#FemInTech: 22 Questions to Laura Medalia, or @codergirl_
Laura Medalia is currently a software engineer in NYC and a creative influencer on Instagram, known as @codergirl_ . Laura has a non-traditional computer science background: she graduated with a B.A. in English Literature with a creative writing emphasis. She is also combining her passions in tech and fashion to create her own clothing collection. As a blogger and a woman in tech, she loves sharing her daily life at work, fashion outfits, and productivity tips.
Women working in STEM represent only 20% of the current job force. The percentage of female participation across tech industries varies as significantly as the percentage of racial representation within women in tech. According to the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT), 26% of people working in computer science field were female in 2017. 5% of tech workforce were Asian women, 3% African American women, and 1% Hispanic women.
I think it’s important to make sure that gender stereotypes don’t prevent the next generation of women from pursuing their interests or career in the tech industry. Therefore, I thought it would be interesting to chat with one my favorite “woman in tech” bloggers — Laura Medalia! I fell in love with her creativity and self-confidence last September and have been following her ever since.
1. Where do writing and coding intersect?
They both require creativity and good communication skills. I think there is a similar process of when you have something to build or a story to tell. You need the skill of being able to organize your thought process and break it down into sections. When you write there are paragraphs in chapters, and when you code there are different deliverables from a product standpoint.
2. What was the most challenging part transitioning from English Literature to Computer Science?
3. Did you do any bootcamps or online courses?
No, I went straight from college to work in a small healthcare startup called Zocdoc. It helps patients book doctor appointments and provide them with online medical care. The startup focuses on integrating information about medical practices with doctors’ individual schedules in a central location.
4. Why tech in healthcare?
I come from a family of doctors, and it’s always been really rewarding for me to work in healthcare. I like building products that mean a lot to me!
5. What is the hardest decision you’ve ever made in tech?
Good question! I don’t think I can answer it *laughs*. Some things are hard, like committing to a specific framework or language. You really want to make sure that you are picking the right tools for the job. And so, those are really important decisions, I think.
6. Do you listen to any particular music when you code?
Fun question! Yeah, I usually listen to a playlist on Spotify called “Chill Vibes.” It helps me stay focused.
7. What is the most impactful project you have worked on?
I worked on search tools to help patients find doctors and, by using machine learning, to help people understand what their insurance means and create price transparency for them.
8. How do you balance your social media presence, t-shirt production, and full-time job?
I think it’s important to take care of yourself, to make sure you give yourself a break or relax because when you’re burned out, you can’t do anything. So, if you are looking to do things for a long time, you have to build a schedule that will be sustainable for you. It’s going to be different for everybody. Just knowing yourself and what you need, having strong organizational skills or learning how to find the right tools to help you stay organized is crucial.
The more you take on, the more you need to be good at keeping track of all the things and their progress. If you are looking to take on lots of side projects, ideally you are able to do things you are passionate about. It’s always easier to work on something when you truly enjoy it.
9. Have you ever experienced imposter syndrome? If so, how did you cope with it?
Yeah, I definitely have. I had a lot of it when I started. I didn’t know a lot and it took a while for me to learn and to feel confident in what I knew. A co-worker of mine once told me that a lot of people feel imposter syndrome, and it helps to remind yourself that you are not alone. It’s just a feeling. Don’t punish yourself.
10. Have you ever faced issues in the tech workplace for being a woman?
Yeah, definitely. There are a lot of people who will put you in a box, and, yeah, it can be hard. Ideally, you are working in a space where you can speak up about that and you have the right environment where you can advocate for yourself, so that those behaviors will be corrected. And if you are not in that environment, I think it’s important to know that there are a lot of positive spaces out there that will value you. You should not forget to value yourself.
11. What can we do to make tech a better place for everyone?
I think it’s important to support each other and make sure to be thoughtful when we are speaking up. It’s definitely a group effort. I think everyone can help make a difference.
12. I know that you are starting a new position! What are you most excited about?
I am excited to help other people and build new tech, something interesting! I love doing that.
13. Why startups over big companies?
I like being collaborative and getting to work with all different types of stakeholders, and to be thoughtful of building culture. So, those are some things that I get to do, you know, when things are newer and still developing, or smaller.
14. What’s the best part of being a blogger in tech?
I definitely really like to try out new products and share them with people. It’s a lot of fun when you get to do that as a job.
15. If not NYC, which city would you live in?
Barcelona, la Gracia!
16. What’s your favorite part about programming?
I really like solving problems and building things.
17. Who is your fashion icon?
I don’t know if I have one. I like the Olsen Twins and Sienna Miller.
18. Do you like cooking?
Haha no, not really.
19. What’s your favorite book?
Right now I really like a book called “The Name of the Wind.”
20. What was your memorable cup of coffee?
The one that I got from Oslo Coffee Roasters in Brooklyn. Definitely recommend it!
21. What is your best childhood memory?
Being at the beach with my brother and sister!
22. Do you have any advice for girls who want to pursue software engineering?
I think it’s such an amazing industry to be in and it’s incredible what you get to build. Something that’s really important is to understand that it’s okay to fail along the way and make mistakes. It’s common. We all have to face a bug or have had a problem that stumped us. It’s about taking time to be thoughtful and understanding the processes that help you solve the problem and just learning from it. You can learn from bugs and it doesn’t mean that you don’t belong. Make them a learning opportunity!
“There is a major gender gap in the industry, so it’s important that we celebrate women doing incredible things. That way younger generations of girls can see what an amazing industry this is and how much impact one can have on the world as a woman in tech.” (Laura Medalia for Elle, July 2017)