I read two awesome posts here and here, about Women in IT this week as part of SQL University (which is an awesome resources), written by Jes Borland (blog | twitter) and Julie Smith (blog | twitter) and I can’t help but feel nostalgic and proud of the fact that I, too, work in this very rewarding field.
I sent the link of the blog to my high school friend and she was very impressed (she’s currently a teacher at our high school and I have promised to keep her nameless.) She wanted me to write something so she can show it to her class as an example that Women (and men) can have a very rewarding career on Information Technology or IT.
Let me share a little bit of my background. I’m originally from Jakarta, Indonesia. Growing up in the culture that women did not an have equal opportunity with men (sad, but true), we were taught to go to school so we can meet ‘nice gentlemen’. When I was in high school, a lot of my friends were choosing a management school (so they can meet nice gentlemen,) or nursing school (because that’s where most girls go.) The idea that us girls could go to any engineering school, medical school, or computer science school were far from reality since there wouldn’t be a future for us (that was the exact word from my high school counselor at the time.) Well, I was always a rebel, and I was always fascinated with math and science so I figured, what the heck – I’m going to do it anyway.
I did a lot learning on my first year in college, but what challenged me the most was my class in Information System Management category. Anything related with data management always fascinated me. It was supposed to be an elective since I haven’t picked my major yet, but then I took my first programming class and I found my first love. Basic, Pascal, RPG, CoBol, C, Assembler. Ahh. I did them all. I felt like I went to a different country and learn their language. My first real relationship was with my Commodore 64. I treasured that baby the same way I treasured my BMX bike.
Fast forwarded a few years, I finally graduated with Computer Science major and ready to conquer the world. The word of my high school counselor was ringing in my head. There is no future for me, since nobody will hire me. I was not ‘wife’ material in my hometown standard at the time, so I was kinda screwed. Then it dawned on me. I should look for an entry level job at some American company with the hope that they will see past the gender, since well, they are American, right? I did find the job but I spent my first 3 months just really mastering how to make my boss’s coffee perfect and schedule his meetings. I was hired as data entry, but I ended up as his personal assistant until one day, he was replaced by Suzanne Reynolds, who I owed a lifetime of gratitude (Jes, I’m borrowing your term here). She was my mentor, my teacher and someone that believe in me while I started to doubt myself.
I soaked so much knowledge during the period I worked there, learned about DB2 and database management system as a concept and it’s like another world just open for me. I moved to a different company three years later and primarily worked with Access database and VBA. I quickly realized the limitation of MS Access and started to poke my head around to SQL Server and there’s no going back from there. Within six months, I relocated from Jakarta, Indonesia to Miami, Florida on my own, not knowing any soul, half across the world from my family to do things that I love to do and the rest is history. I truly enjoy my job and this is a very rewarding field. Yes, not all my previous jobs were unicorn and rainbow but I always tried to learn from each and one of them and take the good and rid the ugly. Today, I can really say that I’m at a point of my career that I’m very proud of and so glad that I was a rebel 20 something, years ago, and listened to my guts on pursuing what I love to do. Jes was dead on about the mentor. I am trying to be one right now and I am a living proof on the outcome of someone that have one growing up.
I am a mama of two young daughters and I want them to understand about what I do and how much I love what I do. And for all the student of my high school, do not be shy, go after your own dreams. The counselors are not always right, women can and do succeed in this world in fields you would never think of. I don’t know much about engineering or medical field so I can’t speak on their behalf, but I know about IT field and I love it. It is very rewarding and it’s not all doom and gloom. The image of the IT professional working in the dungeon and getting isolated from the rest of the world are not true. I know the challenges of my hometown are tougher due to cultural differences but where there’s a will, there’s always the way and I am more than welcome to answer any questions for you.
Not too long ago, I was one of you. A shy girl from a village, outside Jakarta. You too, can be where I am today.