Computer Programming

My career as a woman developer

April 6, 2020

I haven’t written in so many months. And gosh, this past year was the year that I wrote the greatest amount of documentation in my whole life!! I’m so proud of it. As you must know, we are going through quarantine worldwide. It’s a confusing period, but a great one to put the thoughts in order and get some things done we didn’t have the time to do before. Like updating your blogs ;]

I was thinking about my career as a developer. How I started, the obstacles I had to face, the difficulties and how they impact my daily work until today. Let me tell you a quick story about my first internship and, hopefully, you’ll understand what I’m talking about.

I was a third-year college student who had come back from an eighteen-month interchange program overseas. I had all that energy and willingness to learn you expect from a rookie. A couple of months later I got called from a position I had applied for. Cool, eh?!

It was a very small company who built their own hardware and software, with less than 10 people in tech. All man. Most of them working in there for a long time. I sat by the side of another intern, a very sympathetic young boy who had started a month before me. After a few days, I had all my setup done, had learned what they worked with and what their products were. 

The thing I heard the most since the first day was “you’re the first girl to work for us, so… we don’t know exactly how that’s gonna work”. But hey, I was so excited to be working that I didn’t care about that! I didn’t care about the old Object Paschal I had to learn, or when I asked to be given a real task and they gave me XML files I had to “organize” to “learn about the software”. I didn’t feel bad when someone asked why I decided to follow computer science, “why not be a secretary or a physiotherapist? Aren’t there more women on those careers?”.  I didn’t lose my hope when I was told that women were not meant to be programmers or when I finally got a real task and I thought everything I did was fine, but the labels were still getting printed wrong. After a few tries and updates, I discovered that the Adobe setup on the printer’s computer had some default configurations of margins. Phew! It was not my fault. I didn’t disengage when I saw the other intern guy being called to be part of the development of new features or when he was assigned to tasks I had offered to do — and was already even looking into, to be a step ahead. 

Until one day, a month after I started, I got called by my boss in the meeting room. I didn’t notice any difference in his expression. I don’t even remember if the guy who was supposedly my mentor was there as well. He told me that they had talked and that they decided to let me go, that they would not continue with my internship. They said I hadn’t evolved as much as they wished for. My heartbeat speeded up, my vision was a little bit blurred. I just did not understand what was going on. 

I packed my stuff and drove back home devastated. What did I do wrong? Did I say something I shouldn’t have? I was studying so much back home, I had learned the syntax, I found and fixed a bug or two. I was showing my interest in having more responsibility every single day. Maybe that was the problem? Maybe I was too into it?

No. That was not the problem. The real issue was their incapacity of trusting that I could learn. That I could be as good as them. What an audacity! A 20-year-old girl thinking she could be a good programmer. Pff… 

Fast forward in the story, I got another internship but in mobile development. I followed the iOS path, got a job offer in a bigger company, became the leader of a team with ten iOS developers, gave some talks and workshops. I even had the audacity to give a workshop for professors of a mobile post-graduation program. Then, to my surprise, a company I dreamed to work at called me. They had received great feedback about me and wanted me to enter their hiring process. Wait, what? Who gave them this feedback? I didn’t know anyone who worked there. True, I registered for their hackathon, but still, that hadn’t happened yet. 

A year and a half after my acceptance letter arrived, about four years and a half after my first internship, I sit here in my room and write about all this. Today, I understand how much those lack of trust impact on how I see myself and how they impact my self-confidence. Not rarely I will be frightened to try to do something afraid of failing. Not rarely I’ll think I’m not good enough. Not rarely I’ll think if I should give up and restart my career in something else. 

Despite all that negativity, I continue. Every single day I try to push those thoughts away. I prove them wrong constantly. I tell myself “yeah girl! You can do it!”. I push myself forward and I let proven that I’m more than capable. I am freaking good. 

Unfortunately, just like my internship’s company is still running, people like them still exist and they are everywhere, trust me. So I feel the need and responsibility to make the contrary movement. To prove that women are indeed competent in achieving whatever they want. I’ve been an organizer of a meetup focused on women for a year now. I have spoken to over 250 women about technology. I look up Linkedin for potential candidates. I recognize, tutor and fight for women around me. I change the sexist culture peer by peer, team by team, until the day that the company I work at is free of bias. Until the day women will be seen from what they really are: equal, capable, great. Until the day that no women have to questions themselves.

They tried to take me down. They thought I would give up. But I didn’t and I won’t. I rose higher, I achieved the unthoughtable. And I won’t stop until the day a girl who decides to be a programmer can do it with the ease that a man can do so. 

Cheers! 

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