Being the Only Woman at the Table
From the time I started college, I was one of very few women in my majors. I started out as a Chemistry major, where there were a solid 6 women, out of like 200. Ouch.
Three years into college, I'd transitioned to Information Systems. When I first started the program, I was one of 12 women (out of 120 students). One year later, I started my masters program as one of 6 women (out of 60). Luckily the men in my program were some of the most up-standing men that I know. To this day, we're still a tight bunch of friends.
A while back at one of my Masters' friends weddings
Then as I started working for Lucid, I joined as the second member of a soon-to-be five member team. The rest of the hires were men. Mind you, we looked at all the women engineers who applied — sadly that was only a handful, and even fewer who were qualified.
Being the only woman at the table was sometimes hard. There were moments where I felt a little out of place. But it was also very empowering. I have to say, the men on my teams over the years have been stand up, and I know that I am very fortunate in this.
Tips & Tricks
I've learned a lot over the years about being the only female. For those considering going into tech, as any minority, I encourage you to do so! We need more people who are like you.
Tip 1: Always Negotiate
Most of these tips will be about the day-to-day, but I want to come out of the gate swinging. The number of women negotiating going into jobs are LOW. Let's change this. Here's what I've learned: (1) A company's first offer is never their best; (2) there's more to a job offer than salary, health insurance and vacation time; (3) a company will never retract an offer because you started a negotiation; (4) practice makes it easier.
I have yet to find something that's non-negotiatable. You can negotiate your housing costs (purchase price + rent). You can negotiate your netflix bill. And you can negotiate how many days you can work from home each week, or abroad for that matter. I'm sure I'll be writing more on this, but please as you start a new job, always negotitate.
Tip 2: Be Yourself
One of the most important things that you can do as you go into your job, in any field, is being yourself. You will have a unique perspective to give. The way you think and your upbringing will bring new ideas. WE NEED YOU!
Tip 3: Don't chicken out
I remember one meeting where I joined 20 men in the room. I was fresh out of school, and there were many who had a long tech career — all were engineers. My team of three was there for a post-mortem after our company's homepage had gone down. My semi-shy teammates and I, gathered around the table to talk about what happened. I remember being intimidated at first. There's nothing like sitting at a boardroom table with 19 others who don't look like you, and who go all the way up to the C-Suite. A few minutes in, I spoke up and found my voice in the conversation. From that meeting, we were able to walk away with buy-in for a major project that'd allow us to have much better site-reliability.
It's important in the moment, to realize that you're voice matters. Take the time to speak out and up. You've got this!
Tip 4: Get to know your teammates
Getting to know my teammates have made my job so much more enjoyable. From day one, I try to make it a point to establish relationships with each of my team members. I like to get to know their interests, figure out what they do at night/on the weekends, find out about their families, etc. It's so much easier for them + me to listen when we have invested time into the relationship. Co-workers are like every other relationship that you have, as they become your friend, they'll give you more of their time to help you.
Tip 5: Find a woman mentor
Finding someone to look up to at your company is a great way to get the insiders scoop on how to navigate the company. I try to find someone who is where I want to be in 5-10 years that shares a similar background. For example, I look to find a woman in management with a technical background, who also has a family. I don't know exactly where I'll be in 5 years, but talking to my mentor will help me figure out where I want to be and what I want to be doing.
I have a number of other things around being a woman in tech that I want to write about, but if you have something that's on your mind, let's chat about it.