Three leading female software engineer experts share their insights on working in the tech space. With years of experience gathered, they hold valuable tips for anyone starting in coding.
Jecelyn Yeen, Iris Classon and Chiu-Ki Chan, are also strong advocates for diversity and inclusivity within the tech industry. We’ll dive into the details of how they effortlessly integrate this mission into their everyday lives.
In the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths (STEM) industries, only 26% of computing jobs are currently held by women, and today this sector is facing exponential growth year by year. There will be 9% growth for software engineering jobs from 2018-2028, compared to the growth of all other occupations combined, as predicted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 2020 alone, there are 3x more job postings than job searches for data scientists. The opportunities for women in tech-related industries are more than ever screaming for attention.
The benefits of a more gender-diverse workforce are proven: In a large-scale study with 1,800 professionals, 40 case studies, and numerous interviews and focus groups, The Harvard Business Review found out that employees in a diverse workplace outperform and are more innovative than companies with less varied workplaces.
When passion meets frustration: the start of their journeys is relatable to many first-time coders. Especially in the beginning, finding inspirational leaders to aspire to and a community to share your journey with can positively propel you forward to achieve your highest potential and take you further on in your journey.
“During my childhood, I liked to play Super Mario Kart. I always wondered what’s the ‘thing’ that makes the character move when I control the joystick. After studying programming, then I knew how things worked.”
Jecelyn is a coder, diver, and currently a Developer Advocate for Chrome DevTools at Google. Her curiosity for programming started at a young age. Until today, she never takes the fun out of it. She produces video content and writes blog posts on all things coding related. Her latest video mixes two of her big loves, which are coding and cooking. Her viewers get an update on the latest and best new ingredients of Chrome DevTools with easy-to-follow video demos.
Raised in Kuala Lumpur, Jecelyn also founded the Women Who Code Kuala Lumpur Network. Simply starting it for fun to find other individuals with interests in coding, the group has more than 3000 members on their Facebook Page. She has since met many individuals that have become her closest friends today.
Breaking coding stereotypes
Jecelyn believes that coding is for everyone. It’s your attitude that matters! Her TEDx Talk “Coding: The Power Language that Everyone can “Speak” breaks the biggest coding myths, which are:
You need to be good at science and math,
Coding is for programmers only,
I am too old to code.
She found out early in her career that attitude is an essential skill for a software engineer. Her first job interview in software programming, was difficult to land. The programming language she had learned in school was not trended. To add to that, she had mistaken C++ for C# language. She landed a programmer job on her 3rd interview.
Based on her experience, her advice to young developers and especially female developers is always to show that you are willing to learn more and to speak up. Whether you are just a beginner in using a programming language, show the determination to find the solution. Attitude and communication are critical soft skills that will define your growth curve as a software engineer.
Despite this, her career in software engineering was not always a straight path. Family members and friends of Jecelyn have tried to convince her into being an analyst or a consultant. After taking their advice, she fell back to software engineering.
“If you like it, then stick with it. If you feel like you want to code so much, stay in the line and keep going. “
Jecelyn likes to stay up to date with coding by subscribing to newsletters and reading tweets. You can also stay up to date with Jecelyn through her social here.
“The first few days sucked”
Iris currently serves as part of the Microsoft Extended Experts team. She circulates her life not only around coding (see her weekly and monthly schedule below) but also as a mom and an avid trekker! It is no surprise that she shares a fondness for health and fitness. She was a clinical and licensed dietician and personal trainer before she found her way into coding.
In a YouTube interview, Iris shares that her first few days of coding “sucked” and found little motivation to continue, almost deciding to give up after the third day. It took her professor a lot of effort to convince her to continue, at least for a few more days. After a successful attempt at writing her first program during her first week, she realised that coding was not too confusing at all. She kept going and has been happily blogging about her journey in coding ever since. She compares coding to getting her diving certification. “All accidents in scuba diving can be traced back,” and just like coding, everything is recorded and can be traced backward.”
In a crowd, you can spot her through her vibrant pink hair color. Bringing her uplifting spirit anywhere she goes, she is also a host on the Get Up and Code! Podcast. She frequently updates her blog on her infamous “not-so-stupid-question” series, which she started in 2012. But starting as a newbie coder had its challenges, she received frequent negative backlash to her open documentation in her coding learning curve. When she proposed to stop the series, a reader commented:
The moral is: you’re never alone and There.Are.No.Stupid.Questions!
Up until August 2019, she’s at her 327th not-so-stupid-question.
Iris’ advice on staying current
Now a full-time developer, she manages her work-life balance by dedicating some hours per week and per month to stay updated. Interested to know how she does it? Check out her schedule below:
“For me, it’s something that is very fulfilling because I can ask the computer to do something, and it will do it for me. It’s almost magical.”
A google expert for Android development, Chiu-Ki has a passion for speaking and teaching. By running her own mobile development company, she has launched an app that teaches users to learn Chinese writing. When she’s not coding, she’s traveling around the globe, sharing her knowledge on Android-related software engineering.
Her passion for coding started at a young age. She was fascinated that a computer could follow her exact orders when she wrote her first-ever program; – a game of hangman.
Fast-forward to 2020, Chiu Ki continues to share her excitement for coding on her blog: she features a colourful variety of knowledge about coding, how she organizes her tech conferences, or her modular meal planning algorithm that she arranges with her husband.
Her goal is simple: Make people feel welcomed into the software developing community.
One piece of advice she wishes she could have told herself sooner is that it’s okay to ask questions.
Sounds familiar? “It is very intimidating in the sense that once again, you’re exposing your weakness.” And she continues, “but asking questions actually ended up opening up opportunities for other people. So definitely it’s OK to ask questions. I mean, it’s scary, but you should do it anyway “.
Jecelyn, Chiu-Ki, and Iris all share a passion for what they do, albeit stumbling upon it in different ways and different stages of their lives. The future for female leaders within the tech industry looks bright with the help of a supportive and inclusive community. The commitment of these three women to uplift and guide future female software engineers and coding newbies is an effort that surely will benefit the entire industry. Diversity benefits us all!