November 10, 2020
Can you briefly introduce yourself?
I’m Erik, engineer and once studied mechatronics. This has absolutely nothing to do with programming per se, but it is not unusual for programmers. In the meantime, I have made the experience that maybe 30-40% of programmers have ever studied computer science. As it is after the study, you try out one or the other job and with me it happened that I programmed more and more. In the beginning it really had a lot to do with engineering work, but now it’s pure and sometimes very abstract programming. At the moment I work at Otto and supervise the display of online advertising.
My experience with various Tech Teams
I have observed that the more backend-heavy the programming becomes, the more the proportion of women actually decreases. I work in business intelligence, which is very data-driven. Among the data analysts, who gain new insights from data, the proportion of women improves slightly, but among the data engineers, who clean up the data and prepare it for the data analysts, this is astonishingly little. I worked for just over two years in a team that actually consisted of 40 percent female developers, and that is a different and very pleasant way of working. It’s not easier, but because you have a wider perspective on a problem, you get better solutions. This should be the case in many more places and that’s why I was very enthusiastic about the mentoring programme you offered. It gives me the opportunity to make my contribution so that hopefully something will change.
”…I want to change structures and not have women conform to male behaviour”.
I have advantages in this world that not everyone has, even if many claim the opposite, including women. In my circle of colleagues I have actually seen women who said: “Why, I don’t have a problem, I can do whatever I want.” Yes, if you adapt to patriarchal structures and play along with them, then definitely. But that would not be my goal. Actually, I want to change structures and not have women conform to male behaviour.
”… I thought it was very good that the mentoring programme was extended to include the technical track, that you can really help technically.”
Week after week I try to explain my world a little to my mentee. A big part of it is taking fear, because learning programming can be very intimidating.
In the beginning, the mentoring programme was designed more for career counselling and since I know I am male and young, which is the accumulation of all the privileges one can have, I can hardly give tips on how to get into the programming world. There are no boundaries in my way, I had no access restrictions and therefore I can hardly say to a woman: “Yes, just do it! It’s not that difficult.” That would be a lie. At least I know that. That’s why I actually thought it was very good that the mentoring programme was extended to include the track, that you can really help technically. I like that, I enjoy it and I’m glad that I can pass it on. My experience with other initiatives
Before I started at moinworld, I actually taught children programming for a while. They could come for four or five hours on Saturdays. But they had to bring projects or questions with them, which we then helped them with. I stopped doing that because at some point I didn’t feel that it was very helpful any more. My observation is that it was once again a deterrent, especially for young girls. I simply observed: Okay, they come once and never again, the format seems not to work for them. The boys, on the other hand, kept coming back because they could already do it anyway. We had a lot of talented boys with us who didn’t really need help, they just needed the room - they could sit here and play around with the computer. And for the girls it didn’t seem to work. That was also because we as tutors did not make enough effort. We simply had the claim that they come there, tell us what they want to do and then we help them to fix it somehow. Apparently that was not the right way to tell things for the target group I wanted to reach. And so there were fewer and fewer girls.
”…actually we are all just glorified versions of search engines”
Women who want to start in the tech sector I would recommend not to be put off. It will be explained to you often enough or unconsciously given to you that it will not work or you will have the feeling yourself that it cannot work. You have to overcome that. There is the effect when ten skills are listed in job advertisements and men apply if they meet one of the ten points. Women, on the other hand, only apply when they fulfil eleven out of ten skills - exaggeratedly speaking. I believe that if you want to learn programming, you just have to do it, just try it. Most of the things I do every day I can’t do, I get them explained to me on the internet. I also like to say that we are all just glorified versions of search engines. Admitting to yourself that it’s okay not to know and just finding out. Then you get a little bit further. The problem with programmers and the world they build is this: Because it’s 90 percent plus men, they build the world in a way that it’s meant for 90 percent men. This manifests itself in small things, but also in larger aspects. For example, documentations of programs are written in a way that they work well for (male) skilled programmers. This is such a small aspect, but it is highly aggregated in many other aspects. This can be enormously daunting if you want to get into it. It also doesn’t help that programmers like to pretend that everything is not that difficult, but to write these 20 lines of code, quite simply. Often this is mixed up with the fact that these men have been programming “all along”. So their experience of how difficult it is to learn this craft is quite a long time ago. 20 lines of code can be very cryptic and incomprehensible, even if you wrote them yourself.
Erik is part of our mentoring program. Apply today here. A moinworld member will contact you within one week. Are there any questions left? Contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org.
More information about our other mentors can be found here.
If you also want to encourage others with your story, please contact us! email@example.com