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What I wish, as a woman in tech, I knew early on?

ilonacodes profile image Ilona Dee Codes ・4 min read

I studied computer science at the university, and with the overwhelming majority of classmates being male, acting like just "one of the guys" worked to my advantage.

When I started working, I tried to continue to change myself to fit other people's views of what I should be to develop my career.

Though, in the end, this was all just exhausting and challenging while also not being true to my personality.

I understood that I will be more successful just by being myselfβ€”not being "one of the boys" on the team. I wish I knew a few things more before joining the tech world:

🀯 Don't feel pressured to fit the stereotypical mold

In the beginning, you may feel compelled to change parts of your lifestyle at some point: wardrobe, hobbies, conversational topics, and how you spend your spare time.

The truth, the tech industry is only part of your life. If you have to change yourself just to fit in, it's not worth it.

As French say: Vive la difference! Smart people appreciate other smart people, regardless of style or gender.

πŸ“š Consistently master your skills

You can learn how to recognize what you need before you learn how to integrate that knowledge properly to what you are working on.

Be patient and never stop learning.

Just because your first attempts at building working features are failures, it doesn't mean you are a failure. Keep at it.

A lot of people are just good at saying things and doing things confidently. Fake it 'til you make it. Chances are you deserve to be one of those people too.

πŸ’Ό Evaluate company culture before joining

No matter how great the product is, if the team working on it is not good, you will not be happy.

Likewise, a team with great people succeeds in building great products, and you may enjoy it there even more if the team is not working on the latest "hot" tech.

Obviously, having a combination of both β€” great team and the product you love working on is the dream, but if it comes down to choosing between both: always choose a great team!

πŸ‘©β€πŸ’» Look for a job that challenges you and continue to learn

You have to keep on learning new stuff to survive in tech.

Sometimes it is easier to just stay in one place forever and do the same thing forever, but it's probably not the best path.

πŸ’Έ Ask for more money

Till now, women do get paid less for the same roles, but women also don't usually ask for more money, either.

You need to be honest with yourself about money.

I didn't know this and didn't negotiate my job offers in the beginning. I only learned because I found out that the new company joiners with the same position as mine are going to earn more than I did.

If you are not happy about what you are being paid, you need to speak up.

Companies will always try to shell out as little as possible, but you should know what the market rates are and value yourself as such.

πŸ‘©β€πŸ« Find a woman mentor

In my experience, it's relatively easy to find experienced men who can give advice about personal growth or career choices.

However, a woman mentor can give a different perspective, like experiences as a woman in tech, advice about running into sexism, mental health, work-life balance, and other resources.

A good woman mentor will make you believe that you belong to the tech industry, inhale confidence, and encourage you to perceive your career in tech.

Women in tech like to support other women in tech. Join the club!

🐣 People can be immature

This goes for both men and women.

Don't allow others to scrutinize simply your knowledge or skills because you are a woman. It's always exhausting to continually think about proving yourself in a setting that keeps pushing you down.

Surround yourself with people who care and want to help you grow.

Detach yourself from the harmful environment as soon as possible. Work with people who value you for your knowledge, skills, and perspective.

πŸ‘Œ Detours are okay too!

A lot of women who graduated with CS-diploma do not end up working in tech at all. Again, this is a personal decision.

A lot of them go on to great things such as design or product or entrepreneurship, but they decided that writing code is not for them.

I am basically saying that it's okay to switch gears.

Don't be locked down into a software engineering career just because you got a degree in it, and you feel like you got something to prove.

Do what makes you excited and challenge yourself. Even in tech, eventually, you got to decide whether you want to go into management and give up being an engineer.

πŸ’¬ Conclusion

Realize that there are so many possibilities and wonderful ways in this world to use your talent, and to create great things.

Make an active choice. Figure out where your interests and ability to impact are most significant for you, and go do it!

It may well be that what you are really excited about: nanotechnology, computational biology, geophysics, cloud computing, cybersecurity. These will be the next hot thing that has "too few women."

"I have very personally felt the overwhelming loneliness, self-doubt, and frustration that often comes with the minority status of a woman in engineering. As much as I can help others get through or avoid those difficult stretches that I myself had to weather, I'd like to. As a bonus, the more women (and minorities) that enter and don't leave the field, the better it all gets for everyone, including me!" β€” Tracy Chou, Software Engineer at Pinterest

Don't be a follower, listen to yourself. Strive to be the best version of yourself and make career choices that support that.

Thank you for reading! πŸ™

Give more than you take. If you find this post to be worth the word-of-mouth, please help me spread it on Twitter.

Code your best life,
Ilona Codes


Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

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Ilona Dee Codes

@ilonacodes

I help developers to condense finance + investment knowledge via my tiny newsletters (+1000 readers) πŸ“¨ Get top-15 tips on how to save more cash monthly πŸ‘‡

Discussion

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I know it's intended for women, but this is also excellent career advice for anyone starting out or beginning a new position, regardless of gender or industry. Thank you for a great post.

 

So why would it be intended to women? I'm sorry but the link with the "women" is unjustified and to a certain personalized to the female gender.

I'm not dismissing a potential inequality but this article is when logic gets twisted.

 

We tend to write from the perspective of our own experiences. Some people make it known their writing is from their own experience, while others tend to be general with the perspective so it can have a wider audience.

You should watch the Black Hat presentation linked in the OP. It was eye opening and I think the data presented in the talk might help you realize why certain people in tech tend to focus on their identities moreso than others.

@jim you are just confirming my point. I didn't say that the points are wrong, it's just that they are for everyone and when the author considers them something special for women as the title suggest, then there is a different side to the story you mention.

I don't believe the author claimed these were experiences special to women. But being that OP is a woman, and in tech, it only makes sense that the advice given would be related to something she is familiar with.

If you had to write the same sort of post from your perspective, how do you think it would read? I would probably have written something along the lines of "What I wish I knew, as a veteran, before leaving the military". It would probably have a lot of advice that could be applied broadly to the general public, but the advice would be intended for the benefit of other veterans who may find themselves in similar situations.

I don't think OP was being exclusionary, I speculate she was following the general advice of "write what you know".

Anyhow, it doesn't matter. The title felt misleading to me, because I wanted to read something about but I read something for everyone that many know. Not a bad post, just a misleading title.

I would be interested though in a post that is really specific to the perspective of the female gender in the tech world. If there isn't, then there is nothing to specialize about and justify comments that we hear from left and right. I think there is though and I've seen this the most in India and I had discussed a bit about this with the most progressive of the men in the office.

 

+1 to this!

"Do what makes you excited and challenge yourself. Even in tech, eventually, you got to decide whether you want to go into management and give up being an engineer."

This statement is true and quite powerful πŸ‘πŸΌ

 

Thank you for your words! I am happy you liked it πŸ™‚

 

you may feel compelled to change parts of your lifestyle at some point: wardrobe, hobbies, conversational topics, and how you spend your spare time.

Conformity is the death of creativity. Conformity is also boring. A lot of people don't understand nor accept it, but software development is a creative field. You need a team with diversity, and that's not just gender or ethnicity.

As you mention, checking the culture and make of the company/team is important. If everybody is the same it will be soulless job.

Overall, great advice for anybody (including hiring managers.)

 

In case it helps someone else, a shortcut I've found to getting a sense of company culture (because even as a white guy, I don't want to need to rely on sexists and racists) is to ask about how you'll be expected to interact with people in positions that are "coded" as feminine and non-white. You can justify it (if anybody asks you why you're asking) by pointing out that those "support roles" are important to company health and you want to get a sense of whether you can rely on them.

It's not perfect, but "stupid marketing people keep changing our deadlines even though they don't code, man!" or "the boss will insulate you from needing to interact with those people" are huge red flags that you'll hear regularly.

 

'Evaluate company culture before joining': the most of the times is very difficult, unfortunatelly.

I found myself in some companies perfect on the theory, but with very incompetent HR that laughed about my reports about rape jokes and promoted the, like I call, 'good sexism', that was: uplifting me, a female dev, and call me the 'quotas' by the ceo of the company or being forced to say that I am the first and only one female dev in the team in a video made for clients.
Of course, not every company is like this, but find them in 2020 still in very depressing

 

Loved it. Great advice. Thank you Ilona πŸ™πŸ™ŒπŸ‘©β€πŸ’»πŸ‘

 

Thank you for writing this! I needed this today.

 

That's a really great article. I am strictly going to follow them. πŸ˜…
Thank you for a great post. πŸ€πŸ‘