Advice to women considering working in the tech industry

This is not a new subject, the lack of women in tech companies is a frequent headline. As a woman working in the tech industry, I feel incredibly lucky to be surrounded by some of the smartest, most passionately curious women I have ever met. I realize not everyone is as lucky as I am in this regard, so I thought it would be interesting to talk to a few of my teammates to get their insights about what it’s like to work in the tech industry.

If you are a female thinking about working in the tech industry, great idea! Jobs are stable, well-paying, and in will be demand for the foreseeable future.

The statistics:

  • 25% of the computing workforce in 2015 were women; however, only 5-8% of software engineers are women].
  • The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the need for 1.4 million jobs for computer scientists by 2020. The current tech professionals + university students studying CS only reaches 400,000.
  • Between 2000 and 2015 there was a 21% increase in the number of first year undergraduate women interested in majoring in CS.
  • In 2014, 17% of Computer and Information Sciences Bachelor degree recipients were women.
  • The information technology industry makes up approximately 7.1% of the overall GDP and 11.6% of the total private sector payroll. In 2015, the technology industry added nearly 200,000 net jobs and now employs more than 6.7 million people.

The Advice: Follow your passions through the avenue of tech

Kendra, a Technical Project Manager at WillowTree, says “Tech is not just working with computers in the abstract, it’s using technology to solve problems in a wide variety of industries and interests. My experience in ‘tech’ has been working on environmental improvements, web stores, education, internal businesses, and hospitality. Technology is used everywhere, so you can follow your passions through an avenue of ‘tech.’”

Are you a maker? Somebody who likes to imagine, create, and build things? If you are, writing software that makes life easier for countless people might be something you’d find interesting. Maybe you consider yourself a champion problem solver? If that’s you, working in Quality Assurance (testing software to find bugs) might be a great fit. Maybe you like learning about new technology and how it can be used out in the world? A UX strategy role might be a perfect fit for you if that’s the case. If you’re super detail oriented and love communicating with clients, a job as a Project Manager might be right up your alley.

Find a company that values psychological safety

The term Psychological Safety was coined by Amy Edmondson, a Harvard Business School professor, wherein she describes “a shared belief that the team is safe for interpersonal risk taking.”  In this type of workplace, members feel free to ask questions and nobody is criticized or condemned, as is a part of a productive workplace. These are often the most successful teams.

For psychological safety to have any meaning at an organization, it’s important that there’s a bottom-up commitment to the concept and concrete ways it gets applied. More than just treating each other with respect, “on the ground” team members need to understand what it means to support each other; managers need to make sure that folks that miss that mark receive feedback encouraging positive behaviors; and executives need to buy-in fully to the idea that a kind and well supported team has real value and should be a top priority for the company.

When interviewing for a job, you may want to consider asking about their commitment to psychological safety as a core value. Here are a few example questions you could pose to the company:

  • Tell me about a time a change was made when someone was uncomfortable in the work environment?
  • Are team members encouraged to take risks at your company? And if so, what happens if the risk doesn’t pan out or a mistake is made?
  • What avenues are there for giving ideas and peer feedback?
  • What type of mentorship program do you have in place?

Advocate for yourself

Julia, a Senior Product Designer, says, “I feel really grateful to the people who encouraged me and helped me develop. Nobody can succeed on their own….Feeling confident—or pretending that you feel confident—is necessary to reach for opportunities. It’s a cliché, but opportunities are rarely offered; they’re seized.” She encourages, “Don’t wait for an opportunity to come to you. Talk to your team, your managers and your mentors about what you want and find a way to make it happen."

Know your voice

Melanie, a Senior Content Strategist, counsels, “Don’t believe anyone who tells you that you’re too quiet, or too bossy to be effective. Leadership can look like a lot of different things, including reserved thoughtfulness or bold decisiveness. Of course, we should always be compassionate and respectful – your job is to find a way to do that while still being yourself.”

Stay curious

Bekkah, a Technical Project Manager, says, “It helps to have an insatiable curiosity for how things work. When in doubt, ask yourself what Leslie Knope would do. She’ll set you straight.”

Along those same lines, Ana, a Technical Project Manager, says, “It’s okay if you’re not an expert before getting a job in tech. Everyone in the industry is learning there right beside you and is there to help you grow. Stay curious.”

Paige, a Software Test Analyst, tells us “If you are someone that has ever gone dewy-eyed at the prospect of academia, perhaps fantasized being a lifelong student, I promise you that entering the world of tech can scratch that same itch. There is always something to learn and discover.”

Chloe, a Software Test Analyst, states, “Being a valuable asset isn’t about how much knowledge you bring with you; it’s about keeping your knowledge dynamic.”

Additional resources

So if you’ve ever considered entering the world of tech as a career, there are a ton of additional opportunities and resources out there for you. I’d encourage you to look into some of our favorites:

  • Girl Develop It - Nonprofit organization that provides affordable and judgment-free opportunities for women interested in learning web and software development.
  • Anita Borg Institute - Their mission is to accelerate the pace of global innovation by working to ensure that the creators of technology mirror the people and societies who use it.
  • Girls Who Code - Non-profit organization dedicated to closing the gender gap in technology.
  • National Center for Women and Information Technology - Non-profit community of more than 850 universities, companies, non-profits, and government organizations nationwide working to increase women’s participation in computing and technology.
  • Perl Hacks - All-female hackathon aimed towards creating an encouraging environment for women to pursue their interests in technology.
  • Diamond Hacks - Hackathon geared towards female participants and other underrepresented genders in tech.

Product Researchers Are Builders Too: Why You Need UX Researchers on Your Agile Teams

If you include user and product research as part of your business or product strategy,...

Read the article