Tell us a little about yourself
I am a senior developer based in Glasgow, Scotland at Equator. My role is currently a mix of coding, architecting solutions and mentoring other developers. I mainly work in back-end development, integrating with 3rd party systems, databases and CMS.
What’s your experience with Umbraco?
I have been working with Umbraco for about 4 years, since switching from Java to .NET stack. Many of the sites I have worked on using Umbraco are in hotel industry where we have linked the 3rd party booking APIs and payment systems with content in Umbraco. I also helped build our own new website!
Recently I have also developed an interest in how we can integrate Umbraco content to IOT devices as we are helping our clients communicate with systems beyond just websites, for example iBeacons and Alexa skills - I discussed this in my Codegarden talk last year.
When and how did you become interested in coding?
I have always been interested in computers, since I was young, and I was always playing around on my mum's PC. However, I am not one of those people that can say I made my first website when I was 12 and taught myself to code!
I studied computing at school and was good at it, I enjoyed the limited amount of coding we did (in Visual Basic) and I decided to study Computing Science at university. This was where I really fell in love with coding.
When you decided to enter this industry, were you concerned about facing prejudice as a woman? If yes, what were your concerns?
To be honest when I decided to study Computing Science I had no idea of the scale of the gender inequality and prejudice women face. Growing up, I was lucky enough to be encouraged to do whatever I wanted and it never occurred to me that there was anything my brothers or cousins could do that I couldn't just because I was a girl...
So when I went to uni and realised that the boys in the class wouldn't acknowledge my ideas even when I gave the same solution as male friends, I got a harsh glimpse at the "real world" that women see in industry everyday. This is probably why I am so vocal about it now as I was encouraged to pursue something I was good at and I worked hard to achieve it, just to have people now tell me I can't ... I don't think so 😉
Why do you think there still aren’t that many female coders?
Well, this is a topic I could talk all day on, but I will try and keep it short! I think it is a combination of things:
Society: Girls are put off science, tech, engineering and maths from a young age. We are taught to not take risks and fail, and coding involves a lot of failing before it works but since we keep telling girls to be perfect they become discouraged from tech. More on this here.
Industry: Since the gender balance is so bad in tech, the culture ends up being very male dominated even if it's not intended. So, the few girls who have pursued tech careers leave school/ uni and go to an industry that doesn't welcome them and in some cases is biased against them. Yes, there is a pipeline problem but we are also struggling to keep the few who make it through in the industry. Stats show women are more likely to leave the industry than men, and some days I can totally see why.
In your opinion, what could help to increase gender diversity in tech community?
Well, the long term strategy starts with kids, if we can get more girls started in computing then we will eventually have more women in industry... but that's a long wait, around 20 years, before we see a difference! So, what can we as an industry do now to help the women in tech?
#1 I think it's important to have role models like ourselves to look up to. You often hear "you can't be what you can't see", if you only ever see male contributors to open source projects or male speakers at conferences then you don't see your place there and assume you don't belong. These role models are also showing men that women can do these things too, slowly changing stereotypes. So to these women, especially in the Umbraco community - THANK YOU!
#2 Changing the culture is something we can all work on together. Breaking down the boys club culture and being more welcoming to everyone will be better for all. I do think this is something Umbraco does well, where else would you see yoga at a conference?
#3 Encourage people who are changing their career to move to development. I know many women who have found their way to programming in a less conventional route- through careers in sciences like physics or archeology but also from project management and marketing. They needed to do a bit of coding to make their experiment or website work then realised they loved coding. This not only helps us diversify gender in tech but also diversify the skill set of developers, these careers will make these new developers bring new perspectives to the team, so let's embrace it!
What advice would you give to someone looking to make a career move and learn to code?
Do it! As much as there are all the problems listed in the previous questions, if it is something that makes you happy - then go for it! We need to work for more than 40 years of our lives, so we may as well do something we enjoy.
We do hear all the terrible stories of women in tech and how bad it can be but I have been lucky enough to be encouraged by mentors and friends (men and women) throughout my career, these just aren't the stories that make good headlines! Basically what I am saying is, it's not *all* bad or I wouldn't still be doing it. Find the environment and community that suits you.
There are loads of online resources and courses you can teach yourself if you want to learn to code. I would also recommend finding a community meetup to go along to and meet other developers, some are technology specific like Umbraco meetups and some are community based like Ladies of Code and Women who Code.
How do you imagine your future as a developer?
For my future as a developer- I don't really know to be honest! Things change so much within a year in tech and so it's hard to predict where I might be even a few years in advance! I do know I plan to continue coding and pursuing things that make me happy.
For the future of all developers - I hope the future of tech eventually leads to a more balanced and diverse industry, this will lead to building better tech for everyone and that's the dream!
Happy International Women's Day everyone!