Welcome back to Part 2 of our interview with Jenna Palmer, Senior Frontend Engineer at TMT Insights. Last week, Jenna shared her journey into the tech industry and gave us valuable advice on pursuing tech education and working remotely. In this installment, Jenna shares her thoughts on the current state of the tech industry and provides insight into how female software engineers are facing several challenges that are impacting their career paths even in this modern era.
Current State of Tech
The tech industry is in an incredible growth phase, and there are always more positions than there are people to fill them. This is because we haven’t yet reached a ‘plateau’ of talent, but it is not that there aren’t people out there. The reason why companies are struggling to find people is that they are unwilling to invest in junior engineers and are not willing to pay individuals what they are worth.
Capitalism wants the most talent for the littlest price, and that hardly ever means giving out ‘chances’ to juniors. However, you can use this thinking to your advantage; if they won’t pay you what you’re ‘worth’, then settle for ‘what will get you out of bed’. The software engineering industry has had the highest turnover rate since the .com boom. No matter where you land, you’re not going to stay there forever. Learn as much as you can and move on! You’ll climb those ranks in no time.
In terms of emerging technologies to watch out for, as someone who works a lot in the frontend space, I’ve seen a lot of advancements lately in Next.js and Vite. These two technologies are specifically used to decrease the time it takes to compile or render a front-end web application. This, coupled with cloud-based architectural solutions, is really the cutting edge of what’s happening in the tech industry. So, the faster the better.
The tech industry is unique in that someone who entered the industry less than five years ago can be considered a “senior”. Use this to your advantage, and don’t let anyone tell you that you’re not capable, because YOU ARE. No matter where you start, always remember to learn as much as you can and move on to climb the ranks.
Breaking Gender Barriers in Tech Industry
The technology industry has long been perceived as male-dominated, with women being vastly underrepresented in the field. According to Jenna, being a female software engineer came with challenges at every stage of her career. In high school, she was told that programming was meant for boys. Her academic advisor in college refused to enroll her in her degree’s Data Structures course under the belief that she didn’t know enough math, however, she enrolled herself in the class and passed with flying colors. Even during her last college internship, her manager told her that she wasn’t cut out for software engineering and should do something easier, like business.
Unfortunately, these issues continued even after her education. Her mentor in her first west coast job openly admitted to treating her differently than the rest of the team, and after attempting to address the issue, she was put on ice until her contract was not renewed. A more recent job experience even led to an interim manager publicly interrupting and berating female engineers to the point where two female team members ended up leaving the company seeking better work environments.
These experiences have had a severe impact on her decision-making, job security, and confidence. However, she has now found the support she needs to overcome these challenges. Jenna is passionate about mentorship and aims to bring as many junior engineers into tech as possible. If she can prevent just one person from feeling alone throughout this journey, she believes that she has already made the industry a better place than when she started.
Jenna’s main piece of advice is “You can do this.” She also highlights a study that showed that over half of women who enter the tech industry leave by age 35. This statistic is not due to women’s abilities but their experiences in the industry. Women are made to feel like they are failures as engineers because they “don’t have what it takes,” which is not true.
It’s important to note that this industry was not built for women. Jenna shared a TED Talk by Reshma Saujani where she discusses how women’s socialization inherently makes them feel like they’re the problem when they encounter difficult tasks. Men, on the other hand, don’t experience these issues because they’ve been told since they were babies that they can figure it out. Jenna advises embracing bravery, confronting thoughts that say, “I’m not allowed to ask questions,” and asking, “why?”. It’s essential to realize that no one ever really knows what they’re doing in tech, and we’re all just figuring it out. Embracing humility, embracing learning, and giving oneself a break are all critical for success.
The tech industry has a long way to go in breaking down gender barriers, but progress is being made. Women in the industry face unique challenges, but with support and mentorship, they can overcome them. It’s important to remember that women are just as capable as men in this field and that they belong here. With time, conversations, and mentorship, women can thrive in the tech industry and pave the way for future generations. The tech industry is still experiencing rapid growth, and emerging technologies like Next.js and Vite are pushing it even further. Keep an eye on these technologies, invest in yourself, and never stop learning. The industry is always changing, and it’s up to us to keep up. “Tech is truly unique in that space. Use it to your advantage, and don’t let anyone tell you that you’re not capable because YOU ARE.”
Feel free to connect with Jenna Palmer at the following:
Featured Image By Chelsea Sexton