As a woman in the technology field, I’ve been asked a lot of questions over the years about my job and the industry I work in. From my experience, it’s much rarer to attend a tech meetup and see a fellow female and many are intrigued when I tell them about my position. From conferences to meetups, being the sole woman (or one in a sea of many men) in attendance can be overwhelming. From the men who clearly have no idea how to talk to women to just feeling like an outsider to the “boy’s club,” it’s not always easy being female.
Myself and my fellow women in tech are among about 20% of the total population of designers and developers. From people being completely confused by my job title (User Experience Designer) to just curious about it, I thought opening the door to discussion with some of the women I do know who also are among this low population might be interesting. And maybe it would motivate more women to be interested in computer science and design.
Today, I have the pleasure of interviewing my friend and fellow woman in technology, Sarah Hawkinson. Sarah has a blog called SarahChristineStyle where she talks about her life, fashion, and beauty. A major part of her life is her career and has an interesting perspective on working in the tech industry. She’s covered a few topics like when she wrote about what a software development engineer does and what it’s like to be a woman in tech.
Jenn: Can you share a little bit about what it is that you do and what a typical day for you is like?
Sarah: I am a Software Development Engineer at medium sized startup company. I’m a full stack developer, but I focus more on the front end. My typical day involves writing code to work on features or bug fixes, code reviewing other engineers, and attending status and design meetings.
J: Did you always know that working in technology was what you wanted to do? How did you decide to go into computer science?
S: When I was little I wanted to be a doctor. I went to college for Chemical Engineering, but eventually switched my major to Computer Science. I realized that although it might not be in the same direct way as working with patients, I could change the world in the same way through technology.
J: I don’t think it’s any secret that many women in the tech industry have felt their gender has affected the way that they are perceived or treated. Have you ever been in a situation like that? How did you handle it?
S: I personally have been fortunate enough to never have dealt with any sort of discrimination during my career. The most I have experienced is a few awkward moments when a group of guys forgets that they have a girl in their midst or feels like they have to act differently because I am around.
J: What do you think is the best part of being a woman in the tech industry?
S: Right now there is a lot of awareness around the gender gap in the tech industry, which makes a lot of people hyper aware of helping woman move forward in their career.
J: Do you notice a lack of women in technology? If so, why do you think that’s the case?
S: I think there is definitely a lack of women in technology. I have seen teams that are pretty even genderwise, but overall there is definitely more men than women in the field as a whole. I think a lot of the gap comes from misinformation and education about what can be done in the technology field. A lot of times I see computer science being marketed towards kids with robots and video games which are typically things boys are more interested in, but the truth is you can do anything with technology. Every day we interact with technology in hundreds of different ways and all of those (and so many more) are opportunities to make a difference in the world.
J: What advice would you give to a woman considering a career in the tech industry? What do you wish you had known?
S: I would just say to go for it. I find more often than not people don’t think that they can get into the tech industry, but there are a lot of different roles and skills needed and so many different things you can do within the industry, so I would tell someone to just go for it and try.
J: I know you’ve described yourself as an introvert, and even wrote about how to network as an introvert. What is the most difficult thing about being an introvert in the tech industry? How have you overcame it?
S: I actually think that of all the industries I could have ended up in as an introvert, this was one of the better ones. There are a lot of different types of people in the industry and they are pretty understanding. I have learned how to use my introversion as a strength, I’m good at listening and getting to the root of a problem before speaking up with a solution.
Thanks so much to Sarah for a great interview and a look into her life as a software engineer here in the greater Seattle area. Are you a woman in the technology field too? How has your experience been similar or different? Do you have any questions for women in the technology industry?