mentor when I started to learn code and I still go to them when I’m stuck or need help. They can tell you about challenges, do’s and don’ts and also what to learn and what to skip (for now).
There are many many senior tech people who would love to help you! Don’t know where to start? Go to tech meet-ups, connect with people and ask questions. Read, tinker, try things out. Trial and error is how you learn.
Need some motivation? I'm an organizer of events like Rails Girls for example, which is an event for womxn and girls. It’s a taste of code. No experience needed. Hit me up when you go, let’s connect!