With International Women’s day (or month for us!) happening in March, we would love to be able to share stories of women in tech, in the hope that it will inspire young women thinking of starting out, or women who are trying to find their way against the odds.
In this blog, Annette Gieschen discusses her software engineering journey, including her lengthy process when starting, to her role now as a software engineer at MOIA. She goes in depth discussing all the rejections she was getting due to being labelled as a ‘tester’, rather than software engineer. Yet, she continued her journey, and four years later, she got her first offer. To find out more about Annette's story, continue reading!
⚡When did you know that you wanted to pursue a career in technology, and why?
It was a lengthy process that required me to try the jobs, sectors and industries out. Each one of my early jobs taught me something valuable about myself that allowed me to take the next step in the right direction. Starting from cleaning a hospital, sales, customer service, hospitality all the way to freelance translating or testing games I was on a lookout for the right thing.
In the end the deciding factor was my hobby. I used to draw a lot and was actually quite good at it. I thought that graphic design would be a really cool way to marry my hobby and good career prospects. And then while doing some research on which university I could go to, a part of me kept on lurking around the computer science curriculums and so in the last moment I said to myself “I will be a software engineer”, jumped ships and went ahead with computer science. And here I am today.
⚡Where and how did you start?
I actually had a bit of a hard time getting started as I had to stay on top of my full time job at the time which was not really in the IT sector so that I could afford to pay for the studies. I sent hundreds of CVs and eventually got my first IT job which was in QA where I pushed heavily to automate and code on any opportunity that I had. I kept on applying for software engineering jobs only to receive rejections stating that I was a tester and not a software engineer. In all this frustration I saved a bit of money, quit my job and went to Portugal for a couple of months, took the much needed sun in as much as I could and spent many days studying software engineering and coding puzzles, sometimes morning till evening. Around that time I also got my first Java Oracle certificate too. That holiday/focus time investment really paid off and finally, more than four years after I first promised to myself “I will be a software engineer”: I got my first offer.
⚡Any particular highlights of your career?
Working alongside amazing engineers at SoundCloud tackling complex problems related to platform and system abuse. Thinking about why certain actors behave in certain ways and coming up with systematic ways to protect the platform and users was definitely the most interesting set of problems I got to work on so far.
⚡Are there any challenges you have faced being a woman in tech?
Personally, I have not faced any challenges in my journey. I think the industry is more inviting now than ever before.
⚡Is there anything women can do to get started, such as courses, conferences to attend etc?
I think this depends entirely on the person, how much time and willingness they have and also what is their end goal. Regardless of the goal, I think it is absolutely crucial to understand what the reality of becoming a junior engineer is: it is only 15% about your knowledge, 60% about your willingness to learn, your communication skills, being humble and also being able to take feedback and learn from it and 25% about networking: speaking to engineers, seeking help, writing a blog, meetups etc.
When it comes to materials themselves I think starting off with a classical Computer Science syllabus is always better instead of jumping into programming on its own. Seek mentors to guide you towards materials. Mentoring is a very rewarding experience for the mentee as well as for the mentor: you’d be surprised how many engineers out there will gladly help you out.
⚡What can be done to raise awareness and encourage women to work in Tech?
I believe this has to be addressed at the source, not at the symptom. So my answer is always: educate the children and recap the benefits later. Make computer science classes mandatory just like maths or English. At home: take your 5yo daughter/sister/cousin to a science museum. Don’t label things as “girly” or “boyish” and ditch the whole blue vs pink thing. What we do and say is how stereotypes get perpetuated.
⚡Best piece of advice?
Seek a mentor. Remember that no engineer knows it all, regardless of their seniority. That's why you need to own every single "I don't know" during your career. Also, write about your learnings: this really helps your visibility and networking.
We’d like to thank Annette for her insightful contribution to this blog. Based on her answers, we hope that her story will inspire and motivate many women in tech, or women thinking of joining the tech industry.
From Annette’s answers, we have gathered:
-Each one of Annette’s early jobs taught her something valuable about herself that allowed her to take the next step in the right direction of becoming a software engineer.
-Annette’s journey wasn’t quick - took her 4 years. She kept on applying for software engineering jobs only to receive rejections stating that she was a tester and not a software engineer.
-Getting started as an engineer is 15% about your knowledge, 60% about your willingness to learn, your communication skills, being humble and also being able to take feedback and learn from it and 25% about networking.
-Seek mentors to guide you through materials. Mentoring is a very rewarding experience for the mentee as well as for the mentor: you’d be surprised how many engineers out there will gladly help you out.
-To raise awareness and overcome stereotypes, we have to start early on. What we do and say is how stereotypes get perpetuated.
-The industry is more inviting now to women than ever before.
At UMATR, we encourage diversity in the workplace, and work with tech companies that share the same values as us. We’re happy to say that we’ve placed several female software engineers across many companies, and we continue to do so. 👫
Are you a female engineer looking for a new Scala role, or a tech company looking for talent? Get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org and work with us today. At UMATR, as tech recruiters, we are committed to helping you find your dream role, or finding your ideal talent Because You Matter. 💙