Being a woman in tech often means you have to work harder to get ahead. The trick to standing out and getting ahead is to constantly look for opportunities no matter what level you’re at in your career. I should know. As a woman in tech myself, I realized early on that a lot of the things most techies consider beginners’ work or grunt work would become the stepping stones that helped pave my career into what it is today.
Don’t Discredit the Little Things From Helping You Get Ahead
At the beginning of my tech career, I was offered a low-paying internship with a 90-day trial period. I remember doing the mental math – if I survived even 60 days, it would still be better than unemployment.
How was I going to stand out? How would I make sure I did such a phenomenal job that this company had no choice but to keep me on? I decided to give it everything I had. I was going to learn as much as I could. I was going to keep my eyes open for any and all opportunities. I went all-in with the right attitude and my best work ethic.
I spent a few weeks self-teaching until my manager started assigning me bugs. When I finally got my first bug, it was a huge deal to me. As an engineer, no one is super excited to work on bugs; it’s such a beginner’s role – but I was happy to grab as many as possible. What others saw as grunt work, I saw as an opportunity.
Working on these bugs gave me access to other people’s code, so I got a crash course in my company’s codebase while also honing my analysis and development skills. Sure, working on bugs is work that gets assigned to the newbie, but there’s a massive benefit to a developer like me willing to take advantage of it.
And that’s how you have to start approaching your career if you want to get ahead and stand out. Look for opportunities in everything you do.
Work Smart Not Just Hard
You have to be creative in approaching and looking for opportunities. Putting in the hours is incredibly important, but those hours need to be utilized wisely.
One day in that entry-level role, the head of development pulled the whole department aside and asked us to volunteer at a local hackathon on a Saturday. A handful of us showed up, but when we were invited back, I wound up being the only one who continued to show up again and again. After the first hackathon, I recognized the potential of these events and realized that showing up could make all the difference in meeting the right people and making connections.
And I was right! Those days of volunteering at the local hackathons led to invitations to more high-profile events where I was able to do some serious networking for my career. I put in the hours wisely, and it really paid off.
Keep the Discipline and Get Creative
I used hackathons to build my network and test out new and valuable skills that I didn’t have the chance to work with at my new job. By working on bugs, I got to model the development skills of more seasoned developers by learning and maintaining their code. It also gave me visibility on my team!
If I heard about a project that no one wanted to work on because it had a tight deadline, was going to require late nights, or came with a difficult client, I saw an opportunity, and I seized it.
And you know what? Because of my efforts and taking on the jobs that no one else wanted to do, not only did I survive the 90-day trial period at my job, but before it was even over, I had managed to thrive! I received a company-wide award, peer-nominated and leadership-approved, for my work ethic and attitude. I would stay at that company for two more years, and I would continue to thrive – more about that in my best-selling book, The DevelopHer Playbook. You can pick up a copy here.
Whenever obstacles were thrown my way, I got creative in my ways to approach them and turn them into learning opportunities. For me, it was hackathons and working on bugs. The key is to keep your eyes open to the little things, whether it be the projects others tend to avoid or attending that event after work hours – you never know who you might meet or what opportunities may arise.
When you start to shift your perspective, you’ll be surprised by how many opportunities you start to see right in front of you! With hard work, time, and consistency, you will achieve results. Keep the patience and keep the dedication – you got this!