In my first four years in tech I have had 6 different jobs. A startup that I had to leave because I was moving with my husband to a new city so he could start law school: 8 months. A contractor position with a Fortune 500 company where the client didn't know what they wanted and I was bored out of my mind: 4 months. A chaotic small business contract to hire position with a 1 hour commute where management lost a major contract shortly after I left: 6 months. A start-up that was acquired 4 months into my employment that flipped the entire company culture upside down and added 30 male devs to the team when there were only 3 women devs to begin with: 6 months. A tiny startup where I got to do meaningful work but finances were unstable: 8 months. Then my current job: TBD.
I would be lying if I said it wasn't extremely difficult at times, and the job hunting did a number on my self esteem again... and again.. and again. Somehow recruiters were only reaching out to me when I WASN'T looking for a job. If you asked me why I kept going during some of those lows my answer wouldn't have been very inspirational. I needed a job and programming was my skill set. I figured if I had gotten programming jobs before, I could get them again. It wasn't that I was bursting with confidence or believed in a higher purpose or anything like that. I just needed a job. Period.
Often what kept me going was my projects on the side. I have played games since I was a kid and the first time I remember being truly proud of myself as a programmer was when I finished my Hnefatafl project, a website where you could play the ancient Viking board game Hnefatafl, where the board highlighted where your pieces could move and adhered to the ancient game mechanics. I didn't believe I could do it, but then I proved to myself that I was wrong. I took a leap of faith and I came out on the other side.
For me that was a pivotal moment, and I hope I can encourage other women out there to take that leap of faith. The path ahead of me was unclear, but once I completed that project that I didn't believe I could complete I knew that I was more powerful than I thought I was and that just because the path was unclear didn't mean it was a bad one or that it meant I would regret it afterward.
I faced and continue to face plenty of sexism in my career. I have had coworkers rub their leg against mine and then act like it was an accident. I have watched my male coworkers convene with my male CTO in a glass office directly in front of me without a bat of an eye and come out sober faced without telling me a word of what transpired. I have had past CEO's walk directly past me to talk to my male coworkers like I was invisible. One of my most vivid memories was when a CEO of a gaming startup who I had been excited to do work for proceeded to pluck a hair from his female coworkers breast at an event with a wry "sorry, I just had to do that."
Yet despite all of that, I have continued to code. I have tripled my salary since I entered the world of web development 4 years ago. I have made applications that I stand behind both morally and professionally, that I look back on knowing they will help make the world a better place. I am proud of the work that I have done, and I even started to write a book to help more women find their way in this career path. I hope to be able to finish it in the next couple of years. Helping more women enter this field is the only way it will ever get better, and its the only path forward so it is what I will continue to do. I hope that women won't read this and be afraid but instead be motivated, because if I did it then you can too.