Women in the Technical Industry
Learning about programs has always been fun for me… My strong subjects – about a million years ago – when I went to high school was always math and English. Kind of a strange combination.
What career advice would you give to your younger self? / Did you always know you wanted to work in technology?
That my high school counselor did not understand computers enough to give out advice. You must follow your own interests. Do pay attention to advice, but also look at what you really want to do. We all spend a lot of time at work. We have to like it or go insane. I do both on occasions.
There is a story behind that advice, of course. When in school I had determined I wanted to train horses or be a programmer. I did think of accounting for a while. Eventually, my Mom and Dad talked me into not going to college to train horses. They said it was more of a hobby, and I needed to make enough money to enjoy that hobby. Now that was probably good advice.
I went in to talk with my counselor. He said something like this, “By the time you get out of college all the computers will be programmed. There won’t be any jobs in that field.”
So, I was disillusioned with both career paths closed to me. I went to a 6 week training class to be a travel consultant. I got done with it, and guess what? I couldn’t find a job. I’m really glad I didn’t stay in that path for very long. We do most of our travel bookings ourselves now.
I just gave up. I went to work for a bank. I was a bank teller when I decided I needed to go back to college. At night I started to go to college courses to be an accountant. I was a complete wreck. Horrible idea on my part. Being a teller, the debits and credits switch from being the bank and being the company. Not good. What did come out of it was another chance to “program” or play with the program that had back then -more of a SQL program.
I gave up again. I finally knew I had to do something that I really liked. I went back to school for “programming”. My actual degree was something like ‘Manager Information Systems’. I went on an internship, sent out a billion resumes and eventually got a great job
So, I laugh a bit – but I would tell myself to go to college and get the right degree. I’d also want myself to be more confident to take up the challenge of doing something that I would love (like) to do.
What is the most surprising thing that I’ve learned from being involved in the SAP Community?
There are people out there that are having the same issues as me.
I first got involved with the community when looking for answers to my questions. The community was pretty small back then. I found almost all my answers. But it surprised me that other people had the same questions as I did.
After finding my answers almost all the time. I started to post questions. I became the person my co-workers would come to. They wanted their questions answered but didn’t feel comfortable asking them.
Next, I got really frustrated. I started hearing “programmers were a dime a dozen”. And so I wrote a blog just to vent. I found out that a lot of other people agreed with me. I had friends now. Friends that validated what I was thinking. From then on, I was hooked.
Recently, we have upgraded to Hana on-premise. I had been using open SAP courses. (They are and they have some awesome courses) I stumbled upon the tutorials out there for all the different and new to me technologies. The tutorials are amazing.
What unique perspectives do women developers bring to SAP?
Developers bring insight into a problem. The insight they bring is based on their experiences.
For me, I used to train horses. I learned how to slowly move them forward by using different training techniques. One of the things I bring to the table is my understanding that the latest and greatest may work for some. For others you have to bring them along more slowly. But is that a woman’s perspective? Is that a horse person’s perspective?
What is the difference between men and women bring to development? Well I could start building stereotypes by listing differences but I think we all bring a different perceptive. It’s not just men and women. It is what country you are from. It’s what background you have. There are so many different variables. I don’t think anyone could narrow it down to female developers and a male developers.
I would say we would bring diversity and that is always good. I think it’s a matter of moving forward so it’s not just a woman developer or a man developer. It is simply a developer. At that point we will reach equality.
What was it like learning to code for the first time?
Breath taking and nerve racking.
Breath taking – I could make the computer do what I wanted it to. I could program things into existence. Depending on what my mind came up with it was either impossible to do at that time, or it would work! It was one of the few classes that I would give up some extra (horse) riding time for.
Nerve racking – I was the woman in my programming class. That was just plain strange. It also was weird to get something right but wrong. My program might work, but it wasn’t how the teacher thought it should work.
Why is it so important to attract and retain women in technology leadership positions?
There is a huge benefit that they are leadership role models. It will help attract young girls to think about what they can do with hard work. Role models are so important.
If there aren’t women in leadership, it means that approximately half the population are not being challenged to move into leadership positions. That would be a waste of talent. We will know we’ve made it when we don’t worry about how many women are in leadership positions. We just expect it.
When I started working at my third job, I had a role model. She has since become a VP. She is amazing, talented, and dedicated. I learned so much from her. I did compare myself to her more than her male counterparts (I’m not really sure why). I wouldn’t give up that time for anything.
What advice would you give to girls and women who want to pursue a career in tech?
Enjoy it! No really, enjoy what you do. If you don’t, you’ll end up not liking your job at all. Someone who doesn’t like what they do is miserable.
Don’t be afraid to speak up. If you are just started at a job don’t be afraid to ask questions. Listen to them, and then suggest a different idea. Remember you are probably trained in that latest and greatest.
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. That just means you are pushing forward and trying new things. Learn from your mistakes and make sure you let people know it was your mistake.
Brush up on your HR rules. Know what people can and can’t ask you in an interview. I remember one time when I was asked if I was planing a family soon. That’s really none of their business. Rather than say that, my answer was I don’t know(and truthfully I didn’t at that time). Hopefully they’ve gotten better at questions.
The normal things – brush up on your technology before the interview. Have a price in mind. Don’t be afraid to negotiate. You are worth it.
Don’t be afraid to blog. Share your knowledge. Stay happy. There will be times when you want to just beat someone over the head. Don’t do it. Walk away and talk to them later.
Know your stereotype. It’s wrong. You know it is. But be aware you can be considered “too emotional”. Then one of your male friends says the exact thing and they are passionate. So just know your audience. Be careful of showing too much emotion or too little. So that doesn’t sound right. But you’ll know what I mean when you are in a meeting with “XYZ” vs. a meeting with “ABC”.
Talk about a dream you’ve fulfilled working in the tech industry and share any new dreams you have on the horizon.
I really don’t have a lot of future dreams. Become better at what I do is one of my top dreams. Sharing my knowledge goes with that dream.
I remember my first time speaking at SAP TechEd. That was a major accomplishment for me. It only took submitting about 100 different ideas. Each time I get the privilege of talking at SAP Teched, it’s like a kid in a candy shop. I guess that continues to be my dream -presenting and sharing knowledge with a group of my peers.
I was an SAP Mentor. That was a crazy happy time for me. They were so supportive. I always felt like I was the one that didn’t know much, but they are a great group.
Now I have this wonderful new “job”. I guess it is a hobby. I’m an SAP Champion. I get to represent our community. Meet community members. I also hope I’m inspiring more women (and men) to work towards being an SAP Champion. And if you aren’t one, so what? Enjoy the sharing that goes on here. See I”m passionate about this, so it’s added to my blog
My personal dream came true about 10 years ago. I got to develop from home. It’s an amazing experience. For me it is perfect.
About 5 years ago, I got an even better dream come true. I got to be a business expert, developer, and some basis. That was so cool! I got to play in a little bit of everything.
Lately another “dream”, my company moved to SAP HANA!!! Sadly, that means I’m doing more development. Happily, I’m learning so much. But this wasn’t even a dream I knew I had. It was just one that kind of happened. The very best type.
I get to represent our community.
And we're lucky that you do. Thanks for being one of our Champions, Michelle. 🙂
I know I've thought this before, but this blog brought home to me how similar we are in many ways - love of animals (in particular, horses), our love of programming, our love of community. Thank you for reminding me of this!
Below is the first real love of my life (outside of family). Her name was Misty Night, she was half Arab, half quarter horse. I spent 7 great years with Misty, learning how to let her train me, showing her around the east coast, and helping her with 2 foals.
OMG Misty was a real looker! Beautiful, Sue.
Wow! Look at you both. You look great. Two babies! Oh my. I was never brave enough to have a mare and foal.
Yes, I think we are a like in a lot of ways. It's so great that I got to make another friend - and through the community. Amazing we landed in the same place.
I think the advice here that I love most was not even in the advice section. You say "... we would bring diversity and that is always good." So I say let's always remember that, because we forget it so easily.
Thank you for sharing your story!
Diversity is sometimes a challenge. The different opinions make for long meetings sometimes. However with those different opinions, it makes for a better product in the end.
It's never considered proper to take things out of context when sharing a quote but these excerpts spoke to me so directly and straight to the core I thought it could be one statement! Thank you so much for sharing and being who you are!
Feel free to take it out of context anytime. 🙂
What again shows that a path is not always straight and even! I love your story! Thanks so much for sharing these really personal insights.