Janae Cram 2

Women who code in the Umbraco community: Janae Cram

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

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For International Women's Day, Umbraco community member Janae Cram shares he thoughts on gender equality in tech, coding and Umbraco.

A little about yourself.

I'm 35 (almost 36!) years old, and I live in Bellingham, Washington in the US (so, I'm on the west coast, about an hour or so north of Seattle). Despite that, I work for Offroadcode in England and have for almost four years now.

I call myself a "lead integration developer" since I do a lot of the Umbraco integration and coding between the back-office setup and the front as well as integrations with other services. We're all senior developers at Offroadcode, which is a nice way to work because it's cooperative instead of ranked and our team is really tight-knit.

How did you come across Umbraco?

I worked for a company called Mindfly before I was at Offroadcode, which was located here in Bellingham. At that time, Paul Sterling hadn't started working for Umbraco yet and worked for a local company who he was setting up a shopping cart for in Umbraco... 2, I think? I did the front-end development for the sites and helped Paul with some of the integrations in Umbraco then, so that was my first experience with it around ten years ago now.

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

I learned how to code HTML and CSS in high-school, but I never really took it anywhere when I moved into college except for my own projects online. I ran some forums in the early 2000s that I customized and I also did some work in Livejournal modifying, which got me into building some of my own little websites.

So, coding was really a hobby for me for the most part while I worked other jobs. A few of my friends got work in town as developers, though, and encouraged me to apply because they thought I could take a hobby and turn it into a career - they were right!

I really love it, too. I wouldn't always encourage someone to take a hobby and turn it into a career because it's a great way to become disillusioned with something you love. I'm an artist and I have no interest in making money off it because I want to enjoy it just for me.

But with code... I really like being in it day in and day out. I love solving puzzles and the feeling of the win when you do something difficult and it ends up working out. I also love doing new things and figuring something out I've never done before (I just did some Mailchimp & Facebook API integrations with Umbraco, which was super fun and cool).

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

I was definitely afraid of being up to par, or being directed more towards "stereotypical female roles" like design or project management (nothing wrong with these, btw!) when I love to code and want to be a developer.

I say that I'm lucky a lot, which I think says everything - you shouldn't have to be "lucky", it should just be normal - lucky to have good mentors, lucky to be embraced by the Umbraco community, lucky to have the opportunities for growth that I've had.

I definitely also believe that I've earned them, but I think that as a woman in the tech industry you have to have a combination of skill, connections, and luck. I don't think luck and the reliance on a few good folk should be what it takes. Thankfully, I also believe it's not just a "few" good folks anymore. Awareness of how women in tech are treated is definitely growing.

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 do! I definitely think the industry is changing - probably because more women are entering it, which I think is a combination of bravery on their parts and the growing awareness and accountability that the industry (and more specifically smaller communities in it) are taking to be more inclusive.

I see more codes of conduct at conferences that I go to, which is such a small step but matters so much to me, and I see more men holding each other accountable for the way that they interact. I definitely feel respected, although I also still get mistaken for a designer sometimes - so there are assumptions that still lie under the surface. That's okay, though. The steps are being made and I don't think they're going to stop soon.

As for how diversity can be increased? Be open to it. Talk to people who are different than you. Be interested in them and who they are as people and what they want. Listen to what they say they need to feel accepted in their communities and then implement those things. Don't second-guess them or think they're being over-reactionary. They've had experiences they're trying to share and those should be accepted at face value, even if it's uncomfortable. Every time someone says "I get where you're coming from and I'm going to do something about it", we level up!

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

Oof, probably the same advice I give myself every day: Don't be afraid to take a step out of your comfort zone and, most importantly, don't be afraid to ask questions.

As a woman, the thing I'm always afraid of most is to put a question out in public because I feel it will make me look stupid, and my biggest fear is looking like an idiot in front of my peers. Don't be afraid to ask questions. You're not stupid, you won't look stupid, you're probably asking something someone else wants to know and is afraid to say, too. Be brave, and ask for help.

Anything else you wanted to mention?

I think I covered everything, but I do want to say to other women out there - we're here. You're not alone, your skill is valid, you deserve to be here with the rest of us. Give yourself a high-five you rock because you're awesome!

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