Was reading this article about being a beginning female programmer today and I began to feel incredibly depressed. This is something I could have easily written a year ago. I still write quite a lot about how incredibly difficult it is to break into the tech industry.
One reason I don’t necessarily talk about a lot of sexism in tech is because, back when I was starting out, I didn’t know if I wasn’t finding opportunity because I was a woman or because I had no experience. I had an acquaintance go on Twitter and ask why, whenever he posted a job opportunity, no women ever applied for it. I asked him if he would be willing to hire a woman with less than three years of professional experience. His response was a horrified, “Oh god, no!”
Many people enter the tech industry because we keep hearing the desperate plea of companies for more tech workers, but once many of us get here, we realize there is a giant ravine between us and the people who claim they want to hire us.
I recently wrote a blog post about the incredible dearth of opportunity from the various places that claim they can find no workers. I run a CocoaHeads group combined with an NSCoder group for student entirely to try to help them navigate their way to their first jobs. I am doing this because I am not too far removed from the period of my life where I had no fucking clue how I was going to break into tech.
I recently attended CocoaConf in Boston. I went there last year. When I went last year, I was asked by several people what I was going to do when I got home. I told them I honestly had no clue. Everything I had worked for that year was to make it to that conference to take the Core Audio workshop and maybe network with some people. But you know what, that conference was a catalyst for my career.
One of the speakers there, Josh Smith, got me invited to speak at CocoaConf in Chicago back in March. He also was willing to help me try and submit a book pitch to a publisher. I made friends with Chris Adamson there, so when he was looking for a coauthor for his book, he reached out to me.
I can be a sanctimonious prig and go on here and talk about how I worked my ass off trying to learn programming and how I earned/deserve all of my current success, but that isn’t entirely true. I had parents with enough money to help me pay for going to Boston. I got my husband to send me to the first CocoaConf I went to even though that one didn’t immediately pay off.
I have tried very hard to make opportunities happen for myself and I have done my best to exhaust each and every one that I have gotten. I have had a few opportunities that I have massively fucked up. I have tried my best to learn from those and hope that another one will come along that I won’t massively fuck up.
I see people who are given opportunities that squander them because they don’t really understand what they are being given. I scream in my head at these people. They make my brain hurt. They make me feel like crying. Not only are they wasting their opportunity, they are also training the person who gave them that opportunity to stop doing that because people flake out on them. It really sucks.
I wish I could just say that I leaned in and that I made the most of my opportunities and feel proud of how far I have come in the last year, but I have to acknowledge the uncomfortable reality that I got opportunities other people haven’t and I have simply followed through with them where other people have not. It’s a nice story to say I worked hard, but it isn’t right to tell other people that if they do the same thing that stuff will work out for them, because I am honestly shocked that it has worked out for me.
So, thank you to all the people who gave me a chance and lent me a hand. I hope that you will continue to do so for other people in the future and I pray that someday I will be able to do the same as well.