Whilst National Coding Week has drawn to a close, let us continue to hone the digital skills we have developed throughout those seven days, let us continue to manifest the opportunities in the technology sector and let us continue to nurture the network we have built through connecting with like-minded people.
I wanted to take this opportunity to share the story of myself and many other women in tech to highlight the uniqueness within this digital world. We all have taken different paths to get to where we are now and demonstrates that each journey is ours, but we still end at our desired destination. There is no defined right or wrong path; what matters the most is what you make of your circumstances and how to use it to your advantage.
I hope you all enjoy reading about each of our journeys as much as I did, and sharing the lessons we have learnt. For any questions, remember you can always reach out to me via the contact page here.
Ahsana Nabilah, Software Engineer
My journey in the technology world, in particular coding, began during the summer of 2010. Throughout my childhood and teenage years, I loved literature, whether that was reading stories written by people across the globe on LiveJournal or publishing my own posts on WordPress. I loved the way one could connect with the power of words.
When I was sixteen years old, I eventually moved to a blogging site called Tumblr. I was mesmerised by the creative freedom it provided its users, having grafted an identity after spending that mandatory trial-and-error fashion trend period everyone goes through during their adolescence. I wanted my blog to be as flexible as my ever-changing teenage aesthetic. Chevron print smock dresses and pre-material design, anyone? Tammy Girl and flat websites were all the range, back then. Similarly, I was not exposed to many resources, such as Codecademy (founded 2011) and Udemy (founded 2009) because the late-2000s and early-2010s had a smaller tech community at the time: Facebook was founded in 2004, YouTube was founded in 2005 and the first iPhone was released in 2007 to put things in perspective. A lot was only starting out. Therefore I spent that summer teaching myself web design and how to code, much like the mandatory trial-and-error of my fashion style. I eventually realised I was good at it, in the most humble way of saying, and continued.
I immersed myself in whatever resources I could find, I primped my online space to the latest standards and I showcased my creations to my friends for feedback. Summer had ended and A-Levels had began. Every Friday afternoon at 3:30pm, I would patiently wait for the end-of-class bell before hiking it back home to open my laptop and code the evening away. The end of College was on the horizon and I had a decision to make: what am I going to study at University? With many of my peers preparing to enter the lavish lair of Law, I chose Computing. It was creative, it was fun, it was what I grew up in. Ultimately, it felt like me. I graduated in 2017 with a BSc (Hons) degree in Computing with two years of industrial experience already clocked in, and began the current chapter of my story: being a Software Engineer.
The advice I would give to those starting out would be to harness as many opportunities you can seek: Use Meetup or Eventbrite to participate in local events that pique your interest. Take a chance on yourself and sign up to a conference or two. Find your community and grow with each other. You need to be proactive and continuously learn as with consistency comes consolidation. Nurture mentoring relationships with those who you look up to. You will eventually build a portfolio of notable pieces of work and reputable contacts. These small steps will lead to bigger feats along your journey.
Sahara, Software Engineer
My introduction to the field of Computer Science was when I stumbled upon my High School Robotics Team after school one day. I joined the team as the only girl and that was the start of me using LabView to program the robot that we all designed and the builders of the team built for the FIRST Robotics Competition.
When it came to choosing a major for University, I didn’t realize that coding was a field called Computer Science so I went in as Undeclared and spent the first year going through General Education Courses I needed to take to graduate regardless of the major I chose. That’s how I stumbled into my first Java (programming language) class, realized that coding was actually a field called Computer Science, and declared my major shortly after.
It’s been a year since I’ve graduated and I’m a Software Engineer focusing on Front End now. I’m a freelancer so I work project based, but I am currently aiming to transition to full time before the year ends.
My advice to anyone starting their career out in tech is to be patient with yourself as you’re learning; since coding isn’t taught in the same way English and History is in school, it may be difficult to grasp the concepts in the beginning- keep going, you got this!
FreeCodeCamp is a great way to get started/continue learning if you’re a visual + kinaesthetic learner. The best thing is you also get a certification at the end, and, as the name suggests, it’s free!
If you’re on the job search: don’t give up because people don’t see what you see in yourself. You are talented. You are intelligent. You have the skillset. Gatekeepers are alive and thriving in this field (sadly), and you will hear a lot of no’s before you hear a yes; don’t let it break you.
The best thing about being a Software Engineer is there is more than one way to get to a solution. You don’t have to fit the mould people want to put you in; create your own mould and be so good at what you do that they can’t ignore you.
Hassana, Oracle ERP Junior Consultant
My journey into tech was unprecedented because as a child, I had dreamed of becoming a medical doctor. However, as I graduated secondary school, the prospects of joining an ever-evolving Industry which promised unfathomable opportunities seemed more appealing.
I went on to bag a BSc. in Computer Science and an MSc. in Information Security where I gained a range of skills that would usher me into the industry. Might I add that with both degrees, I emerged the only female graduate; even though there were two years in between achieving both degrees. What does this prove? Females are still underrepresented in the tech industry even at the level of education.
In my experience, having worked in a few tech roles with different companies, I can tell you that the status quo hasn’t changed. Being a female on technical teams can sometimes feel isolating despite having supportive teammates. However, if there is anything I can categorically say, working in IT has been genuinely rewarding. The multifaceted industry guarantees a lifetime supply of new challenges and continuous learning that ensure growth and fulfilment. If you are like me and constantly in search of a challenge, the Tech Industry will offer you loads!
With tech jobs thriving in the market, permit me to say that it is logical for women, who make up half the world, to occupy half the tech workforce; but this is not the case today. One of the reasons I have been able to pin-point; especially while studying, is the misconception that the industry is predominantly coding/programming-centred. Allow me to dispel this – the tech industry is so vast, and one can build an equally fulfilling career without pursuing the coding path.
Words of advice:
- You can do it – as cliché as this sounds, there is nothing truer.
- Refuse to be bullied out / underestimated! If I had a dollar for the number of times I have heard that women are not wired to think technically or are just not good at certain courses, tech included, I would be rich by now. Lies they tell!
- Network, Network, Network. Don’t underestimate the value of building networks within the industry; From course mates to industry professionals. You will be putting yourself at an advantage and in a position to receive valuable information that will eventually inform many of your decisions on your journey.
I hope my story and the stories of other females in the industry inspires you to challenge your perception of the career paths open to women in the tech industry. The playing field is truly limitless, we are only seeking a more balanced tech future.
Find out more about National Coding Week below:
- General information: https://codingweek.org/
- How businesses can get involved with National Coding Week: https://codingweek.org/businesses/
- How individuals can get involved with National Coding Week: https://codingweek.org/individuals/
- Host a local meetup for National Coding Week: https://codingweek.org/meet-ups/