I’ve mentioned some of my unpleasant experiences of the last month In my previous post, and my lightning talk in the one before that. The idea behind the lightning talk is that anyone, as an individual, can contribute towards the better future and more equal society by protecting their children, and the children around them, from the pressure of the current society. By simply buying “boy toys” for the girls, and vice versa. The idea is that the children should choose what they like, what would they like to do in the future, not the society.
This is not just about the lack of women in IT or in STEM. This goes both ways. I may not have the first hand experience of growing up and trying to pursue theatre, arts, or dancing as a boy, but I bet that it wasn’t easy for those who did. We’re all unique individuals and we all would like to express ourselves in one way or another. We should have the freedom to do so without the praying eyes and gossips of the society.
What was your experience growing up? Did you encounter some form of pressure from the society that you did not like? Would something be different if you didn’t? Please do share your stories with me, I’m interested in hearing more about these issues, both about women in tech, or in general as I described above… Do you know of other similar issue that I did not suggest?
My story was simple, actually. I grew up in very open minded family, where my sisters and I had the balance of toys since very young age. I’ve “inherited” their toys as I was the youngest, and among those were not only dolls of various kinds, but also cars, a remote controlled formula for example… It never really worked well because it was old and frankly I didn’t know how to get it to turn properly, it was bork most of its lifetime. It didn’t change anything and I still went out to try it outdoors, and had fun with my neighbours - mostly boys. A bit later as I grew up I received my own RC car, a jeep of sorts with big fat wheels. That was a bit more durable, and I had a classmate, a girl who was interested in it as well. It got bork. I tried to fix it. It got bork again. I tried to…. it was a loop, it had very fragile piece of plastic that was attached to the front wheels, and in the middle servo motor was steering with it. That got bork right in the middle. Used all kinds of glues, even tried to use metal wire heated up and merged with the plastic… Real engineering huh.
I also had this cool LEGO space shuttle. To this day I’m a space geek and I cried a few days ago when the first flight of Falcon Heavy went almost perfectly. The third, core booster didn’t survive the landing. I’m looking forward to hearing what went wrong there.
I grew up with this really old Atari which I can barely remember. We played all kinds of funny silly games with my sisters and neighbours - they had SEGA *nods*
My mum had desktop computer she used for work to type some documents and what not, MS DOS on i8386. Played this funny rabbit game on it. When I was a little bit older I spent every summer in Bratislava with my aunt, who was organizing these “day-camps” where parents would leave their kids in the morning and pick them up in the evening. It was digital holiday for the kids, I was helping out and teaching them a bit about digital photography, we had a bunch of these plastic 480p digital cameras in the age when everyone used standard film eh… We’ve done some basic editing on computers, kids loved to morph people in the pictures - make em fat or super slim, etc. This was the first time that I’ve met with programming, we also had lego that had all kinds of computery modules, motors, sensors, and you could program it and make an actual car that would move and avoid obstacles. Between the summer holidays I also tried to do a bit of my own programming - a game where a bear would run through maze and collect diamonds and progress to the next level.. As the time went on, I also created a website that is still running in production even today. I was still in elementary school back then.
I’ve met some friends, and followed them to technical high school where I had some IT oriented classes, such as Pascal, Delphi, HTML and CSS, PHP, AutoCAD, OrCAD, … oh and assembler too. Plenty of physics and math. I followed them to university as well! It was easy for me as I’ve had plenty of math and physics already, but I got stolen by a game development studio after only 3 years.
I took the opportunity and I got to work on Angry Birds, it was really steep learning curve. Then there was a bit of World of Tanks, a bunch of prototypes, and some mobile games. I started as a noob C++ programmer, and ended up being not-so-bad C# programmer. It was nice experience professionally, but an awful one personally. I had much much lower salary than anyone else around me, and close to no respect. I left to try to work my own way and took a contract to work with US based small studio, with just 4 programmers. They wanted me for that I had quite a lot of experience in Unity3D while none of their programmers did. I built nice gui system of screens, and they refused to use it. They chose to hardcode everything and abuse the editor. So much for providing my experience with Unity huh? I left after less than two months, as I didn’t want to put up with that, and already had second offer on the table from Red Hat. I declined the first one because I really wanted to work remotely, you see, I have a boyfriend in Sweden (many years now!) and so I wanted to be able to go there for longer periods of time. And so I am remote employee who lives 5 minutes from the office (okay granted, it’s 5 minutes only on my bike, jumping all the staircases on the way and racing it…)
Next? What’s next… err… I’m actually starting on a new position within Red Hat in a month. I’m going from .NET Engineer to .NET Engineer!! \o/ lol :D
I found myself in some disagreements about two different and yet similar topics.
In the first one the discussion was about sexism at workplace, such as specifically men commenting on women’s bodies. On this topic I would like to emphasize the difference between polite complement (you look great in this dress / nice new hairstyle / love that skirt) and sexist comment (your ass looks good in that skirt, …) I would be really sad if people (of any gender) would stop complimenting one another. If I were to imagine an extreme future, I would be accused of being sexist because I smiled at someone at work. Why? Well it could suggest that I want to go to a storage room with them to do something… Simply put, nice gentle compliment is welcome, please, do not stop =)
The second issue was about a label that could be interpreted in a few different ways. One is that the author was trying to point out that the girls are welcome in IT, and the other is that it’s sexist. Most people in the discussion assumed the worst, without knowing the context, the place where it was, etc… I do know the details so it touched my heart when they started to insult everything around that it’s demeaning, sexist, derogatory, etc etc etc… Please let’s not go that route :< Even if you dislike something or disagree with it, please don’t insult it, and the people connected to it.
It’s very much the same with my job. Many people in Open Source and around Linux simply plain hate Microsoft and their products. Comments like “microsoft girl infiltrating open source” are my daily bread. Both sexist and microsoft-hateful. Why do you insult someone who’s trying to make FLOSS a better place? Please don’t let these legacy feelings cloud your judgement. I’m not insulting Python programmers either, even though they don’t have brackets.
Let’s all contribute and make everything around us a little bit better? Whether it’s FLOSS or the streets around you. Pick up that empty bottle and take it to a trash can, rubbish, litter, whatever you call it. Let’s not go too far with women-protection and anti-sexism either. We’re actually strong you know, we can speak up! All that said, equality does not mean that men should be assholes and slam the door in front of girl’s face. Hold it, be the gentleman. I don’t know how others but I appreciate that, I’m weak, despite being active mountain biker, I’m very weak and I often struggle with simple things like opening door, or… opening a bottle (which my boyfriend finds most amusing!)
Please get in touch with me if you would like to chat or if you have a problem you don’t know how to solve, or don’t have the courage to. I would love to help. And I like to meet new people and listen to their stories - if you’re in Brno we can grab a tea =)
If you’re in Brno and you’d like to learn some C# keep your eyes open! I’ll be spending some time to prepare C#-from-zero courses.
Oh and give me a shout if you’re looking for a fellow weak mountain biker who won’t leave you behind :D