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.
Nychol Bazurto is currently working as a Director of Engineering at 47 Degrees. She was born in Colombia, and is currently based in Bogotá.
In this blog, Nychol goes in-depth to discuss how she began her career, her transition from being a Software Engineer to Director of Engineering, and challenges she faced as a woman in tech. With her experience and knowledge, she mentions how women can get started in tech, what can be done to raise awareness and encourage women, and what companies can do to encourage diversity in the workplace.
Nychol’s experience and advice is very insightful, and everyone should be aware of it… so keep reading!
When did you know that you wanted to pursue a career in technology, and why?
I’ve always loved puzzles, logic, and math, part of that led me to this career, even when it wasn’t in my plans. When I was in school I thought about other careers, like law or environmental engineering, but it was an uncle that lived outside that suggested to me to take a look at the Computer Science career. He told me: this is going to be strong in the future and I think you’re going to like it. I searched for the syllabus and I realized it sounded really cool, also it had a lot of math, so why not. I gave it a shot at the local university in the town I’m from and I discovered in my first semester that it was my area.
Logic everywhere, It's like solving puzzles for a living. I also learned how engineering can be part of the solution of many many areas. After that, I moved to Bogotá to continue my studies in Computer Science at another university.
How was the transition from going from Software Engineer to Director of Engineering?
Before finishing my undergraduate studies, I started working as a Junior Developer at a bank. Learned a lot and I had a great leader there. It was a good start besides the old tech stack.
When I was finishing my studies, I received a scholarship for being the best engineer of my promotion, so I decided to start my master's degree in Computer Science and worked for the same university supporting the program that helps students to learn to code.
After that, I had a couple of experiences as a backend developer at consultancy companies, when I had the chance to grow even more until becoming a tech lead. Also, in my spare time, I used to work as a professor as I love teaching others and helping future new engineers.
While I worked as a tech lead at my former company, I had the chance to share with a lot of people from different companies and cultures, which helped me to improve my communication skills, and overall, my professional profile. As a consultant, I believe that you should look for a great result for the client, no matter if your colleague is from another consultancy, teamwork is important and guarantees success for each involved person. I always try to apply that though and keep an eye on the details. That opened the door to become a Director of Engineering at 47 Degrees, an amazing place full of talented and kind people, an opportunity I never imagined when I started.
Do you think growing up in Colombia had an impact on breaking through the tech industry?
As Colombians, we tend to be optimistic, creative, and hard workers. This innate motivation helps us to shine in our experiences with international clients. We try, and try, and try, we don’t give up. And actually, our cultural differences might affect how we’re perceived in a good way :D
Are there any challenges you have faced being a woman in tech?
Of course, I think most of us (unfortunately) have faced challenges because of that. Overall, we still have a lot to do in Colombia around equality. For small example, once I was told: you’re really smart for being a woman. What a charming “compliment”, ah? and I know a few colleagues were told the same at different points of their lives. Some people still believe women are not good at math or logic, and our culture didn't incentivize girls to explore that. Also, in the past, when I was studying, I went through explanations I didn’t ask (from things I implemented myself) and overall behaviors that come from others' precepts about what a woman is/isn't good at.
Is there anything women can do to get started, such as courses, conferences to attend etc?
I think a good start it’s looking for communities, especially Women in tech ones, not because we need to be in a bubble, but because it’s easier to be surrounded by people that understand and support us. Once there, give it a try to different things, you’re going to start discovering if you’re more like a backend vibe, frontend, or DevOps. You can always tailor your talent to a different area. Look for free courses/conferences, if you don’t have access to formal education, you can learn a loooot on your own. However, I know from my country's reality, that it’s not that easy for everyone to get access to this virtual content and I hope it stops being a barrier at some point.
What can be done to raise awareness and encourage women to work in Tech?
I feel I was lucky. It's true I worked and studied hard, but I had opportunities and I could focus on it, and some women don’t have that to start with. Here is when I think companies, associations, and governments can create spaces that help small communities so they can change their lives through engineering (as I did). That was for me and many of my university colleagues, an opportunity to change our lives.
For me, it’s easy to give tips about all the bunch of resources we have access to nowadays. But there are a lot of kids that don’t have access to the internet nor access to a good education, so equality in the basis of our society is key to encouraging women. Girls need to have the chance to study and receive the same quality education instead of having to dedicate their childhood to help take care of their little brothers.
What do you think companies should do to increase diversity in the workplace?
First, guarantee there’s a good environment, that your company actually has a good culture. Hiring a person for the sake of hiring is not going to add diversity if that place is just a battlefield. The first step should be to identify how women in your company are feeling now. How everyone feels and thinks about it, you might find there is a subculture there when people feel uncomfortable, stressed, way competitive, or even find someone that needs to learn more about respecting others and value their work leaving outside their biased perceptions.
Best piece of advice?
I made a mistake in my career that cost me a little mental peace. I wanted so badly that my gender didn’t matter at my workplace, that I ended up associating my femininity and vulnerabilities with something bad, and I tried to be strong in the style of the "harsh and strong" man stereotype. If I was starting to feel bad about my job (burnout) I didn’t want others to think I felt like that cause I’m a woman, I even used to think: probably my male colleagues don’t feel like that (surprise, they felt it too). My advice it’s: don’t think, not for a minute your gender is a problem, if you feel you need to hide something or that you’re going to be judged by your gender probably the problem is the environment you're in.
We’d like to thank Nychol 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.
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 email@example.com 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.