How to Become a Software Developer – Part One

The Influence on Women In Tech

On a very beautiful working day, I had an exciting female candidate to interview. She was one of 100 candidates. One woman out of 100 otherwise male candidates to apply for a position at our company. As I screened her CV I was surprised about her education. She holds a master’s in law in her country. I thought, she must be very tough and experienced in the male-dominated working environment. I heard from other female lawyers, that the field of law is not only a field where one has to remember law texts and court decisions, but it is full of masculine competition. The competition is visible not only against another party but also within the same company.

So there she was, in the virtual room. I was in Germany and she was currently in South Korea. The interview was about cultural fit and what my company at the time asks as a culture fit is a preferred way of working for the candidate. She recently finished a coding bootcamp. A fast way to learn to program. Especially for people who want to change their profession, like her. So we knew she would be interviewed for a junior position. Normally we would increase our difficulty accordingly with the level of previous experience, but we are always open to interviewing any level of experience.

We were happy, that she felt safe and comfortable in the interview. Something we want to achieve for every candidate. One thing surprised me though: she said, she would have started coding so much earlier, if she knew that coding was for women, too. Someone told her computer science was too difficult for women. So she studied law. This totally blew my mind. I find the subject of law to be super difficult too, and it is really difficult for me to grasp that this was even happening, that a person finds computer science more difficult than her very difficult area she got used to.

Let’s Change That

I’d like to change that and I have prepared some stories and information for you on how you as a woman can become a developer. It doesn’t matter if you are a young girl, a world traveller, a mom of one or many children, or a businesswoman with her own ideas. Coding will enable you to do great things and you will be equally capable of working in this field as anyone else. An increasing amount of companies know, they can only hire the best, if they truly include everyone and therefore they need to make a business case out of it and be able to hire women as well.

As part of this series, I’ll provide you with information on:

  • How we can influence girls at a young age to go into STEM subjects
  • How to become a developer with the first and nth education
  • What is important to know for your application as a diverse developer

Awakening The Interest In Software Development In Girls

It all starts at a young age, where girls are conditioned to be a caretaker and boys the adventurous risk-taker. Once we realize and overcome that, we can awaken the possible interest of young girls and enable them to be analytical like boys.

Mathematics, video games, puzzles, and physics are possible starting topics to awaken the girls’ interest to eventually pursue a career in software development later.

This image shows a difference in math problem-solving skills between boys and girls which is insignificantly small. The performance scores for boys and girls are about 0.1 to 0.3 standard deviations apart from one another.¹

One of the things I have realized quickly is, that we have conditioned children already before the age of 9 years old. For a while, I taught children from 9 to 16 how to create games, which includes a playful way of learning to know basic logic. This was done with a set of one week courses children could take to learn to know different professions. Only a fraction of the participants were girls. Some of which changed the course to a marketing-related field as they were more interested in that. This results in a separation of boys and girls taking different professions. That is by far not nature. This is nurture. We teach children very early on, that girls don’t fit in STEM, though they do.

Dear parents, teachers, and friends, please give your children the freedom to decide on their own and provide them with plenty of opportunities without any judgment. Gender culture is something we teach and learn and does not come naturally.

Once the child is open-minded about the topic and does not shy back from the difficulty, in the beginning, it’s possible to teach children how to create games. There are really cool tools that are so easy to learn that children can understand that. In the meanwhile, they do not only do something creative, they learn the basics of logic, which is a topic in computer science.

“And if they have milk, bring 6 eggs.”

They will understand, what the above actually means versus what is expected from humankind.

Construct is an easy-to-use tool, to learn game development as well as the above-mentioned logic. It comes with lots of recourses and a huge community, which also makes it easy for children who do not have English as their first language. Many of the manuals are translated into different languages. — Thanks to the community. With the increased interest, the child learns English as a language too — Learning by doing.

Many schools provide courses, but also children’s organizations provide those too. One good example is Girls Who Code, a worldwide organization with a variety of courses and clubs. Vacation workshops are a great start to check if the child has an interest in these topics. I’d like to emphasize that, because it does not matter how much money the parents earn, I have been asked by different mothers what their adolescent children would like to do. The only hint they have is: They like video games. Among them is also an increasing amount of girls. So why not send them to game schools, where one of the subjects is how to code games? I learned many game engineers who learned this subject are very proficient in going into different industries as well such as health or web engineering. Games indeed provide a very stable and serious opportunity for game engineer students.

What Can We Do Against It?

In many cases, role models are missing and the imagination that girls have the ability to think analytically. This is why many women are out there need to make themselves visible, though it is often not easy to be the centre of attention.

In addition to this, people are organizing events such as days where prominent female scientists are being praised. Scientists such as Marie Curie. The book “The Invisible Woman” describes a situation where people have been asked to “draw a scientist”, where the majority drew a male scientist. The bias is so strong, that media celebrates the fact, that 28% drew women. In modern didactic education, they know about this issue and provide a wide range of knowledge and possible solutions to this problem. For example, they suggest, that schools could provide such events too, to teach children that we have female STEM scientists too and that it is ok to become a STEM scientist.

To Sum Up

In the first part of this three part series, we have learned that we have a great influence on what our children can become and that we can encourage everyone, including girls, that they are capable of analytical thinking.

This is the beginning of becoming a software engineer. In the next part, I’ll hand out some tips on how to become a software engineer.

You can check out my website here: birgitpohl.com

[1] New trends in gender and mathematics performance: A meta-analysis.

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