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Feli (she/her) for Studio M - Song

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Nevertheless, Feli Coded - ChooseToChallenge Yourself

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.

A journey with obstacles...

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.

Even if I wanted to, I never gave up...

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 β€œFeli, how do we get more diverse, how do we get more women into tech”. My answer? β€œLet’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!

Top comments (2)

_moodybones profile image
Mel Jones ✌️🌞🀚

Thanks for sharing Feli! I'm glad you didn't give up, tech needs more folks like you πŸ’–

kotzendekrabbe profile image
Feli (she/her)

I'm glad as well. Thanks a bunch Mel πŸ’–