I am a 29 year old woman and I am a developer. My love for science and math since an early age developed naturally into a profound appreciation of engineering. I love coding and I love crafting with code. I’ve been in this field of work for so many years now, that I can’t imagine doing anything else, and yet - I think about leaving more often than I care to admit.
This is a blog post about why I stopped telling young girls to go into engineering.
You see, since college, I made it a point of mine to go into schools - any grade level they’d let me into - and try to inspire young women to go into science. I would talk about my own work; I would talk about women in my field who inspired me; I would teach a little programming; I would answer questions they had as honestly as I could. The only problem was, that I was lying about how great it is to be a woman in technology.
Here’s the thing — I love my job. I love what I do and I do feel that I’ve found my calling in some sense, but I am profoundly unhappy socially. I work in an all male environment that is entirely focused on the technology. They are all brilliant and I love them all dearly. No one has ever meant me harm, but almost on a daily basis I have to deal with some situation that just wouldn’t happen if I wasn’t a woman.
Examples are many and include anything from awkward social situations (me working closely with a male coworker = instant gossip in the office) to heated arguments (in which I would try to articulatly explain my point while the other party would claim I don’t know what I am talking about) to blatant trust issues (that had no logical backing) to quota-filling invitations to conferences (I am a frequent speaker at events on the merit of my work, but will not do quota filling appearances.) I can continue, but I’ll stop for now. Those all deserve their own writings.
The main problem is the lack of diversity of thought that I deal with constantly. Perhaps because I am a polymath, a person with a variety of interests, or perhaps because I am by nature a social being who needs to derive inspiration from things outside of tech as well, but I often find that I cannot bend my coworkers to step outside of tech. I don’t like to go to tech only conferences because I get bored - I can read a tutorial in 10 minutes, I don’t need to sit for an hour and watch a talk about it. You say that those conferences are to hang out with people? Well, I also don’t need to spend 3 days in bars talking about tech. What about the rest of the world? What about culture? What about our personal lives and our pursuits outside of work? Don’t get me wrong, I was a workaholic before it was hip, but I can’t connect through my work alone. There is no humanity in it. What inspires me to do my best work is the need of others, the real problems that I get to solve through the power of my creativity and coding. When I write the right code and connect the dots for someone, that’s success.
So I’m lonely. I am bored in discussing the latest rails release with you, and I am bored discussing some new pointless startup that will go through a talent aquisition in 6 months or run out of cash and I am bored because we are regurgitating. We are not creating new thought, we are not creating valueable content that is going to shift the world; we are discussing an API or an item on the changelog at best. We are an echo chamber without a big picture. If we move, we move one tiny step at a time, always propelled forward but not knowing where we’re heading. It’s easy to create a sense of progress if we move in small steps forward, but I honestly don’t know where we’re going.