History in Code:

The Female Forces behind Technology

In the fast-paced world of technology, diversity of voices is at the heart of every innovation. Yet there is one group of people whose stories often go unheard or overlooked - women in IT. Today, we delve into an interesting conversation with one of our company's notable female developers Ainhoa, taking a look at her career, her challenges, and the road ahead. Through this interview, we aim not only to inspire and inform, but most importantly to highlight and celebrate the undeniable impact of women in the software industry.

Ainhoa bei der Arbeit

What inspired or led you to pursue a career in software development? Was there a defining moment or influence in your life?

Honestly, it’s not a very inspiring story in that computer science has been my vocation since I was a little girl. I have always known that I liked and was better at science related subjects and have always loved logic games and solving puzzles. I knew I was more geared towards engineering but I wasn't sure which one of them.

After doing a lot of research, following the advice of my parents, talking to teachers and friends, I found out that the tech world was really interesting. I realized that in a way programming did have a part of problem solving in a more logical way but there was also room for creativity, which I found very eye-catching. That, along with knowing that this is a field in constant development which has a long-term future, led me to choose this area.

As a female in a male-dominated industry, what are some unique challenges you’ve faced, and how have you overcome them?

I don't have that much experience in the world of work, as this is my first job in the industry and I haven't had any problems here, I have felt very integrated and valued. But I can say that from the very beginning of my career you start to notice the differences. From day one, the male dominance in terms of the percentage of students was very noticeable. On many occasions I had the feeling of not being listened to, that it was difficult to be taken seriously and therefore I had to justify decisions and explanations more than the rest of my classmates.

In this type of complicated situation, which can make you feel insecure or out of place, it is important to try to stay true to yourself and understand that it is not a personal problem against an individual but more of a social problem. On the other hand, if the occasion arises, it’s better to try to speak up in unfair situations and try to make the problem visible.

For me personally, it has also helped me a lot to listen to women in similar situations as me, to see what they have achieved, to hear them talk about the problem and to understand how they have managed to cope with certain situations. And without a doubt, something fundamental that has changed my life for the better is to inform myself about feminism, which is a very necessary movement that helps to empower oneself and not to feel alone in certain circumstances.

Ainhoa and a user of her thesis user testing

Have you had any mentors or role models in the tech world? How have they influenced your career?

I don't think I have had any role models or mentors in particular who have influenced me a lot. Throughout the years, in my degree for example, I have been able to learn a lot about different professors or disseminators: from some of them academic knowledge, passion for what they teach, from others discipline and organization, problem solving among other things.

On the other hand, more related to the subject, I have listened to interviews, talks, or read about women in the tech world, which somehow inspire me to move forward, to break with gender roles and to know how to manage certain situations that can be complicated.

How do you stay updated with the latest trends and technologies? Are there any resources or communities you would recommend to budding female developers?

I'm not really the type of person who is constantly informing myself about the latest updates in the world of technology. Rather, on a day-to-day basis at work, I do a lot of research and there, a lot of different information as well about new updates can be found, which I investigate if they are interesting to me. I also follow some YouTube channels that talk about technology as well as other sciences. Besides, I guess my mobile algorithm knows me a little bit and shows me news that have to do with the tech world.

How do you view the current state of diversity in tech, especially for women? What steps do you think companies and communities can take to improve it?

Unfortunately, this is an area where there is not much diversity. It is something that is visibly improving over the years, but there is still a lot to change.

I think the idea that jobs are gendered is inculcated from a young age, or at least that was my experience. It is essential to change the approach to education so that children grow up in a diverse and tolerant environment and feel integrated and able to do what they really like or are interested in.

At the age when teenagers are at the stage of choosing what they are going to study, I think it is essential that they see people of all kinds working in all areas and sharing their experience. This could help them see that they have the possibility of doing what other people do, even if they would not have thought about it at first because it is not that visible or because they think they do not have that option.

On the other hand, in the field of employment, I think that, starting from the premise that this inequality exists, there are some things that should be also changed. We should generate options and possibilities for women so that they can opt for jobs where they have not had a place in the past. We should try to choose qualified people without prejudice of any kind.

The "Imposter Syndrome": It's a topic discussed frequently in the tech industry. Have you ever experienced it, and if so, how do you combat those feelings?

Unfortunately, this is a syndrome that many people have to deal with, me included. It consists of feeling that what you do has no value or merit, even if it is externally recognized. In this society it sometimes seems that our value is measured by our productivity, and it seems that we should always be doing more or better.

We must learn to see everything with a certain perspective, and it is essential to understand that we are much more than our work. It is good to be a little self-demanding in order to have the ambition to improve in some aspects, but without it becoming obsessive. In these situations, I try to see my achievements as if someone else did them in my place. This helps me value them more. 

What advice would you give to young girls and women who are hesitant or apprehensive about diving into the tech world?

I would tell them to study what they really like or are interested in regardless of what the environment may say. It is a very interesting world in which we certainly have a place, but we have to change it little by little. I would tell them to do research on the subject, listen to talks, try to do small projects on their own and if they really like it, go for it!

If they still have doubts because it seems to be a "man's world", listen to other women who have experience in this world, see where they have got to and what they have achieved and listen to their advice, that can really help to give some perspective on the situation and motivate them.

Ainhoah mit Gründer Jonas und unseren Developern Samuel, Bisrat und Ronald (v.l.n.r.)

Can you share a project or accomplishment you're particularly proud of? What made it special or challenging?

I don't think I could mention any specific achievements, but there are many things and skills that I have learned or improved since I started working, that I am proud of. When you start working in this world there are many facets that you have to learn to develop. Software development is not only about programming, you also have to learn how to communicate with colleagues and clients, organize and prioritize tasks, research new technologies and ways of solving problems, and so on. This is a field in which I think there is always something new to learn and you have to try to be up to date in order to be able to apply new technologies and methodologies.

For me in particular, it is mainly these "secondary" aspects that I didn't have in mind when I started working in which I am learning to improve day by day, without leaving aside the more technical learning of course.

The tech industry is notorious for its demanding hours. How do you manage work-life balance, and do you believe the industry is supportive of it, especially for women?

Sometimes it is difficult to find a balance point because precisely in this type of work where you have to keep your mind so active, you cannot disconnect from one moment to another. For this very reason, the way of approaching things or the structure of thought that you will later apply in other areas of your personal life can be affected.

That is why it is important to set limits, in many ways. To seek concentration and productivity at work, but without it becoming an obsession. It is essential to have activities outside of work that contribute in different ways: being physically active, mentally, creatively ... but that also depends on each person.

Where do you see the future of tech heading, especially regarding gender inclusivity? How do you envision your role in this future?

I think it is gradually improving, but unfortunately there is still a lot to fight for. First of all, it is important that in general the problem is recognized, because in many cases it is thought that there is none. Once the problem is better recognized, we can begin to to understand its origin, the problems it causes and how it can be dismantled.

With respect to this issue, I believe that information and communication are the best allies. An individual can do little if the environment does not recognize and make the problem visible. I also believe that respectful debates are fundamental so that people who do not have as much information on the subject or have internalized negative attitudes can understand how to behave on certain occasions or how to treat the women in their environment, in short, in the same way as the rest of their peers.

For my part, I would like to do what I want without having to give in to external pressures because of "what is expected of me", as well as to act in situations that may be unfair to me or to other female colleagues, always with respect in order to be understood.

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