Advice from one generation of women in tech to the next

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Advice from one generation of women in tech to the next

We’re celebrating International Women’s Day by looking to the future for women in tech.

Through our community, we get a glimpse into the tech industry’s future — because today’s learners are tomorrow’s leaders. From what we’ve seen, the next generation is more diverse, open-minded, and innovative than ever. But there’s still more work to do.

It’s more important than ever to challenge old norms and create an inclusive industry for all identities. So, for Women’s History Month, we talked with women on our team who have already made their way in tech.

They shared advice for starting out, finding your way, and shaping what comes next for the industry.

Meet the team

From software engineering to DevOps to curriculum development, these are (just a few of) the women running our digital world. With so many paths to choose from, they share their stories on how they found a way to what they love.

Ana, Software Engineer: It didn’t happen overnight. I started a bootcamp thinking I’d prefer front-end work — maybe even design — but by the end of it, I realized that I enjoy doing back-end work more. So, that’s what I focused on during my job, and I’ve been working as a back-end engineer ever since.

Calla, Senior DevOps Engineer: I kind of stumbled into DevOps. I’d always had an interest in troubleshooting and problem solving, and I really enjoyed my telecommunications and networking classes in college. Those skills and interests led me to the DevOps/SRE realm.

Katie, Software Engineer: Software engineering never occurred to me as a potential career until I took an Intro to Programming course on a whim in college. My path to this industry started because of this random decision which led to my exposure to coding!

Lindsay, DevOps Engineer: I started out as a software engineer in Test, and then transferred internally to DevOps at the company I was working for. I realized I didn’t quite like my Test role and took a shot at a new position, given the opportunity. I have not looked back.

Rebecca, Senior Software Engineer: I was a journalist covering technology and realized I wanted to be building it instead of writing about it.

Sarai, Senior Curriculum Developer: I knew I loved technology, and I loved teaching. Sometimes teaching tech is treated as less valuable than creating tech, but that’s not the case.

Shirley, Software Engineer II: Before becoming a software engineer, I worked as a fashion designer. I’d always loved technology, and engineering brings the same sense of creation, creativity, and problem-solving that I found in design. The amazing thing about technology is that there are so many different aspects and paths. For me, my passion is around providing the best possible user experience and building something truly impactful.

Sylvana, Software Engineer: I’ve always had a passion for education, but I wasn’t sure how I wanted to get involved in that sector. I tried teaching, explored other avenues, but I found programming to be the most fulfilling and challenging path.

Advice from women in tech

Q: What tips do you have for women just starting to learn to code?

Ana: We’re led to believe that in order to learn how to code, you need to have some special brain and skills, while, in fact, it all comes down to hard work. Also, when things feel difficult and lonely, connect with others and ask for help. And always be kind to yourself!

Calla: Break things down into smaller pieces. If a project is overwhelming, figure out how you can break it down into individual components. If the components are still too complex, break them down again! It’s often easier to iterate over smaller components than it is to slog through a single behemoth deliverable.

Katie: Embrace the errors and the bugs! Learning to write good code requires writing a lot of bad code.

Lindsay: Learn two languages — scripting (Python, Ruby, JavaScript) and compiled (Go, Swift, C++). It’s important to understand the pros and cons of both methods of coding.

Sarai: Ask lots of questions! You aren’t expected to get things right away, and you probably often won’t! That’s perfectly normal.

Shirley: Coding can be challenging and mind-numbing, but don’t forget the fun and wonder that coding can bring. If you’re starting to experience a lull in excitement for coding, I would encourage you to take a break from structured learning and do something with the skills that you’ve acquired that is just plain fun. That might be making a silly game or creating a simple website for dog pictures, but I think it’s crucial to remember why you wanted to code in the first place.

Sylvana: It’s gonna be tough at first. In the beginning, you are training your brain to think in new ways. There will be growing pains. But trust the process! Things will click. You will have that “aha” moment, and it will all be so worth it!

Q: What advice would you give to women considering entering tech?

Ana: Connect with other womxn in the industry. You’ll be surprised by how supportive and helpful people can be — even for complete strangers.

Calla: If you enjoy programming, problem solving, or building things with code — do it. At the end of the day, this is your life and your career. Make the choice that feels right for you.

Katie: Tech is an exciting field with an unlimited supply of interesting problems to solve! It can also be intimidating. Surround yourself with people who support and encourage you.

Lindsay: Just do it, and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t — because, you can.

Sarai: Speak with confidence. You know what you’re talking about, and there will be plenty of people who may doubt you or question you. Don’t be one of them!

Shirley: Gender and identity should not be a barrier to entry. If you love to code and create, tech has a space and need for you! For me, the best thing about working in technology is the limitless possibilities that it opens your career up to. Almost every industry and sector is experiencing some sort of tech revolution, so there are so many different ways to weave your passions and interests into your work.

Sylvana: Don’t doubt yourself! If you have an itch to enter the tech field, don’t hesitate. It’s a challenging but rewarding field. You’re more than capable!

Q: What benefits do you see from making tech a more welcoming, diverse, and inclusive place?

Ana: I think it would allow everyone to choose their own career and see fair results of their hard work, all while not feeling the need to fit into some predefined norms.

Calla: The way you approach a puzzle will be different from how I approach it, how my teammates approach it, my boss, etc. All of those different perspectives better position the industry as a whole to solve the right problems, build the right tools, and create better and more accessible experiences for everyone.

Katie: We will undoubtedly reach better solutions when the makeup of those creating technology mirrors the makeup of those consuming technology.

Lindsay: One of the biggest would be that more people will take an interest in entering the tech industry from seeing all kinds of people in all kinds of roles.

Sarai: One person can’t know all of the world’s problems, worries, and desires. A more diverse industry leads to more solutions to more problems as well as more ideas and voices.

Shirley: The more diverse and inclusive the tech industry is becoming, the better the tech industry can serve its end goal — the world. Tech is not built just for the people currently in the industry, but for everyone. Without those voices in the industry, it’s very tough to be able to hear diverse thoughts and ideas that represent many groups and cultures.

Sylvana: When we bring people from different backgrounds into the mix, we bring new perspectives and new ways of thinking and tackling problems.

Q: What’s the best career advice someone gave you?

Ana: Growing up, every time something felt overwhelming or too difficult, my mom would remind me how passing an exam or completing some task at work is something that millions of people do every single day. It’s designed to be achievable by anyone, so why would I be any different? This may sound a bit funny, but taking a step back and remembering my mom’s words always helps me regain my confidence and focus on whatever I’m working on.

Calla: Don’t ever be afraid to ask questions. It is better to admit that you don’t know something than to pretend that you do and set yourself up for failure.

Katie: “Find a good mentor.” It is so valuable to have someone who can help you navigate the challenges that come along with being new to tech and is always rooting for you to succeed.

Lindsay: The key to advancing in software engineering is not to learn everything, but to know what you don’t know. Get really good at what you do in your job, and then learn when something is out of your scope and you need help.

Rebecca: Always negotiate an offer. Even if you’re offered a salary that seems higher than you expected. Many of your male peers are raised to always negotiate. So, if you feel awkward asking for more money, just think of it as part of the larger fight against gender pay disparity as opposed to you as an individual person.

Sarai: “You are qualified for that role.” I often wondered if I was just “lucky” that I got certain roles, but I was really ignoring all of the things that did make me qualified. You are worthy!

We’d also like to hear from you! What advice do you have for other women entering tech?