Ouafae explains to us how it is like to work in the Tech industry as a women and how she thinks the gender gap will involve in the future.
Can you please introduce yourself?
I am Ouafae (pronounced Wafaa :) ). I am from Morocco and I graduated as a Software Engineer. I have worked at homify for two years as an Android developer.
What do you enjoy most about working in tech?
One of the main reasons is to be able to work at the cutting-edge of research and innovation. Especially in mobile, there are new updates all the time, breaking boundaries and improving our everyday lives. One particular key goal is the challenge: how the variety and complexity of the technology systems can throw up some unusual and puzzling situations. So there is a lot of problem-solving involved. I also love the variety when working in IT since it overlaps with virtually every other industry.
Did you always know you wanted to work in tech?
Not at all, it was a coincidence :). In the first two years at university, I majored in Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics. In the third year, you had to choose a specific bachelor program. My choice was Physical Chemistry but there was a misunderstanding in the process and I was assigned to the MI: Mathematics Technology of Information. Since this was the only engineering program that did not contain physics (my all the time nightmare) and also a new highly acclaimed program, I decided not to change. Then I got hooked on programming after attending the first class of algorithms.
How is it like working in tech as a woman?
I remember when a friend complained during System Admin class from some misogynistic comments, the professor warned us to get ready to hear that at university and later at work. When I later moved to study in France or work in Norway, I discovered that in the Western world the tech industry is often portrayed as chiefly a male career option and women who decide to study or work in IT compared to countries like India are rare. This lack of balance is unlikely to be a pure coincidence and has a couple of consequences. As a woman, for instance, there is certain cultural conditioning we have to overcome in order to feel we have a place. Having said that I think it is mostly subtle and barely have any impact on your everyday life. The tech scene is a relatively new industry, filled with young, open/forward-thinking people. The first computer programmer was a woman Ada Lovelace, so I think IT is an ideal career choice for women and I encourage all of them to try a workshop to judge for themselves.
Do you think there is a lack of women in this industry?
According to the study "Women in Tech Index" the percentage of women tech workers in Germany is 16.58%. So it appears as a major gender gap. Over the year there has been a big change. There is awareness of the issue now and everyone is implementing different strategies to attract and keep women in tech jobs: workshops, events, women-centric tech communities.
Where do you see the future of women working in tech?
Many experts think that to close the gender gap, it's important to focus on fostering interests in technology and sciences in girls from a young age, and to work to counter negative perceptions they might start developing later. There are many initiatives like the "Girls who code" organization or MIT women's technology program for students etc. I try to get involved in these activities and I did notice that girls loved interacting with computers and writing programs. So I am optimistic about the next generations.
What challenges have you faced in the workplace - in a male-dominated industry?
Well, I think even when women do swim against the current and succeed in entering the field of software, they often encounter these same patterns and biases in the workplace. You can experience the "Imposter Syndrome" especially in the beginning or feel that you need to do more to prove yourself...But this bias is implicit and unconscious. The tech scene, especially startups, are filled with young innovative people that respect new concepts and hard work, irrespective of gender, age, experience.
What advice do you have for young women that want to start a career in tech?
I would say ignore the misconceptions and recognize that we all contain multitudes. There is no rule saying that if you like fashion, you can't like algorithms for example. Don't be afraid of making mistakes and own up to them. There’s no better way to learn and to grow than trying and making mistakes. Stand up for yourself. There is so much documentation to read, so many algorithms to consider, so many online programming quizzes to practice. So it is okay with not being the smartest person or the perfect developer that knows everything regardless that you are a minority. Forget that you are and you will get support when you remember. Finally, you don't know what fantastic, creative and well-paid jobs you are missing out on. There is room in this industry for anyone that enjoys tech and is capable of working in a team. This can seem easier said than done but I highly encourage any woman to give it a chance. Whether you just participate in a tech workshop or you apply for a job, do the first step and let this be just the beginning :)