Smashing Stereotypes - One Bit at a Time

The tech industry can be a lonely place for women. It’s not to say that women are unwelcome, but the existing gender imbalance can make it feel that way and let’s be honest - gender stereotyping does still exist. 

One of the reasons Code Like a Girl exists is to provide a platform for female role models within the tech space because “you can’t be what you can’t see.”

On that note, we bring you some stories from the amazing Code Like a Girl team! Who they are, how they got there, some of the challenges they have faced and the ways they’ve smashed them.

Amelia Schmidt

Hi, I'm Amelia - people call me Milly. I love the intersection of content, design and development and spend my time making the internet better for everyone who uses it wherever I can. I am a connector, facilitator, creative maker, innovator and empathy machine. I speak engineer, design, content and business, and I'm a passionate advocate for best practice and excellence in user experience. I am a hungry learner and a quick thinker.

Can you tell us a little bit about your career journey?
I have a weird and wonderful work background that spans writing, editing, teaching, photography, engineering, UX research and design, people and project management and entrepreneurship. I like to try new things and then combine all my skills into new roles. I've got experience in agency, product, small and medium business, and I'm also working on my own products.

What have you found challenging thus far in tour career?
I have had so many managers that sucked, both men and women. Management is REALLY HARD. I think to be a good manager you have to be able to manage yourself first - and that means you have to know yourself, have a learning plan for yourself and have goals for yourself. I honestly only felt ready to manage people after a year or so of therapy.

What do you think the solution is to this?
I read an article recently (that I think about often) that’s relevant here - it basically said your team doesn’t work for you, you work for them. And that managers don’t sit on top of people in terms of importance - they actually sit underneath them. Most companies’ org charts show management as more important, and encourage management as the most important thing that anyone can aspire to. But in reality they exist to support and help, unblock and cheerlead for the people they manage. I think this is exactly how I see management and how I always wish I was managed. I don’t think this advice is specific to women at all - and I don’t think women would be any better at this than men. But I think this is about managing and leading with empathy and sensitivity rather than ego and authority.

The best piece of advice you have received?
Be relentlessly competent. Continue every day to just be excellent at what you do. Never compromise. When people doubt you, talk down at you, are rude to you, get your name wrong, call you offensive things - just continue to be amazing. Stay calm, keep delivering incredible work. You may never be respected or treated the way that you want by everyone - but the people who matter will notice you.

Lauren Grimes

I’m a Mobile app developer at CliniCloud who loves working on projects that inspire change and disrupt stagnant industries.

How did you get into Mobile Development?
IOS development was the elective I almost didn’t take in my Bachelor of IT at RMIT, but this was the subject that ended up changing it all for me. I then did an internship at Squareweave which turned into a junior mobile developer role and I worked on various apps there. I then landed a role at Isobar which has by far the best culture I have ever encountered. I joined as a mobile developer (primarily android) and continued to work there for a year and a half. When a friend from my first role was looking for a mobile developer, I joined the team at PwC. The team there were focused on delivering efficient, clean, robust and beautiful code. We worked across all aspects of development (front end, back end and sometimes UX). I learnt a lot of web development skills there but I wasn’t using my mobile development skills.  Out of the blue, I received an email from Hon, the CTO at CliniCloud. He was looking for someone to head up their mobile development. Clinicloud is a medical tech startup that create at home app connected medical kits.
I have now been there for almost 5 months and I am enjoying the challenges every day. I questioned myself a lot about not focusing on just one platform, but now I’m so grateful because it has brought me to where I am today.

In your opinion what challenges do women face in the technology sector?
There are a few challenges that we still face every day which are unfortunately hard to solve. One main challenge is the feeling that you aren't enough: not smart enough, not experienced enough, not outspoken enough. While these are sometimes all in your head, you do get the feeling that you always need to prove yourself.
Another challenge that we tend to face quite frequently is the assumption that we are male. If I'm talking about another developer, they are always referred to as 'he', even when their gender is never mentioned.
Being a developer and working in the tech industry, there’s a certain workplace culture that just tends to happen. One where everyone drinks beer and plays video games with each other after hours. If you're not into this scene, it can be a bit of a challenge to make friends with some of your colleagues.

How do you think we can combat this?
I love seeing workshops and events for girls. I’ve noticed that these are sometimes more for either the younger/pre-teen girls or for women who have already left school. I would love to see more activities that are available to 13-16 year olds. From personal experience, this time of your life is so confusing and you suddenly face a lot of pressure from every angle. The media sends a lot of negative messages to girls. We end up becoming self conscious, doubting our abilities and morphing our personalities and interest to fit what the media tells us we should be.

I don't know the answer, but I would love it if we could tell these girls that an interest in computers, science, mechanics and all the typical 'boy' stuff is completely normal and actually awesome.

What does it take to be a good programmer?
Being a good programmer means you are never satisfied with the end result, you’re constantly finding ways to refine your solution and make it more elegant.
A big part also, is knowing when to ask for help and when to keep trying for yourself. Wasting five hours trying to come up with the solution yourself is ridiculous when you can ask for help. Good programmers are humble and always learning.
A programmer’s code is an insight into their mind. It should be structured logically, easy to follow and be able to be reused when necessary.

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Laura Summers

I’m a designer and front-end developer with experience across digital and creative environments. I’m a lateral thinker who thrives on visual problem solving and presenting complex data in an approachable format. I'm passionate about startups, contemporary dance, internet cat memes, and making connections with compelling businesses for whom I can be an advocate and advisor.

What influenced you to get into the tech industry?
I sort of fell into tech by accident, but then I fell in love with the supportive culture of meetups and knowledge sharing I encountered. More than any one cool piece of hardware, software or experience, I fell in love with the Melbourne tech scene.

What improvements would you like to see within the workplace?
I think there needs to be a focus on actively designing and planning for gender-neutral work spaces. Not going in the opposite direction (making work spaces super girly, pink etc - which is alienating to a whole spectrum of women anyway) but working on culture and workplace social activities that engage all team members. Work environments could avoid leaning too heavily on drinking culture, or bro culture: ping pong, hyper-competitive games, etc. There's no one prescription for a workplace but you need to ask questions and actively examine your culture, ask questions of your staff and engage everyone's feedback.

What's your thoughts on the current efforts in addressing gender diversity?
Right now there's a total explosion in events, resources, etc aimed at making the industry more welcoming to women. They're not all perfect and there's definitely some lip-service going around, but a HUGE difference to when I was in my first software team in 2003.

What would be one piece of advice you would give your younger self at the start of your career?
Don't wait for someone else to give you permission. If you want to learn something or try programming, just do it!


If you want to meet some of the Code Like a Girl team, and hear from some groundbreaking women, come along to one of our events!

Next on the calendar is a Brisbane event:

Byte Me! Smashing the gender stereotypes one bit at a time
Thursday, March 30, 2017
6:30pm  8:30pm
Fishburners, 155 Queen Street
Brisbane City, QLD, 4000 Australia