While this makes me incredibly nervous to write, I really want to get my thoughts out and let others know that they aren't alone in this uphill battle of breaking into the tech industry. There are a few reasons why I have, on multiple occasions, considered leaving the tech industry, despite loving the people I have interacted with.
Through the past few months, I have interviewed with so many different companies and have learned so much about how the process is broken. I have been thrown into surprise white-boarding sessions, under the guise that I was just going to be having an informal interview. I applied to a program that said they are specifically looking for underrepresented minorities and career changers, only to lose the position to a man who had more experience. In another case, I was already helping a department do a job that they were hiring for, but they ended up passing on me because of lack of experience, even though the other candidate didn't have experience with that technology. The only bit of feedback I have EVER been given after asking has been, "we went with someone with more experience." In some cases, this is true, in some cases, this was a cover up and they didn't want to give me an actual reason why they wanted to pass on me. I have been feverishly contributing to OSS projects to get more "experience" and working on projects with remote teams, but not even this shows that I have enough experience to be considered. In the end it is just incredibly frustrating when all people care about is years of experience. In some cases, I would make it to the final interview and the company didn't even ask for my work, but assumed that I lacked the experience.
Another factor for me that has been hard, coming from Hawaii, is living in a city and trying to break into an industry that is predominantly white. I had the privilege of being part of the majority in Hawaii, I had never experienced being other-ed until moving to Portland. Some will argue that race doesn't make a difference in the hiring process, but you also have to understand that people raised in different cultures just present themselves differently. I have had to learn through trial and error, how to talk about myself in interviews because as a Japanese-American I was raised to never put the spotlight on myself. I have been told in interviews that is better to pushback if you have a lot of work, rather than to just do the tasks you are assigned like how I was raised. I was told never to complain about anything, so pushing back is something I am not used to and have to learn. The way you interview is also affected by representation on the hiring team. This may just be me, but I know I feel better when someone on the hiring team looks like me because I can relate to them better. When NO ONE on the hiring team looks like you, it brings questions to your mind if you can actually be successful at that company.
Regardless of all these feelings of wanting to quit, I won't because I want more people like me to feel welcome in tech. It is definitely hard to encourage people to keep working hard to enter tech, when I am having such a hard time, but I am hoping one day it will finally work out. I am hoping that one day, I can mentor other underrepresented minorities in tech. I am hoping to use my meetup group as a vessel to help propel people into tech. I just want to show people that if I can do it...so can they. I will continue to code, because I want to continue to inspire.