• Natalie Wild

Women of Tech Meets: Tanya - Back End Developer

Tanya has also recently embarked on a new journey. The journey of being a parent.

I recently caught up with Tanya.

Tanya is a passionate self-taught Back End Developer based in Southampton, UK, who brings ideas to life programming in Ruby and Elixir, describing Elixir as "a language that works well with my mind."

Tanya works full time from her home as a contractor, and is evidently enjoying it very much though admits that it has taken a long time and a lot of learning to reach this point of having a set up that really works for her. She and her partner, also a full time contract programmer, own a software development company together.

As well as taking on contracts and enjoying the flexibility that comes with it, Tanya also works with her partner on creating exciting software products that they sell through their company.

Before coming to the UK, Tanya was born and raised in Ukraine.

Why did you decide to embark on a career in Tech?

“When I was young I didn’t know what I want to do, somehow I end up studying Engineering at uni. When I finished university, there were no jobs available, so I ended up working as Secretary, sometimes finding it hard to motivate myself and feeling as though there was not much room for learning and I really wanted a different routine and more flexibility. My sister did programming in Ruby and was absolutely loving it, so I asked her about it, she supported me in my decision to start programming career and ended up teaching me the basics.

There was only so much that she could help me with before I needed to find out more on my own. Challenging 2 years of reading books, going through online courses and various online tutorials to start getting it, but the goal to get a first job in programming was set and there were no way I would give up... I arrived in the UK with no work experience in tech and no job but motivated to learn what I need and work hard to get my first programming job.”

What would you say is your long term career goal?

“At the moment we are selling a product which we created and developing at our company, turning it into an amazing learning platform and my source of income is my current goal”

What has been your most career-defining moment that you are proud of?

“Realising that I can do this. There was that moment where it all just seemed to come together, I understood this, and I can do this”.

What challenges have you faced in the tech workplace, and how did you overcome them?

“When I initially started out in my tech career I was the only girl in the tech team at the company I worked at, and I hadn’t worked out a way to communicate with my colleagues effectively. I sometimes would overthink some behavior, what I said or someone else said..

After realising that “if in doubt, ask direct and clarify”, I figured that most situations were over thought by me and never been an issue. After being direct with my colleagues, my life got really easy and I never had any issues or misunderstandings which were not resolved”

What is the biggest deterrent in your opinion to women succeeding in the tech workplace?

“I can’t speak for all women but for me; I am conscious that there is a movement happening for women working in tech, which is really great, but it does make me wonder when it comes to being awarded a place to speak at a tech conference, whether I was offered the place because I am a woman and the conference organisers have a diversity box they want to tick or a diversity quota to meet, or genuinely because I was the best candidate - I want it to be because of the knowledge, technical skills and experience I have but I am not always sure.

We need a diversity of thoughts in tech community, instead of just focusing on a diversity based on skin colour, sex or disability..”

What is the one piece of advice that you wish that somebody had given you at the start of your career?

“Do not be afraid to ask questions, even if you think they sound stupid. And also understand that men and women think differently, women do have a tendency to worry and overthink about things in a very different way to men, we overthink about silly things. Instead of sometimes worrying about silly things and letting that distract, just clarify your understanding, for example ‘hey you know yesterday at the end of the day and I left without saying bye, sorry if that seemed rude’ and nearly all the time they’ll be like ‘no, didn’t bother me at all’.”

What do you love the most about working in tech?

“I love that I am learning all of the time, there is always something new to master! I love that I can make life easier for people by automating boring tasks that they hate and it’s a really rewarding feeling to be able to solve problems like that.”

Is there anything that you aren’t particularly fond of?

“I am really happy now with what I am doing, I feel in a good place. It has taken a long time and a lot of hard work to get here. One thing I dislike is when people bring politics into tech.”

What do you think companies should be doing to encourage women to want to work for them?

“Offer free workshops that have value where people can learn, but don’t just limit them to women, allow children and men come along and learn together. I think it’s important to have a work space where women genuinely feel welcome, but don’t isolate a woman or give her some special attention because she is a woman.”

I understand it can sometimes be difficult to find suitable opportunities in this industry. When it comes to searching for your next opportunity how do you go about your search? Do you have any tips for women seeking new opportunities?

“I would say, that I have tips which would work for anyone.

Spend time building your online profile, and create an online presence, have a portfolio of your work online and keep your CV up to date. In the past, when searching for the next job opportunity, I have created a list of companies or brands that I would like to work for based on what they do, their values and work culture and narrow it down to one or two.

I then researched those companies in detail before approaching them. Even if they didn’t have a job open that I wanted I’d approach them to show my interest, find out if they might be interested in having me on board, use the knowledge gained from the research to impress them. In the past, I did get a job from one of the companies which didn’t have any job opportunities advertised and other times I got jobs I really wanted based on my thorough preparation”

What did you study at University?

“I have a degree in electronic engineering, which isn’t directly related to what I do now but there is some crossover.

With programming I am self-taught but when I needed help with something I would seek it out, which could have been taking a class or a short course.”

It was an absolutely delight to speak with Tanya. I could really feel the passion and enjoyment she has for her work and her learning, and I wish her all the best with her career development.

At the time of initially speaking with Tanya, she was quite heavily pregnant and very excitedly awaiting the arrival of her first child, and I'm pleased to share that since our catch up, Tanya has delivered a healthy baby girl. Mother, Father and baby are doing very well.