Women in Tech: “You have to give young people early exposure to the industry. “

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Profile: Greta Fest, Frontend Software Engineer, Experience Technology, Publicis Sapient

A Research study by the National Center for Women & Information Technology has shown that “gender diversity has specific advantages in tech environments,” which could explain why tech companies have started investing in initiatives to increase the number of female applicants. , to recruit them more effectively. way, hold them longer and give them the opportunity to move forward. But is it enough?

Four years ago, we launched a diversity series aimed at bringing your attention to the most inspiring and powerful women in the tech scene. Today we would like you to meet Greta Fest, Frontend Software Engineer, Experience Technology, Publicis Sapient.

Today’s Woman in Technology: Greta Fest, Frontend Software Engineer, Experience Technology, Publicis Sapient

Greta first studied art and design with an emphasis on “new media” at the University of Applied Sciences in Munich, where she obtained her Master of Arts. During her studies and the creation of WordPress sites that come with it, Greta developed a taste for front-end work. This passion was able to develop further in his first job as a junior creative developer. In the meantime, she has been working as a frontend developer at Publicis Sapient for 2 years now.

When did you first get interested in technology?

I come from a very tech-savvy family. My father developed software himself and worked with the first generation of Macs. So we’ve always had a computer at home. As a child, I was passionate about drawing and painting. So I started experimenting with different computer design programs from an early age. I think this approach and my mother’s enthusiasm for my first rather dilettant attempts (some impressions still exist) meant that I was never afraid of contact with technology.

What was your career path like?

I studied art and design with a focus on “new media”. As part of my bachelor’s degree, I took various programming courses, for example an introductory PHP course in which we created simple WordPress pages. You notice pretty quickly if you like these exercises. I liked the combination of analytical thinking and immediate visual feedback. I then started developing websites for friends and acquaintances in parallel. Back then, HTML / CSS and a bit of JavaScript got you a long way. The ecosystem around front-end technologies was much more manageable a few years ago than it is today. I never thought I would become a full time programmer. It wasn’t originally a conscious decision either. The tasks of my first real job just moved in that direction and I had so much fun with it that I stayed with it.

Do you have models?

I don’t have a real role model, but there have been a few mentors and supporters who have had a positive influence on my career development. I am very grateful to you.

Did you encounter any obstacles?

No, quite the contrary. I may have been very lucky, but I have always had very supportive superiors and colleagues.

A day in the life of Greta

I worked as a front-end developer at Publicis Sapient, a consulting firm in digital transformation of companies, for two years. I usually work on one, maximum two different projects at the same time. My work as a developer focuses on websites and browser-based applications. My daily routine is varied and varies a lot, depending on the size of the project and the client. Usually there is a stand-up meeting once a day, where each member of the team takes stock of the state of work and daily plans. Subsequently, I work alone or with other developers, I have coordination meetings with designers and clients. My tasks are also very varied. For example, when I am developing new features or integrating an API, I often have to read the documentation first (if available) and try a lot of it. So it never gets boring.

Have you developed something yourself?

This summer, I participated in the Tech4 Germany scholarship program, an initiative that brings together people from the private sector with government departments to implement digital projects. There, I worked in a four-person team made up of Product, Design and Development and the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection on a new legal information portal for citizens. Using design thinking methods, we have developed a click dummy and an alpha version of the future portal as well as an associated data interface for German federal laws. A product intended to be accessible to all citizens in the future naturally has a different purpose than a commercial product, which I am used to in my daily work. As a result, the tech stack and approach are also different. The experience has been truly inspiring and I can only recommend everyone to get involved in such initiatives.

[…]I believe a lot of young women don’t have direct access to technology.

Why aren’t there more women in tech?

Besides the gender stereotypes that children are exposed to from an early age, I believe that many young women do not have direct access to technology. If parents or other family members have no connection with information technology, this area is very unlikely to play a major role in their own career planning. In school, computer classes often focus more on media literacy. It doesn’t tell at all what possible careers are available and what exciting prospects the industry has to offer. And to put it bluntly, the image of the “hacker” conveyed by the media is rather off-putting for many women and is not a particularly attractive way of life. To be honest, for a long time I also never imagined that I would make programming my job. In the end, however, this is just normal work for which women are just as suited as men. I have regular working hours and don’t stay in front of the screen any longer than my colleagues in project management or design.

What stereotypes have you encountered regarding “women in tech”?

The perception that women are “by nature” less qualified or less able than men in this area is relatively persistent. This is probably only because there are currently so few women who prove otherwise. In companies where more women are in technical jobs, this stereotype rarely plays a role. Fortunately, I myself have never felt that I was considered less competent than my male colleagues. At least I wasn’t made to feel that way. However, one’s own fear of conforming to this stereotype can also be incredibly intimidating. This can lead to overcompensation by working much harder. Or the fear can be crippling because you don’t trust yourself enough.

Would our world be different if more women worked in STEM?

It is now generally recognized that homogeneous groups are less successful and that businesses with diverse teams that reflect as many different perspectives as possible benefit financially and culturally. This is the only way to develop products and services that take into account the specific problems and needs of user groups who are not white and male. In recent years, for example, many large startups have grown into the health tech industry that focus on women’s health. In the digitization of the public sector, it is also extremely important to encourage as many citizens as possible to actively participate in democracy and to help shape political decision-making processes. There are currently many exciting projects and products in this field that benefit from female expertise. Since technology companies have enormous power in today’s society, a representation gap needs to be actively addressed.

[…]You can learn everything on your own and with enough effort and shouldn’t be intimidated by arrogance and clichés.

What future, will the debate on diversity soon be a thing of the past?

I hope so, but it will probably take some time. An important step would be to improve access by familiarizing children with new technologies in school and giving them space to try things. You need to give young people an overview of the industry from an early age and show them the various career opportunities. There is indeed a very wide range of tech careers that can be creative and social, from technical or product project management to game design. There are also now many low-code platforms that allow prototyping very quickly and easily.

What advice (and tips) would you give to women looking for a career in tech?

There are a lot of career changers in the tech industry. Most of my colleagues are self-taught or have studied something far away. The good thing is that you can find all the web development tools online. There are many courses and tutorials to learn more. Many of them are offered for free. Personal initiative is absolutely necessary. You can learn everything on your own and with enough effort and shouldn’t be intimidated by arrogance and clichés. In all cases, perseverance and self-confidence are essential. It’s best to get regular feedback from your coworkers before you fall prey to the very common impostor syndrome. A positive work environment and superiors who support you and treat you with appreciation are extremely important. I am convinced that these people are even more important than the job itself, especially at the beginning of a career. It is also useful for professional success to build a good network and to maintain these contacts.

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