ExtraHop is spending this week celebrating International Women's Day (March 8th) by hearing from some of the brilliant, passionate women so integral to this company and the tech industry as a whole. How'd they get into STEM? What advice do they have for other women and girls? Gear up for a whole week of blogs from the women of ExtraHop, from the engineering departments to marketing and everything in between. Happy International Women's Day!
As the daughter of a chemist and granddaughter of a chemical engineer, it felt pretty given that I'd study the family trade. But I also loved learning new languages... the puzzle-ier the better. In defiance of specialization, I ended up studying the unusual combination of chemistry and Japanese linguistics at the University of Washington, majors I helped fund by working in the university's computing department. That childhood spent playing around with my early-adopter father's computer (Osborne1 holla!) paid off, quite literally.
When I continued at the UW for a Masters in Technical Japanese (with an eye towards technical translation in the chemical field), I also kept my job in technology. Over the years, I moved from customer support to network/systems administration and finally to web development. I didn't take any computer science classes beyond introductory programming, but I thrived on the challenge of balancing coding for work with studying linguistics and science, and ultimately leveraged my varied experience at the UW into a web development job with a content localization team.
Even though I didn't actually end up pursuing a career in either chemistry or translation, the skills I honed with all my degrees (yes, including Japanese)—logical thinking, turning deeply technical topics accessible, the scientific method, extrapolating hypotheses given incomplete initial data—have proved invaluable to my success in the tech industry. Not to mention that I get to solve different logic puzzles every day, whether I'm defining architecture with full stack engineers, helping a team of marketers coordinate and implement a complicated new site launch, or just tracking down the root cause of that crazy-making UI bug.
I took a pretty nontraditional route to an software engineering role, but my experience working in the UW technology department was just as—if not more—meaningful as a formal CS degree would have been for me. That's one of the best parts about tech! You can turn virtually any kind of experience into an opportunity, as long as you have interest and drive. You don't have to be a degree-holding capital-E Engineer to love solving problems, and you don't have to officially study computer science to get involved with the fastest-paced, most exciting field in the world. No matter your background, there is no industry that opens more doors... particularly if you're willing to figure out how to pick a few trick locks.
For women and girls who aren't sure if they're welcome (particularly without those letters "CS" on a piece of paper), I promise you: we're in every level of the industry, with every imaginable background. 本当に。