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9 Key Lessons Learned by Women in IT for Women in IT

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womein in IT

There’s no easy way to become a developer—the struggle is real. And it’s even harder for some more than others. Women in IT, for example, have the odds stacked against them.

Numbers don’t lie when data from researches like the one from AAWU discusses the state of women in engineering and computing where they found out that women make up only 12 percent and 26 percent of the workforce.

Women’s plight for equality is nothing new, but more women in IT are speaking up about their experiences to inspire others to make the programming world better for everyone. Here are female developers and their stories to help women become powerhouses in the dev world. From female developers learning to code and getting job at a male-dominant company—to achieving CEO status or starting their own successful businesses, these are the important lessons women in IT learned throughout their journey.

Women in IT and their lessons

Become a good developer, and focus on it no matter what!

“I was often shy and afraid to ask or answer questions in class, since I didn’t want to be singled out for being a girl and being wrong. However, I watched the guys in class, they spoke up, asked and answered questions – so I did it, too. Guess what, it didn’t matter if I answered questions right or wrong, no one picked on me. It added value and learning experience for the whole class, including myself.

Being a female developer is neither a detriment nor a benefit, it means you love coding, problem solving, and learning along the way – just like any other good developer does.

If you are interested in becoming a developer, you should not let being a woman deter you. Even though this is not a new concept, aim high. Whether you are just starting out or you are already a great programmer and this is your passion, pursue it with confidence.”

Teresa Shih; Engineering Product Manager at HackerNest

women in it


Want to learn more? Watch our Q&A about How Women Can Get Ahead in the Tech Industry


“I started out as a UX designer and got into developing apps. I have launched a few apps in iTunes and right now I’m working on getting adoption for my latest app SAYLII.

When I first got started there was so much to learn and it can be fairly overwhelming. I think you need to concentrate on your strengths. There are so many areas of coding that you will never be really good at everything.

Whenever I meet with well-known Silicon Valley guys in SF—they are always shocked that I was able to launch a few apps.

I aim to ABL (always be learning) and making a diverse support group of like-minded engineers to turn to when I have questions or want to take the next step in building out my business.”

Esther Kuperman; CEO at SAYLII

Make opportunities work

“I grew up being told I should go into accounting or something stable—well I did not. I traveled a variety of roads before running a local business [that] required me to have a website for exposure (this was around 2004). I paid someone a lot of money only to wind up with a website I hated. 2 years later, I had built my own website (it took me almost a year to build it since I taught myself PHP, HTML, and CSS along the way!) and realized web development was WHERE I was MEANT to be! I closed up shop, sold my website and started building websites for others. Today – I work primarily with non-profits and build complex websites with a specialty in WordPress. And although I have grown and now actually have 2 contract coders on board to help with overload — I still enjoy the day to day challenge of code! Oh — and did I mention; I am 47 years old!”

Jill Caren; Owner of 2 Dogs Media, LLC

Be confident, don’t get intimidated

“I’m a co-founder and CTO at Pana, and I started coding when I was in high school; I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been the only woman in the room or had a business meeting where the attendees only talked to my male colleague, even though I’m the boss and make the ultimate purchasing decision. I believe that we need way more women/people of color who code in technical leadership positions!”

Lianne Haug; Co-founder and CTO at Pana

women in it

“I wouldn’t say I encounter much internal stigma from my coworkers, but I would say that I have faced stigma from potential clients when I meet with them to discuss their website or new projects. It often makes me laugh when a client or someone new learns that I am a Back-End Developer. They’re often surprised that I am three things: young, female, and not a man. Needless to say, I have encountered many shocked faces.

The other developers trust what I have to say, but sometimes I still feel like I have to prove my knowledge or stand up for myself as the only female developer. Trust me, though; I am not afraid to defend my professional opinion.”

Brooke Eyerly; Developer at Blue Compass

Trust your skills

“I’m a Senior Software Architect with 20+ years of programming experience. I graduated from the University of Virginia with a Computer Science degree in 1992. Back then, it was the only thing I was good at in school – i.e. the only way I could graduate. I never thought it would take me as far as it has. Today, I’m the Founder of HowAboutADate.com, an activity based online dating website. This is my startup company. I built and maintain the website and the mobile apps.”

–  Dao Nguyen; Senior Software Architect for HowAboutADate.com

“[I] studied architecture at the Escuela de Arquitectura de Málaga [and my] background in architecture piqued [my] interest in coding. [I] had previously done visual programming using Grasshopper. A class at Harvard about coding for Grasshopper in C# helped [me] discover a passion for writing code, which [I] continue to do both for desktop and web applications in Javascript and Python. [My] involvement with Virtual Reality development took off after winning the first prize at the AEC Hackathon 2.0 with VRX, a tool to review Building Information Models in Virtual Reality. [Now, I am] currently the Director of User Experience and Integration at IrisVR where [I] develop software that help architects, engineers, and designers transform their 3D models into navigable virtual reality experiences.”

Ana Garcia Puyol; Director of User Experience at IrisVR

Connect and participate in a community

“I’m a female developer who started a digital agency and now lead a team of 25 designers, marketers, and developers. I also started a local chapter of Girl Develop It to help get more women into the space, and I now speak at web design conferences as one of usually no more than 2 females on stage. In 1999, I taught myself to code because of my obsession with good design, then started my agency in 2005. Back then, I was the only female running a development shop in the entire region. Clients were skeptical and I dealt with more than my fair share of men who would only speak to my male employees — be it a project manager or another developer. Seriously. Anyway: I do all that I can to help get women and girls into development, and am so thankful for tools like Code.org and organizations like Girl Develop It that champion that cause.”

Andi Graham; Founder, CMO, and Managing Partner at Big Sea

Find mentors and become a mentor

“[I am] a graduate of the Code Louisville program [and now] working as a Front End Developer at TMP Worldwide. Before the Code Louisville program, [I] was working as a grocery store cashier but wanted a more lucrative job. [I] had no previous knowledge about programming. [Now, I am] also giving back as a mentor with Code Louisville. It’s a tech training program, which provides free, 12-week training to prepare people for the growing number of computer software coding jobs. The students are from diverse backgrounds, cultures and education levels – ranging in age from 18 to over 60, 40% are women, and 20% minorities.”

Erika Nielsen; Front-End Developer at TMP Worldwide


If you’re looking for a programmer to guide you to become an effective developer, these experts are open for mentorships!


Motherhood is never a setback—it’s an advantage!

“[I have] a BFA in photography and taught [myself] HTML to build a site showcasing [my] work. This introduced [me] to a world beyond photography and ultimately landed a Master’s program in Media Arts and Computer Science. I was not a strong math student and some of the computer science curriculum did not come easily. I had to purchase seven books on Java before I was able to grasp it, but I did grasp it and went on to excel as a student and a developer. After [my] second child began to outgrow the baby gear she had around the home, I came up with the idea to rent gear to parents traveling to my area who didn’t want to have to lug all the gear they needed through an airport. The concept proved itself quickly and Babierge was born. Now Babierge is a rapidly growing baby gear sharing economy platform!”

Kerri Couillard; Founder of Babierge

Make equality a reality

women in it

“I am a Full Stack Web Developer and self-proclaimed accidental techie after years of work in the NonProfit sector, then creating ingniTech, a youth summer program dedicated to providing youth with meaningful experiences in the technology industry. While leading the program, I found Dev Bootcamp (an immersive coding school) where I was able to legitimize my experience, acquire the language to discuss my knowledge, and act on it in a way that I have never done before. Now I am navigating the industry as a queer woman of color and pushing to change the perception of the developer role for both women of color and the LGBTQ community.”

Kara Carrell, Full-Stack Web Developer

Leave a legacy

“[I have] experience building multiple engineering teams at impressive tech companies and has maneuvered a fairly quick climb in the leadership ranks not only at Qualtrics, but each of the companies [I have] worked for, all of which are in male-heavy tech industries. [I am] also very active in mentoring women in tech in [my] community and built Qualtrics Women Leadership Development Group to more than 160 women.”

Jamie Morningstar; Product Manager at Qualtrics

“Don’t be intimidated by being the only female in the room. It is an opportunity for more impact! You’ll impact your projects and field. You’ll pave new paths for women in that field. And you’ll inspire other women and girls to go for their dreams — even when that dream is in a “Sea of Dudes“, as we have in my field of AI. I am proud that Nara Logics is an AI company that’s 40% female — that’s a lot of impact.”

Jana Eggers; CEO of Nara Logics

Conclusion

“Stereotypes, biases, and unwelcoming environments still hold women back in these fields, but increasing the representation of women in engineering and computing is good for women and good for business,” the research from AAWU so boldly highlights. The 2016 Stack Overflow Developer Survey also demonstrate a dramatic disparity in tech among men and women—a survey that only accounted for 5.6% women developers.

Working in tech is far from rosy. Women in IT and the lessons they’ve learned like being confident, finding and making opportunities work—and even motherhood—should serve to inspire more women to not be intimidated by the less than perfect situation they are facing. By keeping these lessons in mind, we can only hope that the industry and developers (both men and women) continue to fight the good fight. Only then can we expect a more diverse tech world in the future.

If you have other lessons or advice for women in IT, keep inspiring others by sharing your experience in the comments section below.

Tutorials written by other women in IT you might be interested in:


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Jazz Rosende
Jazz Rosende
Marketing and Operations @ Codementor
A creature of comfort who finds staying updated with tech as comforting as a cuppa tea, which she also enjoys, along with other comforting things like WWII documentaries, and spooky horror movies.
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