Last week, SilverStripe hosted Summer of Tech’s Women in Tech panel discussions on “growing and enhancing your tech career” in Auckland and Wellington. This was a fantastic opportunity for me to get some insider advice as I am three weeks into my internship at SilverStripe and at the start of my career as a developer.
The Wellington Panel
I attended the Wellington event which featured guest speakers Aurynn Shaw (Managing Director, Eiara), Hannah Gray (Product Owner/Manager, Xero), Katrina Clokie (Testing Coach, BNZ ) and Kelly Cheesman (Designer/Developer, Powershop). The panel discussion was facilitated by Irene Gardiner, television producer, media commentator and Content Director of NZ On Screen. It was great to see such inspiring and accomplished women who are making their mark on New Zealand’s tech industry in action. They generously shared their insights and experiences with honesty and passion — their successes but also the challenges they faced in their careers.
It really came across that these four women had lots of ambition and were open, independent thinkers. I could feel their enthusiasm for technology and their strong drive to make a positive change in society.
My job is magic...I can change the world as a developer. ~ Aurynn Shaw
The panel had all come from quite different backgrounds. Some studied computer science, while others were self-taught. They worked in different roles including design, development, devops, management and testing. They emphasized that there is no right way to get into tech, and having diversity in your skillset and experiences is a positive thing. Soft skills (communication, critical thinking, relationship-building) in particular are underrated but can be an advantage in the tech industry — which places a lot of importance on teamwork.
The panel suggested that it can be easy to compare yourself to others in the industry and find yourself lacking. However, this wouldn’t be a fair comparison. Everyone is different — some people find their interest in technology and computer science at a later point in life, some earlier. Everyone has their own unique obstacles. It’s better to compare yourself to yourself: Think about your own progress and how much you’ve accomplished and keep learning!
Some great advice
Advice from the panel to help you grow and enhance your tech career included:
- Hone your communication skills: Tech graduates tend to have the same CVs/work experience. Communicate what makes you stand out it. Is it your love for creating and building something, your ability to learn quickly, or your willingness to improve? Make sure you and your CV communicates that.
- Love and show what you do: If you love what you’re doing, no matter what comes your way, you’re more likely to be resilient and get through it. It’s crucial to put that love into your CV and interviews. Show off your skills —demo something that you’ve created. Let recruiters know how passionate you are about tech.
- Believe in yourself: The tech industry is full of confident people. Confidence in yourself will benefit you throughout your career. You may have to project an illusion of confidence at first but don’t bluff. Not knowing is never a problem and it’s okay to say, “I don’t know but I’ll find out”.
- Get a mentor: Mentors and role models can help you throughout your career by providing support, guidance, inspiration and access to industry networks. Don’t be afraid to approach someone you admire and ask for mentoring (and be obvious about it). Research your potential mentor thoughtfully and thoroughly and ask for a small amount of time over casual coffee.
It was really positive to hear from the panel that it’s impossible to know everything, but sometimes (especially at the start of your career) it’s easy to think that everyone else knows it all. There’s plenty of time to learn. Never be afraid to ask questions and remember that you got to where you are through hard work.
I have always been someone who has wanted to be judged for my skills and passion rather than gender. However, it was immensely exciting to see such awareness and support for getting more women into tech.
Later down the track, I hope to be doing something similar to these accomplished women, having the experience to influence and inspire passionate tech newbies. This really excites me, as I believe that it’s important to contribute to my industry and make a positive change for the generations to come.
Technology is moving so fast and is the way of the future. This makes it even more important to have equality and that means getting everyone involved in it’s creation.