I am a woman software engineer working at a famous tech company in the San Francisco Bay Area. My journey from Mumbai, India to San Francisco, USA has not been an easy one. When I got an offer from my current company, I was thrilled! I finally felt it was time to enjoy the fruits of my labor and have a good time. Unfortunately, this feeling was short lived. Soon after joining, I realized that I would have to work harder than most people around me to achieve what they would be achieving without the same efforts. Let me list down all the problems I faced.
1. There are very few women engineers who code.
Its common knowledge that software companies are struggling to maintain gender diversity and that women engineers are way lesser than men in the industry. When I joined my company, a quick insights search revealed that around 38 percent of the R and D workforce was female. However, upon joining I realized that a majority of these women were UX designers who did not have the same responsibilities as software engineers. The obvious lack of women engineers (who code )around me made me slightly uncomfortable in asking any question to my fellow teammates. The ease with which fellow men conversed in the team was never present when they conversed with me. My teammates were nice. But we had no common interests. They played basketball and volleyball, and I had no interest in any sports. I loved reading books and they never touched any. Lunch time conversations with the team were awkward as we never really had anything to discuss. It wasn't long before I was labelled shy. There were male college graduates who joined after me and yet developed a much deeper bonding with the team than I had done. This bonding plays a big role in achieving success in your role as then you are more comfortable discussing solutions, brainstorming ideas or even asking for help. I feel that had there been more female engineers in the team, I would have been much more comfortable with them and that would have helped my career a lot
2. I am not aggressive.
Another problem I faced was totally related to my personality and not at all related to my gender. I am not very aggressive. I like to do good work, but I don't like to force someone to work my way. From my one year at my job in the bay area, if there is anything I have learnt, it is that your success is directly related to your visibility. My company was filled with engineers who were all technically highly competent. Then how is it decided who is the best amongst the best? The answer is the one who is the most aggressive and hence most visible. Now aggressive is a strong term and I should not use it lightly. Allow me to explain what I mean by aggressive.If you are at any top company in the bay area, it is generally expected that even as an entry level software engineer, you display leadership skills. Managers seldom assign tasks to you and it is totally upto you to decide what do you want to work on from the list of available tasks. Aggressive people will always take the most interesting or impact generating tasks and gain a lot of visibility for themselves. They will be quick to do that. So if you are a person like me, assuming the other guy in the team is going to be nice and offer you a chance to get the meatier piece, forget it. Its like the game of dog and the bone. Whichever dog grabs it first, the bone is his. I am slowing learning to keep my chivalrous nature aside and be a bitch!
3. I am above 30.
I am not going to dwell much on this one as it is common knowledge. If I am learning the basics in my early 30s as opposed to others around me who are learning at 22 (especially when the people teaching them are 24 themselves) then we all know what is to be expected. It doesn't help that I come home to a family, as opposed to working at the office till 10 pm (many of the young co workers do that). I have been encouraged many times to leave my comfort zone and push myself more like the other recent college graduates. Hmmmmm.
This sums up some of the major problems I faced at my job. Hey, but you know what? I am not a quitter. I am proactively working on solutions to help me achieve great stuff at my workplace without letting the above problems affect me. I will post about it soon!