How I almost wouldn’t still be in the industry.
TL;DR: I had a horrible onboarding experience - and the only reason I stayed was an amazing team that shifted my perspective of what working in the tech industry could and should look like for everyone. You can find the love letter to my team below 💌
Before getting into tech, I had heard many rumours about it that felt pretty abstract to me at the time. Coming from a communications agency where the staff was 95% female (except management, of course, go figure), I couldn’t really imagine what it would be like to work in a male dominated place, or what inequality at the workplace could look like on a daily basis.
So when I started my first job in tech after a 3 month programming bootcamp, I wasn’t entirely surprised to find myself on a team as the only woman. Since I had nothing to compare my experience to or knew anybody in the industry, I thought, maybe, that’s the way it’s supposed to be. Maybe the harsh jokes, the rough tone and the underlying aggression was something I would have to get used to.
I was doubting myself and my ability to fit in. I was pretty miserable and felt left alone with a non-existing onboarding and the jokes that now slowly shifted in my direction as well. When I asked how I could help with a coding issue, I was told (in what I can only hope was an odd joke) that I should “go get a beer” for one of my colleagues. During a discussion at a meeting (where I was only ever introduced as ‘some apprentice’ when I was a fully paid Junior engineer), the client addressed me to see “So intern (yes, of course he didn’t know my name), have you ever heard of this?” (imagine ‘this’ to be a complex technology term) - and then I said yes, indeed, I had heard of it, he simply turned around again and said “No, I don’t think so”.
These things might appear small to you. But to me, who had no context of the industry, knew nobody in the entire company and was trying to do the best she could during her first weeks on a new job, this was hell. And I thought a lot about quitting. If this was, what I signed up for, I’d rather go back to marketing.
But luckily, it wasn’t.
I got transferred to another team a month after. And the contrast could not have been any greater. That team, the atmosphere there, their openness, patience and kindness is the reason I am still in the company, probably in the entire industry, to be honest.
From day one, I was welcomed with open arms and made to feel like I belong. I literally felt like they had adopted me. Before really knowing me, they stood up for me, constantly checked in with me and made sure I was ok. I literally couldn’t believe what was happening. And that it was possible to be so starkly different from what I had just experienced days ago.
I feel like this - now ‘my’ - team managed to normalize speaking up about feeling mistreated. There are still things going wrong - like everywhere, but there is an underlying willingness to reflect, to improve and to be kind that makes it a lot easier to bear that of course, we are all still (and always will be) learning how to make our workplaces more inclusive and open for everyone.
If you made through my rant and cheesy love letter to my team, I would like you to take away this: very small things matter. Especially in the beginning. Be mindful of how you talk to newbies, what you indent to be a joke might not be to them. And make an effort to let people know you care. Today is a good day to start 🚀