P4 Tech Women: Fighting Demons
This is part of a blog series designed to explore the stories of our Women in Tech at Perforce. It's been fun and inspiring talking to each one of these women. As they share where they've been and how they came to where they are now, it is my hope that others will be encouraged and inspired too.
Wendy Sadeh is our resident JIRA expert. She came to us a few years ago in a project management role but recently returned back to her software engineering roots.
What was your first tech job?
I worked on CAD software at a company called Computervision in Boston. It was then that I jumped head-first into C and UNIX. I still have a tactile memory of the K&R C programming book. It's such a thin volume but it's packed with so much information!
What were some of your first challenges as a woman on that team?
My first thought is to say that I have not experienced any challenges as a woman in the software industry. Competence is the currency I have traded in and that is all that I needed.
If I dig deeper, I'd say that I tend to doubt myself much more than most of the men around me, and that doubt is sometimes interpreted as a weakness. When I write emails I have to go back and remove the over-abundance of the couching terms. I tend to start every sentence with "I think..." or "I believe..." or "maybe..." instead of straightforward declarations. The men around me seem to have a much easier time of making strong statements and leaving the veracity to be sorted out later. Leaders and influencers make strong statements. If I want to be taken seriously, I need to act and speak more decisively. And of course have the facts straight most of the time!
When did you realize you loved working with software?
I graduated with a degree in Electrical Engineering from University of Wisconsin-Madison. It wasn't until my senior project on Digital Signal Processing that I did any serious coding. I was hooked! I loved the challenge of solving problems with computers and I wanted to do more programming.
What was your first programming language?
Did you have any mentors that helped you along the way?
At Computervision I found a wonderful mentor. He was a very senior engineer who worked odd hours. I stayed late most nights to get some quality time with him. He taught me how to program since I had very little formal coding training in my Engineering program.
How did you get started with Perforce and version control?
I knew of Perforce before I started here. It's the gold standard of source control after all! The company's reputation was a big draw to coming to work here.
What is your role now at Perforce?
I have been at Perforce a little over 3 years. I started as a technical project manager and later transitioned back to my roots as a software developer about a year ago.
What language do you code in today?
My team at Perforce is working on a project in Ruby on Rails and we are pair programming. I dig pair programming. It is hard, and there are days I long for a cube and a pair of headphones, but the value of it is undeniable. We get more done pairing than not, and we have more fun!
What resources would you recommend for people interested programming?
Find a niche that interests you and dig deep into it. Participate in online discussion, write blog posts, go to meet-ups. Keep a lot of tools in your toolbox, but be an expert at a few of those. The online courses available are really great.
What advice would you give to women getting into the software industry?
My advice is to just do it. Being in the software industry is a wondrous experience. You can work anywhere and in just about any industry. Oh, the things I have learned! Like how cars are manufactured or how telephone switching protocols work. Who knew that POTS stands for Plain Old Telephone Service? Or that WELL (Whole Earth Lectronic Link) was one of the first places for online discussion. I could even underwrite a commercial mortgage. Now I have the privilege of writing software that underpins all of the above! And that's version control.