Think about your day. How many different pieces of technology do you touch? Whether electronic or not, every single item in your life is created by a company that is in some way using the internet. So much of our existence is supported by software developers. Whether in banking, security, insurance, game design, advertising, engineering, web design, education, I can go on and on – technology makes it go and women are important to making innovation possible. Software development isn’t an industry that stands alone, it’s a part of every industry.
It’s becoming increasingly important for employees, particularly women, in all those industries to add at least base-level coding knowledge to their skill sets. It’s not difficult to learn the basics and you don’t need a four-year college degree to gain this level of understanding. When we upskill, most of us want to learn quickly, effectively, and affordably. And as women, we also want to know that the tech space is a place where we can excel and feel welcome. It is.
It’s empowering to see women everywhere making their presence known and our collective power recognized more than ever before. The #MeToo and Time’s Up women’s empowerment movements have become a part of our daily culture. With that comes a demanded respect for our bodies, our paychecks and our careers. This atmosphere is changing the conversation on every topic related to women’s contribution and that includes within the tech space. Recognition of women in related fields has grown, look at the success of the Hidden Figures movie, it revealed what we’ve known all along, women are a force to be reckoned with.
I’ve spent more than a decade in the sciences and I’ve seen and felt the shift myself. I’ve also been lucky to have had supportive bosses and coworkers throughout my career journey. That said, I know it isn’t always easy and I know as women we often unnecessarily question our ability and fall victim to imposter syndrome.
As a leader, I don’t believe in focusing on the negative but embracing the positive. It’s about creating an opportunity. Men can be and many are, a part of this effort too. It is on those of us in the tech space to help show boys, girls, young adults, and career changers who come to coding later in life that there is a place for them in the coding world. One can do almost anything if the will to learn is there.
Women have made great strides in the industry, from Ada Lovelace, a globally recognized computer programmer from the 1800s, who is recognized every year as one of the first women who broke barriers in the industry to the many women who are overcoming obstacles to enter the industry every day. Despite these and other cultural advancements, women still come to me and say, “I saw this high-profile story, like the Google memo that questioned women’s tech ability, and I question whether I want to be a part of that environment.”
I respond by noting that Google has since removed that memo’s author from their staff, taking a position of support. This is exactly what we need to see across our industry and all others. I also tell our female students that moments of self-doubt indicate the exact moment they should challenge themselves to rise above and prove their worth. It’s about opportunity, empowerment and paving the way for those who come next.
It’s also helpful to point out examples of strong women who are just like those considering a career change. There many right here in Minneapolis. Three former students come to mind:
Kirsten Ruge represents many people frustrated with today’s job search. She earned a college degree and struggling to enter a career path where could use her education, settled on working as a taxi driver. After a series of job search frustrations, she committed to our program and never looked back. She now works on back-end development for a midsize health and wellness company where she leans on both her coding education and her previous biology experience biology. She’s since purchased her first home and plans to continue living in Minnesota.
Ashley Sinner, a passionate career-changer who took a chance to pursue what began as a hobby. Ashley was a special education teacher who started to learn coding in her free time. She found she really enjoyed it. As a former teacher, she is an advocate for life-long learning. She now learns continually at her current job at Magenic where she serves as a QA Test Lead.
Cherith Simmons was looking for independence and a more stable career. She pursued software development after a break-up in search of change, support and community. With a degree in film she needed something more profitable in Minneapolis, a 9-5 job that she could be excited about. Cherith was first introduced to coding through a friend, decided to take a risk to pursue something new and that decision has paid off. She is currently working as a UX Developer at Haworth Marketing + Media in Minneapolis.
There are many strong women in the spotlight we can look to as well – former Reddit CEO and author, Ellen Pao, and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg who has shown that it’s ok to embrace vulnerability and use what some perceive as weakness as a tool of power. She has flipped the script to show women can bring their whole personality to the workplace, we don’t need to change to fit in. We can belong by being ourselves.
Any woman, man, minority, young adult or career changer considering coding shouldn’t let their own doubts get in the way. It’s a beneficial skill that reaches across industries.