This year, I had the privilege once again to attend Grace Hopper thanks to WiCS and the University of Waterloo. I could go on and on about how awesome the conference was and list all the reasons why any woman in tech could greatly benefit from attending, but one particular session I went to deeply resonated with me.
“A Day in the Life Of: Exploring Different Career Paths in Technology” featured a panel of female speakers from different companies in the Bay Area. What was interesting was that they had all studied computer science in college, but ended up going off into different career paths - from frontend engineering to backend engineering, from user experience design to product management, and even data science.
There seems to be this common misconception that everyone studying computer science is there to become a software engineer. I’ve had numerous friends confide in me that after a co-op term or two of programming, they realized that this just wasn’t for them. Instead of receiving support and encouragement, they feel judged by their peers. They’re ridiculed and looked down upon by others for wanting to pursue less traditional areas of technology, or in their words, less “hardcore” careers like interface design or product management.
Technology is such an exciting field because of the countless opportunities it unlocks - these skills can be applied to literally any industry. The panelists argued that world-class products and services are never built in isolation. Rather, it’s an extremely collaborative process - all the roles involved are just as important. Instead of pigeonholing yourself to go down a linear path, they encouraged the audience to explore less traditional careers with an open mind and give them a fair chance.
I really hope that computer science students can be exposed early on to the multitude of career paths that are available to individuals with a technical background. Sure, software engineering is a great career path, but it’s definitely not for everyone. And that’s okay.
The conference left me extremely hopeful and optimistic for the future of women in tech.
-3B CS Student