In honor of the upcoming Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference in Houston, Credera caught up with a couple of our own female developers and asked them to tell us a little bit about their experiences as women in technology.
Let’s start with the basics. What is your current job and what do you like most about your chosen career?
– Patricia: I am a Senior Consultant at Credera. I don’t really care what stack I work in, I just love the problem solving aspect of development! My favorite part about being a developer is the success you feel when you solve a tricky puzzle or bring a complicated effort across the finish line.
How did you get involved in technology?
– Kelleigh: When I was deciding what to major in, I didn’t really know what to pick. I mentioned doing Computer Science once to my friends (mostly males), and a couple of them laughed and said I couldn’t do it. I’m incredibly stubborn and hate being told what I can’t do. So I chose Computer Science and, while my reason for choosing it may have been silly, I have absolutely loved it and don’t regret my choice.
– Patricia: So, don’t laugh at me, but at one point I wanted to be an astronaut. While a senior in high school, I looked at the job postings at NASA and found out that they had a lot of openings for mechanical engineers. I went to college as a mechanical engineering major, but quickly learned that I liked the instant gratification of the technology side of things way more than I liked physics. I also had a fantastic mentor in college who was a Computer Science professor. She really took me under her wing and got me excited about my future career.
What do you think of the stereotypes that both men and women face in the field of programming?
– Kelleigh: I think both genders have it pretty bad. A lot of people think of male developers as unattractive and cripplingly shy, yet brilliant. Women programmers are also socially awkward or commandeering, have rainbow hair, and play World of Warcraft in their free time. You can definitely find people who fit these stereotypes, but at Credera, there are all types of people. I think these misconceptions can make programming unattractive to some women. They’re slowly being broken down, but they’re still there, and I think that’s why a lot of high schoolers pick something else.
Do you have any advice for women considering the tech field?
– Kelleigh: If you think it’s interesting, just try it! At least take the intro course. You may just fall in love with this new way of thinking, puzzles, and problem-solving.
– Patricia: You do not have to be a nerd to be a developer (although nerds are certainly welcome). Just because you don’t play computer games or really don’t have an opinion on which OS is best doesn’t mean you’re not a good fit. Software development is really all about problem solving, you just happen to use a computer to do so! I never considered tech initially because I did not think I was nerdy enough. I wish I had gotten involved with it sooner.
What do you think can be done to change the ratio of men to women?
– Patricia: First and foremost, we have to fix our pipeline issue. As schools get more technology focused, this should help. We as a society need to engage these girls before peer pressure turns them away. Secondly, the industry as a whole needs to figure out how to make itself more female-friendly. My mom also had her career in technology, and it amazes us how 30-plus years later I am experiencing effectively the same thing she did. Until we have a critical mass of women (including in the boardroom), we will need to be incredibly conscious of what we do to help get other women on our teams.
How do you deal with being a minority?
– Kelleigh: Sometimes I have to tailor myself and my conversations to my audience, but it’s not usually a big deal. If I’m talking to all-male coworkers, I’m not going to talk about my hair and nails, or buying dresses. They won’t care; I know that, and it’s okay.
– Patricia: I do not particularly think of myself as a minority, but I do acknowledge that others might see me as such. Unfortunately, there will always be some (usually older) guy who will not respect you at first because you are a woman. To combat this, I make sure I am twice as good as I need to be and do my best to turn that attitude around. I hope by my laying the groundwork now, my future daughters will not have to prove themselves before being seen as equal to (or better than) the boys.
Imposter syndrome can strike anyone, but it especially seems to strike women. Have you experienced this? What have you done to combat it?
– Patricia: What can I say? I feel like an imposter every single day! The most useful thing I have found to combat it is simply realizing that it exists, and then pushing those feelings aside. I went through college feeling like I was the most unqualified person in the room. But at graduation, I found out I had one of the highest GPAs in my graduating class. I cannot begin to explain the relief/annoyance I felt… I had been selling myself short for years and hadn’t even known it. I do not think that anyone who looked at me today would think of me as anything other than confident (and hopefully competent). It’s been a bit of a “fake it ‘til you make it” journey for me, but a successful one.
Does Credera offer special support for women in tech?
– Kelleigh: I’m in the Integration and Data Services (IDS) practice at Credera. The women in IDS meet monthly for Credera-sponsored lunches. It’s nice to get to see each other and enjoy a good meal together once in awhile. There’s usually no organized agenda for the meetings, so it’s just about connecting with one another.
– Patricia: Credera is making big strides in trying to become better for women in tech. They have committed to trying to promote women in their technology practices. While it is still a work in progress, I am impressed with the effort they are putting forth. I also really enjoy the monthly IDS lunches where we can talk about everything from cribs to microservices.
You are both successful, do you think being a woman has made an impact on your career growth?
– Kelleigh: Honestly, I think it’s helped me. In school, I had to be twice as good as my male counterparts in order for them to stop thinking of me as “the girl in the class” (Freshman year), and start thinking of me as “that’s the person I have to have in my group this semester” (Junior and Senior year). I think being outnumbered motivated me to work that much harder.
– Patricia: Yes and no. I do not think I have been promoted or passed up for promotion due to my gender. I do think that being the “token female” has made me be noticed more. I also know that at least at the beginning of my career I had to work hard to get the respect of my team because I do not present myself as this super nerdy person. However, since I have put in the work, at the end of the day I ended up learning more and that makes me a more marketable developer.
This is Credera’s first year participating in Grace Hopper. We’re incredibly excited to be part of such a cool event for women in tech. We’ll see you there and, until then, Happy Coding!