The Computer Weekly Developer Network and Open Source Insider team want to talk code and coding.
But more than that, we want to talk coding across the diversity spectrum… so let’s get the tough part out of the way and talk about the problem.
If all were fair and good in the world, it wouldn’t be an issue of needing to promote the interests of women who code — instead, it should be a question of promoting the interests of people who code, some of whom are women.
However, as we stand two decades after the millennium, there is still a gender imbalance in terms of people already working as software engineers and in terms of those going into the profession. So then, we’re going to talk about it and interview a selection of women who are driving forward in the industry.
CW: What inspired you to get into software development in the first place?
Pooja Tyagi: It’s 13 years since I was recruited as a graduate by a top, well-known IT organisation. Being from an electronics background, I’ve always thought software is the future in every field. I genuinely believe that this will be the topmost area any firm should be looking to develop in order to compete in the market. This is the reason I chose to be part of the software industry and chose software testing as my career.
CW: When did you realise that this was going to be a full-blown career choice for you?
Pooja Tyagi: That’s always been an interesting question for me. I was trained on Java and databases during my initial career, so whenever it was time to quality check the code and verify the product outcome, I was the first one to enjoy and raise issues with potential bugs. That was the moment that I decided to take software testing and QA as my career path.
CW: What languages, platforms and tools have you gravitated towards and why?
Pooja Tyagi: Being into testing, I always gravitated towards tools like Selenium and Jmeter; test management tools such as ALM and TestLink; defect tools like JIRA, Bugzilla. There are also cross-browser testing tools, mobile testing tools and database testing tools that I greatly admire.
CW: How important do you think it is for us to have diversity (not just gender, but all forms) in software teams in terms of cultivating a collective mindset that is capable of solving diversified problems?
Pooja Tyagi: That’s another interesting and very debatable topic in our industry these days. Although I have always worked in a field with very few females I don’t feel that I have ever failed to showcase my capabilities and prove my achievements. However, there is no doubt that the industry needs requires a mixture of varied technical expertise, strong leaders, and encouraging diversity is central to bringing that fresh talent into the industry.
CW: What has been your greatest software application development challenge and how have you overcome it?
Pooja Tyagi: From last-minute deadlines to team changes, in the IT industry, we can often face challenges and tough times. In fact, during the SDLC lifecycle, this can be as frequent as every day.
One personal example was in 2010, when I was working as Test Lead for a Japanese client. As well as being new to the role, I had limited interaction with the Japanese team due to the language barrier. Communicating with the team was difficult and could often lead to misunderstandings. The Japanese also have different working style, being very accurate and quality-oriented. This means that any gap or missing details from our side could raise serious concerns.
I took this on this challenge by using Google translator to communicate with the team and test their products. I also encouraged my team to do the same, which lead to us building a strong relationship with the Japanese members of our team and a final product that was successfully delivered with no live defects.
CW: Are we on the road to a 50:50 gender balance in software engineering, or will there always be a mismatch?
Pooja Tyagi: A female software engineer that I know was recently looking to change roles and was subsequently invited for an interview. Instead of focusing on her achievements and qualifications during the questioning, she was instead asked about the length of her marriage and whether she was planning for a family.
Being asked embarrassing, personal questions or being rejected for a role due to your gender means that those who do make it through to interview stage are put off or don’t get a role they deserve. Either way, it means that, potentially, the best person for the job does not get the role. This is a lose-lose situation.
Ideally, the managers who require new team members and perform these interviews should be impartial when they see a female candidate. Managers and interviewers should be trained not to behave in this way and similarly, candidates need to be empowered to call out this behaviour.
Based on this, I don’t believe that the mindset is 100% changed in India, but I have definitely seen a rise in female employees in my industry in last 10 years. Globally, we have some good female leaders heading up the organisation and team, which is a remarkable progress, but still we haven’t come to a 50-50 point yet.
CW: What role can men take in terms of helping to promote women’s interests in the industry?
Pooja Tyagi: As well as transparency on both sides during the interview process, I believe training should be given around how to help women, particularly those who have re-joined the company after maternity leave.
If they believe their team is not a balanced representation, men should raise this point with the relevant person within HR or talent teams. By raising awareness of this fact and making hiring women ‘normal’, the skills that female employees can bring to companies will be highlighted. Similarly, men can join groups that focus on promoting, supporting and recruiting more females.
I think one of the main ways men can help this issue is by being a source of support, advice and motivation for their female colleagues, listening to their issues and promoting their successes.
CW: If men are from Mars and women are from Venus, then what languages or methodologies separate the two (basic) sexes?
Pooja Tyagi: I have read and enjoyed this book many times. I agree that men and women approach tasks in a different way. Interesting, in my experience men adopt a waterfall methodology to tasks, whereas women typically use a more ‘agile’ approach!
CW: If you could give your 21-year old self one piece of advice for success, what would it be?
Pooja Tyagi: “Success never comes in one go. You need to be able to face challenges again and again and plan for the long term – you can’t assume things will go exactly as you thought. If you can do this then you will be successful.”