Women in tech positions are still a rarity – my personal aim is, to introduce more girls and women to tech jobs and/or help them to jump on board.
I´m Julia Spiegel, Backend Software-Developer at Elvenar and I will show you in this article my way to the nerdy side of life. In further articles I’m going to continue with anecdotes of daily life of women in tech.
When I was a kid, my first best friends were two guys in the neighourhood: Malte and Markus.
Malte, Markus and I hang around a lot and I had to play soccer and handicraft things with paper and blow them apart with fireworks around New Year’s Eve.
At some point, the computers came into our lives. Maltes parents bought a C64 and an Atari and Markus’ parents bought an Amiga. My contribution was a GameBoy. We were all set!
Of course we were not allowed to sit in front of the screens the whole day but still, we played ourselves through Giana Sisters (I still love that title song), Werner, Bubble Bobble, Rainbow Islands (my favorite), Day of the Tentacle, Space Invaders, Ballerburg, Super Mario Brothers and so forth..
On the other hand, there was my dad. Being himself a Database Analyst and Software Developer, he played around a lot at home with his first own – and slightly expensive – Highscreen 486 PC. I loved sitting next to him and learn stuff or just playing games on that one, too. Frogger, Prince of Persia, Monkey Island, Myst..
But actually, I also was just a girl and loved horses, dogs, cats and played with barbies! True story!
Crazy new thing – the world wide web!
When I got 16 years old, I had my first own PC. Wow. That was so great!
I experienced the windows system, moved around folders and deleted stuff I thought was unnecessary. After we had to re-animate my computer again, I kept in mind to NOT DELETE the “system” folder again.
I used to play around with everything and learned a lot nerdy stuff from my dad. I still played games but now that I got my own PC and we finally had the possibility to use this crazy thing called “world wide web”, I surfed around a lot with my 28k modem, using ICQ (“uh-oh”) and learned to work with Photoshop. I created a lot of ugly photomontages my parents hopefully threw away immediately after I handed them out.
My first website with Dreamweaver was so colorful, everything moving and blinking, having all possible effects on one page. I’m quite sure the visitors must have got cross-eyed..
I made myself familiar with FTP and Domains and got a free domain at Schlund+Partner for my first blink-blink-website.
My mom and brother always rolled their eyes and sighed, when my dad and I continuously talked about geeky stuff and discussed articles in computer magazines. So I always tried to include them, explaining things so they also could understand, or changed the topic after a short while to not annoy them too much.
So to say, I still was a girl, longing for harmony in the family and not totally fallen for the nerdy side.
I had boyfriends, best friends and went horseback-riding. But I was still the only girl in my whole class and circle of friends that was sitting in front of a computer voluntary.
I often had to prove myself before I got accepted as a female developer
It comes as little surprise, that I studied Media Computer Science (“Medieninformatik” in german). I got quite a shock when I realised that Computer Science is not just about creating animations, working with Photoshop and creating movies and websites. But after my first fight programming a “four wins” game with Turbo Pascal, having my nerdy uncle by my side who taught me how to debug stuff, I started to like programming.
In our studies class we were just a few girls and a whole bunch of guys. A lot of guys seemed to be the biggest nerds on earth and I realised, that on a chart from 0-10 of being a nerd, I just was at a 5 🙂
During my studies it was the first time I came across the prejudices “Woman don’t understand logic” or “Woman cannot think logically” or – in German very shortly “Frauen und Technik…” accompanied by rolling the eyes to the sky.
Even one of our professors enjoyed saying this in his lectures, when one of the rare women in the classroom dared to ask a question.
But his behaviour changed totally towards women, when it was clear that we really meant to finish our studies. It seemed – at least as a woman – you had to prove yourself before you got accepted as a female developer.. And it wasn’t the last time I experienced this during the beginning of the 21st century.
For my practical semester I moved to Bonn in western Germany and worked at a research facility. I had two supervisors and both couldn’t have been more different.
The first one was super nice, supportive, and helpful.
The other one made quite clear, that he didn’t think much of women in this profession.
I always hoped to have the nice and supportive kind as a supervisor in later jobs..
Looking back I am very glad to have met so many nice people
I had some other small experiences like this – one time there was a contact person at the company I wrote my diploma thesis for. He hit on me a few times, but when I refused all his advances, the revenge came quickly. He declined my diploma thesis when it was finished, because it was – in his opinion – of bad quality and he suggested to throw the whole work from months into the trash and start from scratch. It was one day before Christmas.
Luckily, the professor at my university disagreed and – even better than that – I got the best possible grade for my thesis 🙂
First promotion: my own toilet!
When I started working at my first job in a small agency, I joined the team being the first woman. The guys had two toilets in the office. The first one was for the “small” business and the other one .. well, you can imagine 😉
But now that a woman was in the office, the toilets got split up by gender. Finally, my first promotion after my studies was to have an own toilet!
Being the only woman in the team makes a difference to all
During the last 16 years I worked at some big companies and smaller agencies, either as a permanent employee or a freelancer. Most of the time, I was the only woman at my developer team. And it felt – good!!
Being the only woman in the team or even sometimes in the whole agency makes a difference to all. I always got the feedback, that everyone is glad to have a woman around, it creates a better atmosphere and the guys started behaving better again (just repeating the feedback I got).
Sometimes I still had to prove that I am really worth to be called a (female) developer, but after some years of experience I finally could stand above it. The positive feedback I got from the male and even from the female colleagues was totally topping the few doubters.
Contrary to my first experiences, all my supervisors were supportive, very nice and protective against the few sceptics I had to deal with.
And now, working at this huge family of InnoGames, the first time during my career I joined a big company that fully covers my values. InnoGames is such a good-hearted company and a big family where equality is totally lived.
Once again, I got this warm welcome and nice feedback about having another female developer in the team.
But, speaking for myself and for InnoGames, I would love to see more female developers in our teams! If you hesitate to become a female developer or have any questions or just want to have a chat, please feel free and reach out to me.
I’m looking forward hearing from you and your experiences!
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