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February 11, 2020 | Inside Thomson Reuters

Am I "Software Engineer" enough?

Kate Shram

At some point in life, everyone experiences Imposter Syndrome. We can all feel like we're not "enough”. We don't work hard enough, are not nice enough, do not exercise enough, aren’t parenting enough, don’t water my plants enough…

For women in technology, there are even more reasons to believe that we are not enough, to feel like we don't belong.

  1. Some classrooms in college have much less female representation. For me, going to a smaller school meant I was often the only woman in my IT courses.
  2. There is still not enough representation for women in technology and a lot of bias around women in technology.

In addition to feeling not enough, I was hearing horror stories about being a woman in the IT industry – starting with an unpleasant work environment and ending with harassment. I've been fortunate with my environments. I had a solid group of friends in college who made all schoolwork fun and smooth and my first technology job was nothing but amazing and supportive. My current workplace, Thomson Reuters, puts in a lot of effort to support women in technology and maintaining a respectful and inclusive working environment. They've made it a business imperative to reach 40% of women in senior leadership by the end of 2020.

Despite being lucky with work and school environments, I am still hearing a lot of these experiences in the few years I've been on the Software Engineer path (replace job with opportunity/ promotion/ raise/ position):

Or, not much better, as it still erases the value:

...add more unconscious (and sometimes conscious) bias situations to that, and you get a whole bunch of fuel for Imposter Syndrome of your choice.

This bothers me, but… not enough to quit my industry – I love my industry! I love the people I work with, and I love problem-solving, critical thinking, and strategic planning. The "I'm not enough" only comes out when I'm trying to do something that scares me, something that I don't think I'm ready for or deserve.

I remind myself of the women in technology that I have met so far throughout my career, all of whom inspire me with their hard work and persistence. And I would like to encourage more women to be in technology.

How do I encourage other women? I take every chance I can.

I am an introvert who doesn't like crowds and feels drained spending time in them. Yet, every time I hear about an event for women in technology, especially younger women, I make sure I get involved. I stand in front of groups of young high schoolers, and I talk to them about how great it is to be a Software Engineer at Thomson Reuters. I talk about the rewarding feeling that comes with running your first programming assignment successfully - and probably every single bit of code after that - will it ever get boring? I talk about personal struggles in college - balancing max class load with extracurricular activities with volunteering with a part-time job; being an immigrant and having to learn new technical terms along with improving my English; being entirely on your own for the first time in college; being one of the few women in the program.

At Thomson Reuters, I get involved in recruiting events to make sure there is the female representation (and I have amazing mentors and allies, who inform me about those opportunities and encourage me to take them). I chat with interns and potential hires. I *introvert gasp* small talk at lunches for these events.

I talk about being a Software Engineer to my friends and family. I especially talk it up to everyone with kids, to plant some seeds of opportunity there. I politely remind that I know a thing or two about technology to an unsuspecting cousin at a family reunion who always directs a technology question to my husband (who, in turn, actively avoids anything that has to do with computers). I proudly say that I am a Software Engineer.

Am I doing everything I can? No, I could always do more, be better, be faster and more efficient. Also, water my plants more (sorry, plants).

 But am I doing enough? Am I enough?

Am I "Software Engineer" enough?

Absolutely.

Author: Kate Shram is a Software Engineer at our Eagan, Minnesota campus.

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