Attila Vago

Writer of codes, blogs and things that live on the web. Loves craft beer!

Women Can Code: from Dental Technician to Frontend Developer

I’ve been convicted of not being “feminist enough”. I guess I never saw the point of feminism in a world and society that I — personally, in a subjectively and possibly skewed way — see as populated by humans, puppies wearing onesies and cute kitten GIFs. This story is about the former. One of them. Humans. Coders. Programmers. Developers. Call ’em whatever you want. I like calling them humans. Cylons seems plausible, but far-fetched. This one just happens to be female, and she’s awesome at it. At coding, at being who she is, and without being overly obvious about any of it.

Truth be told I never believed or even thought women cannot code, I was always rather surprised and slightly confused as to why they don’t, but …

here’s the thing about programming: if one isn’t exposed to it in one way or another, chances are they won’t realise it’s even an option.

My parents certainly still don’t get how I make a living from staring at a screen seven hours a day typing colourful characters. The lack of female coders I believe is less about the “feeling incapable of programming” and more about “hey, I never really thought it was an option”. I don’t think women need to be “empowered” to code. Just like most 21st century human beings, both women and men are entirely able to make life choices, and for Madalina it came down to one between doing something she hated and something that seemed interesting. Allow me to illustrate:

How things can change in just a couple of years …

The age-old question from parents, friends, relatives is always “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and as you see illustrated in the above image, that often changes shape. Some people go through two or even three different careers throughout their life and that’s fine too. Some people start out as engineers only to realise 10 years down the line their soft skills are so spot on, they’ll veer off into management, while others eventually get tired of flipping burgers and become data scientists. It’s all good, if it gets you out of bed in the morning!

As a kid, I dreamt of becoming a graphic designer. — Madalina D.

Two decades ago being a graphic designer was a different story. It involved pencils, paint and God (and designers) knows what else. A decade later it involved Photoshop, Illustrator and the likes. And today… it may very well involve code of all things! And lots of it. CSS, JavaScript, HTML. Because designing something graphically has become designing visual experiences. While the initial dream remained, its application has changed. Enabling that dream took nothing more than a simple suggestion — from me (the author) in this case. The power of suggestion at its best!

I was going through a time when I didn’t quite know which way to go with my career, as regardless of studying to become a dental technician, regardless of it actually being a dream at one point, it turned out to be a nightmare. This suggestion could have not come at a better time! — Madalina D.

And you‘ve got to ask, can people be blamed for attempting the obvious career choice? Absolutely not. In 2018 quite possibly over 50% of the careers one can have did not exist twenty or even ten years ago. And it has nothing to do with gender. When I started writing code in 2007, I didn’t see a career-path either, and just so we’re clear, unlike Madalina, I am a dude. I just did what I liked doing, hoping for the best. Some understood the sudden change, some less so.

My friends, being a younger generation, many of them understood immediately the benefits of programming and saw it as a viable career-path. My parents however, struggled initially, and were somewhat sceptical. Eventually, after advice from others, they started to see the advantages of software engineering and the career opportunities it can generate. — Madalina D.

Because it can. Coding, programming, architecting digital user experiences is for all intents and purposes a young field that opens up a floodgate of opportunities for both juniors and seniors. And many of those roles are fun and empowering. From websites to ebooks, from mobile apps to desktop apps, from enterprise software to data visualisation, from augmented and virtual reality to home automation, and many more in between, it’s all there to be discovered and enjoyed. By anyone who wishes to.

The mere idea of writing code can be fun, be that the act of learning and discovering how to do it, or writing it. I love the idea of just being able to plug my headphones into my ears, listen to the latest Armin Van Buuren album, while writing code, being productive through using using one’s imagination and skills, only to find the day has flown by. — Madalina D.

There is a programmer slang for that feeling and it’s called “being in the zone”. It’s actually one of the very few jobs that allow people to do this, besides being a janitor and washing the floors of a seemingly endless eerie hallway. And it seems this experience of being in the zone is quite genderless as well. Sure, it does look a tad antisocial from the outside, possibly even to an extent that would worry some behavioural psychologists, but working as a coder is a lot more social than most people might think.

The work atmosphere is very positive and fun(ny). Working in a mostly male environment — a sausage-fest of sorts — can actually have advantages if you’re in the right team. Men tend to be more willing to help a female junior, starting out in her programming career, than they would another guy. Especially if we’re talking about a girl whom they get along very well with. A largely male environment proved — for me at least — to be a more relaxing and enjoyable one than a largely female team. — Madalina D.

Wait! What? So sausage-fest teams aren’t a problem? Well, no, not as big of a problem as they’re often made out to be. I think we need to look at the core of what makes humans, well… humans. And that is our ability to think and act accordingly. I’d still like to believe that people by default are genuinely good, and that racism, chauvinism and all the other “isms” of the modern world are nothing but our individual failures to recognise ourselves for what we really are, and what that really means — what it really means to be human, and how humans can collaborate best to achieve common goals. Engineering teams are actually great for developing these skills and breaking down the barriers of hundreds of years of somewhat misguided evolutionary gender specificity.

I think software engineers are in fact one of the most welcoming bunch when it comes to females joining their teams and the industry in general.

And here’s the message. Go for it. Seriously. Discover coding, discover programming. Madalina did exactly that. She had no clue if it would be a great fit for her or not, but giving it a try surely can’t and won’t hurt.

Try. Try and see if coding represents who you are, and if it’s something you could be seeing yourself doing for the the foreseeable future. Programming is a fantastic profession — and yes, fantastic, even in a bit of a magical sense — but as all professions it needs the right amount of passion for one to be truly successful in it. — Madalina D.

And finally, what you’ve all been secretly waiting for since the beginning of this article, here’s the puppy in a onesie and the cute kittens GIF:

Courtesy of Imgur: https://i.imgur.com/REao1zb.jpg
Courtesy of SoEpic.net (I assume…)

Attila Vago — writer of codes, blogs and things that live on the web. Programming polyglot, pragmatic doer, member of the “taking care of business” crowd, with a no nonsense attitude. An easily inspired inspirational individual with a strong predilection towards most things nerdy, good, carnivorous food, and Lego. Uses a Mac. Exercises at 6 a.m.

HackerNoon and Quora author.

More by Attila Vago

Topics of interest

More Related Stories