We’ve talked a lot about the importance of branding on Mentoring Developers in the past, but sometimes, it’s good to cover it again because it is so very crucial to brand yourself and involve yourself in the community, social and otherwise. Regardless of whether you are a new or aspiring developer, or if you’ve been in the game for a while, branding really does matter in so many ways. It shows others who you are, what you have done, what you’re working on now and more.
Our next guest is Liz Rush and while Liz has only been coding for the last few years, she has become an expert at branding herself, which has turned out quite well for her and even opened up new opportunities. Listen in to episode 49 of Mentoring Developers as Arsalan Ahmed and Liz Rush discuss how she got into tech, what she’s done, and how she designed and built her reputation for success.
Liz Rush is an independent software developer & evangelist in Seattle, WA. Liz has worked on development teams large and small to build web apps, experimental services, and complex data platforms. She is a graduate of Ada Developers Academy’s inaugural cohort and remains active as an alumna mentor. Prior to transitioning into tech, her professional background was in technical translation & marketing and she studied at St. Louis University in Madrid. When she’s not blogging or coding, she can be found volunteering or out at live music & techno shows.
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Episode Highlights and Show Notes:
Arsalan: Hi everyone. My guest today is Liz Rush. Liz, how are you?
Liz: I’m great. Thanks for having me.
Arsalan: It’s so good to have you because you have a lot of interesting stories in your career. Everybody who I interview has interesting stories, but you’re a little bit unique.
Liz: Well, thanks.
Arsalan: Tell me a little about yourself. Who is Liz Rush?
Liz: Well, I am a web and IOS developer in Seattle. I made the transition into development a few years ago through a coding boot camp. Right now I am working as a consultant at a wonderful consultancy called Foundry Interactive as well as doing freelance development and evangelism work.
Liz: Aside from code, I really like to speak at conferences and blog about making the career switch into development. I am also an alumna mentor for Ada Developer’s Academy, which is the nonprofit code school for women that I went through. In addition to that, I also moderate our alumni stack team where graduates and current interns can connect over experiences and share resources. Outside of tech, I really enjoy doing volunteer work in feminist activism and I have hobbies that include sewing and embroidery.
Arsalan: So, I’m thinking “wow, this is incredible.” I think my audience right now would agree. But, I know that in the world of software development, in any industry, two or three years is not a long time. You’re hitting home runs after home runs. It’s amazing.
Liz: Thanks. I’ve practiced my elevator pitch about who I am a few times, but you’re right. I’ve only been doing this a couple of years. I was part of the inaugural cohort of Ada Developer’s Academy. So, this was a new boot camp for women in Seattle where we didn’t pay any tuition and we did a 6-month classroom portion and a 6-month internship at a Puget Sound company. So, I graduated from Ada Developer’s Academy about two years ago. The program is about a year long. I’ve been coding for about three years.
Arsalan: That is incredible and not only that, there’s something very unique about the way you’re approaching this. Okay, so let me explain myself. Not only are you a professional software engineer, you’re also a speaker and not just somebody who has given just one or two talks. This is one of the things that you do. You’re also volunteering. You’re an activist. You’re doing all these things. You’re putting yourself out there and I know from experience and other people’s experiences that when you are an activist and you have a message which is going to rub people the wrong way, you’re going to have haters. It makes life hard.
Liz: Definitely. Yes.
Arsalan: Especially if you are new and may not be as self-confident or may not have established yourself yet and no really sure if you lose your job or if you lose your income. If you lose your current way of making money or something happens to it, there is uncertainty because you just started. I know from experience that it takes a long time to really master your craft. So, certainly, when you started giving talks you were not an expert software engineer. So, tell me a little bit about when you gave your first conference talk. How long had it been at that time since you had started programming?
Liz: My first conference talk was a local conference called Cascadia Ruby. I gave a talk with a project partner of mine from the boot camp, Singway. Singway Sue and I gave a talk about our final project as a kind of case study. So, we had not even graduated from our boot camp. We were about 8 or 9 months into learning to code when we decided to give that conference talk. It was a wonderful experience. We ended up giving it at this regional Ruby conference and also at Ruby Conf that year in San Diego. It was a lot of fun, but I think that one of the great things in particular about the Ruby community is that there is such an emphasis in how beginners and novices at programming have a certain way of sharing insights and knowledge that everyone can learn from even if they’re not expert software developers yet. So, I think because we started out in the Ruby community, we were able to grow that sense of confidence and be able to go out and do things like speak or volunteer at code events and things like that without feeling too intimidated.
Arsalan: That makes sense. Ruby is a very welcoming community. It is one of the best communities out there. If you’re a new developer or if you want to become a developer, they’ll welcome you with open arms.
Liz: Wow, what a question to ask. I don’t think that there’s necessarily something special about me that made me feel like I could be more successful in that environment or giving talks or doing public speaking. But, I do have to give a lot of credit to my upbringing and having a strong role model with my mother. She was an entrepreneur. She was the president of her own company and she taught me from an early age that I have something to say, my perspective is valuable and I shouldn’t be shy about using my voice where appropriate. So, I think because of that upbringing, I’ve never been afraid to speak out or speak my mind and that’s really what’s helped me make this transition into tech and be able to do public speaking because if I can be outgoing in any environment, then just because its tech doesn’t mean it should be more intimidating than anything else.
Arsalan: Yeah, the way I see things is that entrepreneurship is an attitude. It is not a profession. You can be an entrepreneur inside a job or in whatever capacity you’re in and an entrepreneur has a voice.
Liz: Yeah, definitely. I think that it really ties into how people view the word “hustle” these days. Like having a hustle or being someone with a lot of hustle. A lot of that is about being outgoing and having an attitude of being assertive and self-confident.
Arsalan: Right. So, here’s the problem. Most of my listeners and most software developers are not extroverts. They’re not outgoing and they’re actually introverts. It’s the idea of going out there and butting heads and selling yourself. Essentially, the way I see hustle is being able to sell. It’s about not giving up and not giving in and being brash. Be in your face. Don’t take no for an answer. That’s the pushy salesman type thing that we don’t like when we go to a store, but that’s kind of what we’re expected to be if you’re an entrepreneur.
Liz: Yeah, I think that in software, we tend to also have this difficulty where we have this false dichotomy of being an introvert or an extrovert. So, you had touched on the fact that a lot of software engineers of introverts, but the funny thing is that I view myself as an introvert. Nobody else views me as an introvert because they see me out doing these things, but I like a lot of downtimes. I like being alone. I need time to recharge and be away from people.
Liz: I find it incredibly exhausting and draining to do a lot some of these things, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I am not capable. So, I think there’s this conversation that often happens where people say that they can’t do these things because they’re an introvert. I don’t think that’s true. I think you can strategically be extroverted when you need to be or show that hustle without it having to be who you are. It doesn’t necessarily mean that just because you like public speaking that’s the core essence of who you are and if you don’t like public speaking that you can’t do it. It’s kind of one of those things where you have to push your own idea of what your boundaries are and what your limits are to see what you’re capable of even if it goes against your own self-image sometimes. That’s how we learn and grow as people.
Arsalan: I’m so glad you said that because I believe that too. I think the important thing to realize is that when you are speaking in public when you are giving a talk or even when you are mingling with people in a social event purposely, you’re there because you have a goal to achieve. Then it becomes a performance. So, you’re out there in front of a hundred or a thousand people and you may not enjoy being in front of people, but you know that in order for you to achieve what you need to achieve, you need to give a performance.
Liz: Absolutely. Yeah.
Arsalan: After you’ve given the performance, you go back to your quiet life and that’s fine. You don’t have to be a celebrity and you don’t have to be the life of the party, but it’s a skill. If you know how to speak to a group and give a presentation, but you don’t enjoy it, you will use this tool to achieve your goal and then move on.
Liz: I absolutely agree. I think that a lot of times there can be a little bit of confusion and I’ve noticed this with other people I have seen move into technology from other industries, there’s a lot of emphasis on having your own self-branding, which I think is a wonderful tool to advance your career. I do it. I try to curate my brand, as you might say. But, there’s also a failure to acknowledge that a lot of this is performance and it is practicing skills that you have and doing them, not necessarily the core of who you are.
Liz: I found that to be one of the things I really struggled with when I first got into programming was that I knew that this wasn’t the whole of who I am. It often feels like programming can be seen as whom you are. I am a programmer. This is my culture. This is who I am. This is how I behave and this is what I talk about. This is how I spend my free time. Yet, I think that really limits not only how we view ourselves, but how we view other people who purchase or paid in the industry or who could purchase or pay in the industry if they saw themselves reflected in it.
Arsalan: Those are really good points, especially the point about branding. We talk about branding on this podcast a lot because you have an opportunity to present yourself in a certain way so that when people are looking for someone like you or maybe they’re looking for you exactly, you appear in the way that you want to appear. That’s what you’re talking about.
Arsalan: The branding would include your online presence, your social media presence, your resume, your LinkedIn profile, and all that stuff, but also how you conduct. If people are doing Google searches on you, what they find is part of that branding. Something that struck me was when my producer found you and got in touch with you about coming on the show, I didn’t really know how to find you to do some research on you, so I just Googled you and I found you right on the first page. I think it was maybe the first or second result on Google because you have spent the time making sure that if people are looking for Liz Rush Software, they’ll find you and when they do, they will go to your website which is, by the way, fabulous.
Liz: Thank you.
Arsalan: It’s really nice and I was thinking I should ask her to make my website. It’s nice. It’s simple and I don’t think it’s WordPress. It’s just a static website, isn’t it?
Liz: No, I used the blogging platform, Ghost. It’s an open-source CMS based on Note.
Arsalan: Nice. You’re hanging out with the cool kids, the new kids. We’re still old school WordPress people. I’ve looked at a lot of CMS especially in the Ruby world; there are a lot of CMS’. I think Jekyll is one that generates a static site for you so it’s faster. It’s a nice idea, but sometimes you need a little bit more. If you want to do some extra stuff and you don’t have time to build a website, then you use a CMS site like WordPress, which has a lot of plugins and so on. In your case, your website is really your resume.
Liz: Yeah, it is. I think that’s very true for most software engineers, especially for people who work on the frontend as well.
Arsalan: Yeah, absolutely. So, where can people see that website? I want to plug it in right now so if people are listening to this podcast right now, they can go in and check it out immediately.
Liz: My website is lizmrush.com and it’s just kind of where I keep blog posts and links to other resources. I don’t blog super frequently, but I try to when I can and talk about the projects that I’m doing and what I’m up to. We had talked about branding for a little bit. My blog actually came about as part of one of the projects for the boot camp that I went through.
Liz: So, I think that this was something that was really smart that the founders did. The founders of Ada Developers Academy booked us where they ensured that every student in the first group to go through the program had to have a Twitter account and they also had to make a blog as part of their development studies. Blogging is kind of a great sample project to do in any language. You’ve got posts and you have to relate them to categories or tags and dates. You know, you get to learn a lot through building your own blog.
Liz: So, the program had us do that and I thought it was very smart and it has really helped my career. I was not on Twitter before I joined the boot camp and they made us join Twitter even though I really didn’t want to. Now, I’m really into Twitter and I’ve actually gotten jobs through Twitter both freelance and full-time jobs. I think that’s one thing. People can start on that as soon as they get interested in technology. It’s just participating in the community through Twitter and social media or blogging and that just kind of naturally develops into your own personal brand.
Arsalan: How did you get a job offer from Twitter? Did somebody just see your tweet and say “hey, you want to work for us?”
Liz: Well, a group of us from Ada Developers Academy, when we were students, we all got diversity scholarships to the conference Strange Loop in St. Louis, which has definitely remained as one of my favorite conferences. So we all went down there. While we were down there at the conference, one of my peers was saying that she wanted to find a new job. We were all working in our internships, but she knew that wasn’t going to be a good fit for her. So, she wasn’t sure whether she should tweet about it or not. So, I offered to do it because I don’t care if somebody sees that we’re looking for jobs on Twitter.
Liz: So, I just tweeted and put in the hashtag of the conference where we were at and a lot of people replied and I ended up meeting someone who gave me my first job offer out of the boot camp program.
Arsalan: That’s an incredible story. I think the key takeaway for me is that you took initiative and you were not scared. Most people would be a little scared to put themselves out there and show their vulnerability and their need. You need a job, but you could come at it from the point of view of somebody who is doing a transaction. You have a service that you are offering and there are people who need the service. So, you’re not really asking for a job. It’s not begging. You’re offering your service and that’s totally fine. If you had a restaurant, you would place an ad and you would think that was completely normal.
Liz: I think that’s definitely true. I think that it’s important to remember that people love to help. I think that is one thing that is especially true in development communities where people are working in software and also have that inner section about caring about diversity in tech or getting more women into tech. So, people want to help you. So, if you tweet out that you’re looking for a job, an internship, or an apprenticeship and you ask people to retweet it, people will do it because it feels good to help other people. So I know that for me, even just tweeting “hey, we’re looking for jobs…anyone hiring?” It helps me, but I realized that it also helps other people to find those connections as well and while it may be a transaction to get a job, it’s also a community action. If we think of it as a big developer community, we don’t want people in our community to not be able to find a job. We have so many companies who need to fill roles and so many people looking for jobs that it’s only natural for us to want to help each other connect.
Arsalan: One of the things that strike me about you is that you don’t seem to have the inhibitions and the hang-ups that a lot of us have, a lot of people who have only ever done software development. I feel like you have a sort of light license to be different. You’re talking about how people expect you to be a certain way or act a certain way and make your life all about coding or programming and be a geek. There are some people who are traditionally like this and that’s how we’ve been.
Arsalan: Software development has been a field that has basically been occupied by nerds and people who like to be nerds. That’s all we did and that’s all we wanted to do and we didn’t have a life beyond that, but things have changed.
Arsalan: Software development has exploded. We are now the place in the world where we need software developers at literally every company of every industry and we need to build software of all kinds. We don’t find ourselves needing to be super geeky and building low-level software and microprocessors and forms where and all that stuff.
Arsalan: Coming from another part of the universe and not the geek world, you got into programming. You didn’t have the baggage first. Secondly, you brought with you some skills that a lot of us don’t already have. So, tell me a little bit about what you did before you got into programming and how did you get started with that?
Liz: I first became interested in coding when I was working for a company in Portland that was a small tech company. I was hired on as an administrative assistant and I did translation work for them. They had a web app that was in English and they had a large customer base that was Spanish speaking. So, my background was in translation.
Liz: I actually did my undergraduate degree at the University and Madrid, Spain. So, I had been working and living abroad in Spain for the last four years prior to that. I returned to the US and start working for this tech company doing a translation. The thing about translating a web app is that you translated and then you’re done. That’s it. So, I was left thinking to myself what do I do with my time now?
Liz: I’m not one who really enjoy sitting around doing nothing so I ended up getting involved with the testing team and learning a little bit about testing. I had one manager who is really encouraging and taught me about test automation. That’s what really sparked my interest in the fact that I didn’t really want to just translate an app, I wanted to be the person building the app.
Liz: From there I reached out to people I primarily knew in my network from my older brother who was a software development manager. He connected me with the female developer who volunteered to be my mentor. She and I would Skype about once every other weekend. She tried to teach me about Rails over the course of the summer. She heard about the development boot camp in Seattle that was just getting started called Ada Developers Academy. She said I should apply and that’s how I did it.
Liz: It wasn’t super thought out. I applied to the boot camp and they accepted me and said that I had to move to Seattle with less than three weeks’ notice. So I thought why not because I had done a lot of impulsive career-changing or moving to different countries or what have you. There’s always ups and downs and bumps in the road, but I believe that things generally work out for the best. So, I thought I just go for it.
Arsalan: So, you packed up and moved to a city where you didn’t know anybody. Did you know anybody there?
Liz: I knew a few people in Seattle before I moved here. My brother lived here and of course, I grew up in Idaho, which is not too far. Seattle is one of those destinations where everyone who grew up in Idaho once to be. I knew a few people, but it was mostly kind of like a blind. But, I thought that this was a cool code school. They’ve never done it before, and I’ve never done it, and it’s tuition free. So, what do I have to lose?
Arsalan: Yeah, that is incredible. What’s their business model?
Liz: It’s really fantastic. It’s very unique. Ada Developers Academy has a business model where they have companies who sponsor students. So what they did was find companies both large and small in the Seattle region that bought into the program and paid up front for a student who would become their intern after six months. So lots of different companies in the area paid into it and said, “we believe that this company can train 15 women to be calm software developers, in six months,” which is what they did and at the end of the first six months we all did interviews at these companies and each one of them received an intern to work with for the next six months.
Liz: So the business model is “recruiting is hard. Finding women to work on your software team is hard. So, if you invest in a student early, you can bring them on as an intern, trained them up and have them learn the skills, the workflow, and the environment of your company. If you’re lucky, and they like you, they’re going to want to stay on and take a full-time role with you.” So the business model is kind of thought of as a symbiotic relationship between companies who need developers, and students who need real-world experience. It’s not just a 12-week boot camp where you learn by yourself and then you’re out in the world on your own. It really creates a strong community tie.
Arsalan: That is so smart. I think this is a really good model for other schools, code camps and boot camps to follow. There’s a great need out there. I know a lot of these boot camps are popping up everywhere, but we actually need more.
Liz: Yeah, I think we need more and we also need this sense of social responsibility and accountability. There are a lot of boot camps here in Seattle and across the nation. A lot of them charge up to $20,000 for four months and that just seems a little bit out there. So I was really proud to get into a program that sees the value not only in training women but seeing it as part of a larger ecosystem in the environment and part of this economy of software in the Seattle region.
Arsalan: All right, let me play devil’s advocate for a bit. I’ve never done this before. This is a first, but I think I need to do it because there is a counter argument. While it’s not my position, I know lots of people who believe this. Why should we care about women being software developers? What difference does it make? We should not pick people based on their gender. We should be gender-neutral and not just hand out jobs to these people who may or may not be qualified, but they’re getting in just because they’re women.
Liz: Yes, I’ve heard that one a lot. I’ve even heard that argument in interviews where someone is trying to hire me, but there are two things. First, there is a presumption that someone who is from a diverse background or who may be a minority, is somehow immediately less qualified than they would otherwise be. So the idea is that if you are part of one of these diverse programs, or if you’re a minority, applying for a job, you’re getting a boost for a job that you might otherwise not be qualified for. What I usually think when I hear that is that the person has some unmitigated biases against people, but also they just don’t realize that I really kick ass at writing code. I think that something that people forget that just because somebody is a minority, or comes from a boot camp, that doesn’t mean that they are not technically skilled. So, that’s one thing that we have to keep in mind. Not an either-or situation.
Liz: To speak to the other part of your question about why should we care and why should we invest in hiring women and minorities because we’re just writing software, I’d like to answer that with a little bit of a story.
Liz: I took a job at a small Seattle-based company that was building a dating app. The company’s name was Siron. I was working on an iOS platform with a couple of other developers. All of the other developers were men. I was the only female developer. There was some existing code base that we got into and things were going pretty smoothly, but we kept running into this problem where the original code base had all these ideas built into the code about gender relations because it’s a dating app.
Liz: So, it would say something like a helper or class would be named after male dater versus female dater. What does the UI look like with a male looking at a female’s profile, for example? Those assumptions were built into the logic of the code.
Liz: I got in there and said “wait a minute, this is insane. Why is this restricted so that only male members can look at female members and vice versa?” It was very strict about the way that profiles could interact based on those two things. So I suggested that we needed to refactor the app so that it’s not based on whether someone’s a man or a woman and who they can and can’t view, because what about the LGBT community?
Liz: Secondly, it makes the code really difficult to work with. So, I started advocating that we needed to change this because it was going to limit our ability to add new features. We put it off for a while because we were a small team of five developers and we didn’t have a whole lot of time and money. In the end, we kept running into the same problem where we want to change something, but the biases built into the code made it much more difficult to change things.
Liz: So, eventually we got to do a giant refactor so that we could make the platform more inclusive of all types of relationships and it made the code better. It was a business use case. Nobody else at the company or on the mail development team spoke up about it. So that’s why we need to hire women. It’s not just because they’re women, but because we often see things from our perspective that might get missed if we have a homogenous development culture.
Liz: It’s a business case in most situations. We’ve seen all the studies. We’ve read all the articles about how diverse teams come up with more profitable ideas and solutions to business problems. It’s not necessarily only about doing the right thing. It’s also about being the best that we can with the skills that we have, and building out the correct kind of team to further our businesses.
Arsalan: Wow. If I had an applause button right here in my set up, I would press it right now because this was amazing. This was a good speech. In fact, I should take this snippet and extract it and somehow tweeted out because it was well said, my friend.
Liz: Thank you.
Arsalan: It’s important that we realize that diversity is good on its own. You don’t need a reason to have diversity. Let me just put it this way, having a diverse team is good on its own merit because once you have a diverse team, not only will you have a balanced outlook on what you’re building, you will look at things that you missed and you will make a better product for your customers. Customers are going to like it, which means that you are going to make more money as a business. Therefore, it makes a business case.
Arsalan: It’s not just because you’re a woman and you have a perspective on the LGBT community, not every woman will have it. Some women may be fine with the distinction that men are attracted to women and women are attracted to men. For a lot of straight people, this would be fine. Yet, having diversity as a general rule, allows you to have people who are men and team members who are women and you can have this or that. You can have people who are older or people who are younger. You can have interns or you can have people with gray hair. You can have all these people working together and this team will necessarily be better, than a team that is all women or all men or all of one particular age group.
Liz: Yeah, there are a lot of different kinds of diversity that often gets overlooked in favor of the women or not women diversity conversation. The truth of the matter is that when you are forced to work with people, who are different from you on whatever axis that might be, you learned skills about empathy, communication, and working with people who are different from you and that helps you grow as a person, but it also helps you to be a better teammate. That’s what’s really important about diversity. It makes your team stronger.
Arsalan: Right, and I see this on every episode and I’ll say it again. Don’t be afraid of political correctness. I don’t know what you think about this, Liz, but it just makes me laugh and cry at the same time when I hear this tirade against political correctness. It’s like “I don’t want to be politically correct. I want to be honest, and obnoxious.” So, don’t be obnoxious. Be politically correct. Because offending people and hurting people’s feelings and excluding people does not make you a better person and it does not make for a better team. I have seen this personally. Let me give you an example.
Arsalan: I worked in a team a very long time ago where we were building this Sass app. It was offered as a service. The test data was kind of R-rated. It had topics and data that nobody was going to see. It was test data and it was just for the developers and everybody was a young male between 20 and 30 years old. So, it was cool and it was fun. But, I can’t imagine a woman being in the middle that team and looking at that data. That would’ve been embarrassing for everybody.
Liz: Yeah, absolutely. I think that a lot of times. If even if you’re not on a diverse team, it helps to put yourself in a situation and think, well, what if I was somebody who wouldn’t be comfortable with this? Am I doing the right thing? That can help guide how you run your team and how you interact with your teammates.
Arsalan: Absolutely. Having empathy with your teammates and thinking about the other, whatever the other is in your case, think of the other, as you and what would think or do if you were in that position? If you do that with your teammates, invariably you are going to do that with your customers and your users.
Arsalan: don’t just have this tunnel vision where you are catering to just your group. You know what’s going to happen if everybody started to do that? Let’s say I’m making a dating app and I make the apps so that it’s only for people who are straight because that’s the majority. So that’s what I focus on. You can sort of make that business case.
Arsalan: You can say that you don’t want to spend time catering for that and so somebody is going to come around and say that 99% or 95% of can see so you don’t want to make this website accessible. You don’t care because they are a small minority and you don’t want to invest your time on that. But if you continue going down that route, you will find yourself producing a software app that will be considered racist, bigoted and narrow-minded. When you look at it yourself at the end of it, you’re not going to like it yourself because most people don’t want to discriminate against others. What we say to ourselves is, “I don’t really have to care about this other because that person is maybe one out of 100 or I’m not there physically. So I can go ahead and offend somebody that I don’t see.” This is how I feel about this. Try to make your teams diverse and whatever Liz said.
Arsalan: Was it easy for you to become accepted as a valuable member of the community? Now, I can say community because you are really involved in the community. You are unique. You are young and you are a junior in a lot of ways, but you are putting yourself out there. Did people accept you as a woman in the developer community?
Liz: You know I have a lot of difficulty with this question in general. I felt accepted by certain parts of the community, the larger development community. I think that a lot of it was because I went through this nonprofit boot camp. The fact that it’s nonprofit meant that the people who are involved in it are involved because they had a reason that was not financially motivated. So I was already surrounded by a lot of really great people who wanted to see me succeed because they believed in the mission of the boot camp. That was fantastic. That really helped me as I transitioned into development.
Liz: However, once I started working in development teams full time, I had a really difficult time. I did an internship as part of the boot camp and I switched teams inside my internship company a few times, which I love because I got exposed to a lot of different technologies. I would go to work and think that these were my people. I fit in here. This is great. Then, I’d switch to another team and the first day on the new team they might make weight jokes in front of me. So, it was hard.
Liz: It was difficult to put myself in a male-dominated industry working with all men all the time and still retain a sense of self-confidence. Part of that was the external factor of the things that men say in male-dominated industries that can be really alienating for women. Part of it was also that we talk about these issues in text so much that it can be intimidating when you go through a program like a boot camp and you’re trying to make it and get your job and become a software engineer, but you also have to confront all these larger social issues.
Liz: So, I think that’s one thing that makes it difficult. If you’re a minority or a woman trying to get into tech or as a junior in technology, you don’t have to just learn the technology or be a good engineer, you have to do those things and confront these bigger social issues. That was really hard for me when I first started. I found it very discouraging.
Arsalan: So, do you think this is systemic? Is it something that is built into the system? Or, is it sporadic individuals here and there?
Liz: I think it’s both. I say systemic and built into the system, but I don’t mean just software. These are issues that plague everybody in every industry, especially those that are male-dominated. So, I say that it’s a problem with the industry and I don’t mean for other people in the industry to take that personally, but we do have issues around that. We have seen more and more women become comfortable speaking up about discrimination or the difficulties that they have with technology companies and finding a place to fit in when it has previously been so homogenous.
Liz: There are sometimes these feelings that you are not wanted because you are playing with someone else’s toys and you don’t want the other person to throw a tantrum over you playing with their toys. So I think that it can be really difficult, but it’s important to keep in mind the bigger picture.
Liz: Something that really helped me as a new developer is that I did face these issues that I feel as systemic and occasionally sporadic for problems. But in the end, I became quite empowered through learning technology. I ended up with a wonderful career that has a lot of job security. I increased my income by three times what I was making before I learn to code.
Liz: I also got involved in the community where is something wasn’t working, if a job wasn’t working out or the culture, the wrong fit for me, I could just get up and walk away. I’m not talking about table flipping and just leaving the room, but I could strategically find something that was a better fit for me because there are so many opportunities in this industry. I think that’s what’s really empowering about it. Despite all the stuff you have to deal with, despite the systemic issues, you can also carve your own path and figure out what works best for you so that you can create this career that you want.
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- Foundry Interactive
- Ada Developers Academy
- Cascadia Ruby Conference
- Ghost (blogging platform)
- Strange Loop Conference
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