Aptera Women in Technology Highlight
The path to a career and field you love is not usually clear cut and that’s often the case for people in the technology world, especially women.
Women are widely underrepresented in IT roles. While women make up 47 percent of all employed adults in the United States, they only hold 25 percent of technology jobs, according to the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT).
This women’s history month we wanted to highlight some women who work at Aptera, share their path into the technology field, and offer advice for others who want to do the same. Here’s what we learned.
Hannah Wendel, Software Developer
In high school, Hannah loved math and computer classes – even if they were just about Microsoft Office. When she looked into college majors, computer science seemed like an obvious choice.
She was accepted into the computer science program at Indiana Tech. During her freshman year, there were quite a few women in her program, but many dropped out of the degree by sophomore year.
“It can be intimidating at first,” she explained. But, if tech is something you’re interested in, she suggests finding a coding class or looking up resources online such an Hour of Code.
“So many people are addicted to their phones these days,” Hannah said. “If you’re interested in how any of that works, it’s worth looking into tech because it’s pretty cool what happens behind the scenes.”
When Hannah was a sophomore, she interned for the City of Butler as a GIS (geographic information systems) intern. “Which is nothing like what I’m doing now,” she laughed.
The following year, she interned at Aptera. She met Aptera’s Hiring Manager Hillary at a tech conference her professor told her to go to. After the conference, Hillary reached out and encouraged her to apply for an internship, which eventually led to a full-time job.
Hannah’s favorite part of her job is helping clients and seeing the technology she worked on being used in the real world.
“There is one project we completed, and we got to see the users using it in the field,” Hannah said. “That was really satisfying because we made their jobs like 100 times faster, better, and easier for them and that makes me feel like I’m actually doing something that matters.”
Hannah's Parting Advice
Her advice – find a company that will back you up. “With Aptera, I know that leadership has our back,” she said. “They care about us as employees and that makes me want to do an even better job. If you find a career that you like, also find an employer who cares about you and wants you to grow professionally and personally.”
Aly Noble, QA Analyst
Aly graduated with an English degree. During college, she interned with the university’s marketing department and worked on digital marketing.
“After college, I got into content strategy for websites that ultimately led me into quality analysis for software,” Aly explained. “If you asked me five years ago if I would’ve expected to be doing the work I’m doing now, I would’ve been surprised, but I’m happy with where I’ve landed.”
If you’re thinking about making the transition into tech, Aly’s advice is to keep your options open. You’d be surprised by what skills are still applicable.
“My work in college like the critical thinking and thinking from a certain perspective does tangentially relate to the work that we do,” she added. “It’s making any kind of assumption that you’re stuck in a certain career path because of what you study. I thought that was the case, but it’s not true.”
As QA Analyst, Aly’s responsible for testing and thinking from a user’s perspective, along with using different tools to ensure the product aligns with the Product Owner’s goal.
“We’re advocating for what we think is going to make the product the most successful,” she said. “Sometimes that doesn’t come from testing, that comes from learning the business.”
“I like being able to help the devs on my team and ultimately our product owner once the work gets into their hands,” she continued. “I think sometimes QAs can be perceived as the antithesis of a developer and that we’re the teacher with a red pen going over their hard work, but that’s not the case. I’m a line of defense from a quality standpoint and everything I do, I do to try and help the product be better as early as possible.”
Aly's Parting Advice
Aly remembers feeling ‘stuck’ when she was choosing a collegiate direction. She had no idea what she wanted to do with her life, she just knew what she was good at.
“But, I’ve learned you’re never ‘stuck’ in that sense, and also because technology is so intertwined in our lives and the things we do and depend on, just about any experience or perspective has the potential to fit into the industry somewhere,” she explained. “A variety of perspectives and backgrounds make better, more inclusive work. Every time.”
Lindsay Mergy, Automation Engineer
When Automation Engineer Lindsay Mergy graduated from High School, she didn’t have any kind of master plan.
Instead of committing to something she wasn’t sure about, she looked for ways to dabble in different careers. Technology has always been part of her life – both of her parents have worked in technology – so that career path came up often.
“I ended up finding a coding bootcamp on the Internet, I ended up doing that for 12 weeks, and I just figured, worst case scenario, I’ll hate it and it’s just 12 weeks, not four years.”
But she didn’t hate it – she loved it. “That was a neat experience. Doing something that intensely for 12 weeks is a really good practice for anyone to do because that shows how much you can accomplish if you just focus on one thing,” she said.
Lindsay now works on the Quality Assurance team at Aptera, but she believes that coding skills are a great foundation for any career in tech. “Starting with coding is always a good path forward because it gives you the foundational level of what is being built, regardless of whether you stay in that role or not,” she added.
Lindsay's Parting Advice
It’s easy to let a stereotype about a job cloud what it’s actually about. Many tech jobs are different than what they used to be, Lindsay explained.
“Tech jobs are highly collaborative, they’re highly creative, they don’t always involve math, I think that there is a lot of jobs in the industry to really appeal to women and everyone in general.”
Sarha Huq, Project Manager
Like a lot of people in technology, Sarha didn’t see herself in the tech world during college – instead she majored in musical theater.
“I definitely went to college with the intentions of becoming a performer or a teacher,” she said. “People think that acting and performing is just that, acting. But you have to be the most honest communicator. Self-awareness and honesty in performance is what allows you to connect with an audience.”
While she might not be communicating on stage at Aptera, as a Project Manager she’s in constant communication with our clients and technical team.
Sarha worked at a payroll company as a customer services representative. But she felt like she didn’t fully understand the software she was trying sell.
To learn the platform, she sat with operations and watched how they processed payroll, implemented new clients, and talked them through the platform. “That’s how I learned the whole system and from there I just found out I love knowing how things work and when it comes to software and solutions,” she added.
Throughout her different jobs, she learned what she liked the most was fixing problems, improving processes, and learning how things worked. Eventually, Project Management seemed like the perfect fit.
“If you’re still trying to figure out what you want to do, don’t get so hung up on role titles,” she suggested. “I think it might surprise people. I never thought I’d be where I am, so you should just ask questions and try all the roles that you possibly can, if you have the opportunity.”
Sarha's Parting Advice
When you’re surrounded by people who may know more than you, let that excite you rather than scare you.
“That was a feeling when I even came to Aptera,” she explained. “I’ve been in project manager for so long, I’ve been in software development, but I hadn’t work in a full agile shop.”
“I thought, I’m surrounded by so many people who have so much different experience than I do and that’s awesome because the only reason I ever got to where I am is because I found people who could teach me.”
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