Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Women in Tech

Until recently, I was floundering. For years, my life focused on becoming a professor and finding someone to spend my life with, and neither of those was working out. I applied for jobs, considered an MBA, almost moved to China, and read. Then I met Michael playing soccer. Somehow he saw past the shell I’d become. He dated me for five months until I made the conscientious decision to love him and really started dating him back. I finally found a job at a startup in San Francisco. The pay was so lousy that I had to stay in a relative’s basement while the job killed me slowly. A book made me realize that I’m an introvert, so I decided to talk to my boss the next day about making some changes. On the way to work, with a spring in my step, I broke my foot.

Working from home, I started opening tabs about learning technical skills. On the deadline for a school that trains women to become web developers/software engineers in ten weeks, I sent in a rather cursory application, though I didn’t have a clue what things like “Python,” “Backend,” and “Git” referred to.

But then I was in a wheelchair for a while and I had to defer, and to make things worse, I needed a new apartment. (Wheelchair-friendly places in San Francisco? Ha!) Michael and I debated getting married, but life was too hectic.

Finally, finally, things started clicking. We were offered lowered rent for managing a building, and the owner preferred couples. Being Mormon, we decided to get married. We became engaged and decided that with the apartment and school starting soon and in hopes of getting gift money to pay for Hackbright Academy, we’d get married in one month.

Our wedding was wonderfully simple and the stability of marriage countered the intensity of the program. Hackbright Academy was one of the most difficult and best things I have ever done. I slaved through pair programming, learning a new vocabulary, and building my first application, BookFairy. Within a week of graduating, I was offered a job. I nervously made a brave counter offer, and it was accepted!

How come I didn’t find my niche earlier?! I was in technology clubs in school and fascinated by techie stuff. So why didn't anyone ever say, "Michelle, you actually aren't that great at essays, but you like computers. Did you know that you could have a career making them do cool things?"

I blame it on my gender. Girls aren’t introduced to technology as early and they are subliminally encouraged to get impractical educations when they could excel in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Did you know that the amount of female developers has decreased since the 80s? It is now down to about 9-11%. It can be difficult to work in a male-dominated field, but that’s all the more reason for more women to forge the tech pathway.

I can’t recommend this path enough. My husband and San Francisco’s techies have been amazingly supportive, I love what I’m doing, and my salary is about 18 times more than my total income last year. I want to tell everyone, “Women can rock at web development, too! Girls, here are some cool things I've built that you could build too, being a dev is awesome! You can have love and a great career!”

If you want to read more about my experience and/or to help me support women in tech, you can find my blog and Twitter by googling my name, Michelle Glauser. (Please keep it positive.)


Michelle Glauser
San Francisco, CA

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