Throughout my early career, I never thought about working in technology.
I thought technology was for nerds. I thought technology was for men. I thought technology was people different than me – a millennial woman that liked being around people and enjoyed being active. Like many young professionals, I mistakenly thought technology wasn’t a viable or satisfactory option for my career or lifestyle goals.
The year I turned twenty-five, I got a chance to experience the tech world as a part of Silicon Valley startup team.
It was awesome.
It was exciting.
It was so me.
The people I met through my tech experience were really, really different than the tech-tracked software engineering students my university had publicized. Instead of being a homogenous group of calculus-crushing gamers, modern changemakers in technology were part of a vibrant and diverse community.
Slowly but surely, I began to recognize the many myths surrounding the world of technology that had prevented me from pursuing tech-based opportunities in my own career.
Here are popular four myths about working in technology:
You must be an introvert.
Technology professionals are often assumed to be extreme introverts – you know, people that prefer computers over face-to-face conversation:
1) So not true.
2) Despite what your high school guidance counselor may have told you, 21st-century organizational psychology has repeatedly refuted the erroneous idea that introversion vs. extraversion remains a major factor in profession selection success.
Let’s talk the people side of this argument: all technology, from building mobile apps to robotic engineering, is a type of functional interface between people or groups of people. Technology, like many other mechanized aspects of our workplace, revolves around people – what they like, how they interact, to optimize their capabilities. To be successful in technology, you need understand people (i.e., not be comfortable sitting behind a computer screen for all your waking hours).
Both extroverts and introverts can be incredibly successful in technology and the more connected they are to other people, the better their work can be. If you’re like me and love being around people – great, technology may be a good career option. If you’re like my husband and prefer individual work or small groups – great, technology may be a good career option.
You must be sedentary.
As a super active person, the fear of developing an office bod has been a strong determining factor in all my career decisions. I enjoy being on my feet, being outside, interacting with others, and living a very on-the-go lifestyle. For years, I mistakenly thought working in technology would prohibit me from remaining active.
News flash: Working in technology involves a lot more than hours of starring at a computer screen.
Tech professionals spend time networking with others, learning new skills, and interacting with market members – all things that go way beyond an 11” by 13” computer screen.
Recently, two of my friends (one middle school teacher, one physical therapist) and I kept a log on how much time we spent during the workday at our computers. The bet was that I – a tech professional – would log wayyyyy more screen time hours than my education and healthcare colleagues.
The kind of shocking results was that we all spent around 20 to 25 hours per week starring at our screens, even though I was the only one technically working in technology. Crazy, huh?
As our world becomes more and more computer-assisted, tech skills will continue to evolve from something only software engineers need to have into something everyone needs to have. According to Oxford University, 47 percent of current jobs won’t even exist in 25 years, as their becoming-obsolete functions will be replaced by technology. If it can be automated, it will be automated, courtesy of artificial intelligence. Developing effective tech skills will need to remain a big priority for modern professionals not expecting to retire in the next two decades.
You must be male.
The gender parity in technology isn’t awesome. It’s a very male-dominated male space. For decades the majority of tech leadership is primarily male – Zuckerberg, Jobs, Gates, and the list goes on and on.
Here are a few statistics demonstrating just how bad the tech gender gap really is:
- Women only own 5 percent of tech startups
- After peaking in 1991 at 36 percent, the rate of women in computing roles has been in steady decline. Today, women only hold 25 percent of all computing jobs (much lower percentage in leadership roles).
- In 2016, venture capitalists invested just $1.46 billion in women-led companies. Male-led companies earned $58.2 billion in investments.
- Women receive lower salary offers than men for the same job at the same tech company 63 percent of the time.
- The myth that women aren’t interested in technology isn’t true. About 74 percent of female students express interest in STEM fields and computer science; however, looking at the statistics, it’s quite obvious that women encounter some pretty serious deterrents along the way.
The myth that only men are suited to work in the world in technology has been quite (erroneously) propagated. Remember last year’s Google employee (James Damore)’s manifesto, detailing his misogynist views regarding that men are physiologically wired for technology and women are not?
Yeah. Unfortunately, he’s not the only one with these insanely archaic beliefs.
Like many other pioneering industries with the opportunity for high financial rewards in American history (defense, finance, oil, transportation), technology attracts a lot of money-hungry, power-wielding, bro fest kind of dudes; however, the state of one’s genitalia has ABSOLUTELY NO EFFECT on whether or not someone is intellectually capable of succeeding in technology.
So, if you’re a woman that’s interested in analytical processes and innovating opportunities that make our lives better, I encourage you to look past the whole “man’s world” myth and seriously consider how an education in technology could enhance your career. Yes, technology is still a very male-dominated space; however, gender parity is a work in progress.
You have to be a math whiz.
This was one of my biggest tech-based hold-ups, as I completely sucked at math.
I partly sucked at math because I had been (legally) removed from the public school systems in the 6th grade and homeschooled due to my parent’s extreme religious views, which meant I lacked an effective high school math education (algebra…trigonometry…what’s that?). FYI: Don’t do this to your kids.
The other part of my I-hate-math attitude had to do with me enjoying the more creative, off the wall side of life and my college math teachers were insanely boring (think: pre-PowerPoint, pre-YouTube, pre-Clickers with quadratic equations scribbled across one really crowded dry erase board).
When I dared to dream about a career in tech, my struggles in the math space and misconceptions regarding how much mathematics were required provided two major hang-ups that temporarily dissuaded me from pursuing technology education. If freshman algebra had reduced me to tears, I sure wasn’t keen on trying to learn computer science and reliving the humiliation of repetitive “F’s”, having my instructors play Twenty Questions regarding how I had made it to adulthood without any math, and then the embarrassing Q&A that inevitably followed regarding the religious cult in which I was raised.
After talking to a few also non-math-whiz tech professionals, I realized that coding computers didn’t take graduate level calculus; it, like many other applicable skills, required a teachable attitude, dedication to problem-solving, and a supportive educational community (that’s it!).
Changing my perspective regarding what was really required to succeed in the tech space, and working through a few of my personal hang-ups stemming from the compounded embarrassment of being so behind my peers in mathematics, I decided to dive off the proverbial tech cliff and give learning HTML and CSS my best shot. Within a couple of weeks, I’d built a website, then another, then another.
If you’re interested in technology, don’t let widely popularized myths, like “tech is only for men” or “you have to be good at math to learn computer programming” hold you back.
They are total BS.
Tech-based opportunities are diverse, and they need a diverse set of professionals to help bridge the gaps between our always-connected world.
Technology offers a lot of opportunities for the 221st-century professionals.
Its remote capabilities allow tech pros to customize their workday.
Its required dependence throughout pretty much all industries means you can work in almost any space that piques your interest.
Its growing domination of our workplace and lifestyles means both employment and entrepreneurial opportunities within the tech space are only going to increase.
It’s a win-win-win for all involved.