A room of one’s own for females at startups

Step inside our office. I’m easy to spot because the only girl there is me. Yeah, you guessed right. I’m not a developer.

What’s that like?
Well, at first you do a little feel left out when everyone else is hustling each other on the Play Station, being guys! But soon enough, you find yourself joining the game and doing not bad.

You also get to feel less guilty for being too full to finish your lunch because someone will take it. FACT: Men eat more than women. ….Well okay, most of the time.

You’re flattered when not one, but THREE brainy developers go out their way to help you just to get your new desktop up and running. It’s super fast and the most high-end program I regularly use is Microsoft’s Excel. It’s just awesome. I have the best computer in the world.

It’s not always rainbows and butterflies 
Developers are creators every day and as the log knows it, there’s always evidence. But for marketers and PR specialists like myself, we build relationships and our effort doesn’t always meet the eyes.

It’s a bummer, but sometimes we feel like we are not contributing enough.

While talking to a bunch of people at startup networking events, I realized that the majority of those who battle with this feeling are women. It’s no secret that women account for a very small percentage of the world’s software developers. Many of them are pressured to prove something like the developers do.

It also a bummer that being a girl means that it’s sometimes harder to get attention.

Last year, I was in charge of a booth at a startup conference. One of our developers was kind enough to help out with the heavy lifting. I was supposed to do most of the talking but whenever he contributed to the conversation (which I have no problem with), I just could feel all of the visitors’ attention getting locked to him. Their body would gradually turned away. He is a buff, tall and older guy. That’s everything I’m not.

So, so what! 
The real demon reveals its face if you let it bother you. It’s easier said than done. But if your team believes in you, the battle is won.

Communicate. Then, your boss and teammates will understand that your efforts takes its time to surface. Share what you have been doing and why simply over lunch or coffee. Those who matter will value you and your work.

Well, if your team doesn’t? Something’s terribly wrong.

How do you make your team believe in you?
Public Relations was the only area I was familiar with when I stepped foot in this company. But in the beginning, there was nothing to talk about to the press or public. The aforementioned OH-MY-GOD-I-AM-SO-WORTHLESS phase took me away.

Resenting the defeat, I started testing our Easiway app hundreds of times, constantly showering the developers with questions. Because the app allows users to book cross-border rides between Hong Kong and China, it’s quite complicated, especially for first timers. Complex immigration check regulations, visa issue and so much more are involved.

I was devoted to understand the whole picture and help users to feel at ease during the booking and traveling process. Many of our customers are foreigners and they tend to get dazed and confused by the border crossing. So was I.

It was a tedious process, but I was determined. I have helped customers so many times that they shared constructive feedback. I voiced it to the developers and they would listen and reflect it on the product. I found myself contributing to our business every day.

And, now I have evolved into a service designer. Thanks to my passion for this service and our customers, all the things that needed to be done by a service designer came naturally to me.

With confidence, I can say that my teammates believe in me as I do in them. With their support, I am growing and making a difference and gender has nothing to do with it.