A letter to aspiring female programmers

🙋🏻 So you decided to join the tech world? 👏 Best decision ever!

Photo by Fab Lentz on Unsplash

Why should you care what I have to say?

I am a mobile app developer working for a company in Denmark. I joined this field when I was 13 years old, I am 25 now with a double bachelor degree in software and web development. During the last 12 years I worked hard to fulfil my career dreams: lived, studied and worked in 3 countries. I had my fair share of experiences and I am here to pass them on.

Why I love programming, and why you will too?

THE POWER OF CODE

You can literally do anything, even change the world to a better place. Apps, software and websites are improving our lives considerably, you can’t argue with that. You can help make other people’s lives better, and that is a good reason to pursue this career.

CREATIVITY

If you think that music, writing or arts are creative fields and programming is not, you are far from the truth. Coders are artists and problem solving is where we show our creativity. The lines of code we write are like paintings, and the main goal is to write them in a way they will survive the test of time. I promise you, if you join this field there won’t be a dull moment in your life.

REACH

Your work can be seen and used all over the world. The main advantage of technology and internet is that it allows us to connect with anybody around the world. Your websites, apps or whatever digital product you developed can reach millions of potential users instantly. How amazing is that!

COMMUNITY

There is an amazing community when it comes to coders. A great example is Stack Overflow, where developers ask and answer questions daily, helping each other. Another surprising example, as I recently discovered is Instagram. The support I have found there is incredible with a lot of great and inspiring women in tech.

FLEXIBILITY

Working anywhere, or even just taking some days to work from home is pretty cool. Of course, this depends on each job, some might allow more flexibility than others and here you have to check with the company’s culture. But in any case, this is a great advantage that can open new opportunities for you.

LEARNING

You will soon see that in this field, your learning journey will never end. You have to take this as a blessing in disguise. The fact that we always have to keep up with new technologies and constantly improve our skills does wonders to our brains.

What advices I have for you?

Networking

As female developers, we sometimes have to work a bit harder to prove our skills. When you apply for jobs, employers will of course check out your resume, portfolio and letters of recommendations. I got my first jobs in programming through friends who endorsed me to their bosses. After I had those to add to my CV, it got a bit easier to apply for jobs where I didn’t know anybody. There are many ways to increase your professional network: look out for local tech events, workshops or hackathons (my favourite) and make some friends.

Take being underestimated in your advantage

You have the element of surprise, use it. At some points in your life, as girls in tech, you might feel that you are not taken seriously. This should give you even more fire to prove everybody wrong. Turn the negative energy into positive energy that will drive you in your journey.

Internships

There is nothing as valuable (no courses or tutorials) as practice with real products. Be prepared to work on internships without a salary, because usually you will get a mentor in that company and the knowledge you will get is priceless. I had 4 student jobs/internships as a developer in different areas before getting a “proper” salary.

Take your time, don’t rush it

Being a good programmer takes time, don’t expect to become one over night. Set up daily goals, and if you improve just a little bit every day, before you even notice it you will be a professional.

Programming sometimes can get frustrating

You might spend a full day or night 😌 on a small little bug, we have all been there and you will never be too good to be able to avoid them completely. Don’t get discouraged by those situations, they play an important role in your learning. I often find myself searching and reading online how to fix a bug or find a solution, and while I do this I stumble upon a lot of other information that might not be useful for the problem at hand but it will definitely be in the future.

It’s not all about the technical skills

Being a professional developer involves other factors too: you have to be able to communicate with your colleagues, be kind and mind-full of your actions, document and present your work, generally be a nice person to have around the office and help when you can.

It’s ok to fail

You can’t always win, and failures are part of us. You often learn more from your failures, it makes us stronger and better and it helps us discover new things. Learn your lessons and apply them in the future.

Learn git

There can’t be an article with advices for new developers without mentioning git. Git will keep you sane! Checkout this 15 minutes intro to git to get a taste of it, and continue learning it.

You might ask yourself…

Q: I have been doing something else for the last x years? Can I still catch up with all the experienced developers out there?

A: YES, 100 %. This might sound like a cliché, but it’s never too late. Everybody has something to bring in this industry, a developer is not only “made” of technical skills. You add in personality, social skills, creativity, kindness, responsibility and many more “ingredients” to the mix as well, so there will be no other developer exactly like you. And your “recipe” might be exactly what a company is looking for, or a starting point for your own company.

Q: I have to support myself in the meantime, I can’t quit my current job, so I will not be able to give 100% of my time to coding, is it even worth it?

A: Of course it is, it might take more effort, so you have to take all measurements to stay focused. A great way to be sure you stay on track is to find a mentor. Let them know what your goals are and ask for help when needed.

Q: I can’t sign up for a tech degree at a university (for whatever reason), what can I do, will somebody take me serious without a degree?

A: Unfortunately in some countries, a degree plays an important role. Hopefully with time, all employees will learn to appreciate portfolios before diplomas. But, when it comes to learning, there is an incredible amount of resources available online, even overwhelming some times. You don’t need to get a Bachelor/Master/whatever degree to learn code. You can do it from home. And you can build a personal portfolio which will help you get that job you want.

Q: There are so many programming languages out there, changing fast, what should I learn?

A: It’s true, technologies are always changing, but don’t for one second believe that a programming language you learned and is not so popular anymore will go in vain. You should be comfortable switching to a new language if it’s needed, so how can you do that? By learning as many programming languages. You see, once you learn the fundamentals in one programming language, it will get easier and easier. Think of it as learning your native language, at first it takes time because you have to learn the meaning of words as well. But when you want to learn a new language it’s just the translations you have to learn, not a whole new set of words and meanings. This is pretty close to programming. I started with Pascal in high school, I highly doubt there are companies looking for Pascal developers, but it made me learn how to think algorithmically. Then I continued with Java which made me learn about object oriented programming. Then went on to objective-c which is also kind of gone now as iOS development switched to Swift, but it still comes in handy when I have to look into old projects or frameworks. Then many others, and all of them contributed to my current skills in Swift.

Q: Ok ok, but where do I get started?

A: It depends, of course. Do you just want to start somewhere? Or do you have a product idea? Or maybe you really want to work for that awesome company. Find out what they use and learn that! Do a little bit of research and find a starting point, don’t think of it as a decision you have to live with your whole life. The most important thing is to start, you can switch later on to something else if you want. Start experimenting and find what you like.

As a final note…

This is an amazing world, don’t be afraid to be part of it and don’t let anyone tell you you don’t belong. Just start somewhere and be ready to take turns until you find what suits you. With a bit of hard work you will have a career that is fulfilling, creative, exciting, magical, awesome, i can go on forever… you get the picture 😊. Go up and never stop!

Do what you can’t! (👇 inspiring video by Casey Neistat)

Mobile App Developer