We interviewed Tess Barnes, Principal Software Engineer at GoCompare on her experience and thoughts on women in tech.
Working the Strategic team in Engineering I get to foster good practices, promote effective tools use and facilitate collaboration across many areas of the business. Part of my role is also architecting and coding proofs of concept, so I get to remain partially hands on which is very important to me.
I tried lots of career choices, but I’ve always circled back to technology; the variety and pace of change has held my interest in ways other industries haven’t. I’m also really heartened by the variety of applications from space exploration to feeding the planet to ensuring people get paid promptly.
I loved maths in school – I had a female teacher who loved computing and commuted to school in a Sinclair C5. However, I gave up maths at A-Level; the course was mechanics / physics based and I found the standard worked examples very boring. Happily, the business studies degree course at my university was offered through the engineering faculty so it was technology heavy and gave me a way back in.
I’ve run my own freelance web development company and have 15 years of software experience from work in insurance, web hosting and payroll. This is my first Principal role and I still view every day as a learning experience where I can explore something new.
I’ve working in some companies where the mix has been very uneven, only me in a team of six or ten male colleagues. I’ve also worked in offices where we’re about half and half. The telling factor I’ve noticed is that where women do appear, they may have chosen different roles (testing rather than coding for instance).
I think we are in a world of layers of stereotypes, tech is “male”, testing is “simpler”. I’m bull-headed enough to ignore them but maybe what we need is to encourage people to be rebels and smash those little boxes stereotypes put us in.
Same thing as for anyone, to make a course appeal to a wide range of people: varied examples of application. It might not be possible to tailor a course to meet an individual’s interests. However, relying on solving the same old problems such as the speed of a car doesn’t have the same novelty and interest as trying to calculate the rate and angle of dive of a kestrel swooping on prey.
Also, everyone being welcoming in a class when you join it; we are all collaborators together however introverted or extroverted, male or female we may be.
I’ve sometimes felt underestimated in initial meetings until I’ve mentioned my technical interests or experience. The “being a woman” thing instantly falls away at that point. Feeling the fear and doing it anyway has been my tool of choice here.
Have conversations at home, school and onwards about what technology can do and the marvellous things it can reveal about ourselves and the world we live in. Foster the questions how? and why? Challenge “can’t it’s too hard” with a more scientific “try, fail, learn from” approach.
There is also no one route into tech and there is no bad time to start, we start in school, we start later in life, we have relevant degrees, we are self-taught.
More than anything else we are curious.