What Do Women In Tech Wish They Knew Early On?

Written by Dana Sanchez

What do women in tech wish they knew early on?

This question originally appeared on Quora, the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights. Some questions on Quora, like this one, stimulate responses and discussions that continue for years.

Answers by Jean Yang, Sabrina Majeed, Vanessa Tan, Xin Lu, Jennifer Apacible, Natalia Burina, and Claire Callahan.

Natalia Burina, Director of Product at Salesforce (Answered Mar 11, 2014)

Grades are really not that important. Relax, you’re just as good as all the men in the room so stop being intimidated by their bullshit about how they started coding when they were 2. It’s bullshit.

Jean Yang, assistant professor of computer science

Taste precedes skill. You learn how to recognize something good before you learn how to make something good. Just because your first few attempts at building a system are failures, it doesn’t mean that you are a failure. Keep at it.

Nobody really knows what they are doing. A lot of people are just good at saying things and doing things confidently. Chances are you deserve to be one of those people too.

It gets better. When I was younger, people didn’t take me that seriously. I was girly and played sports. Neither fit with the “boy genius hacker” stereotype. People generally didn’t listen to my ideas and often tried to do my homework for me. When I told people I interned at Google, a common response was, “As what? A… software engineer?” When I started grad school, the systems administrator was skeptical when I asked for root access on my machine. He asked me if I could handle it.

These days, I am sufficiently established that I can surround myself with people who take me seriously. I would like to think that I have done enough work that people know I am a Serious Computer Scientist capable of doing Serious Work. A professor on my floor even once told me that I am intimidating. That made my year. When I tell strangers I am in graduate school for computer science, a common response is still to skeptically ask me what I studied in undergrad, but at least I have a bubble to live in for most of the time.

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