I attended a Women Who Code (WWC) Lightning Talks event last night in Roppongi, Tokyo.
The event was titled “How do you start a career in tech?”
Since that just so happens to be a direct quotation of what I keep wondering I had to attend.
I thought it would be a great chance to hear stories from those who had transitioned into a career in tech from other fields.
I was right.
It featured lightning talks (around 10 minute brief presentations) from 6 women:
1. Introduction to the Software Development world
Tutti Quintella @tuttiq (Software Developer at Quipper)
2. Building dev skills while staying at your current job
3. Hack your career: teach yourself coding!
Kate Gamo (Java Developer at Yamato, Ltd.)
4. University of Chicago, current Computer Science student
Bing Wang (Joining us with a video submission from Chicago!)
5. What are/were key factors in my career development? and Lessons and Learned
Takako Nishio (Executive Officer and VP, Grow / Protect Technology Program Management at MetLife Insurance)
6. And We Still Have to Give Birth
Yan Fan @yanarchy (CTO & Co-founder at Code Chrysalis)
Details taken from the event page here.
It was only an hour but I feel like I got a lot from that time. All of the speakers did a great job introducing themselves, their story and giving advice to the many people in the room who didn’t raise their hands when asked “Do you currently work in tech?”
Tutti gave a great overview of the kinds of software there are and the kind of languages that are used in them. It contained a lot of information but it left me with the overall feeling that there are loads of options and no way is the “right way”.
The thing that stayed with me the most from many of the talks was how quickly many of the speakers had transitioned from other career fields into technology – around a year for many people.
Also, they all had different journeys and different stories. Some had done coding bootcamps and some had attended coding schools. Others had self-studied while working their current jobs.
Particularly, Lena talked about how she kept her current job while studying coding in her free time. Then she worked on her own projects and she found problems she had in her work or in her life. Processes she could find ways to improve or make more efficient or automated.
Bing built upon this by mentioning that you can try to help open source projects and contribute code. If your code is used to improve it this can show your real-life application of your coding skills.
Kate mentioned about learning to code to do things that interested her in Swift for mobile applications. Then as she learned more she realised she needed a broader range of skills and joined a coding school to prepare before landing her current job.
The final presentation resonated with me. It was by Yan (who runs the Code Chrysalis coding bootcamp that started in Japan in 2017).
She mentioned that she had a first couple of months of attending meetups, daydreaming, studying a little then stopping for weeks. Then, she got serious and knuckled down to study properly. And then she got good enough to enter a good coding bootcamp in the US.
I feel a little like I am still in the more “casual” phase of:
- Fitting in a little studying in my lunch break at work
- Spending a few hours at the weekend to study online courses and read books
- Attending meetups to learn a bit and meet new people.
Most of the presenters and the audience seemed to be in their 20’s or possibly early 30’s – all just starting to build careers. So to hear Takako’s speech which chronicled her 30 year career in tech was very enlightening. We heard about the moves she had made over the years and why. Also, how she had to make sacrifices to live her dream of working abroad.
Takako mentioned how technical skills are a must – those skills are a prerequisite for any tech job. But it is the soft skills (and people skills) that are the key to unlocking your career potential. So, self-reflection is so important: celebrating your strong points and identifying your weak points so you can improve.
Yan’s speech ended by saying about how only around 25% of tech related jobs are going to women. Also that there is a huge economic gap between men and women in general, not just in Japan (which ranked 114 out of 144 in the Gender Equality Ranking in 2017). It made me grateful that these kinds of events exist and there is a community in Toyko for women interested in technology.