My journey to become an Executive Principal Engineer working in Developer Relations (fancy buzzwords title) was not easy. Here is my story and why I believe we need to challenge ourselves.
In 2005, I finished my apprenticeship. Since then I have worked as a Developer. Most of the time as a Frontend Developer - or what I love to call it, UI Developer. But this specialization was not my first choice. In my apprenticeship, I loved Database Development and wanted to get a job in this area. It was 2005 you know, I was 19, blond, and couldn’t land a job - even though I had an excellent certificate.
Back then, companies told me that they can’t hire a 19-year-old woman for a team of twenty men with an average age of 30. In Germany, I could have sued them for it, at that time I didn’t have the courage to do so. Nowadays I would do it, trust me.
Days went by and I was very frustrated but also didn’t want to accept that I can’t land a job in tech as a developer, only because I’m a woman and too young. So I applied for every Developer job I was able to find… nothing. All my fellow students already had a job - all men. So I did the last thing left to me - looking for an unpaid traineeship (wouldn’t recommend it to anyone - you should get paid for what you are doing). Of course, I found something where I worked as a developer without getting paid for it. It was in a company that did web development (sadly no database stuff).
The traineeship ended after 6 months and they hired me for the minimum amount of wage. I didn’t care, I was just happy to have my first paid job - finally.
What should I say? I proved every Database company, every other company that didn’t hire me because I’m a woman wrong.
At 21 I was self-employed. At 23 I moved to a big city (Hamburg) for a job, which by the way was one of my best decisions ever. At 26 I started to work as a Freelance Developer - where I had to reject most of the projects I got offered because I had too much to do. With 29 the company I'm still working at hired me as a so-called Free Radical. With 30 I became part of CSSconfEU & JSConfEU. With 31 I built Developer Relations for a non-product company. With 34 I got promoted to Executive Principal Engineer and I'm the Tech Lead of a project which is fighting Covid 19.
Yes, the journey was not easy, but if I made it, you can make it, too!
My biggest achievement is that I accepted that it is hard as a woman in Tech BUT I’m still privileged. I'm white, I had a proper education, I earn enough money and I'm in a cis relationship. The moment I realized that, I started to fight for inclusion. I still call out every sexism case I witness. I don’t get tired of saying that we still have a huge way to go in the tech community, at my job, at my friend's. But if you are a white cis woman, ask yourself:
If it is hard for me, how is it for non-gender people? women of color? for LGBTQ+ people?
The theme of International Women's Day 2021 is #ChooseToChallenge. So, I call every white cis woman in tech - choose to challenge yourself.
Get aware of your privilege, read and learn about it and your unconscious bias. Think about how you can be an ally for non-white-cis-women. Call out every discrimination.
Take actions on every day's business - example: Often people ask me “Feli, how do we get more diverse, how do we get more women into tech”. My answer? “Let’s talk about how we get more people from under-represented groups into tech. Diversity is not only about women in tech”.
Be the change! Choose to Challenge!