When I earned my bachelor's in engineering I knew very little about programming and had absolutely no confidence to choose a career in the software industry. I spent two years trying to figure out the corporate world, project, software languages and my role in all of these.
I have stayed in office till midnight and slept in dorms to support projects that I didn’t develop or had any knowledge about but that was the norm in my project or for that matter in any service-based MNC in India. It took me a while to understand how MNC’s mint money on support projects but that’s a topic we would discuss later.
By the time I realized and figured out the entire mess I was in, it had been 2 years in that MNC. So I traveled from Bangalore to Kochi on a Saturday for an interview with a startup.
I got the job and joined the team after 2 months and started a remarkable journey. The team was fantastic and my teammates were super smart. I was the only girl in the company and that made me nervous on top of having a lack of self-confidence. I remember how all the guys were comfortable with computers and laptops or at least they were not scared and here I was, after spending 2 years in an MNC, still scared of computers and uneasy with software.
More than a lack of skills, my fear drowned me in those days. I felt a constant pressure to think and work like the men around me which I obviously failed to do and as a result, I felt low all the time and performed poorly at work.
By now you would have guessed that I was not smart enough to do the right thing but there was something I knew how to do well, so I did the same again. I worked really hard. I stared at the code for hours, digging deeper and deeper every time, trying to figure out the code and the business that hides behind every single line (To this day, that’s one my favorite activities, to read the business behind every line of code).
If there is anything I learned in those years, it would be that one could never excel at something if they are not comfortable with being uncomfortable. I had to get comfortable with my working environment, for that I needed to assure myself that I know what I am doing and if not, I would figure out how to get it done. I started asking for help not from a place of fear but from a place of curiosity and determination.
When I decided to help myself, I found the best teacher to guide me. My Boss was my first mentor in the world of programming. He instilled in me the confidence to build complex features through good designs and strong programming. It was a tough and purely personal reason that I had to move and join a different firm.
I have had many ups and lows ever since but never have I ever questioned my ability to finish a job in hand. I have designed applications, worked with experienced techies, lead teams and solved problems that once upon a time seemed impossible.
I know from experience that men and women have different work ethics and working styles so never think less of yourself because you do things differently or you think differently, especially compared to male colleagues. This uniqueness would help you understand problems from a different perspective when you are working with the right team.
You will meet men in office who would constantly doubt you or ignore you or try to belittle you but you will also find men who will stand by you as pillars, so how someone decides to treat you is not in your control but how you treat yourself is your choice.
So what do you not-so-smart girl need to succeed in the world of programming? Firstly, have faith in yourself, know that you can do whatever it takes to be at the top of your game.
If you are already a programmer then focus on that one language you are working on and build random stuff. Start with a simple hello world and try to build a simple application later on.
Improvise on your apps, add different pieces, figure out the why’s and how’s as you build things.
When you are stuck, go to StackOverflow, trust me, all the unique problems that you would face were already discovered by another developer.
Before you even realize, you would have come a long way from where you started but you would still have a long way to go because the day you stop learning, you are done as a programmer.
A good programmer is rarely a result of smartness, it is the hours and hours one spends to learn the craft that matters.
For now, happy coding and if you need any help contact me on LinkedIn.