The decision to study computer science was one of the bravest and most difficult things I have ever done. My family wanted me to study something that, as they saw it then, would guarantee me a better future. Coupled with the fact that I would be the first person in my family to go to college, I was under tremendous pressure to be successful.
My shyness and social awkwardness have always been my Achilles heel, but I attended Texas Tech University and found myself in a classroom with nearly thirty men and one other woman. I remember my professor calling me during class, and while he might have thought it was going to help me gain more confidence, it was an extremely stressful experience. I wasn’t scared because I didn’t know the answer, I was scared of being wrong.
I did it with top marks and decided that from now on I wanted to make sure that women in engineering don’t have the same experience as me. I started getting more involved in outreach programs and activities that enabled me to connect with other women in engineering. It was around this time that I decided to revive our small computer science group for women: Exceptional Women in Computer Science (EWoCS). Attending EWoCS has helped me gain confidence in my schoolwork and empowered me to tackle a new beast: how to find a job as a software developer.
Find Sprout Social
When I started thinking about how to get a job as a software developer, I found that the environment for some of these companies was all too similar to what I experienced in college: all-male teams and all-male leadership. The percentage of female software developers is initially low Women made up only 14% by software engineers in 2018, and I started to wonder if the gender gap in engineering would ever change. I firmly believe that different teams add incredible value to both the organization and the product, and I’ve made a decision to only look for companies that add value Culture and diversity as much as they did technical skills.
Enter Sprout: a company whose Vision and values align to a large extent with my own. I was hired as an intern in the front-end software engineer on the Analytics team. Not only was there one other woman in my cohort of interns, but there were more than a handful of full-time engineering women I met and contacted.
During my internship, I was blown away by the diversity of the engineering team and the company’s efforts to keep it up. For example, Sprout hosts monthly meetings for the Diversity, Justice and Inclusion Guild (DEI), which are aimed at educating our team about different cultures, identities and social issues. I was surprised to see the team willingly talked about issues like systemic racism and women’s rights, and after my first DEI meeting, I decided that Sprout was the place I wanted to work long-term. In July 2018, I was offered a full-time position as a software engineer.
Starting a Business Resource Group
Engineers are constantly faced with complex problems that need to be broken down into smaller tasks. While Sprout had a more diverse team than any other company I looked at, it wasn’t perfect – but I wanted to help change that. I knew if I could address a problem as difficult as helping women in engineering and our underrepresented community, I could apply similar lessons to my day-to-day work as an engineer.
I started getting involved by joining a Slack channel called #BarbieIsAProgrammer, aimed at women in engineering. We shared resources, volunteer opportunities, or just chatted about what we were going through as non-male tech workers. Over time, Sprout’s THE efforts grew and with it the emergence of Business Resource Groups (BRGs). BRGs are staff-led groups for traditionally under-represented communities who have a common purpose, interest, or background. When the applications for BRGs opened, three great colleagues and I decided to turn #BarbieIsAProgrammer into an official BRG, which we referred to as the “Underrepresented Genders in Technology” or UGIT for short.
As the name suggests, UGIT provides a space for underrepresented genders who work in technical areas at Sprout, including engineers, designers and members of our product team. Our first goal was to raise internal awareness and build a community so that people can connect with each other and meet potential mentors. Now that we’re more established, we’ve been able to host events, coordinate panels with our own engineers, participate in community outreach programs, and create an intimate and safe space for our members at monthly meetings.
One of my favorite speakers that we have hosted so far was Natalie Kissinger, a litigator who spoke to us about negotiating – a simple and comprehensive subject that I personally struggled with as an engineer. After this event, I went away with new techniques for communicating effectively and sharing my thoughts and ideas in a way that I was comfortable with. It is events like this that keep our group bonded as we all seek to learn how to thrive in the highly competitive field of technology.
I’m looking forward to
Through UGIT, I was able to meet a group of people who want to learn and prove to themselves and the world that our perspectives offer a unique perspective on engineering. Together we learn to be more confident, to accept our mistakes and to reinvent the status quo for all engineering. Since I started, I’ve seen more women, LGBTQIA + people, and other under-represented people in our company, which shows me that representation is improving little by little.
My advice to women and other underrepresented genders who are wondering how to get a job as a software developer is simple: own it and don’t give up. It may not be an easy path, but I guarantee that if you get involved and achieve your goals, you will feel achieved. This trip gives you the greatest experiences and lessons you can imagine that apply not just to work but to your life in general.
If you want to join our team, visit our Engineer career page and apply today.