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Design & Technology October 09, 2018

Be the developer that you want to be, not what people expect you to be

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Developers. When we hear the word, we all have some sort of character in our heads. You know, average type of man, probably wearing glasses, most likely a scruffy beard, definitely wearing a conference shirt and the skin a vampire would be jealous of. During the week he sits in his small cubicle missing out on sunlight, he’s coding complex mathematical formulas for hours on end, laptop on his belly, with his headphones on and working until midnight, obviously downing at least eight cans of energy drink. Sounds about right? Well people, it’s 2018, isn’t it about time this stereotype needs to change?

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So, let’s start with a little experiment. Which one of the above-displayed people is the developer? I know, none of them apply to the aforementioned description, but this is not a trick question. Well, not in the sense that none of them are developers. It is in the sense that all of them are developers. Yes, including me (#3). Surprise! We’re not all like Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory.

Women are developers too

I’ve been working at Dept as a Front-end Developer for quite some time now. And the last time I checked, as you can see in the picture, I didn’t have a beard. Moreover, I climb and play basketball when I am not working – sometimes even outside – and I think energy drinks are utterly disgusting. Yes, I do own conference shirts, but they don’t count if you only sleep in them. However, and this is maybe the most surprising part of it all, I’m a woman!

Unfortunately, I am one of the few female developers. At Dept in Amsterdam and Rotterdam, we are with only three women, compared to sixty (!) male developers. With that in mind, it’s no surprise tech women occupy only 25 percent of the jobs. But if we don’t change the prevailing image of ‘techies’, diversity in technology will never increase. Simply, because women can’t identify with the stereotype.

Into coding

So how did I get into this strange, all-male job then? Without a beard, a penis, pale skin or even a background in math? Well, like a lot of people born in the eighties I started my coding career with Cu2. And for those who have no clue what Cu2 is: it’s the Facebook, the Hyves, the social profile from the early 2000’s. And the fun thing about this is that Cu2 allowed you to customize your profile with basic coding – mostly resulting in an eclectic profile with lots of GIF’s and questionnaires.

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Although this profile may not seem like all that, there’s no shame. Because this was my first step into the tech world. Luckily, things have changed a lot since then and now we get to create amazing stuff like fully responsive websites or entire webshops for one of the biggest drugstores in the Netherlands. A project I am currently working on. Moreover, the first time I put a real website live, I was so proud. We worked with a team of six people for five months on creating the best user experience. Eventually, we saw 10.000 people visiting the website on the first day. And that was an amazing feeling!

A lot more than coding

Working in a team on amazing projects already contradicts the notion that developers are mostly loners. Especially within Dept, we work within multidisciplinary teams with designers, copywriters, a project owner and the client itself. These days, the job requires a lot more than just coding skills.

Yet, the old-fashioned image prevails. For example, I read an article in the Guardian where the author asked students from around 12-13 years old to write down what they think it might be like to be a Developer. Answers included positive stereotypes such as high earnings and being smart. However, the negative ones outweighed the positive: such as having no friends, being nerdy and isolated. It’s a shame. Because in reality, as illustrated above, computer science is a highly creative subject. It teaches a way of thinking that enables you to solve any problem that matters to you.

Help’s always around the corner

Then there’s this other thing about the developers I work with: they’re actually really nice and helpful people! If you run into trouble while coding, there’s always a developer somewhere willing to help you out. On top of that, they’re very chatty people as well! Dept’s front-end group chat is probably one of the most active chat groups of the company. This also has to do with the fact that people spam the channel a lot as a result of being part of the ‘cult of the party parrot’. But mainly, it’s because if a developer has a problem and he or she posts a question in the chat, it literally takes two minutes before he or she has at least four or five answers from colleagues.

Recoding the stereotype

The way we still refer to developers these days is way too old-fashioned. It’s time we get rid of this stereotype. And not just for myself, to make my life easier, but also for our daughters – or future daughters. Because a different image gives them more possibilities to choose a (different) profession. Furthermore, the stereotype has to change for everyone; allowing people to gain more knowledge of this strange ‘herd’ of developers and making them more approachable to work with us more closely, and use our skills to create better digital products. So, if you ever had a profile at Cu2, you too can become a developer. And next time, when you see a developer, don’t be hesitant: talk to him. Or her. They might turn out to be human, just like you.

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