Achieving Success

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“Define success on your own terms, achieve it by your own rules, and build a life you’re proud to live.” – Anne Sweeney (President of Walt Disney)

As most of us may have learned already, success is a subjective term that varies from one person to another based on their personal values and experiences. We must first ask ourselves:

What do we want to show the world, and why?
What impact can we create?
How can we grow from our goals?

Participants at AthenaHacks presenting to representatives from Microsoft!

“She needed a hero, so that’s what she became.” -Unknown source

Of course, we have plenty of opportunities to achieve success, and depending on our goals, we must remember that we do not necessarily have to be the hero to the world, if we can at least be a hero to ourselves. That includes working on our character in life, in school, and in the workplace environment. That includes taking care of ourselves. Here are some of the obstacles encountered by women in the field of technology, no matter their race, color, gender, or age:

They say “confidence is key” and that is incredibly true in the competitive, fast paced world of innovation and technology. Confidence allows us to overcome everything, if not most things. When we are confident, we are capable of standing up for ourselves, to speak up in a team setting, to sit in front of the room and participate in meetings, to ask for that promotion or gain what we deserve. As a female in a field of technology, we are considered a minority. We are surrounded by men, and it may seem daunting at times. We must remind ourselves to not be afraid to fight back for what we want.

Imposter syndrome
It’s easy, and very common for anyone in the world of tech to feel like they are incompetent and not suited for their position. They often compare themselves to others and forget that everyone needs to fail in order to succeed. There is a certain pressure and emotional distress that everyone faces in order to do well, and they often belittle and doubt their own accomplishments, claiming that they just got lucky. The sad thing is that no matter how old you are, you can face imposter syndrome.

Hacking together at SBHacks!

Sexism and Sexual Harassment
It is never easy speaking up about a serious issue such as sexism and sexual harassment, especially in an environment where one is outnumbered, and there is very little support for women. Women’s accomplishments may even be overlooked because of their gender. There are people that will claim that a female earned a position due to the fact that they are female, and that reduces their self esteem, as they belittle their own accomplishments.

Unfortunately, it is also easy to be a victim of sexual harassment in the workplace as a female. Luckily, I have not personally experienced this harassment, but we must understand that these occurrences are real. They exist, and they must be addressed.

Earlier this year, Susan J. Fowler, a former engineer at Uber, wrote a blog post about her experiences as an engineer at Uber. Fowler had shared her success story of standing up for herself and taking action against sexual harassment from her manager. Later on, she talks about her awful experience of having the situation sorted out with HR, as well as more sexist and unfair occurrences to herself and the other women at Uber. In the end, Fowler ends up leaving the company and shares the fact that, “out of over 150 engineers in the SRE teams, only 3% were women” (Fowler 2017).

Read more about Fowler’s story here.

A team at SBHacks discussing their project. 

“Do one thing every day that scares you.” – Eleanor Roosevelt (First Lady of The US, 1933 – 1945)
In a sense, it is only possible for us to overcome these personal struggles if we can move forward. For example, confidence can be regained and built upon if we can accomplish small projects and work our way up. It can definitely be intimidating to tackle huge projects and feel insecurity and failure if we are unable to finish it quickly. Here are some other ways to accomplish success as a women in tech:

Reaching Out
It’s scary asking for help. Believe it or not, asking for help is one of the things that people have a hard time saying. When you’re stuck on a problem, cannot find the bug, have trouble finding out where to start, or just need someone to talk to, it is always great to have another set of eyes and ears to help ease the stress that you are putting yourself through alone. Reaching out does not necessarily mean reaching out to a professor, a counselor, or a classmate, for it can mean just reaching out to a friend or family member for support during the rough times.

Participants at AthenaHacks talking to a staff member.

Find a support system, this means reaching out to other females, or even males in your field. Nowadays, it is not enough to earn the perfect grades in order to land your dream job. In the field of technology, it may take something as little as a referral or word of mouth from a colleague to land you an interview for a job or internship. Besides that, it is always great to have a network of friends, both male and female, who are interested in the same field as you are. It is already hard being a minority as well, so finding other females with the same passions is valuable. By connecting to other females, you are truly able to feel like you are not alone, and that you do not have to be afraid.

Attending Hackathons and Completing a Personal Project
Being able to complete a personal project in your free time is a HUGE accomplishment! It shows how you are willing to try new things on your free time. Even if you struggled along the way, it shows that you were willing to attempt to learn on your own. Having experience is crucial, and knowing that technology is growing each day gives us more reason to keep learning and exploring new projects. Hackathons are the best way for anyone to practice their skills outside of the academic setting while having fun and learning at the same time.

A participant at AthenaHacks presenting her project to representatives from Zynga!

When we are able to realize what is important to us, we will be able to get an idea of what we must do in order to obtain and accomplish what we desire, whether it be for a short term or long term. Success does not necessarily mean being the best programmer and discovering the fastest algorithm. Success can come from self improvement and acceptance within oneself, which can help you throughout your life as a woman in tech.