Jacquie Steele 2

Women who code in the Umbraco community: Jacquie Steele

Jacquie's thoughts on coding, Umbraco and gender equality in tech community

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In light of International Women's Day, Umbraco community member Jacquie Steele shares he thoughts on gender equality in tech, coding and Umbraco.

A little about yourself.

I’m a junior developer based in the Liverpool area, North West England, at a company called Evoke Creative. We specialize in designing and manufacturing touchscreen interactive self-service kiosks and digital signage. I mainly focus on front end development, although recently I have been shifting my focus and learning more about back end tech.

I started out as a Marketing Exec after graduating in Events Management, I soon figured that working in marketing wasn’t for me as I enjoyed the tech side to my role more than anything else. After a year of learning to code in my free time, I decided it was time to dive into a development role.

How did you come across Umbraco?

I first worked with Umbraco when I was a CRM Executive, around 3 years ago. Ensuring that web pages/site were consistent with the email marketing campaigns - that was the fun part! 😊

Since then, being a super curious person, I have been working on my personal website as well as some smaller web-based projects to understand how it all works under the hood. I’m planning on contributing to the platform one day, with a few PRs, when I’ve become well acquainted with Umbraco!

How long ago and what brought you to coding in general? What do you enjoy about it?

I first got to know about code back when MySpace was the hottest social platform, ensuring my layout was the bee’s knees. When I worked in marketing I would spend a lot of time creating/tweaking web pages for marketing campaigns, articles or doing a general tidy up of websites.

I found myself spending more time looking at how the code worked and getting to know about languages and frameworks. I also had the joy of creating emails from scratch using email HTML, from there I decided it was time to think about making the lateral shift to becoming a developer and I haven’t looked back.

After some research, and lots of Googling I stumbled across the #100DaysOfCode challenge on Twitter. Spending a minimum of 1 hour a day learning to code and setting myself realistic goals, has set a great foundation for entering into the industry.

I love that you can get lost for hours trying to solve problems and when you do solve a problem the euphoria of seeing your code work… those moments I celebrate by waving my hands in the air. Another part of development I enjoy is that you can be logical and creative at the same time, it’s kind of a beautiful harmony.

When you decided to enter this industry, were you concerned about facing prejudice as a woman? If yes, what were your concerns?

I’ll be honest, it never crossed my mind, in a way I was in a bubble. I started tweeting about my journey and I received a lot of encouragement from everyone. I received the odd few comments but it only made me more determined to succeed!

I’d obviously heard about the issues with diversity when scrolling through Twitter, and speaking to others but it wasn’t until I started applying for jobs that I saw the gender imbalance. When you hear comments like “We’re desperate to have a girl on the team!” kind of made it too obvious. I wanted to be hired based on my ability to code and not the fact I was a female, which helped me make a few quick decisions.

Do you think the industry is changing for the better? What do you think would help to increase gender diversity in the tech community?

I can see change happening, there are some amazing initiatives out there such as InnovateHer, Ladies of Code, and Women Who Code who are encouraging more girls and women to join the tech industry.

I feel there is still a minority of developers who maintain a school of thought from the past. Which, in turn, is the few necessary to make an environment feel unwelcome.

It is often hard to share an opinion with these people as you are either ignored or, upon trying to be heard declared as being aggressive. This is a part of the industry which is changing, and I take solace in having male developers support me in these situations. It’s hard to change the opinions of others when they feel you’re on the opposite side, so having the same side tell you - you’re wrong, is the pause for thought we need to really make change happen.

A reason I am fond of Umbraco and the community is due to the encouragement I have received from everyone, it really feels like you’re part of one big family. I haven’t come across any judgement or negativity when asking those silly questions, or for help or advice.

What advice would you give to someone looking to make a career move and learn to code?

Can I insert the infamous Shia LaBeouf gif here? Do it, 100% just do it! If you’re in a situation like I was, do as Marie Kondo has taught us, if it doesn’t spark joy, thank it and make the move into the tech industry. Like anything, if you enjoy coding as a hobby, why not pursue it as a career?

I do have three pieces of advice, which I was given when I considered changing careers:

  • Find a mentor - this was invaluable for me, I found a mentor and was able to ask those “silly” questions. It’s also a bonus as they’ll learn along the way, too!
  • Join a community - the Umbraco one is great! Also, attend meetups, they’re awesome for networking :)
  • Don’t give up! Sometimes learning to code can be frustrating, reach out to the community or give yourself a break, that problem will get solved eventually.

Anything else you wanted to mention?

One last thing, if you get given the opportunity to speak at a tech conference/festival - take the chance! You don’t have to be able to speak “techie” or know everything there is to do with technical topics. You can talk about your journey, experience, and other topics that are relevant to the industry, e.g. topics around diversity. The nerves are a good thing, they mean you care and once your talk is over, you’ll feel exhilarated!

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