People still look a bit confused whenever I tell them that I am working as a developer. Why? I don’t know. Maybe because I’m a girl… But hey, I don’t mind. Even if the path wasn’t always easy I love what I do day by day. Let me tell you how it all came together for me who has never imagined being a developer one day.
How it all began…
I grew up in Bavaria, Germany, in a very small town. I got my first cellphone at the age of 14 because my mother was worried of me getting lost on my way to school. And believe it or not – I only used it to make phone calls or write a text message once in a while. No gaming, youtubing or, ohh beware, social media at this time. I then bought my first Laptop at the age of 17 to prepare and learn for my A levels, which I passed in 2011. I had no idea that the spanish and ancient greek classes I attended would not help me out in what was coming next.
As I didn’t want to start working at the age of 17 and my dad always dreamed about his kids attending university one day, I wrote an application (my only one in fact) for the studies of Media Technology and Design at the University of Applied Sciences in Hagenberg. I would have never applied if a former student of mine hadn’t visited the campus and told me about the modern and kind of futuristic facility. I guess I would have been scared of all the technical stuff, fearing that it would be not for me.
Short after applying though, I was invited to an acceptance test and a personal interview in which I was asked about a thousand times if I was aware of the situation that the programme I was about to attend was of a very technical nature. Even though I felt a little underestimated, maybe even a bit discriminated, I said that this would be no problem at all. About eight weeks later I regretted this as I found myself in the middle of a lecture called something like “Basics of programming in Java”. Even tough we really started with the basics, I had troubles to catch up with my fellow students (mainly male) who already had some programming experience from their former school career. With some help, less sleep and growing motivation with every passed test I fought my way through lectures, exercises and exams. On some days I was sure that I want to quit, struggling with an exercise or being frustrated of a project not working out. The next day I went back attending a lecture again. Finally, after three years, the hard work payed off as I was handed my Bachelors Degree in 2014.
And as most of the students who swore that they would never do something like a Bachelors degree again I applied for the Masters course and did all of it once again. Studying, ups and downs and learning in groups all over again. I was so glad that one of my fellow Bachelor student did it all together with me. She was one of even less girls this time who sat in all lectures together with me. We helped each other and supported us even (or especially) when it came to the Master’s Thesis and finally the big Master’s project, which was my personal break through. A project that was implemented in Java, the lecture that I struggled the most with in the beginning, a supervisor that I was named crazy for choosing, because of his high expectations and a super tight time table that I set for myself to be able to finish on the first possible deadline. I never worked harder for a project and it payed off. I not only got my Masters Degree in 2014 but I had also proven to myself that I was able to do what seemed impossible for me two years earlier.
The first Job
Of course I knew that it was nearly impossible to get a job in the exact field of my Master’s project, which is image processing. So I decided to apply for multiple jobs in different fields and decide what would fit me the most later on. I went to some other appointments before I first came to karriere.at. I know this sounds hyperbolic, but the moment I stepped into the office I knew this would work out for me. The atmosphere was open, friendly and professional all at once. Everyone I met was friendly and very kind, I felt welcomed. The talk that I had with one of the now Lead Developers then was eye opening, showing me that I had absolutely no idea of web development at all. Of course I had done projects in HTML, CSS, JS and PHP before, but nothing as big as this. My VCS and CI skills where basically not existing. Based on the motto “Say you can learn anything, google the skill later” I admitted that I probably had to acquire some of the skills required.
But as often in life I was given a chance: I got the job. I started with getting to know the workflow, the projects and the coworkers, again most of them male. Starting with fixing bugs most of the time to get to know the codebase I quickly wrote new code and I soon was a full member of the team. Everyone was willing to help at any time which was such a great support for me in the beginning. I never had the situation that my skills would have been underestimated or my ideas or proposals would have been rejected because of me not being in the company for so long, me being young, or even me being a girl.
Writing, testing and deploying code, working with APIs and several frontend frameworks soon became normal. Sometimes I was asked what I would prefer – backend or frontend?! I always answered the same: I don’t know. There already was a team member who did frontend most of the time as well as a backend developer who I worked with most of the time. I did both, helping out where I could and asking the persons I guessed could help the best when I had problems. Slowly I started to work with APIs more and more, implementing backend tasks and getting more interested in this part of software development. As it stands I basically do backend most of the time. Capable of doing frontend as well I just don’t enjoy it that much.
Everyone can do it
I guess not many, myself included, had thought that I would become a developer one day. As most girls I dreamed of being a princess, a circus artist or a ballerina when I was little. And it is ironic that my lack of motivation to start working at the age of 17 was the reason that I got interested in developing software, which is what I do for a living now. The fact that I am a girl was never a disadvantage. Yes, there are more men working in this field than women, I guess this is because girls are not seen as the typical developers in general, sadly. And yes, one is still looked at a bit weird and confused when explaining that one is programming and a girl. But one has to prove the skeptics wrong!
Despite of the fact that most of my coworkers now are male (not all of course, thank God), which I don’t mind at all, there is no difference to any other job. As a matter of fact, my once female partner in crime at university is now a coworker of mine. Together with a few more female colleagues we make up the girls squad here at karriere.at. There is no difference in what I do compared to my male coworkers. I do the same work, I am treated the same and I feel freaking awesome about it.