Being a Womengineer

BEING A WOMENGINEER

During the summer weeks we let Sandra – a previous employee of one of our members, who is also part of the nonprofit Womengineer and just finished her BSc in Media Technology and MSc in Computer Science at KTH – use SUP46 as a study den. While having her here we asked a few questions on how she got into coding, the upsides on working for a startup and what her recommendations are if you are a woman interested in learning to code. 

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– You previously worked with one of our members. Can you tell us more about your role at Qasa?

I did work at Qasa (which is an online platform for renting and renting out homes) for approximately eight months as a frontend developer alongside my studies at KTH. I joined the company at quite an early stage of the development of the platform and took part of the process of creating the first beta version of the site.

– What were the best things about working at a startup in your perspective?

To work at a startup taught me so much! Not only regarding development but also about teamwork, business value and to work on a bigger project with long term goals. I also really appreciated that the role of a team member in a startup is broad and can cover all possible tasks from the idea stage, to evaluation, to implementation, to contact with customers and so on. As a member of a startup you also have the possibility to make a great impact (in contrast to working at a big corporation). Additionally, you get a lot more trust and responsibility, which both is very fun and motivating, but also allows you to grow and learn a lot quickly.

– How did you get into coding in the first place?

Coding has not always been an interest of mine. However, I have always been a creative person and have, since I was little, always loved to try out different techniques for art, craft and other types of creational work. I see a great similarity between that and coding and that is the reason why I enjoy it so much.

The first time I came in contact with development was when using the Swedish community Lunarstorm, which was popular during the 90s. To design your profile page you could use a subset of HTML, and I spent hours and hours on making the most beautiful and cool designs that I could come up with for me and my friends. After that I learned how to create “real” websites (with all the crazy colors, moving GIFs and horrible electronic music covers, required for a proper 90s website). When it was time to choose a university program, I thought that web design could be interesting and applied to Media Technology at KTH. However, after my first two years, I realized that I was more interested in the logical challenges of algorithms and backend development rather than working with design and chose the track in computer science.

– Is there anything you wish you would have known before getting into coding?

I wish I would have been introduced to programming earlier and I am one of those people who can’t believe that programming isn’t part of the compulsory education in Sweden yet. I would also have liked it if someone had told me that you don’t have to be a genius or a “geek” to study computer science, that it is a very creative job and that there are a lot of awesome and interesting people working in this industry. In other words, I’d like to tell my former self that I would not have to worry about not fitting in or not being smart enough and that these thoughts were simply due to inaccurate stereotypes and prejudices.

– If someone reading this is interested in becoming a developer but unsure of where to start – what would you recommend them to do?

Just to give it a go! And also to be a bit patient. Programming requires a bit of a different mindset and, from what I’ve seen, it often takes a while before things fall into place. A good place to start is Codecademy to learn some basic programming techniques and languages. If you like logical and mathematical challenges, I’d recommend you to learn some Python and then try out Project Euler. If you’re more into design, I’d encourage you to learn some basic HTML/CSS and JavaScript and then build your own website and learn what you need on the fly by just googling. Google is probably a developer’s most important and well-used tool!

However, to actually become a professional developer, you can take many different paths. Some people are self-taught and there are endless of resources online. Others study short and focused programs, focusing on a specific language or technique (e.g. iOS developer). I have chosen to study a five-year engineering degree, which gives you a broad, theoretical knowledge in the field, but not as much specific or practical knowledge. Because of this, internships, summer jobs or working extra is a great way to get that practical knowledge that you don’t get in school and personally I can not think of a better way to get that much valuable knowledge than to work at a startup.

– Are there any networks or meeting groups that you feel are a must for any female developer?

Fortunately, there are a lot of fantastic initiatives and networks for female developers! Just to mention some of them: Geek Girl Meetup, Pink Programming, Tjejer kodar, PyLadies, Women in Tech, DataTjej and The Code Pub. Also, if you’re interested in studying any technical program, but would like to get some more insight, I’d recommend you to look into Womengineer, IGEday, Teklafestivalen and Pepp!.

– Do you have any specific role models or similar within the field?

I don’t think I have any specific role models exactly. However, I’ve been finding a lot of inspiration and mentorship from people around me in my everyday life that I just find inspiring and that I want to learn from. For example people from higher years at university or colleagues, and to talk with these people for guidance and advices has been very helpful and motivating.

However, something that I actually find problematic is that there aren’t many visible female developers to be able to identify yourself with and to get inspiration from. Luckily, there are organizations such as Geek Girl Meetup, the WIT conference and of course SUP46’s own event series SUP46 FemTech, that all tries to highlight more female role models in the industry, which is really needed.

 

Do you have any additional initiatives, organizations or groups that inspire women in tech? Please let us know in the comments!

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