Despite women making up almost half of the total workforce, they hold less than 25% of all jobs in the tech industry—and that number is dropping daily thanks to COVID-19. Women must stick together to support one another in increasing our representation in the tech industry.
This is why we reached out to our women mentors, students, Group Crit facilitators, and team members to provide some wisdom for other women hoping to break into the world of tech. Explore their snippets of advice and inspiration below!
Katarina Loughlin, Senior UX Designer at Audible (Designlab Mentor)
Be true to yourself. Sometimes, especially when you are early in your career, there can be immense (often self-inflicted) pressure to perform and conform. The more you can learn about yourself, your communication style, and your own personal strengths and weaknesses, the easier it will be to find a natural working style. When I started working, I was painfully shy. My managers supported and always encouraged me to increase my visibility and suggested things like giving presentations to the team. It was hard. I hated it. I felt like I was pretending to be someone I wasn't. It took me many years to understand how to "be visible" while still being me. Once I found a working style that was more authentic to who I was, I blossomed.
Linor Kirkpatrick, Agile Release and Change Management at Fujitsu UK (UX Academy Student)
If it’s something you are passionate about, put your efforts in it. Quiet negative inner voices and don't let anyone's opinions and fears get to you. Find a mentor - women or men who you can learn and get support from. Technology is equal!
Van Galasso, UX Design Researcher at IBM (UX Academy Alumni)
There is so much space in the tech world for women to occupy! Some advice I would give to those who are interested in breaking into tech is to reach out to other fellow women working in tech. I have found that the tech industry is the embodiment of empowered women empower women! I have met and connected with so many women in just over the year that I have pivoted into tech, and I have been incredibly grateful and delighted at how willing they are to give of their time and knowledge to facilitate the successful transition of other women into tech. We have worthwhile and diverse perspectives that make us such integral parts of the world of tech! Women are needed, so all the encouragement to pursue tech if you are on the fence. Just reach out to people and you will be surprised at how they want to help! I am always happy to chat with fellow DLers or other women interested in breaking into tech, and specifically UX!
Courtney Leonard, Product Designer at Apple Podcasts (Designlab Mentor)
Similar to how one might have a medical team of doctors, you might consider building a team of mentors across industries. This can range in formality, and you can decide how to maintain it! My mentors work in product, branding, event and experiential marketing, podcasting, journalism, career coaching and even real estate. Some are more like friends that I talk with weekly, and some are people I chat with once a quarter or when we’re at pivotal career moments. It’s rarely a one-way street, and each relationship requires its own setup.
Kim Ho, Product Designer at Netflix (Designlab Mentor)
Recognize that the growing number of women in tech is a result of the women before us, continue to seek out experience and growth from women who paved the way and commit to giving back to women who will be the next wave of contributors to our industry. Above all, in my experience as a newer designer, I think we can be in our heads about how it will all play out as a designer. Experience is your friend and jumping and knowing that there is uncertainty and trusting that you will work through each chapter as it unfolds is better than inaction.
Robbin Arcega, Curriculum Producer at Designlab (Group Critique Facilitator & UX Academy Alumni)
Acknowledge that yes, the system is broken, but you're doing the damn thing and standing up against it anyway. I would say don't let others tell you it's not worth it, but in my experience, it seems like we end up telling OURSELVES it's not worth it to go and apply for jobs or whatever success is to you.
If you were your best friend, you'd probably tell them to go for it, right? Treat yourself kindly. Don't underestimate your talents. One of the best pieces of critical feedback I got was that I tend to downplay my work by saying stuff like, "Oh but it's whatever," or "I mean it was fine, it wasn't too big of a deal..." and that shit is no fun and also not true. I'm of the opinion that I, at least, have gotten myself into this whirlwind of EVERYTHING I DO IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH, and that is simply not true for me, and isn't gonna be true for you, either. You work hard. Own it.
Remind yourself why you're doing this. Every second a non-male person gets a sick job or gets promoted to management or all that good stuff...it means you get to give others the opportunities you may not have been afforded. You are able to give voices to people whose voices are usually ignored. You bring your experiences with you to the table and you can fight. Grit will take you more places than you'd think. I'm coming from a place where I KNOW I won't get anything handed to me, so I take it for myself.
Finally, in the immortal words of Lady Danbury from Bridgerton: I knew I would have to step into the light someday and I could not very well be frightened. So, instead, I made myself frightening. I sharpened my wit, my wardrobe, and my eye, and I made myself the most terrifying creature in any room I entered.
Lara Kirby Pardo, Design Manager at Appriss (Group Crit Facilitator)
Be confident in yourself, your skills, and your experience. Think broadly about what experiences contribute to your skills in tech and translate that into your tech narrative. This could be work but it might be personal. Speak about your work and yourself positively and confidently. If needed, pretend you’re talking about someone else until you get comfortable (and unlearn the downplaying etc).
Jenann Pham, Product Designer at Twitch (UX Academy Student)
#1 Do your research. There are so many roles out there in Tech. You don't need to be a "unicorn" that codes, does UX, does UI, and is an expert in Product management to be successful in your career.
#2 Find a mentor/role model that can work with you to overcome any career obstacles and improve your marketability.
#3 Know your worth. Always negotiate your salary. Did you know women are less likely to negotiate their salary than men? This is a factor in contributing to the gender pay gap.
Suzy La, Senior Design Contributor at Apple (Group Crit Facilitator)
Be confident. Time and time again, I’ve gone through so many hiring rounds where I’ve witnessed highly qualified women play down their skills whereas men were more likely to inflate their qualifications.
Grace Lihn, Product Designer ar Madison Reed (Group Crit Facilitator)
Don’t try to be perfect. Allow yourself to make mistakes and learn, and build a culture that values learning over perfectionism. As women, we have to work twice as hard to stand up for our ideas and contributions in order to be seen at the same level as our male counterparts, which often pushes us to feel like we need to perform perfectly in order not to be questioned or dismissed. Let’s dismantle that norm. Challenge people when they try to tear you down for not being perfect. By freeing ourselves from the expectation of perfection, we allow ourselves to learn and grow.
If you’re interested in learning UX design with a supportive community of smart women like those featured here, we invite you to explore our UX Academy program. Alternatively, if you’re interested in becoming a mentor with Designlab, we encourage you to learn more and apply here.