My career path has been pretty short so far, coming in as a Xero grad in 2019 for my first industry job. Before that, I was studying software engineering at the University of Canterbury. Before even that, I was studying something completely unrelated in a different field.
My experience in the tech industry has been super short so far. Growing up, although I used computers for school work and such, it was always on a ‘consumer’ basis- I never dived deeper down to how computers work, or had any exposure to programming at all. I had never really given thought to how the internet works, or how there was a whole online world and industry powering all of the different apps and software along. So, I entered this industry from a place of naivety, having pretty much zero knowledge about computers and programming.
It’s been hard, and I never really feel like there’s enough hours in the day for me to learn *all the things* about *everything tech*. But that’s one of the things that I’ve had to learn to accept- that it isn’t possible to know everything about a topic. I’ve learnt along the way to let go of the things I don’t have time to follow up on, and to ride the current with what I’ve got, picking up things along the way. So although I still can’t really say that ‘I know how computers work’, hopefully I can say that at least I’m becoming more competent in my role and what I need to do.
One of the things I’ve been astounded at, especially when compared to my previous field of study, is that people in the tech industry really are willing to collaborate and help each other. Working together is a normal way of life for how work gets done, and it’s amazing that an industry, which may seem the least human and social to outsiders at first thought, actually involves a lot of collaboration and teamwork. Or at least, that’s been my experience so far, both while studying and while working for a great company :)
I think I’m most grateful to have met people at uni who helped support me when I was struggling with learning fundamental concepts. I remember hitting a roadblock early on while studying- and nearly being to the point of tears: “it’s so early on in your learning and already you can’t understand how this basic thing works? Maybe I’m not cut out for this.” These two people who I met on the same course, helped walk me through it, to understand the concept and what was going on. Of course, there were more things down the path that I didn’t understand, but the mental block became smaller and smaller every time. I sometimes wonder- if I hadn’t had those two friends help me through at the time, would I have even kept studying software engineering and have made it to where I am today?
Of course, there have been others along the way who have helped support me- my friends who I met at uni, the people that I’ve worked with at Xero, I am so grateful for all of them.
Vulnerability is the flip side to confidence: maybe there’s no such thing as being confident, maybe confidence itself is a myth and a lie. There have been so many times where I ‘wished I was confident’ but only recently I’ve realised that maybe it’s more about being comfortable with the feeling of being vulnerable, and putting yourself out there, rather than ‘being confident’. You give yourself little doses of vulnerability over time, and eventually the discomfort becomes less noticeable...
I don’t think my story is too unusual either- especially when hearing from other female devs who I’ve met. In a lot of cases, they have come into the tech industry late, and without the background knowledge that people who grew up tinkering with computers may have. My advice is to not worry too much about the things that you don’t know. Focus on the things that you need to know for your role and for what you currently need to do. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of knowledge that exists out there. But in the end, it’s impossible for one person to be an expert on everything.
I highly recommend reading this article - not just for women, these tips are pretty applicable for all.
I’ll also pass along this piece of advice, which may sound a little harsh: Devote time to thinking about your career and where you wanna go with it. Nobody else is gonna do this for you. You need to take the opportunity and be proactive with career development, taking opportunities that match up with how you wanna grow, or even creating these opportunities if none exist. Something that I’ve heard someone say the younger generation doesn’t do enough of, is networking, and I think it’s a surprisingly powerful tool for creating opportunities. It’s hard, especially if you’re an introvert. But if you don’t make the effort to progress your career, in the direction that only you know, who will do it for you?
Thanks for reading :)