For girls struggling to find their way in tech

Hi! This post is kind of a letter to my past self. Things may get personal here but I’m being vulnerable with the hope that girls will see they are not alone and that things get better.

Why did I chose tech?

When I was finishing high school, my city had a project to include a technical to our last year and a half of school so that when we were done we could potentially be trainees somewhere. I liked the idea and I went to study Computer Technology. At the end of the course, we could choose between programming or databases. At that time I may not have realized, but my main database fundamentals teacher was a woman. She was very young and bright. I believe she inspired me to learn more, so I signed up for databases.

I then liked the classes and thought I was good at it. So, when I signed up for college my choice was Databases again. At the time we had a full course designed just for that. The director of our database groups was a teacher that lead the main DB classes. She was fierce. She was gorgeous. She would enter the room to teach, usually wearing high heels and skirts and dresses (which is not what you saw the other male teachers using). And she would kick ass. I immediately gravitated towards her, and then it was clear to me I looked up to her, and more interestingly: other people looked up to her, because she was intelligent and she knew what she was doing. Eventually, she was the one who mentored me on my final project, which I’m forever grateful for, I loved our on to one meetings and insights.

Work is not what they teach you at school

In my class at college I had few women colleagues, which lead me to think that at work it would be the same…and it was. It was hard to find women at the workplace (still is, but slightly better), specially in leadership roles. From my career experience, most of the time I was part of the very small group of women in the team, who also would take more project management than development or databases. Fun fact: the first time I joined a big company, there was only one other woman on the team of my hiring managers. She was the one that read my CV and made sure I was being sent to the tech team instead of the business one. I had no idea how important her braveness would be for me, I’m grateful for her actions, someone whom I learned a lot with. Something that I never asked and never gave much thought about is the fact that a group of men saw my resume, and still thought I was more suited to the business team (spoiler: I was not).

I believe it wasn’t until I got to Canada that I had my first woman manager. It was a nice experience to have someone who you can be open about misogyny at work, and not worry so much about what the throwback may be.

I wanted to tell you this part of my history to give an example of how much it means to me to have women who I can look up to and count with. Of course I also worked with wonderful men and learned a bunch with them, but the times I would believe myself the most was when I had other she to walk with me.

Having one woman in a class full of men does not mean she is exceptional, it means we screwed up something along the way and left many others out.

How can you help?

  • If you can and this is a topic that interests you, I’d suggest mentoring someone. You have no idea how much a little bit of guidance goes a long way. Be open to hear, see and take action.
  • When you see women struggling at work, speak up and also give them a hand and help them get up on their feet. If you are afraid of facing consequences (which I’m sorry if you do), find someone at work who can help you, someone you know that will back you up. You manager is not your only option. Be vulnerable and you’ll see right away who’s with you.
  • Lastly, consume female references. Be mindful of seeing and praising women’s work, for the sake of their brilliance and the stories you would not hear from others.

For the girls struggling

  • You are not alone. Seek for others in the same position as you are, do not take for granted the comfort and power of being in a group that supports you.
  • Find your anchor. I would always gravitate towards someone who I knew would back me up. Follow them, make them see you and you’ll be heard.
  • Don’t let the fears wear you down. Make yourself heard. And if you don’t have the strength to speak up when you need, that’s ok too, you don’t have to solve the worlds problems by yourself.
  • For all the girls out there struggling: I feel you, I hear you, I see you. Reach out if you need someone to talk to.

I hope we get better for our future generations.

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