I'm Not a Traditional Developer - Women In Automation

Level 5

I’m not a traditional developer. At least that’s what I used to tell myself.


When people would ask me how I got into programming I’d say, ‘by accident really’ and I was doing myself a disservice. The truth is I’ve worked incredibly hard to be where I am, and while it wasn’t in my plan, it was not ‘by accident’.


I read stories from other developers talking about how they loved computers from childhood, how it was their dream to code or how technology had always fascinated them. That was never me. I was more interested in reading, creative writing, drama, and music. I hated maths and IT at school. My dream job was to be a writer. I didn’t see anything in my personality that would suggest choosing a career in technology. For me, programming was all about numbers, binary, and staring at what looked like a foreign language. I loved words, but I loved them in fiction and in poetry, not in the cold, formulaic medium that code appeared to be. I think that is why when I became a developer I would say ‘I’m not a traditional developer’.


So, how did I find my way into programming?


When I finished my A Levels all I knew was that I wasn’t ready for University. I got my first full-time job working in an admin role and I quickly found myself getting bored. In my frustration I found my love for fixing things. When a job came up for an IT Service Desk Analyst the only aspect of it that appealed to me was that I’d get to fix things full-time. My IT knowledge wasn’t great but I was ready for a new challenge. I got the job and was excited to start in a new field. 

I expected to find things a bit tricky when I joined the Service Desk, what I wasn’t expecting was the heavy banter environment. The team was predominantly young men and ‘having a laugh’ was the norm. I was completely out of my comfort zone. I found myself altering my behaviour, acting more like ‘one of the guys’ to try and fit in. After a while I started picking up more of the late shifts as I’d spend the last couple of hours on my own and I could be myself. It was exhausting, but I really loved fixing computers and helping people.

A year later a role came up for a Junior Software Developer. I’d been enjoying working in IT and I was ready for the next step in my career. I applied for the job despite having no coding experience and to my surprise I was successful. Great! Then that niggle in the back of my mind started; did they only offer me the job because I was a woman? Cue the start of my imposter syndrome.

I’m not going to lie; those first six months were hard. I wanted a challenge, but maybe I’d bitten off more than I could chew. Learning to code took time and I was worried that my lack of maths skills would hold me back. I told myself that until someone fired me I would keep going.  That day never came and my persistence paid off. Over time things started to click, I realised that I required very little maths in my day-to-day work and my problem-solving skills were getting stronger. I started to see that code wasn’t as cold as I originally thought and actually it was another way of creating with words. Being a developer wasn’t boring; it was, in fact, all of the things that I loved.


Throughout my career I’ve been asked what it’s like to be a woman in tech and I’ve always found it a difficult question to answer. I’ve realised it’s because I’m looking for those ‘defining’ moments where I’ve encountered adversity because of my gender and how I overcame it, but the truth is those events are rare (at least they were for me). The challenges I have faced have been subtle and only became more noticeable when I moved into teams where I was the only woman developer. For example, it wasn’t unusual for some people to talk over me or for my ideas to be ignored only to have someone else take credit for it later. If I made mistakes some people wouldn’t let me hear the end of it. I was more likely to be challenged on my proposed solutions than my male colleagues.


These biases and microaggressions can be really easy to miss and it can be difficult trying to understand if the criticism is fair or if it’s based in bias. These things can wear you down, but there are actions we can take to make tech (or any field) more inclusive:


For the women

  • Don’t be afraid to vouch for yourself and make your voice be heard.
  • You have as much of a right to be there as anyone else. Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise or make you feel like you don’t belong.
  • Invest in yourself and find your niche.
  • Take chances on yourself and apply for jobs.


For the men

  • Amplify women’s voices and recognise their achievements.
  • Call out inappropriate behaviour (and challenge your own).
  • Take time to understand unconscious biases and microaggressions that impact women.
  • Mentor and sponsor women colleagues.


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