Continuing from International Women’s day in March, we would love to continue 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, we highlight Tuuli’s experience as a woman in tech. Tuuli is a Engineering manager / Senior Software Engineer at Famly. She speaks about what made her want to join tech, her first role, her career highlights, and shares advice on what can be done to encourage more women to start in tech.
When did you know that you wanted to pursue a career in technology, and why? I’ve always been a bit of a tinker - really fascinated by how things work, as well as by making stuff. Most of the clothes I wore when I was a teenager I made myself, and I’m still a really passionate knitter - I even have a hacked knitting machine at home. But I didn't really explicitly know I wanted to pursue a career in tech until I already had a career in tech. I still sometimes find myself wondering if I wouldn't rather have a yarn shop! My parents both have a background in electrical engineering. They both worked at Nokia, my mother has a doctorate in radio technology, so I definitely had a strong example of women with technological excellence. I think in my case that just ended up delaying the inevitable - I was decidedly steering clear of all things related to maths and physics and was strictly interested in humanities, until I was at the university, studying psychology, where I suddenly found that the thing I enjoyed the most in the whole degree was statistics. Where and how did you start? I’m honestly not totally sure. At first, I just kind of developed a crush on statistics. Then as I got further with statistics and we learned more advanced topics in psychometrics, I learned dimension reduction, clustering and other techniques familiar to those who work in machine learning. Suddenly I found myself diving deeper into topics such as psychometric AI, cognitive ergonomics and finally, developing tools for running psychological experiments through the browser, which landed me in the world of web development. I even started my budding love of DevOps in the scope of my psychology studies when I found out that it’s not enough to develop experiments - you also have to deploy them somewhere. Any particular highlights of your career? There have definitely been highlights! Some of them right in the beginning, some of them recently. Early on, I found a company that sponsored me a visa and moved to San Francisco. Looking back, it has been pretty defining to have spent those couple years in the Bay Area, learning about the Silicon Valley product model and the product centered way of engineering, that engineering is way more about solving problems and creating a product that customers love than it is about hard technical skills. A later highlight has been transitioning from an individual contributor to technical leadership and management, getting to leverage way more of those early lessons from the Valley and also the formal skills I learned during my psychology studies - ones that I back then learned somewhat begrudgingly due to my love affair with statistics, but which I have now found incredibly practical and applicable. Are there any challenges you have faced being a woman in tech? Absolutely, there are definitely some unique challenges about being a woman or a person of any other underrepresented group in tech. One challenge for me has been e.g. the difficulty of establishing a professional identity as someone with an unconventional background and who (thanks to mostly smaller companies) has for a long time never really gotten to work with other women who would have been more technical or experienced than me. I’ve always felt like I lack role models and because of this, I like to check out the LinkedIn page of any company I’m considering and check out if they have senior engineers who are women. It’s only become more important the more experienced I’ve become. Is there anything women can do to get started, such as courses, conferences to attend etc? Anything is good enough to get started. Follow your spark of curiosity and just see where it takes you! It can be a conference, a course, a YouTube video, a local meetup, a conversation with a friend… The hard part is to get started and to stick with whatever you choose. It’s easier if you’re able to tie it into something you find interesting or something else you love. My career history includes e.g. campaigning tools for corporate accountability, sustainable textiles and now software for early years and nurseries. What can be done to raise awareness and encourage women to work in Tech? I think the important part is to break the stereotype of engineering as a kind of cult profession undertaken by young men in hoodies. I see software engineering as a craft. You can make it as academic as you like, but in most applications in the industry, it’s very much like an old school, blue collar craft where you can learn as you work and the outcome (the product) is what matters. You can start as an apprentice and become an artisan after years of practice, the only difference is that the tools keep changing on you! Similarly, there's the stereotype of this lone hacker in a basement, but it’s a profession of very complex social dynamics - ranging from the cross-disciplinary aspects of working on products together, to being tactful and encouraging during mentorship and code review. So social skills are really important, and the best engineers I’ve worked with have been both technologically excellent as well as equipped with fantastic social skills. The effect is cumulative. You can be supportive and generous and inspire an entire new generation of engineers - or you can be toxic and arrogant, and the biggest impact you will have made are the negative contributions from everyone who chose not to pursue or continue a career in engineering. Best piece of advice? Find your niche, work on things you believe in, and surround yourself with people who will coach you - people from whom you will feel comfortable receiving honest feedback. You don’t have to do anything alone - it’s easy to find communities to support you e.g. on Discord or Slack, or through a local meetup. The key is to find a place where the product is something you can get genuinely excited about, and where the people will support you and celebrate your growth.
We’d like to thank Tuuli for her insightful contribution to this blog. Based on her experience, insight and knowledge, 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.