Advice, Women in Tech

Being a woman in technology: How it all started for me

Women in Technology

"So how did you end up in the technology field", is one of the most frequently asked questions I get from a lot of people. "Should I study technology", comes a close second. And surprisingly or not surprisingly, both questions come from the female population.

When I finished my pre-diploma, I was quite sure that I wanted to study business. After all, the certificate I received from my college read “Pre-Dipolma in Business Studies with Computing”. But when the time came to choose my major, I ended up choosing “Computer Science”. Why? The answer was actually a lot simpler than you would think. I liked computers and I loved the Internet (and I still do), even when we were sharing one computer at home between 2 adults and 2 university students and the Internet speed was slow and steady. And just like that, I became a student enrolled in Bachelor of Computer Science.

On the first day of my first class, I didn’t take note of the numbers of male and female students. I have never heard or read anywhere that technology is for male population only. I may be one of the few females in the class, but my ignorance has helped me. I didn't notice anything and felt anything. I have always believed that gender is never an issue. We, women, can do whatever we want to, study computer science, work at NASA, go to the moon, whatever we want. It didn’t occur to me that after a decade and more, I will be hearing a lot about gender equality in the technology industry.

My first job was in web design and development industry. The pay was not great, but it was around the time when IT jobs were far and few and I was lucky enough to find a job that I was interested in. Besides, I had just moved to Australia 2 years ago, fresh out of university, with no industry experience, and English is not my first language (HTML is though, ha!). I worked two jobs, both similar roles and responsibilities and they were both part time.

After working for a few months, I realised that one of the jobs was paying me below the market rate, so I spoke to my boss to give me a raise. And I failed. Why did I fail? I knew I deserved more, I was doing a good job, and I was essential to the company. My boss could afford to pay more, but still, I didn’t get a pay raise. Why, the answer is simple. I didn’t have a strategy. All I did was after our weekly meeting, I said to my boss “I would like to get a pay raise please?” And I received a flat no. Now that I think about it, if I had a better strategy, if I gave him a formal written letter, if I had done my research and showed my boss what the industry rate was for my role and what achievements i had done, I’d have a better chance. So I didn’t get a pay raise, but it was not all a loss because I learned something.

After working at two part-time jobs for almost a year, I finally landed my first full time role at a major publishing company. The company has hundreds of employees and I worked within an online department which looks after a few websites for their magazines. I met a few talented people who are very good at their jobs, I learned how to be a team player, how to speak to people on the phone, how to chit-chat in the kitchen, how to have small talks and so on, the real skills to survive in the workforce.

I still remember that one time when one of my colleagues came and spoke to me before anyone else arrived in the office and all I was thinking in my head was “What can I do for you? Why all this chatter?” Later, I realised that she was being friendly and chit-chatting, not because she needed me to do something. Being my first proper full time job, that concept was new to me.

To be continued...