What does it mean to be a woman in tech? I gotta be honest. I’m still figuring it out.
Although I always liked technology and computing, I didn’t know that it would be an arena that I would enjoy and in which I would thrive. And I certainly didn’t know I’d be asked to speak about it and share my experience with others.
On two occasions, Fullstack Academy asked me to speak to prospective students via webinar about starting careers in coding and data analytics. The conversations also covered “women in technology,” a.k.a. how to succeed as a woman in an industry mostly dominated by men. Both times I was asked to participate not just because of being a woman, but also because of my varied background. Just a hint. It hasn’t been “normal.” I’ve jumped from one extreme to another, and yet I’ve still had similar experiences and a consistent professional growth trajectory.
Speaking alongside people who went to college for exactly what they do now, I was the wild card that took experiences and skill sets from one profession to another, building up my knowledge base as I went. And in the notes I’ve received from webinar attendees, this story was exactly what they needed to hear.
So what profound knowledge did I and the other panelists have to offer? Even with the diversity of our professional experiences, there were some common themes that emerged.
Never Stop Learning
If you want to do something in technology in general, you must be someone who never gets tired of learning something new. This goes double for anything related to data analytics, as that’s the core of the job.
With tech ever-changing, and the business world continually evolving, never be afraid to learn. Whether that’s taking an online course, attending a webinar or two, or just finding a mentor and working with them to improve your skill set. It will never, EVER hurt you to add to your knowledge.
Share What You Learn
It’s no good learning new skills and facts if you can’t share them with others, either by applying them to projects or simply letting others know about new developments in the fields where you overlap. Hoarding knowledge makes you a library, not a good coworker. The single reason the panelists agreed to participate was that we all believed in sharing what we have learned, both to inspire and to educate. But wait, how do you do that?
Use your new skills to streamline processes, make data-driven decisions, and come up with new ideas to help everyone. Learning new tools and techniques is what increases the value of your contributions. It also adds diversity of thinking to your workplace. Speaking of …
Diversity Is Key
Sometimes I find it strange to be labeled a “woman in tech,” as though it’s some groundbreaking thing to happen here in 2021. Sadly, it sort of still is. Women and people of color are still sorely underrepresented in technology fields. This was something we discussed in both panels. Luckily, all of us have been seeing those numbers balance out more over the years.
As a representative for women in both panels, I brought up that in the past I was also in the military—another male-dominated field. I have been extremely fortunate not to have undergone anything of extreme nature when it comes to being perceived as “worthy” by my male peers, though I will not deny that I have had to put up with certain aspects of that in the past. This includes anything from being harassed to being passed over for ideas or input. Fortunately, this is something I dealt more with a decade or so ago than today. Even better, I have not had to deal with that at all thus far working for Vladimir Jones.
Do not let being in the minority drive you away from something you may love. Be true to yourself and what it is you’re passionate about, and follow the path wherever it may lead you.
You’re Never Too Old to Start Something New
Although I always gravitated towards technology, even as a child, it wasn’t something I was inspired to really partake in and consider as my career until I was well past college age. I’d worked with tech plenty as a teen and young adult, but it wasn’t until my 30s that I really started to veer into the career path.
Some of the other panelists also had changes in careers, though they may not have been quite as extreme as some of mine. The point is, it’s never too late to try something new. Scary? Definitely. But what if it’s something totally worth the nerves in the long run?
For me, being a panelist was something entirely new and scary. If you ask any of my current or past colleagues, they’ll tell you that I don’t see public speaking as my strong suit. As I’ve learned though, as long as it’s something I’m passionate about and have a solid foundation on, I have no problem speaking in front of others. It also never hurts to pump up your self-esteem beforehand.
What pumps you up when you’re nervous? Go watch, listen, dance to it now!
Vladimir Jones is Colorado’s original independent, integrated advertising agency, with offices in Denver and Colorado Springs. We believe in brilliant brands and love making the world love them as much as we do.