- I hope companies trying to attract female engineers can use this note to understand how to attract and also retain their female talent.
Last year, someone trying to hire more female engineers for her startup reached out to me to have a quick chat about women in engineering. She was trying to understand what would be a conducive work environment for a female software engineer. After our hour-long conversation, (on Zoom, of course), I mulled over the issue, and thought of writing about my perspective.
While each person’s journey is unique to one’s circumstances, risk taking abilities, mental makeup, the managers one gets, the projects one works on, or the colleagues, I hope there is enough information in here that can help some bright young female engineer to chart her career course. I hope companies trying to attract female engineers can use this note to understand how to attract and also retain their female talent.
As a young female engineering student, I was convinced that my abilities, my hard work, and good projects will pave my career. However though these are all necessary conditions for success, they are not sufficient. I have listed a few things that are necessary to have a fulfilling career. Try and get to a place where you get at least a supportive, and encouraging work environment and you get to upgrade your skills.
You can hope that the company grows, but even if it doesn’t as long as you get a supportive work environment with continuous learning, you are poised to fly when the time is right.
- Supportive, Encouraging Work Environment
What does a supportive and encouraging work environment mean when all companies believe they are providing a supportive, and encouraging work environment including ones where the work milieu is far from it. What does it really mean?
It means that your opinions, your contributions are valued. You are treated with respect, and your ideas, your solutions, your work is appreciated. People work the best when they feel comfortable and secure. There is no escaping the fact that you may face biased colleagues, who may disregard what you have to say, or constantly second guess and question your contributions. Remain firm, have confidence in your abilities, and work through the biases to make sure you and your work are valued.
- Continuous Learning
In our industry, any software environment that you are working on will involve a learning curve. However by continuous learning I am alluding to learning that aligns with what is happening in the industry. Some of the protocols I worked on were being drafted by IETF, and eventually some of the technologies were not really widely adopted by the industry. No one can predict what is going to work, or is eventually going to succeed. But try and stay close to the technology curve. This is important for a career in tech.
- Growth of the Company
Growth of your company is very crucial for your career growth vertically in any organization. However being a part of a high growth company is not something that you control. How many Googles, Facebooks are going to be out there? Also, how do you know before-hand which companies will grow? Every so often, ask for a different role in your current company, or seek it elsewhere. If your company is floundering, and people are quitting, and you have an opportunity to take on leadership roles, go and grab those roles. Experience of every kind in every role, is always helpful.
- Your Brand
One of the books I absolutely love and recommend is, The Start-up of You: Adapt to the Future, Invest in Yourself, and Transform Your Career. I have in my career, always worked hard, delivered on my projects, have been a team-player, and have left an impact. There were times, when I was frustrated by lack of promotions, or sometimes lack of key projects. But I always gave my best. Your integrity, intelligence, hard-work, and team spirit make up your brand. You do not have to be someone else to bring value. You, and uniquely you are enough to bring value to your work. I cannot reiterate enough to not stay, where you are not valued.
When you are in your 20s, it is hard to plan or even envision motherhood. Each person deals with this beautiful phase of life differently, and sometimes you will be surprised by how you react to it. I took on a remote job, so I could be around my kids. I wanted to be the one to take them to the park everyday after work. I wanted to go for every doctor appointment, every school event. If that involved taking on less challenging projects, putting a pause button on my career, I was happy to do so. You may choose to find support, and continue to accelerate your career. You may choose to take a break from work. But please be aware that whatever you choose to do is ok.
- Define your Success
What is success? For some it may mean wealth, for others, it could be climbing the corporate ladder, or entrepreneurship. Ask yourself – What do I want to do with my one and only valuable life? A career in tech is very lucrative. I have worked on some really challenging projects, have earned a good living, while pursuing a hobby, have earned the respect of my colleagues. Do not let anyone else make you feel that you are not a success, just because your life does not adhere to their idea of success.
Manali Holankar is a software professional based in San Diego. She is a mom to two wonderful kids, and has been pursuing Odissi, an Indian classical dance form, as a hobby for the last 16 years. She aspires to spread the beauty of Odissi, and her love of technology through her writings.