I coded for the first time when I was 15 years old. I still remember the feeling of awe of my first "hello world". 16 years later, I still get this feeling that I create "magical" things that work wonderfully together out of pure logic. I find coding very satisfactory. Sometimes it's hard and quite frustrating, but I have always felt passionate about it. I always try to code my best, I care about the end product and about the good things I can put in it.
Over a year and a half ago, I was working in a company where I was the only female developer. I was working on a less important product than the rest of the team and even though I was the only person working on it nobody reviewed my code. Nevertheless, I always coded my best and requested several times to work on other products, not because those were more important, but because they represented a far better challenge, and I felt that I could both provide more value to the company and grow as a developer.
After a few months, they finally moved me into the frontend team. I was given a more challenging task and I was thrilled! I worked very hard and I put a lot of love and effort in the task, I took into account every tiny detail, every edge case and every scenario. When I finally pushed a PR(it was the first PR my coworkers would code-review!), it was incredibly important for me. One of the guys in my team said out loud: "Congrats Laura... your first PR!"... and everything was perfect for the first few minutes.
My team lead was backing up every line of code like he had written them himself. The iOS dev finally went back to his computer, either convinced or defeated, I don't know. I tried not to make much of it in that moment, it was after all a very interesting and challenging task.
As I was explaining my every line of code, sadness invaded me when I realized that my work was being evaluated with different standards just because of my gender.
In a minute, I was overwhelmed with impostor syndrome, with a sense of not being good enough, with the certainty of not being at the same level than my coworkers. I questioned myself as a developer, as a professional and as a software engineer.
Relief came to me when I realized that my team lead was there all the time backing up my work. My PR got reviewed, approved and merged first thing the next day, the task was successfully demoed and I even got special props from the designer because it looked pixel perfect.
I tried to move on to the next task like nothing happened, but I was always afraid of being under scrutiny. Nevertheless, I eventually became one of the most reliable members of the team.
To this day, I am honestly not sure if the iOS dev did that because I was the only female on the team or if he had other reasons, but the most important thing I learned that day was that one single person's actions can make you or break you. I felt diminished by that man’s actions but on the other hand, I felt deeply respected by my team lead. My team lead gave me the balance and support I needed to get through that moment even if I didn't realized it at first.
I don't know if what he did to support me was the best course of action but it helped. For that, I will be forever thankful to him.
I believe that people that have non-explicit discrimination attitudes do not discriminate consciously. They do it out of sheer habit, because it has always been that way, because these bias are deeply rooted in society and people minds.
When people realizes that they are unconsciously perpetuating the problem and they start consciously minding the effect that words and actions have on other people, they can make a huge difference.
I moved on with my life. I am now working in a different place, a fantastic start-up full of mindful and wonderful people, where everybody's work is highly respected, where an opinion from our intern is as important as an opinion from our CTO where everyone receives and offers constructive criticism.
I wish everyone could work in a place like that. I hope that people like my former team lead flood the tech community and back up people like he did with me, because we all deserve respect.