Tips for Women Considering a Career in Tech
A little bit about me, I've known I've wanted to be in some sort of computer field since I was 12 years old. I got to visit my aunt for the summer and play Sim Farm (oh the good old days of games on floppy disks), and I was fortunate to able to take a few computer classes in high school (even in small town Saskatchewan). I knew I wanted to go to tech school (Sask Polytech), and be done with school as soon as possible to start working. I also organized a Women in Tech meetup group for a few years.
I joined Elastic Path four years ago as a backend developer with the intent to become a manager. It was the culture and the interview process at the time that won me over. They'd done some research and made sure to have a female in all my interviews, even though they didn't have any female managers or developers at the time in order to have a more balanced representation. The team pulled out all the stops in my second interview to sell themselves and make an offer. And since then, they've supported me on my chosen career path.
I've officially been in the tech industry for about 15 years (graduated in 2007)! And so I must of have some advice or experience to pass along right?
Before You Decide to Start a Career in Tech
1) Have Thick Skin and Confidence
As much as its hard to say this, you need to have confidence to know what you know, and push back when necessary. You need to pick your battles and draw lines and be able to say something if those are crossed.
2) Be True to Who You Are
You get to choose if you want to wear makeup or not (I don't), or do your hair in more than just ponytails. And don't let them tell you, that you can't show passion and emotion. Men do it, so be ready to push back against if people try to criticize as you as "too aggressive" or "too emotional."
3) Understand the Differences in the Culture and Gender
Research shows women are more likely to volunteer rather than be "voluntold", and even then it won't help with promotions (source). It's also helpful to be aware of the gendered ways we communicate. For example, the top three communication strengths for women in the workplace include reading body language and non-verbal cues, good listening skills, and displaying empathy; while communication strengths in men are physical presence and direct interactions (source).
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Before Getting Hired
1) Apply to Jobs Even if You Don't Have Experience for Every Requirement in the Job Posting.
"Men apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100% of them" (source). If you have experience with some of the requirements, apply! And think about customizing your resume for the job you are applying for.
Stand up for what you are worth and negotiate your salary, especially your starting salary. Know the job market, and just because you didn't check all the boxes (see #1) doesn't mean they shouldn't pay you. Especially the time of the Great Resignation, companies have to be competitive in a lot of aspects.
3) Trust Your Gut
If you are interviewing somewhere and not getting a good feeling, definitely see that as a red flag. At interviews, people are probably on their best behavior, so if personalities aren't matching there's a good chance things will only get worse after you're hired. And remember, you're interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. Also, check LinkedIn to see how diverse their current workforce is. If their current workforce isn’t diverse, prepare some questions to ask during the interview to address it.
After Getting Hired
Reminder to negotiate every pay cycle. And push for promotions. You are your best advocate. Keep track of what you've done and contributed and if you can equate that with ROI (return on investment), even better.
2) Find Allies on Your Team
If you followed the previous advice of "trust your gut," there's a good chance that you find someone on the team to connect with who you can trust during meetings and other group settings. They can help back you up, and amplify your voice if people are interrupting you or not acknowledging your answers.
None of these tips are really new, and there are many research papers and other articles that have been written about them, but hopefully this helps a few of you!