VCRs didn’t stand a chance in our house. From a young age I was obsessed with breaking things to understand how they worked. I mercilessly deconstructed my PS1, VCR’s, and countless Tamagotchis as I unknowingly prepared for a future in tech. Nothing, however, could prepare me for the challenges that I would face as a female developer.
During tech events strangers approach me with perplexed faces and say:
“Wow… a developer, good for you!”
“You’re a developer? That’s very interesting…”
“Are you here with your boyfriend?”
Before beginning my career, it hadn’t really occurred to me that I was entering a predominately male industry (or maybe I just didn’t care at the time), but my faith in the tech industry was quickly muddled after my first few interviews and tech events.
I applied for a developer position and was called in for an interview. On the way over I prepared for an intense line of questioning and sifted through the database structure of previous projects. As the interviewer sat me down he glanced at me, and then at resume, then back at me, then back at my resume, which clearly stated that I was a developer. I was probably about 1 minute away from a panic attack now as I tried to read the confusion in his face. “So you’ve applied for the design position, right?”
I was disappointed and discouraged to find that the next several interviews I went to yielded variations of the same response. I began to worry I would forever be the token female developer in a male dominated culture that lacked meaningful diversity.
Initially, I had intended to pursue a career in broadcast, particularly videography, but by the end of my first web development class my dream had evolved, and I began chasing a new major: Digital Communications. After graduating, I completed a nine-week intensive web development boot camp at Bitmaker Labs. Though this meant late nights debugging and Googling, I reveled in the creative flow. I loved the idea of being able to make something that was my own using only the blank canvas of the monitor and a ticking cursor. While a blank screen might scare some, I found the same comfort in it that I’ve felt for years taking a wet brush smothered in orange acrylic paint to an empty canvas.
Being a developer allows me to break as many VCRs as I want, metaphorically of course, it allows me to constantly learn how things work, and encourages me to think creatively of new ways to solve problems.
Though I knew no female developers while I was in school, had no female role models in tech, and had no female friends pursuing technical fields, I hadn’t realized there was a gender gap issue until I started to shop myself around as a web developer. Thinking back, it wasn’t until my second year web development class I had any idea that such a career even existed, or that it might be something I would be passionate about. This should have been my first clue about the lack of diversity in the industry.
The past couple of years the lack of women in tech, and the publicized gender gap has spurred conversations about inclusive company cultures. Increasingly, female mentorship programs, workshops, and communities are springing up to provide support to fellow female engineers. I’ve attended many of these and find them to be a great source of guidance and confidence. I also hold them responsible for restoring my faith in the tech community and encouraging me to be an active participant in the community, to make myself known as a real developer, lipstick and all.
As a female developer I felt it was extremely important to find a company that was committed to an inclusive and diverse culture. Everyone Matters, a GALE Partners core value, means that everyone is called to participate regardless of title or gender. I’ve found that this goes beyond someone asking you to work out a problem or attend a meeting, but asking you to come out for pizza, drinks, or even go dragon boating.
Working as a developer at GALE allows me to focus on what I love, while gaining support and confidence from a team with no barriers, and it has enabled me to foster both my technical and personal growth. Companies are made stronger by diversity, and working at GALE is a constant reminder that my unique perspective matters.
Full Stack Developer