Women in Tech – My story as a Web Developer

Annina Järvenpää

When I was thinking about writing this blog post, my first thought was that I’m not the right person to write about being a woman in tech. I’ve never understood gender roles so I was afraid that my point of view would be somehow wrong.

But that’s the whole point, we’re all individuals with different backgrounds. Why wouldn’t I give it a shot? So here’s my story.

How it all began

As a child, I found computers fascinating. I didn’t have anybody to teach me anything so I just spent hours after hours inspecting, editing, deleting and moving different files just because I wanted to find out what they did. At the time we only had one PC at home and I definitely managed to break things. Sorry, Mom.

Anyway, nobody ever told me that fooling around with text files could be my future profession so I forgot about it and started doing whatever it was that other kids did – PlayStation was the thing back then.

I don’t think I ever seriously thought about what I’d want to be when I grow up. My approach to planning has been short term – anything that happens half a year in the future I leave for the older and wiser future me to deal with.

Years passed, I finished high school, and I suddenly needed to decide what to do next. So I browsed through a catalogue of universities in Finland and the courses they provided. I ended up applying to two different universities that provided courses which sounded like fun: information technology and marine technology. Fortunately, I got a yes from both and needed to decide! IT won, just about, because I was afraid that as a marine technologist I’d someday make a tiny miscalculation and a whole ship with its crew would sink! A bit far fetched, I know.

Before I knew it, I was sitting in my first ever programming lesson. There was me, one other girl and maybe twenty boys. I didn’t notice the imbalance until some of the guys loudly pointed that out. They looked troubled by the fact and the teacher laughed.

I wrote my first lines in C# and for the next five years I was busier thinking about “what’s wrong with my code?” rather than “what’s going on with women and tech?”. I remember my classmates used to say I’m one of the guys. “In a good way you know”.

Drupal & me

My first contact with Drupal was during an internship as part of my studies. I hated it. I remember saying “I’ll never touch Drupal after I’m done with the internship”. When one of my friends asked if I wanted to write my thesis based on Drupal, for some reason I said yes. But here’s the thing: during my studies, I was working outside of my comfort zone on an almost daily basis. I managed to pass all my other courses, so why wouldn’t I manage this as well?

The problem wasn’t Drupal. It was just that I needed to know it better. So I did. I wrote my thesis, I graduated, and I continued working with Drupal. At some point I found myself enjoying it. The more I learned, the more I liked it. My comfort zone was expanding!

After a few years of working with Drupal, I thought I’d had enough. Maybe it was because I wasn’t learning much from it anymore. Work started to feel like work instead of continuous challenges. I and Drupal needed a break.

I planned half a year ahead, saved money and quit my job to go hiking in the US. That was one of the best decisions I ever made. Not because living in the woods was all magical but because I feel that’s the main reason why I’m here now, writing this blog post. When I left I was sure that when I returned I wouldn’t be working with Drupal anymore – maybe not in tech at all. I felt like I’d gone too easily with the flow and just ended up in the wrong field. But after a few cold and rainy months of hiking, I noticed I was thinking about Drupal again. Maybe it wasn’t that bad after all. It at least deserved a second chance. And that’s how I ended up working at Wunder.

Wunder Women

Just a few weeks back I heard one of my colleagues say “we have only one female developer in our unit in Finland”. I thought there was something wrong with me because I hadn’t noticed that throughout the one and a half years that I’ve been working here.

Then I thought again. If I felt so comfortable here, why wouldn’t other women too? I can’t find any reason why women couldn’t be as good, or even better, developers as men. I remember many of my friends saying that they’d never be able to learn to programme or asking me if I thought that they could. Every time I’ve answered with 100% certainty: “yes you can”.

Now Wunder is encouraging women to get into IT by being a part of this awesome #mimmitkoodaa project. Last Wednesday we attended the project launch event and I was stunned. The women there were truly interested and had tonnes of good ideas, questions and stories. Where have they been all this time?

I’m really looking forward to seeing more women in the field – not because they’re women but because they’re brilliant people who have so much to give to the industry.