In celebration of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, Santex asked a few of our prominent female engineers about their experience being a “woman in technology.” Each one has her own perspective, but together women like Jimena, Gabriela, and Ashley are fostering greater opportunities for women in the tech industry.
What led you to pursue a career in software engineering?
Jimena: Since I was very young, I used to go to my dad’s office, who had always been working in the IT industry and I really enjoyed that time with him, pretending to be part of that environment. Also at home, I admired the conversations between my dad and my brother about Engineering and Math and wished I could be part of them someday. Later on, I loved to spend time on the web so I did some research about the majors available at my city’s university and finally found Systems Engineering, which end up being much better than I expected!
Gabriela: I entered this world through gaming. It’s not something I planned since I was little though. After trying several different jobs I started testing games and I found this place was a good fit for me. I love technology and I felt I could project myself and grow as a professional. Since this is an ever-growing area, I feel excited being part of new developments that might shape the future.
Ashley: My father worked in IT since his early years. He was born and raised in San Francisco and when he was a teenager he met a guy that showed him one of the very first computers. He started working in the IT business when he was still finishing school. My house was always literally filled with computers; old ones that did not work that he was trying to fix, and the new ones he would buy as soon as they were out in the market. When I was 10 he gave me a book with small programming exercises for kids: something like, “Quick Basics for Kids,” and it was something that we would work on together.
What’s the biggest challenge you have faced as a woman in tech?
Jimena: I’ve had many challenges at work, but I don’t consider them to be because I’m a woman. The only thing I can think off is… given the fact that we have to work with people around the world, sometimes I’ve faced some cultural barriers that were then knocked down after a few times working together.
Since we are a minority in the industry, I believe we are welcome to offer a fresh perspective to the business. I think that teams with the best results are those that draw multiple approaches, including ours!
Gabriela: I haven’t had technical difficulties and the road has been pretty straightforward in that aspect. One thing I would mention is that working in an environment where a high percentage of the employees are men, I’ve had always worked with good people and have always been treated well by my co-workers. But what sometimes can be challenging is tolerating sexist comments that are commonly said as jokes. There’s a persistent stereotype that women aren’t capable of logical thinking while the reality proves that we are just as capable as men. That notion luckily is slowly fading away from the cultural mind. I believe we will get to a point where your gender won’t matter, only your knowledge and abilities will.
Ashley: I am not sure I can say I’ve faced challenges for being a woman. The only thing that was hard was getting through college. Some male teachers were very “open” about showing their dislike for females in their classes. But luckily that was the exception and not the rule. When I started working, at the age of 21, I discovered that there were a lot of other women in IT and that we were treated the same as the men. My bosses and partners have always been very friendly, polite and respectful.
What advice would you give to young girls wanting to enter the tech world?
Jimena: One of the best parts of working in IT is the whole range of vacancies within the tech sector offering a wide variety of opportunities available for women to challenge themselves in different ways.
My best advice is 1. Never stop learning – everything changes so fast and we need to always be prepared if we want to be prevalent in this industry. 2.Take risks – it may feel awkward in the beginning, but it starts to feel natural at some point. Try different areas, clients, projects, until you find the position that you love!
Gabriela: One thing I particularly love about this career is building things and then seeing them working. It’s a fantastic feeling! I would advise young girls to follow your passion, never listen to discouraging comments and think big, REALLY BIG! Anything can be achieved with hard work and imagination. All we learn in this career are just tools to give shape to our ideas. Imagination is a big part of what we do and is what we also call ‘thinking outside the box’. Never let go of that thinking!
Ashley: I would tell them that getting their college degree is probably one of the hardest parts but they should never give up. Fortunately, in this business, it is possible to work and study.
And then, it is also important to continue studying after getting the degree. Technology changes everyday, the business changes everyday and in order to be a good professional, it is important that you keep up to date on the latest frameworks, languages, and tools.