Trainline – Erin Hamalainen, iOS Developer

We interviewed Erin Hamalainen, iOS Developer at Trainline on her experience and thoughts on women in tech.

1. What does your job role involve?

Reading, writing, and editing code!! My favourite thing in the world. It also involves a lot of communication and teamwork – which were things I did not expect when I first started working as a developer.

 

2. What made you choose a career in technology?

I majored in math in university (getting there was a journey in and of itself–I had started university as a chemical engineering major). And one of the requirements for my degree was a 2-semester course called “Intro to C++”. I LOVED doing the homework – which involved writing a program each week. I would usually cosy up somewhere quiet with my laptop and disappear into the assignment for hours. That was how I knew I loved programming.

 

3. Did you study an IT or technology related subject at A-Level or University?

I studied math in university. There was one programming course required for my degree – “Intro to C++”. Because I enjoyed that class so much, I took another class the following semester called “Advanced Programming Techniques.”

After “Advanced Programming Techniques,” I didn’t take any more programming classes. I really wanted to, but it was too much work to add on top of my already rather heavy course load (I had switched majors halfway through my degree, so I had to rush to graduate on time.) And I loved my math major, I didn’t have any desire to abandon that.

 

4. Did you get any work experience in IT or technology before this role?

Yes! I’d already been an iOS developer for a total of 7 years at 3 different companies when I started at Trainline.

 

5. Do you think there is a lack of females in the IT and tech sector?

Oh yes. Ohhhhhhhhhhhh yes. Right now, Trainline has 24 iOS developers and only 6 of them (myself included) are female. And that’s the most female iOS devs I’ve ever worked with (by a landslide)!

 

6. Do you find there is a stereotype that a career in IT or technology is just for men?

I don’t feel like I’ve met anyone who thinks this way – but I also feel like it would be naive of me to think they don’t exist.

In my personal experience, the main danger to women is unconscious bias within individuals (men or women) in the industry: i.e., when women are assumed to be less competent just because they are women, rather than given the benefit of the doubt the way their male colleagues are.

As a result of rarely getting the benefit of the doubt, lots of women in tech are working twice as hard to get half as far. And being frustrated out of their minds in the process. And let me tell you, that frustration is exhausting.

Sometimes female team members are not listened to, simply because they are women. This can easily be avoided. But there has to be a desire to avoid it. And the unfortunate truth is that there are still lots of men (and women) out there who do not believe unconscious bias is a real problem or that it affects them, and so they are not doing anything to address it.

 

7. What would entice women to study technology-related courses?

This is such a hard question to answer. I can only speak for myself because this is not a topic I have researched and collected data on.

I guess the main reason I personally did not go into university as a CS major is because it just never crossed my mind. I did not know that I liked CS back then. I also did not know I was competent enough to handle the major.

Maybe if someone had told me:

-If you like organizing the dishwasher so that you can fit in as much as possible and you put similar items close to each other so it’s as easy as possible to put everything away when it’s done – then you are an engineer at heart.

-If you get a weird sense of joy from de-cluttering and re-organizing a closet – that is a very similar skill to refactoring code.

-If you take pride in organizing a kitchen so that the stuff you use is close to the place you use it and the things you use the most are the most accessible – that is very similar to software architecture.

-Coding is a lot like sewing or carpentry, where it’s important to do all the preliminary steps–the foundational stuff–really well. Like all the measuring and cutting. That is the part that takes time. For most of the time you work on a project, there is very little visible progress. But if you do all of that beginning stuff right, the final assembly takes almost no time at all and is almost effortless. It all comes together seamlessly. If you are sloppy about the setup steps, the project just gets harder and harder and you continue to dig yourself into a hole.

-You don’t need to be “good at computers” to take a tech class or be a CS major. You can learn all that as you go!

 

8. Are there barriers when it comes to women getting into tech?

There are many. But the main one that I see is companies that do not hire junior-level developers.

At this point in time, most female developers are at a junior level. So, if you aren’t hiring juniors, then there are a whole lot of women out there that you aren’t giving a chance.

 

9. How could we encourage more women to start a career in tech?

  1. Stop teaching it in a way that is incredibly boring, esoteric, and inaccessible.
  2. Kill the idea that only those of “superior intelligence” can learn to program. ANYONE can do it.
  3. Stop tolerating the toxic behaviours that run rampant in many tech companies – i.e. people being rude and arrogant and superior and wildly unhelpful (and getting promoted and rewarded left and right regardless). Please please please please stop insisting that these individuals are “valuable to the business” and using that as a reason not to fire them. They are not valuable to the business. Unless you are in the business of inequality and psychological unsafety and toxic work environments.

 

10. What advice would you give young women today at the start of their career?

  1. Don’t let the world convince you that you have imposter syndrome.
  2. ASK QUESTIONS
  3. The loudest person in the room is never the smartest person in the room (in fact, they are usually the person with the least emotional intelligence). A person’s confidence is not a reflection of their competence. Don’t fall for it.
  4. When you see someone do something faster than you, or in a more clever way, please do not take this as an indication that you are stupid. This is an indication that the other person has more experience and that has nothing to do with intelligence. You will be at their level in no time.
  5. Don’t work somewhere for 2 years just because someone told you that job-hopping looks bad on your resume. If you are not learning, move on. Don’t waste your time.
  6. Remember that feminism is not men vs women. There are people who hurt women’s equality and there are people who support women’s equality. There are men and women on both sides of that equation.
  7. Your manager influences your daily work experience a disproportionate amount. So, if you don’t feel supported by your manager, change things or move on.
  8. If you find yourself in a toxic work environment, you can try and fix it – but it’s very hard to fix a system where no one is playing by the rules, and you have been set up to fail. I’d recommend just moving on. Don’t be a martyr.
  9. P.P.O stands for the Highest Paid Person’s Opinion. This is often how decisions get made. Not necessarily a bad thing….except when there is no diversity among the highest paid people in your industry.
  10. Z.E.B.R.A = Zero Evidence But Really Arrogant. Beware of the zebras. Sometimes described as “often wrong but never in doubt”. It’s difficult to create anything of decent quality if you’ve got a zebra running your team. Be aware of this highly toxic persona.