Chloe Sumsion studied computer science for four years in college and has worked as a software engineer at Lucid Software for almost two years. Chloe shares below a few words of wisdom for women in tech or those wanting to join the sector.
There’s no doubt that women are a minority in the tech sector. Lucid Software is actively seeking to hire more female engineers, and the industry in general is trending toward encouraging more women to choose tech careers. For now, however, being a minority as a woman in tech is just a fact so don’t let it dishearten you. Don’t let your minority status make you self-conscious or stop you from being yourself. I’d argue that you shouldn’t focus on your minority status at all! It’s much better to focus on the fact that you are unique and have something great to contribute. Instead of feeling out of place because you’re a female in a male-dominated environment, take advantage of your uniqueness and help other people to do the same.
You may be aware of the negative stereotype around programmers. Something along the lines of: Programmers are geeky weirdos with no social skills. They’re dudes drinking Mountain Dew while holed away in their parents’ dark basement—either programming or gaming. Oh, and their stench suggests they haven’t seen a shower in five days.
It’s no wonder that women choose different careers over computer programming. As women, we often feel that we need to “fit in” with others’ expectations in order to succeed. But who wants to “fit in” with a stereotype like that?! Especially when the media tells us that successful women are glamorous and attractive. And I’d argue that most women naturally want to look nice. I know I do. That’s why I think it’s important for women to realize that it’s okay to break the stereotype. You don’t have to be a slob or a gamer to be a programmer. And, in fact, you’ll be happy to know that most programmers don’t fit the stereotype. My co-workers take showers, look nice, and don’t spend every waking hour outside of work on a gaming console. So, trust me, you can be good-looking and you can be a programmer, at the same time!
One of my college professors told his students to be “wise fools.” He went on to explain that when you’re a “wise fool,” you are wise enough to ask questions and foolish enough to not care if other people think your questions are dumb. Asking questions that might be dumb can actually help you move forward with a project, provide you with valuable information that you would’ve missed otherwise, or spark a conversation or thought process that will lead to rewarding results. You never know—so go for it (of course within reason)! I, personally, have learned through multiple experiences that when I am wise enough to ask the dumb questions, I am a lot more effective and successful. As women, we are often concerned with how others perceive us which makes it harder to be a wise fool, but we can greatly benefit from it if we’ll try.
A study once said women tend to underestimate their abilities and men tend to overestimate them. That explains why women won’t apply for a job that they don’t meet all of the requirements for, whereas men will apply for the job even if they only meet a couple of the requirements. There’s no suggesting whether this is a good or a bad trait for women to have, but it’s important to stop underestimating your abilities. Take ownership for what you know and seize opportunities to use your skills. I’ve learned that being confident in yourself makes a world of difference in what you’re able to accomplish.
It’s safe to say that women naturally enjoy communicating and building support networks. So it just makes sense that successful women have mentors who help them along the way. Be it a guy or a girl, formal or informal, you can learn a lot from having a mentor. Plus, that extra bit of support is fantastic!
I’ve also found that there’s a lot to be learned from mentoring others. Mentoring has given me a broader perspective and improved my communication skills. Plus, helping others is a great way to pay it forward.
Events about women in technology offer fantastic support and guidance to women who are pursuing their passion for technology. I’ve noticed that some of these events can give off the vibe that men are bad and women need to “overcome” men in order to succeed. This isn’t usually the case. The men I’ve associated with aren’t trying to make me feel out of place or hold me back. Instead, they cheer me on, give me support, and push me to reach my potential. They want me to feel comfortable and needed and they celebrate my successes. Men aren’t the bad guys that they’re sometimes portrayed to be. Of course, I acknowledge that there are some cases where men do not support the women they associate with and women have to stand up for themselves. But I think humans are naturally good and kind…and that includes men. So don’t buy into the vibe that you have to “overcome” men to be successful as a woman in tech. That’s rarely the case, and you’ll most likely find that men are some of your greatest advocates.
Article by Chloe Sumsion.