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Alyssa Mazzina
Alyssa Mazzina

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Nevertheless, Alyssa Mazzina...Wrote About Code

I was an English major in a small town, and I didn't want to be a teacher. As such, my entire existence was enormously confusing to most people.

What else do you do with an English degree?

I looked at local career options and found them uninspiring, so I figured I'd create my own option: I got a temp job as a secretary and hustled my way into a role of my own creation, writing outreach materials for the university's admissions office. I introduced the admissions office to social media, piloted a student blogging program, and really brought my little school into the 21st century in terms of its marketing and outreach. I did that for 11 years!

But I wanted more. I was underpaid and underappreciated, I'd risen as far as I could rise where I was, and I wanted out of academia, anyway. Tech is where the money is, right?

By 2014, the remote work movement was really gaining traction. I began applying for content writing and marketing jobs at tech companies, remote roles, as I didn't want to relocate. I like my home, my family has roots here, and I'm more than a little stubborn. I wanted to do rewarding work on my own terms, and for the first time in history, that was a possibility for somebody like me.

So here I am, an English major with no coding skills, who refuses to relocate to a big city...and I want a career in tech? Let the eye-rolling commence.

I wasn't a programmer, but I was already a modestly successful blogger, and active on Twitter. I revised my resume and wrote a blog post packaging my skills and experience to show their relevance to the technology industry. Using those credentials to connect with and impress the right people, I managed to land myself a job as "Content Engineer" at a small software company in New York. It was my first remote job and my first tech job, and I loved it.

Since that first role, I've built my career as a content marketer specializing in Developer Marketing. I still can't code a single line. But I've spent 5+ years now working closely with developers, and I know them well enough to write to their voices. I took my existing expertise---writing---and through online courses, a lot of reading, and a little bit of fake-it-til-you-make-it, I developed and honed that skillset to meet the needs of the industry.

The Stigma of Marketing in Tech

"Marketing isn't really tech." I've heard it. I know the stereotypes. I've met plenty of developers who might respect me as a writer and a professional but despise marketing as a whole. This is a challenge for me, and I love a challenge. I haven't had anybody work with me long and maintain that stance, because I really am there to do the same thing they are: help improve people's lives with software. They build the software, and I get the message out.

Here's the other stereotype: I'm a woman. You've heard the anecdotes. A woman walks into a room full of devs and they assume she's in marketing. It's insulting, it's sexist. In my case, it's true.

I'm not a coder mistaken for a marketer. I really am a marketer. I am the punchline. It's insulting to assume somebody's vocation based on their gender, but that doesn't mean it's inherently insulting to call somebody a marketer. Without marketing, most coders would have a tough time finding profitable companies to work for. And in my experience, most coders recognize and respect that fact.

I'm proof that tech needs skills that aren't technical. There's a place here for a stubborn, small-town English major, and there's a place for you, too. You can work in this industry without learning to code, and without moving to San Francisco.

We hear a lot about STEM education and teaching girls to code, and I'm a huge proponent of that! The more we encourage girls to look at options that have been traditionally male-dominated, the better. But there's nothing wrong with other, traditionally feminine paths, and there are many skills and talents outside of the STEM box that are needed to run software businesses. Writing is one. And the thing about companies run by great developers is great developers respect excellence in all forms; they recognize their need for non-technical skills, and want to pay us well for them.

A Warm Welcome

The entire technical community has accepted me with open arms. I go to software conferences and read software blogs and follow software people on Twitter. I insinuate myself into Slack channels for developers and invite myself to dev events. And I have never been made to feel less than.

Part of that is my sparkling personality, obviously. But let me compare it to the first half of my career, in academia: Professors with PhD's, and especially male professors, in my experience, typically do not hold the skills of their secretaries and outreach writers in high regard.

There are always some who do; I realize these are generalities, and I absolutely worked with some professors who appreciated my colleagues and me. But overwhelmingly, academics like to be gatekeepers. You can't get in without the right titles and degrees, and no matter how good you are at whatever it is you do, it's not on the same level as what they do.

In tech, that simply has not been my experience. Overwhelmingly, the people I have encountered in the past 5 years have been openly appreciative and enthusiastic about what I can do. I haven't had developers look down their noses at me the way professors used to. What I've found is developers who are excited to share their knowledge, and excited to work with a professional writer who can help make their words shine.

My favorite corner of the developer community, though, is the other women in tech. I've met women from all over the world, with different backgrounds, different skills, different goals. Some are technical, some are not. But what we have in common is that we bring our unique skills and experiences to a realm that's traditionally been male.

The tech industry is not a boys' club. The tech industry is the future, and extraordinary women from all walks of life should have seats at the table. I'm proud to be one of them.

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